Liberating texting from the cell phone

Liberating texting from the cell phone

Text messaging is typically a captive of the cellular phone; you must use your cell phone to send and receive text messages.

If you use an Apple iPhone with a Mac (or other supported Apple devices such as an iPad) and also with iCloud then you can enjoy the pleasure of texting from any Apple device. For example, start a message on your iPhone then continue it on your MacBook or iPad. It works nicely and I have been spoiled using it with my combo of iPhone, MacBook Pro, and iMac. But now I am exploring other mobility options such as using a Chromebook instead of a MacBook and maybe a flip phone instead of an iPhone. But so far the missing feature that hurts is texting across multiple devices. When I'm working on one of my computers I want to be able to text without touching my phone. The two main benefits are 1) I don't have to take my focus away from the device I'm working on and 2) it is easier to type using a computer keyboard rather than a smart phone keyboard.

Can we liberate texting from the cell phone? Following are some initial ideas but this subject will be an ongoing project. I'll write more blog posts as it unfolds.

A common requirement is to create an app for text messaging that can be accessed by device other than your cell phone. In the Apple example this is Messages, which is the Apple instant messange and text message app that runs on all of their platforms: iOS, macOS, and watchOS. I would like to solve this problem without using the native solution so that we can text message from any device whether or not it is Apple, Android, PC, etc.

A dedicated app plus cloud telephony

One idea is to create an alternative messaging app and use a hosted number.

  • port number to cloud telephony API provider such as Twilio (or buy a new number)
  • inbound texts go to alternative app that is designed to behave like native messaging app
  • outbound texts go from alternative app and behave like native messaging app
  • messages are also multicast to other logged in apps (web, mobile, PC)
    inbound calls forward to native cell number
  • PROBLEM: outbound calls from native number do not show hosted CID. This could be solved by a alternative phone app but the solution is now more cumbersome than the original problem.
  • DIFFERENCE: alternative app uses data rather than cellular SMS/MMS

Alternative cellular provider

Another idea is to use use a SIM card from an alternative, programable provider such as Twilio rather than Verizon, ATT et al.

  • port number to Twilio and buy Twilio SIM
  • program SIM for number and insert SIM into compatible cell phone
  • create a server application to permit the SIM to behave as a normal cell phone
  • PROBLEM: this is as much like creating a cellular service as trying to solve the original problem

Copying to a sub-pub

Perhaps we can copy messages to a subscriber-publisher system that can manage sending messages to a user's connected device? But there is still the main problem that we keep encountering: can I elegantly use a native mobile app using a native cellular service at the same time as using third party messaging? It would be optimal if phone app providers (e.g. Apple Messages) or providers (e.g. Verizon) would offer APIs to integrate with texting.

Going Forward

I'll continue to explore this. I welcome feedback, ideas, and insight.

Image credit Apple Inc, link.