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Monday, May 26, 2014

1460. Texting without a cell phone

I may be the only adult left in the country without a cell phone, but I don’t have one, don’t want one, and will not be getting one. On the other hand, there are times when I need to communicate with people who don’t regularly check their email (like most young people), and I’d like to be able to send and receive text messages from my computer. Is there any way to do this?
This question applies both to the small portion of the population that doesn’t have a cell phone, and to those who do but are too cheap to pay for texting. (Unless you get unlimited texting as part of your cellular plan, you’re paying way too much for it.) One solution for sending texts (it doesn’t help for receiving, however) is to send an email to a specially formatted email address, specific for each individual cell phone providers (for example,, for AT&T Wireless customers; or, for Verizon Wireless customers). The problems with this solution include the fact that you must know which carrier your recipient uses, and there’s no simple way for the recipient to reply. Although this technique works, it’s hardly optimal. (To use this solution, search the web for “Send email as text to <xxx>”, where <xxx> is the name of the provider, like AT&T or Verizon.)
There is a better universal and free solution, of course: Google Voice. This is a free service that allows you to text to any phone number that can receive texts. When you use Google Voice to text someone, the response comes back to you as email. You can respond to the email response, and it goes back to the recipient as a text—in other words, you can carry on texting conversations with someone using a phone, and they really won’t know that you don’t also have a texting-capable phone.
Of course, the Google Voice service can do far more for you than provide a free email-to-text service, but given your needs to text without a phone, this functionality provides a great place to start with Google Voice. You’ll need a Google account to set up Google Voice, and you’ll need to select a telephone number to use as your Google Voice number. For more information, visit out Google Voice for more information on creating and using text message without having to use a cell phone.

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