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What is an SMS Gateway? - a brief, waffle free explanation

What is an SMS Gateway? - a brief, waffle free explanation

What is an SMS Gateway? - a brief, waffle free explanation

What is an SMS Gateway?

Henry Cazalet - Director, The SMS Works

The business SMS industry is stuffed with jargon.Mobile phone with SMS Works logo

Even the term SMS is a mystery to most people.

Yes fine, we know what an SMS is but what does it stand for?

Why do we use the term SMS anyway? What’s wrong with just using the word text?

More on this later.

One of the SMS industry’s main services, SMS API, is helpfully labelled with 6 letters. How descriptive.

Even when we know what the letters stand for, most of us will be none the wiser.

So here’s a brief, foray into what SMS API actually means. Settle in, we won't keep you long.


Let’s kick off with some low hanging fruit, shall we?

SMS stands for Short Message Service.

It’s a service we’re all familiar with and have been using happily since Neil Papworth of Vodafone sent the first ‘Merry Christmas’ text in 1992. 

Matti Makkonon the inventor of SMS
SMS hero Matti Makkonen, who died in June 2015

He tends to get all the glory for just sending the text, while poor old Matti Makkonen, the Finn who actually invented SMS, gets largely ignored.

An injustice that surely shouldn’t go unchallenged.





SMS - still as crucial as ever

Despite repeated reports of its impending demise, SMS has no intention of going anywhere.

It’s true that volumes of texts from one individual to another are on the decline. Messaging apps like Snapchat and Whatsapp have whistled past in the fast lane.

But SMS is still the preferred route if you need to be absolutely certain that a message will be read. When was the last time your ignored a text?

Even young folk tend to use SMS when making meeting arrangements, particularly when they’re out of wifi range or mobile data limits have been exceeded. 

With reference to using messaging apps when you’re out and about, my 17-year-old daughter commented,

red open quotesIf you’re out of data you’re screwed.red closed quotes

Emily - Bristol

Enough said.


Now we must focus our attention to ‘API’. Things may take an ominously techy turn. Stand by.

API stands for Application Programming Interface. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

The Wikipedia entry provides further clarification.

 red open quotesAn API is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software.red closed quotes

There we go, it couldn’t possibly be any clearer.

No? Okay, let’s see what else we can find.

Stack Overflow logo    Stack Overflow’s API definition although somewhat dry, gives us a much better explanation.

red open quotesAn application programming interface (API) is a particular set of rules ('code') and specifications that software programs can follow to communicate with each other. It serves as an interface between different software programs and facilitates their interaction, similar to the way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers.red closed quotes

So, an API is the computer code that allows software programmes to talk to each other.

Phew, a weight off my shoulders.

What’s the difference between an SMS API and an SMS gateway?

An SMS Gateway refers specifically to the routing of messages onto the mobile phone network. It’s often used as a slightly friendlier alternative to SMS API.

Unless you’re a complete pedant, then this is an acceptable practice even though, strictly speaking, they mean slightly different things.

When tech folk are presenting their plans to muggles, they’re more likely to opt for SMS Gateway.

It’s less intimidating but slightly patronising at the same time. Perfect.

Can we go now?

I hope that’s cleared that up then. Let’s move on. 

Is there anything we can help with I wonder?

Help yourself to a free SMS API account if you wish. You’ll get free text credits for testing and we’ll give you as much help as you need getting things up and running.

I hope our documentation and code library makes things straightforward but we’ll be ready to help if you need us.

Class dismissed.

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