Blog Post

5 Ways to SMS for free

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’ 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 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.

4). TxtDrop: TxtDrop founder 22-year-old Nate Kapitanski got some flack over his SMS MySpace widget and web service last year — the site didn’t launch with privacy terms and didn’t have an About section describing the company or its goals. He says the whole thing was a learning experience which helped make the site much better. As a result he added a privacy policy, email blocking, limited the number of messages that could be sent per minute, and says your phone number is now hidden in the MySpace code. Kapitanski, who only works on the project part time, also recently released a Mac OS dashboard SMS widget and says he is working on a Vista text gadget that could be out as early as April. There still isn’t a clear about section, but if you email the info address on the site, Kapitanski will probably oblige you on details you want to know.

5). Your carrier!? Yes, its true, some carriers have some limited web-to SMS and email to SMS services. On Verizon Wireless’ site you can send a text to a Verizon wireless cell phone user, and send an SMS via email to “verizon wireless phone number” 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.

207 Responses to “5 Ways to SMS for free”

  1. I’ll add some more about GizmoSMS: Neither SMS to Switzerland nor to Singapore arrive where they should and Gizmo isn’t really taking notice of any of the numerous complaints… Of course it’s a free service, but I still wouldn’t entrust any SMS to their gateway.

  2. Anonymous

    In my earlier post – it is 7c per message not per minute.

    The other big obstacle is the character limit. 160 characters per SMS message is standard. Some carriers only allow 140 characters. Sending SMS to Asian countries makes this limit half – 70-80 characters (due to double byte)

    Sending a message + advertisement + maybe a response window (widget style) is tough in 80 characters or 160 characters.


  3. To make SMS Truly FREE a service like the ones listed in this article OR an SMS aggregator needs to do the following

    1. absorb the costs that the end user pays.
    2. There is a FTEU program (Free to the end user) that most mobile carrier companies are currently discussing.
    3. Sprint is not a part of these discussions, but Cingular (the new ATT), TMobile and Verizon are.
    4. Sample per min rate is around 7c from TMobile. Other carriers will charage differently.

    TO really make it FREE for both sender and receiver, any of the above companies listed here needs to absorb 7c costs per minute (maybe less if they do it in volume) and then have a margin on top of that so that they can make money.

    Advertising is a way to do this. However, 7c per min for Advertising is just super expensive!!. Plus FCC will come out with a ruling that Telemarketing via SMS is intrusive and a new Do Not Receive SMS ruling gets into effect.

    All in all this is not fascinating and se*y market to be in. Unless the carriers make Incoming SMS Free.

  4. Free !! Nothing is Free in this world . be it sms or anything else.

    One way of free SMS is to use Yahoo messenger in India.. But that is also limited to 2-3 msgs.

    @Shabbir – I have not heard of any such service here. Can u share more details ?

  5. trackgirl

    I feel like I need to set something straight here about all the companies listed.

    All EXCEPT use SMTP. Peekamo is the only one using real SMPP. That means in Canada, if you use any of the services, except Peekamo, you will get charged to recieve and read the message. No sure about the USA where I think everyone pays to receive. But for Canada and the rest of the world should use Peekamo. Why the heck would you want to pay to receive a message – from anyone.

  6. TxtDrop works great for me and their dashboard widget makes sending a text a quick easy thing that I don’t even need to think about. F12, type, send, done.

  7. John,

    zemble is NOT FREE to RECEIVE. I registered and got a message from the carrier to reply with “READ”. That means zemble is SMTP based, and not real sms, SMPP. Shame on you. it cost me to reply – so there for it cost me 10cents to register. Shame Shame Shame.

    as for Peekamo – just registered. code came very quickly, and no need to “reply with read”. True SMPP. and saved me some $.

    AIM, Yahoo, and MSN – all use SMTP, so while its free to send – no no no, it is NOT free to receive.

    If you like your friends, why would you get them to pay for your msgs, unless you are a mooch!

    Oh, and I just peekamo’d my buddy in the US. If I had sent it from my phone, it would have cost me long distance text msg rate – so that is more money saved by using Peekamo. He got the Peekamo on is computer, so it was free to receive for him. Now I wonder if this Peekamo thing works to txt my friends in the UK.

  8. Trackgirl

    I am with rogers wireless in Canada and I get a lousy 125 txt msg credits a month. now thankfully incoming is free, but only for SMPP. If someone sends me an TXT MSG from the site, I get hit with a nice 15cent charge!

    I love peekamo! I can send from my desktop when I am infront of it, and I can reply from my phone. I was tricky to remember, but you have to put the ID of the person you’re Peekamoing then a space then your msg. I joined the Just Wanna Talk group too – its fun.

    Best of all NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW or will EVER GET my cell number! And I have not seen one bit of spam. Gotta love that

    Big Fan. Keep up the great Articles Kristie! And Peekamo – nice work, EH!

  9. I don’t know if you were talking to me John, but I think you did exactly what I did the first time I used it.

    You have to answer with the Peekamo id you get on the message:

    Peekamo Id then your message.

    There is a full help on the faqs page.

  10. Joy,

    I just tested peekamo with a friend, and he tried to reply to a message I sent him from the site. He got a message back to his phone “support: we could not send a message to the number Yes, please check the number and try again.. [Aquos, there’s more to see]”

    I’d recommend if you like the reply without having people know your cell phone number. They use user names as well.

    Teleflip is also always a good solution for sending messages.

  11. phillip

    aim msn yahoo jabber skype all have sms capabilities. but dont forget who your txt is being charged be it loosing thier txt allotment out of the bucket or a per usage charge for each msgs and in the states its 15 cents for every msg recived on the big national carriers.ringtones wallpapers and all should be done on the pc not sms which is just stupid. buy a phone with bluetooth and make the carrier not cripple it. and come on who pays for ringtones? only a fool with too much money.

  12. Atleast they tell you right on their home page.

    Most Carriers don’t even tell you that when you send a message from their website the recipient is charged.

    I don’t really care, I have unlimited incoming anyways, I just like the fact that my number is not shown on the message and people can still reply to me.

    Maybe we should start a gigaom petition to get US carriers to stop charging for incoming messages.

  13. Waoh, Peekamo is being really dishonest!

    Plastered all over their site is the claim that messages are free for reciepients in Canada and the US.

    Then there is a tiny * which points to: Text messages sent using is free for all countries. Text messages received in the USA are charged at standard text messaging rate, excluding unlimited incoming text messaging plans. USA users can choose not to have text messages arrive on their phone, only in their online inbox.

    That is really really dishonest!

  14. Cingular’s email to txt is the cell number

    The mmode address still works but you have limits as to what you can send.

    Just about any Cingular/Ex-AT&T Wireless contract plan (not prepaid) has free inbound texts.