Sending SMS via computer
May 12, 2017 3:04 PM   Subscribe

We text a lot at work and people are getting sore thumbs. They all have iphones and PCs with SIM-card receivers (plus twin cards that they use for data). I want them to be able to send, receive and respond to SMS on their computers, ideally with echoing on their phones so no information is lost between devices. Imessage or whatsapp etc aren't an option as the receiver may be on android or just as likely on a dumbphone.

I have considered a 4g dongle with an in-built "SMS Gateway" where they can send via a web interface built into the device, but that's not going to offer alerts, and they would need to have it connected etc, I would really like to use the internal card.

My preference is that this is an existing function with, for example, Skype or Microsoft Office or other similarly established companies that we may already have licenses with. Security would be an important aspect and cost is also an aspect, we are a large organisation, but a small amount of users needing it right now. My very last preference is something that provides this functionality as a service or toolchain. We have already discussed accessibility options like bluetooth keyboards just for the texting, using a lot of auto-expand shortcuts, note-templates and voice commands.
posted by anonymous to Technology (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Does it have to be SMS? What about an app that works in phone and PC? Something like Slack would be perfect for this - you can get it on your computer & phones. No dumbphone support from Slack unfortunately, but I wonder if something like Zapier could be used to connect Slack to SMS, maybe there's something at that might work for those devices.
posted by cgg at 4:05 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been using Silent when I was living somewhere without cell service, it worked well and was about NZ$13month (but I'm a tiny user). Silent do do other sms services and it sounds like they offer outsite of NZ too. They were the only NZ operator offering this service at a useable price point.
posted by unearthed at 4:37 PM on May 12, 2017

> . Imessage or whatsapp etc aren't an option as the receiver may be on android or just as likely on a dumbphone.

Just as an FYI-- iMessage can send and receive SMS with Android and dumbphones.

AFAIK, this is how it works:

write iMessage on Computer --> is receiver in iMessage database? --> Yes? Send via data

write iMessage on Computer --> is receiver in iMessage database? --> No? Forward message to user's iPhone --> send via SMS to receiver's phone number

SMS message sent to user --> received on phone (must be charged) --> forwarded to iMessage network (phone must have internet connection - either cellular or wifi) --> appears on signed in iMessage devices

This is mac only, however (wasn't clear if PC meant "personal computer" or the more frequent "windows PC")

Pushbullet would work for senders with Android phones + Windows PC, but not for senders with iPhones + Windows PC (iOS limitation.)
posted by bluecore at 4:45 PM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you search for SMS ticketing system you'll get several options. It looks like Zendesk has an SMS option, plus there are many others.

Also seconding the Zapier recommendation from cgg. You could definitely use Zapier to have SMS messages converted to emails to your team, who could then reply via email, at which point Zapier would convert the email back to SMS and send to the original person.
posted by reeddavid at 5:20 PM on May 12, 2017

Why don't you check if the phone company they're using has a desktop app for SMS?

Verizon for instance has Messages+ for desktops.
posted by Talez at 5:40 PM on May 12, 2017

I use google voice to do almost all my SMS messaging on my computer. I believe it has all the features that you are looking for.
posted by metadave at 6:17 PM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Google Voice works great as long as you don't need to send or receive MMS pictures.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:13 PM on May 12, 2017

JoeZydeco: "Google Voice works great as long as you don't need to send or receive MMS pictures."

Google voice solved the mms issue. Can do group messaging now as well as pictures.

I use GV and that would work, but I also use Pushbullet to sms when someone sends something to my direct cell number and I am at my desk.
posted by AugustWest at 8:01 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't you have to transfer your number to google voice to use it? (Correct me if I'm wrong.) If so, that seems like an untenable solution for an entire office of people.
posted by bluecore at 8:35 PM on May 12, 2017

Airdroid works for Apple/Windows + Android. When the phone is wifi'd to the same network as the computer, the computer echoes notifications from Android (annoyingly at first-- it's necessary to tell Airdroid to ignore a few apps that happen to notify all the time uselessly: "updating weather..."), and you can reply over SMS.

Whatsapp works just fine on Android as well as on computers; not sure why that's not an option.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:57 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

No, you do need not transfer your cell number to GV to use it. You could get a new GV number to use for business purposes and use your personal phone number as one of the linked phones. Or, you could transfer your number to GV and get a new number for your cell line (if your phone is off contract).

GV works for any individual in this situation. Pushbullet works well too. Can send sms from your desk from your phone. Can send an sms from another phone using a 2nd phones number if you have the app on both phones and login as the same id on both phones. I think there are limits to the number of sms sent per month on the free tier.

I am not sure any option other than GV would work with a non feature or dumb phone.
posted by AugustWest at 9:58 PM on May 12, 2017

Whatsapp Web ties to your computer via a tether. It's been very handy.
posted by parmanparman at 12:36 AM on May 13, 2017

AugustWest: Pushbullet works well too.

