[VoiceOps] SMS apps, providers, and peers

Paul Timmins paul at timmins.net
Tue Dec 8 10:46:01 EST 2009

Alex Balashov wrote:
> I'm always up for a beer.
> There are two ways to see this;  one is that use of SMS is a growth 
> market opportunity, and another is that the mushrooming diversity of 
> applications for SMS is rapidly straining its capabilities and 
> usefulness as a medium and only accelerating its expiration.
> As aspects of the mobile experience apart from straight voice calls 
> stand now, there are two categories:
> (1) Plain text messages of <= 160 characters, almost always metered or 
> requiring a comparatively expensive unlimited plan byte-for-byte.
> Strength: Ubiquitous on all types of mobile handsets.

Strength: Near Instantaneous, doesn't require a third party that isn't 
you or your terminating carrier (such as facebook, twitter, or some 
not-yet-developed IM equivalent).
It also fills a need - to dash off a quick note that arrives more or 
less immediately.

If I need more than 160 characters, It's probably not urgent urgent, and 
can better be articulated in an email, which even dumb phones often have 
clients for these days. But I can still use SMS to say "check your email!"
> (2) Everything else data (web, e-mail, umpteen gazillion 
> iPhone/Blackberry/Pre/etc. apps, etc.).  Generally unmetered, and 
> where metered inexpensively byte-for-byte compared to SMS.
> Weakness: Presently confined largely to higher-end phones and service 
> plans.
> Strength: A thousand times more useful, extensible and adaptable than 
> plain text, unleashes a completely new generational set of 
> capabilities for mobile devices that makes them strikingly similar to 
> little interactive computers.  Much richer user experience.
But there's no good instant push notification that's even common across 
smartphone platforms, let alone across anything else. Even walled 
gardens like blackberry messenger suck. (at least when I tried using it 
with all my friends a few years ago, it required getting everyone's pin, 
loading them in both phones, and then getting their servers not to suck, 
and I could still only talk to blackberries)

I have a Palm Pre. My coworker next to me has a HTC Touch Pro. What can 
we use to send instantaneous messages between each other? (without 
signing up for an IM service, I know my phone has AIM and Yahoo IM, not 
sure about his, but let's assume making everyone sign up for 3 instant 
messenger services is off the table)

Is there an easy service where I can give someone my phone number and 
have them send me a data based message? One that arrives right away?

> If I'm right and SMS is a sinking ship due to the _rapidly_ evolving 
> capabilities and downward-trending cost (per unit of functionality) of 
> the mass-market mobile handset, you should be thinking ahead, not 
> belatedly hustling your way onto a crowded bandwagon.  The mobile 
> handset today is capable of far more sophisticated two-way data 
> transmission than ~160 character text messages, and that capability is 
> _already_ mainstream in certain segments.  Are you really suggesting 
> that in December 2009, money should aggressively be poured into an 
> overpriced, borderline mafia-regulated ~10 year old method of 
> delivering short, plain text messages consisting of about two lines of 
> 80x24 terminal text?

Until there's a better solution, sure!

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