Kids, of course, come in all varieties, and their interests run the gamut. But when it comes to 10-year-old girls, I dare say, there are two ubiquitous desires: getting one's ears pierced and getting a cell phone.
And you may as well let go of that ol' school stereotype of a preteen--phone glued to ear, gabbing on and on with friends about inanities--the phone is not really for talking. It's for texting.
This is why my own 10-year-old daughter--too young in her stodgy mom's eyes for piercings or a cell phone--was ecstatic to have found a work-around for the latter. Earlier this summer, a friend told her about an app for her iPod Touch called Textfree, which assigns her a real phone number, and lets her send and receive texts for free.
In other words, "She's in," said Pinger CEO and co-founder Greg Woock, whose company makes the Textfree app and who, too, has a 10-year-old daughter. "If you have a phone number, now you're cool, even if you don't have a phone. No one knows you don't have a phone."
And the trade-offs are minor, especially by the standards of a 10-year-old. To text, she needs to be connected to Wi-Fi (which she says "is basically everywhere"), and she needs to deal with ads bannered across the bottom of the app. (She says she doesn't "even notice.")
So my now-cool daughter, at the very least, is helping illustrate a trend among tweens who are turning their iPods into texting devices. Unbeknownst to her, however, she might also be helping shake up traditional wireless-carrier models as we know them.
In the roughly two months since users of Pinger's Textfree app started getting assigned actual phone numbers, Pinger has handed out 1.6 million. That's as many wireless numbers as AT&T gave out to net new subscribers in April, May, and June, according to the company's second-quarter filing. Pinger is now sending out about 630 million text messages per month; 70 percent of those are sent from iPod Touches, and 30 percent are sent from iPhones. The median age of the app's users is 18.
Textfree is one of a handful of mobile-texting apps that you can find in Apple's App Store, Gogii's TextPlus among the higher-ranked ones. But only Textfree (for now, anyway) hands out an actual phone number, which can later be ported, as required by law. Other apps send texts from an e-mail or short code.
The handing out of phone numbers was part of Pinger's preannounced plan to start offering voice-calling options--"Textfree with Voice"--slated for a beta launch at the end of September. Users will have the option to pay for voice minutes, or they can earn minutes by doing things like downloading free apps, filling out surveys, or performing other tasks that don't seem to bother youth already accustomed to having their consumer habits tracked.
In other words, using Wi-Fi on her iPod Touch (along with microphone-equipped earbuds), my daughter will be able to actually call and talk to me.… Read more