MightyText, a startup founded by two ex-Googlers(s goog), has taken the beta wraps off of its over-the-top messaging service, which extends an Android phone’s SMS capabilities to PCs and tablets. Using the same phone number, a MightyText user can send and receive text messages from a PC or tablet browser in perfect synchronization with their SMS inboxes. As long as your phone is on and has a data connection, you can pretty much text from anywhere.
Generally any new over-the-top messaging app launch makes operators cringe as it represents another potential blow to their lucrative SMS revenues. That’s not the case with MightyText, founder Maneesh Arora explained. Every message sent using the service uses the operator’s SMS infrastructure, meaning carriers collect their messaging revenues no matter where the text originates, Arora said.
“We’re actually routing all messages through the phone,” Arora said. “Android is so open and powerful it allows you to do that.”
A behind-the-scenes smartphone client downloadable from Google Play copies every text as soon as it hits the device and then instantly forwards it over the phone’s data connection to MightyText’s servers. A browser extension, available for Safari(s aapl), Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer(s msft), then spits out the message on your computer screen.
The return path works the same way. You type a message into your browser and select a recipient from your synched contact list, and MightyText rushes it to the device over the IP channel. The app software then deposits that info into an SMS, which the phone sends like any other text message. Arora said making the service as near real-time as possible was key, and MightyText’s aim is to produce no noticeable lag between an SMS showing up on the phone and a PC screen.
MightyText is billing the app as an iMessage for Android users, but in truth it has a far broader scope. iMessage only works between Apple devices and relies on a user’s Apple ID. MightyText relies on something far more universal: a mobile phone number. What’s more, it uses an Android user’s existing phone number, not an alternate one such as Google Voice. And since it accesses the SMS client on the device, messages aren’t sent through an unrecognizable proxy number.
Arora said MightyText has one beta customer that leaves his smartphone plugged in at home in the U.S. when he travels to India. He then text messages his friends and colleagues overseas from his laptop browser, incurring no roaming charges.
Speaking of beta customers, MightyText has an awful lot of them — 250,000 to be exact. Those users are sending a 2 million messages a day and those totals are rapidly growing. Opening the service up to the public at large will part those flood gates further.
Arora said MightyText is looking to grow its user base before it starts looking at revenue opportunities. “First let’s show massive consumer demand,” he said. But he acknowledges that a big potential revenue channel will be the operators.
MightyText is a really a service the carriers should have developed themselves as a way to keep their text messaging services relevant. Some operators have tried to expand the boundaries of their SMS services to the IP realm, most notably Rogers Communications in Canada. But others like AT&T(s t) and Verizon(s vz) have chosen to protect their SMS revenues by simply requiring customers to buy expensive unlimited texting plans.