If you have heard about sending SMS messages online, you might be thinking that it is only for businesses. However, I have recently discovered how easy it is to send SMS online for personal reasons. You see, I planned on simplifying bills and I wanted to get rid of my cell phone. I had gotten rid of the car, and that was my next step.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to call or text anyone out of state. I still had a phone in my condo, but I wasn’t able to call long distance. Of course, people were still able to call me. But my mom and my sister and I used to text a lot, so I wanted to be able to text them. On a whim, I decided to see if I could find a way to text them from my computer.
I had remembered that a person I knew had texted his mother from the computer at school using his email. I was thinking that was going to be what I ran across, but instead it was a different way to send SMS online. There were sites that allowed you to do it for free, and then there were sites that charged you to be able to send the messages.
I decided to try out one of the ones that I found that allowed you to send the SMS messages for free. It was actually a really easy way to send the messages because you only had to input the number, the message, your email address and the carrier. They need the carrier to be able to send the message, and you give your email address so that you can get a reply. The only other thing you have to do is to input the captcha so that you’re able to verify you’re an actual person sending the message.
I’ll be travelling to parts of Morocco and I need to find a reliable way for my relatives at home to let me know daily that they are OK. They are elderly, rather deaf, and not good on the phone, but they can manage email and Facebook. There appear to be programs that enable you to send emails as SMS messages from a PC to a mobile phone, which might be a solution, but I’m not sure which are safe and reliable. My mobile phone is fairly basic and on a pay-as-you-go service with T-Mobile.
If your relatives can handle email, then the simplest idea is for them to use emails to send SMS messages to your phone. Many mobile networks and independent companies offer email-to-SMS gateways that do this, though the commercial ones charge for sending bulk texts. Usually, you send the email to the international mobile phone number followed by the supplier’s email address. In other words, the address will be something like firstname.lastname@example.org, where you replace the opening 0 with the UK country code, 44.
T-Mobile used to offer this as a free service via @t-mobile.uk.net and perhaps it still does. (I believe both Vodafone and O2 have dropped similar services.) You can test it by sending yourself an SMS.
Wikipedia has a big table of SMS gateways, which you can sort by region to get all the UK services together. However, all the ones I looked at were commercial services aimed at volume users.
PC users generally use websites to send the odd free SMS text message. There are quite a lot of these, and I don’t know which is best. I tried half a dozen, and the two websites that delivered quickly were e-freesms and, about 10 minutes later, SMS Frog. The other four SMS messages failed to arrive within 12 hours, so again, you need to test whichever service you choose.
Both e-freesms and SMS Frog require you to fill in a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart), which means typing some letters into a box. Here, SMS Frog is much the easier of the two. (SMS Frog also says: “Messages can be sent to United Kingdom mobile numbers exclusively”, but I assume this means UK mobile numbers even if the phone is abroad.)
You have to be a bit careful because some sites are “free to send” but not necessarily “free to receive”. With “reverse charge services”, the recipient gets a free SMS alert, but they have to pay perhaps £1 to £3 to pick it up. (For example, by sending GET to a chargeable number.) However, US-based readers can use AIM, or AOL Instant Messenger, which supports sending SMS messages to US mobile numbers free of charge.
One of my Twitter followers, Paul Fald, recently asked a similar question: “Can anyone recommend a reliable and possibly FREE online SMS messaging site – sending to all UK mobiles?” Stuart Mitchell, a telecom professional made some suggestions, but he warned: “please don’t go free … you won’t get QoS [quality of service] that way and have many headaches.”
In the end, Paul decided to use http://www.vyke.com/ at 3 1/2p per text with a £5 minimum purchase. You have to register to use the service, but as he pointed out, it’s cheaper than using Skype at 5.9p per message, where “You must purchase Skype Credit or a Premium Account.”
You also mention that your elderly relatives use Facebook, so it would be a good idea for them to send you Facebook messages as a back-up. With Facebook notifications, you can get these messages sent to your email address, so you can check them when you have access to a PC, if not on your mobile phone.