I noticed recently that my VoIP provider, VoIP.ms, is finally testing their SMS service in Canada. It’s actually free until further notice; while it may not be the best implementation of SMS over IP it’s certainly sufficient for my current needs. The price isn’t too bad, either. 😉
I ported my Fido number of many years to VoIP.ms in 2011, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with it. It turned out to be a good decision for me. With a suitable mobile app I can call home for pennies from anywhere in the world using a WiFi network. It’s great for screening calls too—voicemails left on my old line are converted to audio files and immediately emailed to me.
SMS is almost as convenient. Though my software Internet phone of choice, CSipSimple, doesn’t seem to support the sending of text messages, I can receive them in two ways—as an email attachment and/or as a text forwarded to my current mobile phone number.
The latter is a bit weird; the sender shows up as the number attached to your VoIP account. Say you had ported 416-967-1111 to VoIP.ms, and chose texts to be sent your new mobile number. The sender would appear on your phone as 416-967-1111, not the number of the person who sent you the text. So if you received a typically vague message like: “Hey, what’s up?” you’d have no indication of who the sender was. You can, at least, reply to the text from your phone and it will be transferred through VoIP.ms on to whomever originally sent it.
In my limited testing email works much better. Using the example above, you would receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, but with the originating number included in the “From” field. To reply via text simply reply to the email, respecting the 140 character limit of SMS. The extra cruft like the subject line and quote of the original email is magically stripped out; the sender only gets your reply, and there’s no indication that you’re using anything other than bog-standard SMS to do so.
You also have the option of sending and receiving texts through a web browser via the VoIP.ms SMS Portal, which looks like this:
The portal will also store messages sent and received while you’re logged in.
I’m not too familiar with other, branded VoIP solutions like Vonage, Viber and the like. I do know that Skype charges 9 cents per message for SMS sent to Canadian numbers. I don’t know how much VoIP.ms will charge for texts once the free trial ends, but I’ve a hunch it’s going to be considerably cheaper than Skype.
For more information on SMS over VoIP.ms you can check out their Wiki entry here.