— updated 01.23.09
Since I got my Google Voice (GV) number I have been trying to figure out a way to utilize one of the best features of it with my iPhone, free text messages. Though as my mama always said, life is like a box of…wait wrong mama…there is no free lunch. Every SMS message that I forward from GV, either sent or received, I get charged by those rat bastards AT&T . I know there are applications such as TextPlus, Jelly SMS or AIM, but with those applications the other person must have the same app in order for the text to be sent and/or received, plus I have to recondition people to send me a text via whatever app that I am using or some other hokey method that most people wont care to use. Lest we forget, I am cool because Google Voice is by invite only, and I got one! I mean really who wants to download an app right away in an app store when I can get put on a waiting list for week. Also, how is Google to rule the world, if no one is willing to get their invite and NOT use the product I just waited a week to get and still dont know what to do with, but I digress.
Where was I? Right…why should I pay for SMS messages when we, the consumer, get treated like Jodie Foster in the Accused and pay 20 cents per message or purchase a bundle of messages in excess of 20 bucks…per month. Thats like…what… wait…there has to be an app for this. Ah, my super duper calculator app says its 240 bucks a year for unlimited texting. How much does it cost the carriers to send all that texting that I begrudgingly pay for each month? Nothing! Squadoosh! Nada! Zilch! I am sorry, without boring you into oblivion on how texting works, just know its basically next to nothing. Consider Americans sent 110 billion texts last year alone, a third of which was probably from my teen daughter, no wonder phone carriers have no inclination to lower prices on SMS anytime soon, its a 100% pure profit for them. I mean I am all for single handedly paying for AT&T to upgrade their crappy 3G network, ask Verizon they’ll tell you, but this is ridiculous.
Now that Google has announced that you can forward your Google SMS messages to your email, that got me thinking…how can I drop that money sucking SMS plan, but still receive my SMS messages as if I received them via the native Text app on the iPhone. With a bit of research, 3 bucks and the power of Google, I am now the new town text whore!
PushMail (2.99) is a push notification application that sends you push notifications for your gmail, mobileme or any Unix email account. In an effort to keep this brief, I am not going to do a full review of PushMail here but describe how its used for the purpose of receiving text messages.
What sets it apart from other applications of its ilk is once the user creates a user account with PushMail they can setup filters in gmail to decide what emails are forwarded to the PushMail account. Since my objective was to mimic the native Text App function, I only send the GV messages, including Voicemail. PushMail does not store any of the emails (unless you want it to) so only forward a copy of it from Gmail. Also, Pushmail is very configurable so you can determine how often you are notified of a text, what‘s displayed in the pop up and receive specific sound notifications for specific contacts.
Once you have downloaded and installed PushMail, open the application and enter a user id and password of your choice and click register.
If you want to do a little more configuration to more closely mimic or surpass the native text app, read on. For those who just want to get on with it, you can scroll down to Gmail filter section.
This is where the 3 bucks for PushMail begins to more than justify itself as it sets itself apart from the native iPhone text app. One nice little feature is you can determine if you only want to receive notifications during specific hours, i.e. you dont want any notifications during your sleeping hours, set a timer for 4 hours and during that time your will not receive any notifications.
My favorite configuration feature is the ability to set up multiple profiles to get specific notifications for specific individuals or Textones as I like to call them. That is, it replicates the function of custom ringtones for text messages.
- Open PushMail, touch Settings, Notification Settings then Default.
- History must be enabled to receive Badge Notifications.
- Repeat must be enabled in order to receive reminder messages that you have unread texts (technically emails).
- You can be reminded every minute for those who are neurotic about their texts or you can be reminded in 5, 10 or 20 minute increments.
- You can also set how many times to be reminded in said time increments. I chose to be reminded every 10 minutes, 10 times.
The Action section describes what to do when the user selects view in the notifcation pop up menu. I selected ‘PushMail’.
By selecting this upon selecting ‘View’ in the pop up, PushMail application will open and display the text message. Here you can reply or delete the message.
