Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making it short and sweet with SMS messaging

The blossoming of technologies for communication shows that people crave constant contact with each other. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the popularity of text messaging, which is a communication method that teenagers use frequently because it’s fun, easy, and (perhaps) even addictive. Many people find that text messaging is practical, even though it has these two drawbacks:
  • Limited screen size for message viewing: Any text message sent must be viewable from a tiny cell phone screen.
  • Tedious and time-consuming creation: Typing a message — beyond a short sentence or two — takes more patience and time than most people (especially teenagers) are willing to invest.
To help work around these text messaging limitations, a communications standard — the Short Message System, or SMS messaging — exists for a variety of mobile phones and other devices such as Pocket PCs and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phones. And when you’re running Skype, the circle of devices offering SMS text messaging capability even includes your desktop computer.
Sending SMS messages via Skype involves these simple steps:
  1. In your Skype menu, choose Tools>Send SMS Message. A window pops up, prompting you to select the recipients you want to receive your message. Recipients need not be Skype Names. You can also enter phone numbers.
  2. Add the Skype Names or phone numbers of your message recipients and click OK. An SMS message window appears.
  3. Enter your text message in the Skype SMS window (see Figure) and click the Send SMS button.
The Skype Names or phone numbers of the recipient(s) appear in the title bar of the Skype SMS window.
That’s all there is to sending the text message with Skype, but here are some points to keep in mind about this service:
  • SMS messaging has a cost attached: When you use SMS messaging, you pay a small fee that’s based on two things: the length of your message and the number of recipients getting the message.
  • Charges apply only to messages delivered within 24 hours: When you send a message, you are charged only if the message reaches the person within 24 hours. If the recipient’s GSM phone battery is dead or his or her phone is off, you get a refund.
  • Watching your message length is a good idea: The maximum size for any SMS message is 160 characters. So if you send a message with 167 characters, it is split into two SMS messages with 160 characters in the first and 7 in the second. In this situation, you are sending two messages instead of one and you’ll be charged accordingly.

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