Tutorial Thursday

So many people have unlimited SMS text messaging plans on their phones these days that a lot of services, such as Twitter, are using them as a way to notify users of updates. By doing this users get a simulated push notification experience without needing to have a push-compatible device.

The good news is that you can also use this type of system for emails, well, assuming your email service supports forwarding (such as Gmail). That’s because most cellphone carriers provide an email address that can be given out, and when an email is received they’ll convert it to a text message which is then sent to your device. We’ve got a list of common carriers that support this towards the end of the article.

Why is this so great? I’m a Gmail user that owns an iPhone, and instead of having my phone go out and check for new emails every 15 to 60 minutes I can just get a text message. If you’ve got an unlimited text message plan with your carrier you’ll likely enjoy the convenience of getting instant notifications of emails.

Setting it up is fairly easy as long as your email service supports forwarding. Since Gmail offers this feature for free we’re going to use that in our example…

–Push Gmail Using SMS Text Messages–

Login to your Gmail account, and navigate to the Settings. Under the Forwarding and POP/IMAP section you can have Gmail forward all of your emails to a specified address. This is where you can specify the email address your carrier uses for your cellphone number, and you’ll want to be sure to choose the keep Gmail’s copy in the Inbox option to ensure the messages don’t get removed after being forwarded:

gmail forward-1.png

Note: If you don’t know the email address format used by your carrier refer to the section below that covers some of the most common carriers.

After you’ve setup forwarding any emails that are sent to your Gmail account will also be forwarded on to your cellphone via text message. The text messages obviously won’t contain the full email if they’re really long, but it serves as a good notification system.

Alternatively you can setup a Gmail filter to only forward important emails to your phone via text message.

–Email Addresses for Common Carriers–

These are the email addresses you need to use in the instructions above. Be sure to replace the “0123456789” with your own phone number.

  • AT&T:
  • T-Mobile:
  • Sprint:
  • Verizon:
  • US Cellular:
  • Nextel:
  • Alltel:
  • Virgin Mobile:
  • SunCom:
  • Powertel:
  • Metro PCS:

If your carrier was not listed here you should check their website. The information can often be found in the help or support section.


Cool, huh? If you know of any other good ways to use text messages as notifications be sure to drop us a comment. And remember, you’ll probably want to stay away from doing anything like this unless you have an unlimited text message plan.