Sending Texts
August 13, 2004 8:06 AM   Subscribe

How do I send a text message to someone if I know their cell phone number but not the carrier?
posted by smackfu to Technology (24 answers total)
Best answer: Um, on my cellphone, all I need is the number.
posted by angry modem at 8:10 AM on August 13, 2004

Um, on my cellphone, all I need is the number.

Are you trying to send SMS from some source other than a phone?
posted by majick at 8:17 AM on August 13, 2004

Great question.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:20 AM on August 13, 2004

I think your question is not so much 'How do I do it' as 'Will it arrive'? Unfortunately, the answer is: you don't. It's possible you can find out if the message was delivered -- your phone may be able to request a delivery notification.

The ultimate problem is that not all cell phones interoperate on SMS -- CDMA phones in particular (Verizon, Sprint) don't use the same mechanism for sending short messages.

If you want to absolutely know you're communicating with somebody on a cell phone, you'll have to resort to the whole 'can you hear me now' thing...
posted by daver at 8:22 AM on August 13, 2004

Wait. I've sent VERizon > ATT text messages many times. But you do need the domain/@xxxx to go from e-mail to text message.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:32 AM on August 13, 2004

In theory (!), you should be able to find out the "domain" for each of the Big Carriers on their respective websites. For instance, using Verizon, my text-message address for someone who wants to e-mail me: I'm pretty sure that's standard for Verizon.
posted by davidmsc at 8:42 AM on August 13, 2004

While there is some concern that messages won't be routed across some networks, in large part you should have few problems sending SMS from GSM to CDMA networks and vice versa. It used to not work very well, but things have improved somewhat in the last couple of years.

Generally, if your message source is a phone and that phone and the phone's account is capable of sending SMS, all you need is the number. Otherwise you may have to resort to email hacks.
posted by majick at 8:46 AM on August 13, 2004

HELLO?! How can the guy go to the web site of the provider if he doesn't know the provider?

You might try "pinging" all the likely suspects--there aren't that many; I think the wrong ones will come back with a text message (error).
posted by ParisParamus at 8:54 AM on August 13, 2004

If you need to send it from a computer instead of your phone, you can send a text message at Yahoo! Mobile to any carrier without needing to know the carrier.

Personally, I just put in the phone number, type in the message and hit send on my T-Mobile phone. Sprint users always complain because they have to sign onto the data service to read their messages, but they should complain to Sprint instead of me.
posted by revgeorge at 8:58 AM on August 13, 2004

You can lookup what carrier the person has by using this form. Caution: while this method used to be pretty reliable, it seems to be a bit buggy after the introduction of number portability. For instance: I used to have Sprint; I transferred my number to Verizon, yet the lookup directory still shows my number belonging to Sprint.
posted by Hankins at 9:14 AM on August 13, 2004

Response by poster: I was trying to do it from the web since I have a keyboard here and it seemed easier. But it seems like the "right" way is to just use my phone. I'll give that a try, although it does feel a bit like putting a message in a bottle and hoping it gets to the right place. That Yahoo site is neat for future use.

(As you may have guessed, I don't usually use SMS. What prompted the q is that this person has basically no cell coverage where she is but insists on answering the damn phone instead of letting it go to voicemail so I can leave a clear message. Maybe a text message will get through.)
posted by smackfu at 9:14 AM on August 13, 2004

You can also send a text message through AIM by entering as the user: +18005551212. just put +1 in front of the number.
posted by thebigpoop at 9:17 AM on August 13, 2004

How does the Yahoo utility work? Does it have a reference of which numbers are assigned to which carriers?

Does such a utility exist for international cell providers?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:18 AM on August 13, 2004

You could always use Teleflip to send via email.
posted by Acetylene at 9:29 AM on August 13, 2004

To find out the wireless carrier i use the reverse lookup at

It'll give you a message like this:
"We did not find a listing for the phone number you entered.
The phone number "(****) ***-****" is a Toronto, ON based phone number and the registered carrier is FOO. Additional information for this number is not available. Please read our Search Tips below for more information.
posted by the_ill_gino at 9:40 AM on August 13, 2004

By the way, why do you want to text message someone without just asking them? Do you realize there's a who set of people, perhaps a majority, of cell phone users who don't know how to type text messages on their phone?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:48 AM on August 13, 2004

I'd hazard a guess that most people would be able to read a text message, even if the required thumb presses needed to reply escape them.
posted by toby\flat2 at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2004

This amazes me. Almost everyone I know, of all ages, in the UK knows how to text thoroughly.
posted by armoured-ant at 10:42 AM on August 13, 2004

To find out the wireless carrier i use the reverse lookup at

This isn't that accurate. My own phone number brings up the wrong carrier (bell; i'm on sprint).
posted by dobbs at 12:05 PM on August 13, 2004

Is this something I'd need an inferior north american technology to know about?
We don't have cross-carrier difficulties in the UK: a number is all you need. What is wrong with corporate co-ordination to increase customer satisfaction?
posted by dash_slot- at 3:41 PM on August 13, 2004

You can send text messages to phones using AOL instant messenger (or iChat or whatever). Just send a message to "+19528675309" using their phone number (make sure to include the + and the 1 but not the quotes.) Depending on their service, they might even be able to text you back and have it pop up on your computer screen.
posted by bonheur at 4:47 PM on August 13, 2004

"What is wrong with corporate co-ordination to increase customer satisfaction?"

It costs money. Spending money on things like product quality or customer service doesn't impress Wall Street.
posted by majick at 7:27 PM on August 13, 2004

you don't happen to know if that works internationally do you?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:30 PM on August 13, 2004

thatwhichfalls, I've never tried it internationally. My friend with Sprint PCS gets my messages but is unable to text me back. My other friend, who has TMobile, can write me back from her phone so we can have little text/chat conversations with me on my computer and her on her phone.
posted by bonheur at 10:19 PM on August 13, 2004

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