Cell phones have had the ability to text for a long time and use a system called Short Messaging Service or just SMS to accomplish the task. For some reason texting is the preferred method of communication for teens. Maybe it's to prevent monster cell phone bills, but you don't need a cell phone to text someone. You can use your computer.
Using a computer offers some real advantages; It lets you use a full sized keyboard, doesn't cost you anything, and lets you keep a copy of your message in your email outbox. There's a couple of different ways you can text someone using a computer:
When you send a text via email you need to know two things: the phone number and the service (ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc) that number is using. Open a new email and enter the phone number, the "@" symbol followed by the gateway of the particular service.
For a full list of SMS & MMS gateways go here.
Most services have about a 160 character limit so keep your messages short! Delete your normal signature and any extra lines that may show up.
Use iChat or other chat program
Open the iChat buddy window and select the contact you want to send a text to. As long as you entered their cell phone number in your contact information you can send a text message. Just "Control-Click" the name and menu will appear. All you need to do is select "Send SMS."
A chat window will open up that looks like the standard chat window. Just type your message and hit return. Any response will appear in the same chat window.
If you want to text someone that's not in your contact list you can use the phone number directly, just make sure to add "+1" in front of the number. This works for chat programs like AIM, Adium and Yahoo Messenger.
Often when I show people how to text from your computer they get very excited and start texting right away. Then about an hour later I get a phone call asking "Why can't I send a picture?" Ah yes, cell service companies don't make it easy on you because they want to be able to charge you extra for ever possible service. Of course if you are sending to an iPhone you can just send a picture to that persons email account but you can also use something called MMS. This also works for non-iPhones that don't have an email client.
SMS is just for sending textual information. If you want to send a photo you need to use a service called Multimedia Message System (MMS). Like SMS, MMS uses a gateway but the service is not the same.
The MMS file limit on the ATT network is about 3MB so make sure you don't send some huge file.
Here's the hard part, most people use the JPEG format for pictures, but sending JPEGs from a computer doesn't always work the way it should. Since we use ATT in my house I've only tested that service but here's what I found:
- No - If you send a MMS message using Apple Mail it will only work if you use the PNG format. Don't ask me why, but if you send a JPEG it won't work.
- No - If you use Thunderbird or an old copy of Eudora mail application it also fails for JPEGs.
- No - If you use the web version of Mobile Me, JPEGs fail to send.
- No - If you use the web version of Comcast mail JPEGs fail to send
Here's what works
- Yes - If you use Apple Mail and attach a picture in the PNG format
- Yes - If you use Office for Mac and use Outlook JPEGs work just fine!!
- Yes - If you use web mail application like Google Mail you can send JPEGs.
- Yes - Heaven forbid, if you use a PC and Microsoft Office sending JPEGs works fine.
As you can guess there's a lot of testing that I need to do to figure out if the same problems happen using Verizon or T-Mobile but I don't really have the time. Just guessing I would say that Apple has done something to Mail and MobileMe that somehow creates a format that is incompatible with MMS & JPEGs.
If you do use Apple Mail like I do here's an easy way to convert a picture from JPEG to PNG. Open your JPEG using Preview, select "Save As" and pick "PNG" from the drop down "Format:" menu and save a copy.
For now I'm sticking with Apple mail and PNG. It's easy and it works. Later on, if I find a fix that works consistently using JPEGs I'll post a follow up. In the mean time leave me a comment and let me know what works for you.