What are words for..when no one speaks them anymore
December 1, 2008 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Need an iPhone app that can fully replace texting. My phone bill was WAY too high this month.

I have several friends that are extremely important to me that refuse to actually talk on the phone. All of their communication is via text if not in person. This has taken a huge toll on my iPhone bill the last month or so. Is there an iPhone app that will allow me the same instant communication without the others having to have the same app? Do thinks like Beejive do this? Ideally I'd like to be able to use something like IM but that wouldn't require all of my friends to be logged into IM to get in touch with me via text-like communication. What's out there?
posted by spicynuts to Technology (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on what carrier you have, you may be able to sign up for a plan that lets you specify x amount of friends (5-10) and have unlimited local call and text with them, regardless of phone.

I know Bell Canada, Rogers, and Fido offer this. Not too sure about US carriers.
posted by Phire at 3:04 PM on December 1, 2008

How is regular email not fitting the bill? You want SMS without paying per-message fees? Most carriers have some sort of unlimited SMS messaging plan. But I would suggest email.
posted by GuyZero at 3:07 PM on December 1, 2008

This won't fully replace texting but you can send texts via email. Here's MakeUseOf's post on how to do it, http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/email-to-sms/. I verified this myself, the downside is that you still pay to get texts.
posted by fenriq at 3:10 PM on December 1, 2008

Response by poster: Regular email does not fit the bill because it's not instantaneous. I also don't want to pay another 30 bucks a month every month for unlimited texting. I was hoping something like Beejive would let me pay 15 bucks ONCE, and then be IMing away somehow while my friends text. If this is about as realistic as a pig flying up my pooper, let me know.
posted by spicynuts at 3:15 PM on December 1, 2008

You can use the AIM client to send (and receive!) SMS. Instructions here: http://www.mydigitallife.info/2008/07/16/send-free-sms-text-messages-from-iphone-and-ipod-touch-via-aim-and-ichat/

Also, linked from that article in case you miss it: http://www.mydigitallife.info/2008/07/03/ways-to-send-unlimited-free-sms-text-messages-from-iphone-and-ipod-touch-txtdrop-durglesender-teleflip-and-operators/

Finally, many providers provide an email-to-SMS gateway. A little googling can help you find out the address format that each carrier uses. For example, I use fido in Canada and sending an email to [my phone number]@fido.ca shows up as an SMS on my phone
posted by mebibyte at 3:16 PM on December 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've used my gmail (which should be on your e-mail) and sending texts via e-mail have been just as fast as any other texting.
posted by sandmanwv at 3:18 PM on December 1, 2008

I mean, should be on your Iphone
posted by sandmanwv at 3:18 PM on December 1, 2008

I assume you are in the US with AT&T. Unlimited texting is $20/month, not sure if that is too spicy of a price for you. Also, if you suspect you are going to go over for a particular month, you can always bump up your text plan temporarily so you don't have to pay 5ยข per message.
As for apps that do the same thing, Apple has been pretty vicious about not letting any apps through to the store that do anything the iPhone already does, so you may be out of luck on that one.
You could also just call your friend(s) if they send you more than two texts in a row. They should get the point to call you instead.
posted by idiotfactory at 3:20 PM on December 1, 2008

I haven't tested any of this out myself, but this Lifehacker post about sending texts from email might be of use to you.
posted by thebergfather at 3:54 PM on December 1, 2008

you can add an e-mail address to your contacts to send them a text via email, but that doesn't help with receiving. you're pretty much stuck paying the additional fee for text messaging ($15 for 1500 or $20 for unlimited) - SMSs really only reside on the cell phone network (for the most part) so you're not going to find something like AIM that hooks into text messaging.
posted by mrg at 4:06 PM on December 1, 2008

I, just this minute, came across this http://gizmodo.com/5100592/sms-touch-send-free-text-messages-through-email. It does say that that the returned sms will arrive as email so is possibly what you're looking for. Can't tell you any more about it as I don't have iphone(yet)
posted by figment at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2008

You have an iPhone, your friends presumably do not. You should tell your friends to send text messages to the email address associated with your phone, and set up push email somehow (possibly through MobileMe which costs $100/year). As for sending, you can use the link thebergfather provided to send SMS messages without actually using your own SMS messages.

You're not going to get an answer you like because it doesn't exist. SMS is treated as a completely separate data stream from all the other data that goes over the internet, which is why it seems "instantaneous", and the iPhone and all other phones treat SMS separately from normal data packets.

I think the app in figment's comment just does a lookup of the phone number you're sending the "SMS" to and translates it into the appropriate email-to-SMS gateway.
posted by meowzilla at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2008

Doesn't Yahoo offer push e-mail, which is instantaneous? My company's Exchange server pushes to my iPhone. Use one of those: you can usually send an SMS to an e-mail, so have people text you there, and then reply via e-mail. All your traffic goes over e-mail.
posted by fogster at 5:37 PM on December 1, 2008

any text over e-mail isn't going to be instantaneous. period. i tried it with 3 different e-mail clients, and all 3 did some texts instantaneously and some took overnight. and nothing was different between the ones that went right away and the ones that took forever. just lousy timing.
posted by dithmer at 6:41 PM on December 1, 2008

The basic problem with any of these solutions is that iPhone does not allow background multitasking. What this means for sms is that a solution like sms-via-AIM will only work (will only show you as logged in to accept communication from others) when you have that app running on your screen. The minute you go away to any other screen, you disconnect from being able to receive the sms messages. This makes it almost useless for sms because your friends won't be able to reach you unless you already have the AIM client up on your iPhone.

In other words, there is currently nothing for iPhone that exactly replaces sms, and there cannot be until they change the multitasking problem. The solution is to pony up for sms or see if your friends are willing to slightly change their behavior...
posted by sparrows at 12:11 PM on December 5, 2008

(sms-via-AIM is a very cool free service for your computer, and in that case it does of course maintain the connection even when you're working in other apps, because your computer can multitask -- but that doesn't help you maintain a connection on the iPhone, because you can't be simultaneously logged on from more than one client for a given AIM account)
posted by sparrows at 12:19 PM on December 5, 2008

posted by Flamingo at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2008

Beejive IM + a push email address.

In Beejive's settings you can add a notification address for those times you receive replies and the app is closed. If you have a microsoft exchange address or a MobileMe account that use push technology, the response is nearly instantaneous (I've noticed only a few seconds of lag occasionally). I use mail2web.com who offers free access to their microsoft exchange email.

You can text like others have mentioned via AIM/GMail, close the app, do other things and when the email comes in notifying you of a response, re-open the app and reply. Plus, it's all free after you've paid the one-time buying Beejive charge.

Between this and TruPhone for my iPod touch, I don't miss not having an iPhone most days.
posted by nuala at 12:54 PM on March 29, 2009

To update this thread: the free AIM client for iPhone now maintains persistent logins (for 24 hours) and is excellent.
posted by sparrows at 6:26 PM on April 23, 2009

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