📆 April 21, 2022 | ⏱️ 2 minute read | 🏷️ computing

Free International Texting Without a Phone Number

SMS/Email Gateways

So I just found out that many cell phone service providers run SMS/email gateways. I don’t believe they’re very well known, but they are extremely useful. I created a Git repo listing all the ones that are known to work, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested.

What these gateways enable you to do is send texts via email and send emails via text. So for instance, I can email “0123456789@txt.att.net” and my message will arrive to the phone number “0123456789” as a text. The received text will look something like:

FROM: Nicholas Johnson
SUBJECT: for a journal entry
MSG: hello.

And my recipient can send a text reply to that message and it will go to my email. Images can also be sent and received as MMS messages. The major U.S. cellular providers all have SMS/email gateways, so it’s actually quite convenient. It also doesn’t require any proprietary app, just email. You obviously can’t use it to make calls, but it’s a partial solution if you’re trying to avoid paying cellular providers or avoid carrying a smartphone, which there are many good reasons to do.

I live in the US where we use phone numbers to contact each other, so these gateways are a big help for me personally. If I have nothing else except someone’s phone number to bootstrap communication with them, I can use these gateways instead of paying monthly fees to a cell phone company. I can also send texts to some international numbers for free, which is nice.

If you live in a country that de facto requires you to use WhatsApp or WeChat or some other proprietary mobile-specific app, then avoiding smartphones and avoiding paying cell providers is going to be more challenging. In those cases, the workarounds are more involved. You’re probably looking at installing and configuring your own Matrix bridges.

Nonetheless, I hope I helped somebody today by introducing these gateways.