The Notification Format section is how you format the pop up box. To mimic the native text app only turn on the ‘from’ and ‘body’ fields. You can add more information to the pop box by turning the other fields on, but I found it it to be cluttered and confusing. As you can see by the screenshots, by having the from and body fields on it’s more or less the same as the native text app.
To set the custom Textone for text messaging, select ‘Add new profile’ from in the Notification Settings page.
The pattern field is the unique identifier and will display the textone. I use the contact phone number for this field and it seems to work perfectly. Since all GV SMS email include the contact name and phone number in the subject, by using the phone number you will eliminate accidental notifications for contacts who share the same last or first names. Next go to the ‘Sound’ field and select one of the 20 or so different sounds, including the native iPhone text sound or email.
Now that we have set up PushMail, now its time to configure GV and Gmail.
- Log in to your Google Voice account.
- Click on Settings in the upper right hand corner of the webpage.
- Under the ‘Forwards to’ section, select ‘Edit’ for your mobile phone
- Uncheck the ‘Receive SMS on this phone’ box and click ‘Save’
- Click the Voicemail and SMS tab
- Under the Voicemail Notifications section, ensure the ‘Email the message to:’ field is checked and the ‘Send a text (SMS) message to:’ is unchecked.
Now that GV is set up, we can move onto setting up the filters in Gmail.
- Log into Gmail and select ‘Settings’
- Once in Settings, select ‘Filters’, then ‘Create new Filter’
- In the subject field, type ‘SMS from’
- Click ‘Next Step’
- Select the Check box for ‘Forward Email To’ and enter the user name you selected for PushMail. For example ‘<username>@dopushmail.com‘. Again, the dopushmail address is invisible to the person sending or receiving texts, it is simply an address that forwards the notifications to Apple’s push servers.
- I also took this a step further by creating an archive folder to move all of the SMS messages into. This keeps your inbox from getting clogged up with SMS messages. By checking ‘Skip the Inbox (Archive it)’, ‘Mark as read’, Apply the label (select the folder you create in the drop down)’, this will automatically mark any SMS message you receive as read and place it in the aforementioned archive folder, thus you never see these mails in your inbox, but you will keep any text message history intact in the event you have to restore your iPhone or upgrade to the newest and greatest phone every 6 months.
You can also create a second filter that will notify you of any GV Voicemails by creating a filter with ‘New Voicemail From’ in the subject box. Follow the steps from above but change the subject to ‘New Voicemail From’ instead of ‘SMS from’.
So we have set up GV, Gmail and Pushmail, you are ready to receive SMS messages like mad. In order to receive, one must give and admittedly, initiating a text message with this hack is not quite as easy as using the native text app, but it costs nothing, so it will do until GV is properly implemented for the iPhone.
There are a couple of ways to initiate a text using this method. One is to use the GV mobile site, just log in and click the SMS link. Type the number, then your message and hit send. It has been pointed out to me, that you can in fact use your google contacts to send SMS messages. Once logged in to your GV Inbox, click the ‘Contacts’ link. In doing so, will give you full access to all your contacts. Just select the person you want to SMS, click the SMS link and type away. If you have several contacts, you can search for them by name. Its pretty simple actually, and the next step may not really be needed, but if you want the ‘Apple experience’ its worth doing.
Method two, as you respond to your text messages, Gmail creates a new contact for each new SMS address you send a message to. You can then take those SMS email addresses and add them to your existing contact. In doing so, you can initiate a new SMS from the Contacts App, similar to how you create a new SMS message. The next time you initiate a new SMS message go to your contacts, select the desired contact and instead of choosing ‘Text Message’ you select the recipients SMS email. This will open the email client, leave the subject blank and type your message. Remember to keep it under 160 characters and hit send. Boom, you’re done!
So there you have it, with three dollars and a little bit of set up you too can have unlimited texting and stick it to the man. In fact, with the 240 bucks I save on a text messaging plan, I can get the latest and baddest iPhone….each year. Now all I have to do is work around that pesky little early termination fee.