3 out of 5 people on earth use SMS texting.

October 21, 2011 by Dylan Tweney

According to this amazing infographic from MBAOnline, 4.2 billion people worldwide have phones that support texting. That means that SMS reaches many times more people than the internet — and it’s changing lives around the world. How has texting changed your life?

via VentureBeat

infographic showing 4.2 billion people have SMS worldwide

TracFone

March 9, 2010 by Dylan Tweney

TracFone offers inexpensive, prepaid cellular service. And yes, they do support text messaging!

  • Maximum message length: 160 characters
  • What happens to longer messages: Unknown
  • Cost per message: Unknown
  • More information: TracFone Text Messaging

How to send email to a TracFone: Now this gets a bit tricky, because TracFone actually purchases its cellular service from a bunch of other carriers. Each one of those carriers offers a way of sending email to their phones — but you don’t know off the bat which carrier you’ve got.

So here’s how you find out: Send a series of email messages to the following addresses. Substitute your TracFone’s number for the number in each case:

1234567890@txt.att.net
1234567890@vmobl.com
1234567890@tmomail.net
1234567890@myboostmobile.com
1234567890@messaging.sprintpcs.com
1234567890@messaging.nextel.com
1234567890@mymetropcs.com
1234567890@message.alltel.com
1234567890@questmp.com

You might also try

1234567890@cingularme.com
1234567890@mmode.com

One of those messages will probably get through to your phone. When it does, hit “reply” on your phone and send a short text message back.

You’ll get your reply in your email program — and it will show the email address of your TracFone. Easy as that!

Too much work? You could also try entering your phone number in this reverse cell phone number lookup, which will tell you which carrier “owns” that number. Then look for that carrier in the list of carriers to the right, and use the instructions there to find your phone’s email address.

(Tip of the hat to Bryan Waters for figuring this out!)

Cricket Wireless

by Dylan Tweney

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about how texting works with Cricket Wireless. Well, here you go! If you’ve got a Cricket phone, here’s what you need to know about SMS.

  • Maximum message length: 160 characters
  • What happens to longer messages: Unknown
  • Cost per message: Free to receive messages; to send messages, you need to sign up for a plan that includes text messaging. Most plans include unlimited messaging to U.S. and Canada. Messages to Mexico cost $0.10 and other international messages cost $0.15 each (except Canada).
  • More information: Cricket Wireless Text Messaging Support
  • Sending email to a Cricket phone: Your address is [10-digit-phone-number]@sms.mycricket.com. For example, if your phone number is 123-456-7890, your email address would be 1234567890@sms.mycricket.com.If you want to receive multimedia messages (pictures, music and short videos) you use a similar address: 1234567890@mms.mycricket.com (just change the “sms” part of the address to “mms”).

To send a message to a Cricket subscriber (or up to 5 subscribers at a time), use the Cricket Wireless send a text form online. It’s free!

Text Messaging to Groups of People With Betwext

by Dylan Tweney

Texting works best when you’re sending messages to one person at a time. But what if you want to use SMS to communicate with a group of people? It’s not easy.

Most phones don’t make it easy to send texts to more than one person at a time. Even when you can do this (as with the iPhone), anyone who receives your message can only reply to you. That’s inconvenient in a lot of ways. For instance, what if you wanted to organize a meetup with six of your closest friends while you’re all out and about?

A new for-fee service called Betwext might be able to help. It’s kind of like text messaging with a “reply-all” function.

The way it works is you set up an account with Betwext and purchase credits. Then you create groups of people you want to communicate with, and enter phone numbers for each of them.

When you want to text one of your groups, you just send a text message to a special Betwext number and it forwards your note to everyone on that group. If anyone replies to the message, their reply will go first to Betwext, which will then forward it on to everyone in the group. Voila: Instant “reply-all” for SMS!

Setting up and managing your groups is all done through a web interface, so you need to have the groups set up before you’re out on the town, texting.

It’s not free: Betwext charges for its service. If you send 200 messages/month, it’ll cost you $9 per month. For 1,000 messages, Betwext charges $40/month. That’s on top of any text messaging fees your carrier charges you. And the way Betwext works, it counts each message it sends or receives as a single message. So if you send a message to 5 people, Betwext will charge you for 6 messages: One for the message you sent to Betwext, and one for each of the 5 messages it sent out to your group.

It’s not particularly cheap, but for coordinating via SMS, Betwext might be just the ticket.

Betwext FAQ

Keep Your Texts From Getting You Into Trouble With TigerText

March 7, 2010 by Dylan Tweney

Tiger Woods recently got into trouble partly because his wife, Elin Nordegren, discovered incriminating voicemails and text messages on his phone, news reports allege.

He might not have had that problem if he’d used the cleverly-named TigerText, which promises it can let you “send texts that don’t live forever.”

TigerText is an application that runs on your iPhone. (Android and BlackBerry versions are planned soon.) To use it, the people you’re exchanging messages with need to have the TigerText app as well.

When you send a message, you can specify how long the message will stick around. After the specified time period, it’s deleted from TigerText’s servers — and both of your phones. No incriminating evidence left!

You can even create messages that can only be read once, and then self-destruct as soon as they’re read, Mission Impossible-style.

Here’s the catch: It’s not really SMS. Yes, you’re sending short text messages back and forth. But you’re not using the SMS text messaging service that works with the vast majority of phones out there. It only works if both people — the sender and the recipient — are using TigerText.

Still, if you’ve got a guilty conscience, or something you just plain need to hide, TigerText could be a clever way to do it.

