Free text messages on the iPhone

There are a couple of cool free text messaging apps for the iPhone such as Textfree, Yahoo Messenger, and AIM. However none of them can really give you a real-time notification that you got a new text message because they get turned off once you exit the program or turn off your screen. Textfree can forward you an email every time you get a new text message, but that requires you to use two applications ( textfree + mail ) , which becomes annoying.

So, to get around this, I opted to use Yahoo Mail as my free text message provider. Here’s how:

1) Sign up for a new Yahoo Mail account — current Yahoo Mail users can use their account if they want, but I prefer to keep my text messages separate from my emails.

2) Setup the Yahoo Mail account on your iphone and turn on “push” email. – Technically you can use any email provider that has push emails.

3) To send someone a text message, you have to know who their phone carrier/company is — How?? Ask them… or use this http://www.fonefinder.net/

4) Use Mail and the email account that you set up on step 2, to e-mail the phone number at one of these email addresses.

T-Mobile: phonenumber@tmomail.net
Virgin Mobile: phonenumber@vmobl.com
Cingular: phonenumber@cingularme.com
Sprint: phonenumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com
Verizon: phonenumber@vtext.com
Nextel: phonenumber@messaging.nextel.com
Alltel: phonenumber@message.alltel.com
Boost Mobile: phonenumber@myboostmobile.com

iPhone Mail

For example:

If I wanted to text: 555-555-1234 – a Verizon number.
I would email: 555-555-1234@vtext.com

5) If you did everything right, the person you emailed will get your message like a normal text message. When they reply to your text message, the Mail program will automatically, in real-time, notify you. Look for the little red number on your Mail program.

Remember, they have to reply to your message (which goes to the email account set up in Step 2). If instead they send a text message to your phone number, then that will defeat the whole purpose of this and you will be charged for that message.

A couple of caveats about this technique:

  • You don’t get the nice threaded — chat style — message grouping you are used to with other text message applications
  • You have to know the receiver’s phone carrier (When I have time, I am going to build a carrier search to make this easier.)
  • Storing the phonenumber@carrier-email-address.com in your Contacts could make this workaround a lot faster
  • Your receiver may be surprised the first time they receive a text from you, so be sure to identify yourself.

Anyho, I think this is by far the simpliest implementation of free text messaging on the iPhone. I started doing this because I am a cheap Asian who cringe at the thought of paying $5 a month for something that should be free… Think about it, you pay $30 a month for 3G and you can watch youtube videos on your phone, but they charge you more to receive one tiny text message??

  • Jeff

    Hi Vinh,

    I have a couple questions. If I decide to use my gmail account, do they offer push email?

    also… what is push email and how do I turn it on?

    One more thing, when I send this text message to another persons phone, what will show up on their phone? Example.. right now it will say whatever they input me in as on their phone… will it come up as a random number from an email address or what?

    Thanks I appreciate it!