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A lot of us are still avid text messagers, not because we enjoy paying our carrier those tiring toll (or package) fees, but because it’s still one of the most reliable ways to get a text-based message to a cell phone user — not everyone has mobile IM clients or uses mobile email services.
Even web-based services are starting to recognize that, and recently there have been more and more companies launching “free” SMS options — most often free for those users who want to send a text to a cell phone via the web and email.
Sending free SMS from the Internet isn’t a new idea at all and companies have been developing the bridge between email and SMS for years. By now it’s a simple and easy service to set up and companies have started adding these services as a feature to bring in eyeballs.
Startups are also starting to get more creative with the business model (which was previously severely lacking) as well as the technology solution. At the same time they are learning to add privacy and best practices functions. Remember much of the time receiving the SMS message costs, and some of the services like free bulk messaging could have some not-so-nice spam potential. Be careful about signing up for any ol’ service and check out this list of good characteristics of SMS web services.
1). TeleFlip: TeleFlip has always been a favorite way to send “free” texts via email: ‘phone number’@teleflip.com. They still offer that service which they now call FlipOut, but they are also trying to turn their technology into a working business. I haven’t been able to test the new service yet (shown at DEMO), which is supposed to be out sometime this month, but they say it forwards your emails to your SMS inbox for free — 5,000 messages for per month. Hopefully they have a good management tool, as email spam can fill an SMS inbox pretty quickly and receiving text fees still apply.
2). Peekamo: Founded just November 2006 and based in Toronto according to their web site, Peekamo says they are different than other web-based SMS free sites, as both the receiver and sender don’t pay for the message. How do they manage that? — they say ad-sponsored messages, and using a protocol called short message peer to peer, (unlike the more common email-SMS method). When I sent a message from the web site to myself, it was sponsored by Sharp and had a link to Sharp’s web site www.moretosee.com. It’s still in beta, but is adding other social features.
3). Gizmo SMS: SIPphone has more than its fair share of sweet mobile services like the Gizmo Project, and earlier this month they also added a free web-based SMS service. The service works for dozens of countries and has a model ‘terms of service’ and privacy assurance sections. It’s not rocket science, but shows how these services are easy enough to create that they can be used to market the company’s other money-making solutions.
5). Your carrier!? Yes, its true, some carriers have some limited web-to SMS and email to SMS services. On Verizon Wireless’ vtext.com site you can send a text to a Verizon wireless cell phone user, and send an SMS via email to “verizon wireless phone number”@vtext.com. Sprint has a similar web based service to text Sprint customers. They still get some money the more times people text using most solutions, so why not get more people to text their customers.