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We are planning to add a "SMS verification account" option for our customers. (So we will only send SMS. We do not need a short code.)

We have found several companies who offer SMS gateways through REST APIs (we use PHP).

As we are totally new to the SMS world, we are wondering:

What are the key points to pay attention to/evaluate to select a good SMS gateway?

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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

By no means an exhaustive list, but they key points I learned when I went through the same process:

  • Price per SMS (obvious). However, some gateways give better bulk discounts. If you expect to send a lot of SMSs, this could become important.
  • Carrier coverage Not all gateways support all carriers. Make sure they cover the ones you care about.
  • International coverage Many gateways are region-specific. Make sure they cover all the geographies you care about.
  • Integration work Older gateways have a contracts process, followed by an integration call, followed by a setup process. This can all take weeks. Newer ones like Twilio can have you up and running in a few minutes without ever needing to talk to a human.
  • Support When something isn't working, what's the procedure for getting help? Is there someone you can call, or at least email?
  • Performance / Uptime Honestly, they're probably all solid in this respect. But check references. A good gateway will give you a list of customers you can call to see how their experiences were.
  • MMS (multi media message) support If you ever want to send multi media messages. At the time, the only company I found who could do this on all carriers was OpenMarket. May not matter to your, but if it does it greatly restricts your choices.

Ultimately, we went with Twilio and couldn't be happier. Their carrier coverage in the US is great, and the amount of effort to get up and running was trivial.

Not sure what the status of their international SMSs - if that's important to you, do some research on that in particular. They also didn't support MMS last I checked, but it sounds like that doesn't matter for your application.

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We are based in Switzerland, so the problem is that Twilio does not provide a shared shortcode. (But we would love to use them). Do you have further information about shared/non-shared short codes (pros/cons)? Thanks. –  Toto Jun 5 '12 at 23:57
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Do you really need a shared shortcode for verification? I assume your workflow is send SMS to user with a code, the user then enters that code on your website. Does the SMS you send them really need to come from a shortcode, or will any number do? If the later, Twilio might be enough. We went with a dedicated short code (which Twilio handled quite well) so I don't have any experience with shared ones. –  Rob Boyle Jun 6 '12 at 1:48
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It's hard to beat Twilio. As Rob suggests, it's very easy to get up and running with Twilio. Their cost per text are just 1 cent. You can also get dedicated numbers for just 1USD per month.

Twilio can receive inbound texts from your customer too, which you will need. That could rule out some providers.

It's worth mentioning that you could also hook up a mobile phone to a pc and use some software to send and receive sms and mms. This could be cost effective if you have a sim card that has a number of free texts per month with your provider. Inbound texts are free this way too.

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