Apparently there's an iOS limitation that prevents what the OP wants to do:

We would love to be able to enable iPhone users to send text messages from their other devices or computers but unfortunately this is not possible.
posted by bluecore at 3:38 AM on May 13, 2017

I feel your pain I have dealt with this. I helped setup IT and phones for a small law office. Mostly low-income and younger clients, so SMS and texting is the most efficient way to communicate. Using iPhone/iMessage not an option as lots of people do not have iPhones. Also goal was to not have to use employees personal phones to keep separation of work and personal phone numbers.

We ended up using a VOIP phone service that has messaging. Service is RingCentral. It does all the usual small business phone service stuff and has native apps for smartphones, mac, and PC. You can send and receive SMS messages on computer, via web, etc. It was the only VOIP service we could find with SMS.

It is far from perfect. For all the bells and whistles the actual voice phone service is awful. Call quality and connection sometimes great but sometimes horrible. It's internet based so there's nobody to point to and blame - the problem could be on the services end, or possibly bad internet weather. The SMS system does not handle images. The messages are synced between multiple clients (web, phones, native apps) but there's no easy way to get the message data out to preserve communications. There are super dumb limitations like only 2 client apps can access any one number at a time, a huge pain if you want to have a large support team monitor and communicate on one main number. Provisioning numbers and users is made for 200+ users so is very complicated for small groups. The service is expensive. If there was a better option I would leave RingCentral in a heartbeat.

Talkroute is another VOIP provider that claims to solve the horrible VOIP call quality by using only switched telephone networks. They emailed me a couple weeks ago to say they have added SMS. Have not looked into it.

Google voice handles messaging now somehow. Porting and assigning numbers seems complicated.

If you can deal with the limitations, I would look into computers with a clipping expander/canned text utility like TextExpander for Mac as a way to automate the texting.
posted by sol at 5:02 AM on May 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the Android users, MightyText provides the gateway you want.
posted by megatherium at 5:02 AM on May 13, 2017

Nthing Google Voice.
posted by 8603 at 11:43 AM on May 13, 2017

Signal has a desktop app that will link to the phone number based account (for Windows, at least). It looks and functions similar to any other instant messenger on the computer, and you can set Signal to be your default and client on the phone.
posted by eviemath at 6:59 PM on May 13, 2017

Just remembered I have a sock and can reply!
(didn't want other colleagues googling the same question and seeing my username).

Yep, needs to be SMS for the reasons sol describes, my people are often on burners or are out of data, or may have given me a parent's number or any number of issues. Plain ol' sms.

bluecore's setup would be perfect, except that it only works on Macs and we are on PC.
Sunburnt's Airdroid suggestion would be great except we're on iPhones.

Whatsapp will send data-messages to whatsapp-on-phones from a computer, but not SMS. I cannot install anything on the users phones, plain SMS only. If there were a gobetween app for iOs that would trigger on the Whatsapp being sent from my computer and relay it via SMS from my phone that would work.

Google Voice doesn't seem to be available to me in Europe, I get redirected to a support-post on Hangouts. Am I missing something?

It might be that I have to get them an extra/replacement phone on Android and get the OK to use Mightytext. Ideally we wouldn't be going through too many servers as the clients often mention sensitive information, which makes Signal look really interesting if it can send via SMS; it mentions more avoiding sms charges?
posted by J.R. Hartley at 7:06 AM on May 14, 2017

If wifi is available, Signal will use that over SMS. But it will use SMS if that's available and wifi isn't.
posted by eviemath at 7:26 AM on May 14, 2017

Mightytext free has some serious limitations on number of messages -- I ran through it in like half a month. Now I use Yappy to text from my computer. It sends standard SMS messages and the number is unlimited.
posted by possibilityleft at 8:04 AM on May 14, 2017

Signal seems to be demanding that the person I am messaging has Signal installed, in other words it's an encrypted Whatsapp in this context?

If Yappy works without requiring an Android phone to tether to it could be decent. They use the term "unified messaging" which is a useful search term for me to continue with though!

Are there no softwares that use the integrated SIM-card reader in my computer?
posted by J.R. Hartley at 8:26 AM on May 14, 2017

Huh. Signal works just fine for me as a generic SMS client.
posted by eviemath at 8:40 AM on May 14, 2017

Looks like it might work like that from phone, but not from desktop or plugin. Thanks though!
posted by J.R. Hartley at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

If they're on Verizon and using Windows 10, there's the Verizon Message+ app for Windows 10 which does exactly what you want. Two 'if's' but there you go.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 7:30 PM on May 14, 2017

We've bought Android phones for them and are using Airdroid. Thanks folks!
posted by J.R. Hartley at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2017

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