TigerText Deletes Text Messages From Receiver’s Phone (Wired)

TigerText website

TigerText iPhone App

In Haiti, 4636 Shortcode Can Help Save Lives

January 21, 2010 by Dylan Tweney

If you are in Haiti and need to report an emergency situation, send a text message to the shortcode 4636.

This works with any SMS-capable cellphone on the DigiCel network.

Messages sent to that code will be entered into a database. A group of volunteers with an organization called Ushahidi will read each message, figure out where it’s coming from, and relay the necessary information to rescue teams. In some cases the response can be extremely fast:

“The average turnaround for us receiving a message and having a geo-coordinated and translated report to teams on the ground is about 10 minutes,” one volunteer told a Wired reporter.

It has already saved lives: In one case, someone sent a message to 4636 about a group of schoolchildren trapped in a collapsed school. Ushahidi volunteers were able to pinpoint the location with great accuracy and send a rescue team, according to the report on Wired.

For more information: The 4636 SMS Shortcode for Reporting in Haiti

Send an SMS to Space

August 12, 2009 by Dylan Tweney

Hello! R U out there?

Here’s your chance to make first contact with an alien life form, by sending a 160-character text message into outer space.

An Australian science magazine, COSMOS, is working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to deliver the messages by beaming them in the direction of Gliese 581D, an exoplanet that scientists think might have a chance of supporting Earth-like life.

To send a message, go to HelloFromEarth.net and enter your message on the form there. You’ll need to register by supplying your name, email, and hometown, and optionally subscribing to the COSMOS email newsletter. Do it before the end of Sunday, August 23, 2009.

On August 24, all the messages received will be bundled into a text file, encoded in binary, and beamed into space from the NASA/CSIRO Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla, near Canberra, which has a 70-meter antenna.

Gliese 581D is 20.3 light-years away, in the constellation of Libra, so it will take a bit more than 20 years for the messages to arrive. As for a response? Well, don’t hold your breath. There’s no guarantee that the aliens will understand SMS abbreviations.

Text messaging: How many times a day do you do it?

May 7, 2007 by Dylan Tweney

Americans send about 20 billion text messages per month, according to a cell phone industry group that has apparently counted them all. Sound like a lot? That’s only 85 messages per month per cell phone subscriber, or not quite 3 per day.

By comparison, Korean teenagers are sending an average of 2,000 messages per month — 60 per day.

How many text messages do you send in a day?

Skype Cuts SMS Fees In Half

May 3, 2007 by Dylan Tweney

As you may know, if you use Skype, you can send SMS text messages to your friends’ cell phones. Skype charges a small amount per message (less than your cell phone provider does) and makes it easy to send one SMS to multiple recipients, so this can be an easy and economical way to text several of your friends at once. Now, this week only, Skype has cut its usual SMS rate in half.

Between May 2 and May 8, Skype users who send SMS messages to recipients in the United States, Australia, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Belgium, Thailand, Ireland, Austria, and Italy will be charged half the usual rate. Before the week-long reduction, Skype charged $0.112 per message sent to recipients in the United States, $0.088 to Australia, and $0.063 to Thailand.

That means it will cost only about five cents per SMS message to US cell phone addresses. Cheap!

Skype Cuts SMS Fees In Half

Set up your own text-messaging service for free.

May 2, 2007 by Dylan Tweney


You don’t have to be a big company to set up a text-message auto-response system. With TextMarks, you can set up a quick-and-dirty text message information system for free. It’s a great way to stay in touch with your customers or friends, to promote your website or services, or just to provide useful information.

To use TextMarks for receiving information, you send short codes to the TextMarks number (41411). TextMarks then sends the information back that corresponds to the code you sent.

For example, someone set up the code “sftides” — so if you send an SMS containing the word “sftides” to 41411, you’ll get the latest ocean tides for San Francisco. The image of the phone on this post shows what you get when you send the code “kqed” — it’s what’s currently playing on the radio station KQED.

The brilliant part is that it’s really easy to set up your own TextMarks codes. You just need to pick a short code that isn’t already being used on TextMarks. Then you tell TextMarks what information to deliver when somebody sends that code to TextMarks. This could be a short piece of text, or you can tell TextMarks to pull a specific piece of information from a page on your web site.

Or, you can set up a subscription service — essentially an SMS mailing list — so you can send text messages to everyone who has subscribed. For example, if you send the code “ufos” you’ll be subscribed to an alert service for major UFO sightings. (Pretty useful if you anticipate an alien invasion!)

Whenever someone sends a text message with your code to the TextMarks number (41411), they’ll get an SMS reply containing the information you specified, or they’ll be subscribed to your info service if that’s what you’ve set up.

I set up the code “haiku” to send the latest poem from my daily haiku site. To do it, I had to tell TextMarks where to find the text of the day’s haiku on the site’s homepage. I did that by giving it information about two specific HTML tags. On your site, you might use something different.

It took all of about 5 minutes to set up the code and test it. Now anyone can get the day’s haiku just by texting “haiku” to 41411.

Some other TextMarks you can send to 41411 include:

leo, aquarius, virgo, etc: Daily horoscope for that zodiac sign
trackups [tracking number]: Shipping status for a UPS package
checkwoot: what’s on sale today at Woot.com
haha: joke of the day

There’s an extensive list of TextMarks on the site, and you can test each one out right on the web page using TextMarks’ handy simulator.

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About the Author

This site is published by Dylan Tweney, a professional writer and editor, publisher of haiku and SMS information, and a senior editor at Wired.

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