Fongo, TextNow Offer Free Cellphone Services, But Canadians Show Little Interest


What seems a good choice for some people, may not work for those with a given lifestyle: being always connected, and reachable via VoIP apps or by phone. A CBC News story from today details a way you can heavily reduce your monthly wireless bill, as Diane Thomson did.


She signed up for Fongo (but you can also choose TextNow if you like), which got her free voicemail, caller display, and calls within Canada. The caveat: you need Wi-Fi access to get this app working.

Without Wi-Fi, Fongo and all similar apps are useless, which limits the user to certain spots. But being connected to a Wi-Fi network is not enough: you also need a good signal to make it work properly.

To achieve continuous Internet connectivity, Thomson acquired a portable wireless Internet device . . . from one of the telcos. The $25/month bill she pays for this hub is still $75 short of the $100 she previously paid for her cellular plan, though, so the workaround may be worth it if you’re willing to walk this path.

Fongo has 400,000 active users, while TextNow has around 6.5 million, but 97% of those are American. Canadians, apparently, aren’t interested in joining this service. Are you?


  • bbousquet

    I use Fongo when travelling. It enables me to call home for free. I don’t really use it here since I have unlimited Canada-wide calls on my Fido plan (I don’t even have a landline).

    On a side note, I’ve noticed a few Kijiji scammers seem to be using Fongo to hide their identity.

  • Stefan

    I have a tablet plan from Fido. $40 after tax for up to 5 gb of data. Ported my number to Fongo from Rogers 🙂 Happy Camper

  • @Cykf_Cyyz

    Can we please stop calling this service a Cellular identity? It is not the same as a using a cell phone, it’s VOIP plan and simple.
    Stop trying to up sell the app as anything different.

  • Brad Fortin

    “The caveat: you need Wi-Fi access to get this app working.”


  • Disqusn’ Stuff

    I used to use Fongo exclusively until about a year ago when service started being unreliable all of a sudden. Customer service was of no help. I eventually switched back to having an actual cellular plan because I could not afford to wonder if I had not received a call from an employer (for example) because of technical difficulties. The service also has a bit of a delay when talking, so it constantly feels like you’re talking over each other, and if the other person is not aware that this is because of the app, they may just think you are actually talking over them (actually happened to me). This I would assume is why Fongo can not compete and why Canadians are rightfully waiting for an actually reliable service to compete with regular cell service.

  • bionicmonk

    Yep, this works with the tablet plans from Fido. 15$ a month for 1GB, up to 40$ for 5GB. I transferred my parents to this plan and they’re happy with Fongo. I dunno why this article is so whiny..

  • Marco

    Fongo is unreliable, call quality as not that great either…

  • I use Fongo. It does not require WiFi, works just fine over cellular data.
    I got it so my mother would have a local number to call me on when she was in the hospital where only local calls are possible from the room. I also use it call her for free. It has the best and most consistent audio quality of any VoIP calling app I’ve tried (and I’ve tried so many). There’s a difference between the Fongo app in the Canadian App Store and outside of Canada. I use the free one from the Canadian App Store.

  • You do NOT need WiFi to use Fongo.

  • Brad Fortin

    From Fongo’s How It Works page:

    “Fongo uses Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to place and receive calls and send and receive messages using your existing data plan (3G/4G) or nearby WiFi connection”

    If you cancel your phone service to go with Fongo you’re going to need WiFi.

  • geekyaleks

    I always give the Fongo number to my clients, because when I even travel abroad (I buy local sim cards when travelling), all my clients are able to get in touch with me, and they don’t even realize that I am not in Canada…

  • Mat

    Lamentably exact same experience here too

  • Jamal

    I’m also experiencing the same thing. Text messages not being received or sent, and call quality often too poor to use.