You’re at your computer, and your friend is out with their phone. You want to send them a message, and your phone is dead. What do you do?
Okay, this scenario isn’t that big a deal. Sure, ten years ago it may have required some pondering, but now there are any number of answers. You could send an email, fire off a Facebook message, or hit them up on Twitter. They use iMessage, right? All of these methods are available on a desktop.
But if you’re talking to someone who isn’t carrying around a smartphone, these options don’t work. Why wouldn’t someone have a smartphone? Well, they may have reasons to ditch smartphones.
In that case, you’re back to scratching your head. What do you do? Simple — send an email to their phone number.
This works with virtually any SMS-capable phone, whether it runs apps or not, thanks to SMS gateways.
What is an SMS Gateway?
An SMS gateway converts an email into SMS, enabling you to communicate from a PC to a phone. Most carriers offer access to an SMS gateway for free. Interacting with one is the same as sending any other email. All you need to know is the recipient’s gateway address. If you know which mobile carrier they use, finding out their address shouldn’t be a problem.
SMS gateways are typically free to use. But while you can send email for free, it may still cost money for the person on the receiving end. An SMS that originates from email isn’t any different from any other as far as cellular plans are concerned.
Uses for an SMS Gateway
SMS gateways aren’t useful only for sending a text from your PC to a phone. Sure, that may be technically all that a gateway does, but that’s not being imaginative enough. Here are some other uses.
1. Notifying Yourself When an Email Arrives
On smartphones, a notification appears whenever a new email lands in your inbox. On a feature phone without email capabilities, forwarding an email to your phone is one way to keep tabs on who’s reaching out to you. The entire message won’t fit in a single SMS, but you will at least know that the desired package has shipped or that a colleague has pinged you about the current project.
Using filters, you can opt to only forward certain messages. This is beneficial even if you’re a smartphone user. Reaching a text only for the most important mail is a nice balance between being always online and disconnecting from the web entirely.
Forwarding email to SMS doesn’t require anything special on your part. Forward to a gateway address the same way you would a standard email address.
2. Transferring Files
Sending text messages makes for an easy way to get files from your phone to a computer. This method works for sending pictures that you take yourself or forwarding images received from others, allowing you to view them on a larger screen. This saves you the effort of plugging your phone into a computer and figuring out how to transfer files that way — if you even can.
To make the magic happen, all you have to do is type in an email address instead of a phone number when sending a picture message.
3. Making a Feature Phone Smart Using IFTTT
Many of today’s smart gadgets assume you have a smartphone. Some won’t even do anything without the ability to install a companion app to your device. Fortunately, in some cases, there is a workaround.
IFTTT is a web service that can perform certain tasks in response to particular actions. With IFTTT, you can make your feature phone smart or compatible with smart devices.
IFTTT recipes let you perform many actions simply by sending a text. Adjust lights or play music. If you’re working with limited storage on your device, you can use IFTTT to back up SMS messages to a spreadsheet. Or you can receive an SMS message whenever a package arrives.
4. Sending Bulk Messages
SMS gateways aren’t just here to make our lives more convenient. Companies turn to them as a way to messages thousands of phones at once. Though this service isn’t always free.
When you receive an impersonal message from a carrier, a company, or a political organization, they’re probably using an SMS gateway. This is also a way employers in large companies can communicate with all of their employees, regardless of where they are in the world.
What is Your SMS Gateway?
To do any of this, you’re going to need to know the recipient’s gateway address. Let’s say they use AT&T. In that case, just type in their ten digit phone number followed by @txt.att.net. Do not use dashes.
The result should look like this: firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the same regardless of which carrier or MVNO you use.
US Carriers and MVNOs
Here is a list of gateway address for major US carriers as well as MVNO. Use the first address to send SMS and the second for MMS. Note: some carriers don’t use separate addresses.
Alltel: sms.alltelwireless.com | mms.alltelwireless.com
AT&T: txt.att.net | mms.att.net
Boost Mobile: sms.myboostmobile.com | myboostmobile.com
Cricket Wireless: txt.att.net | mms.att.net
MetroPCS: mymetropcs.com | mymetropcs.com
Project Fi: msg.fi.google.com
Republic Wireless: text.republicwireless.com
Sprint: messaging.sprintpcs.com | pm.sprint.com
US Cellular: email.uscc.net | mms.uscc.net
Verizon Wireless: vtext.com | vzwpix.com
Virgin Mobile: vmobl.com | vmpix.com
Most people don’t live in the US. We could undergo the effort of trying to compile a list carrier-by-carrier, country-by-country, but other people have already done that heavy lifting. If you live outside of the US, check out these links to see what your carrier’s SMS gateway might be.
Have You Ever Emailed a Text?
Back in high school, emailing friends’ mobile phones was how I sent SMS messages back before I had a cellular phone of my own. Thanks to our conversations, there were periods when my inbox had more phone numbers than email addresses. All of this took place a decade ago.
Since then, I’ve mostly turned to SMS gateway to occasionally forward a picture message or web address from a feature phone to a computer. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a nice way to get around having to plug a phone into a computer.
Have you ever emailed an SMS to someone? Do you use SMS gateways to send yourself alerts? What tips and tricks have you come up with? Share your experience in the comments!
Originally written by Aibek Esengulov on Nov 27, 2008