1. Overview
  2. Basic SMS API Knowledge
  3. SMS API Rules, Regulations, Compliance
  4. How to Integrate an SMS API?
  5. Choosing the Best SMS API Provider
  6. Creating Your First SMS API Campaign
  7. Measuring Your SMS Campaign's Success
  8. Helpful SMS API Resources

Programmable SMS API Overview

As technology becomes more smart and people become increasingly interconnected, it’s important for companies to continue to evolve and find more efficient, user-friendly methods of communication. In an age where people use their phones for nearly everything– work, pleasure, family, friends– companies need to find a way to break through and engage users.

A man in a blue checkered dress shirt, smiling, while drinking coffee next to a window sending text messages from his phone.

SMS APIs are a cost-efficient and effective way to send mass texts and connect companies with smartphone and cellphone users. SMS APIs are programmable web services or applications that are easily integrated and can be up and running in less than one day.

But despite how great and simple this sounds, there’s a lot that goes into SMS messaging and APIs. To break down this topic and make it as clear as possible, we’ve provided a comprehensive overview and straightforward guide to understanding programmable SMS APIs.

Keep reading to learn about SMS APIs, how they work, when to use them, their benefits, their statistics, and how you can integrate them into your business. Ready? Let’s get started.

What Is An SMS API?

SMS, which stands for Short Messaging Service, is one of the oldest messaging technologies and dates back to the 1980s. Though it has evolved since then, it remains one of the most popular, convenient, and affordable ways to send text messages.

API is short for Application Programming Interface. Essentially, it’s a software that connects two applications. Another explanation is that it acts as an intermediary or messenger between users and systems.

An SMS API is a software interface that’s specifically designed to send mass text messages. It connects businesses and users who want to receive texts from those businesses, called subscribers.

That’s a lot of jargon, but what it basically means is this: SMS APIs are integrated into your business via programming. Once that’s complete, you can add contact lists, upload messages, and schedule when you want the API to send specific messages to specific contacts. It automates your entire SMS campaign process.

How Does An SMS API Work?

SMS APIs serve as the bridge between telecommunication carriers and the internet. Without going into too much technical detail, here’s how it works:

  • You integrate the SMS API into your application or website
  • Your application or website server makes a request to the SMS API
  • The API sends a response to your application or website server
  • The API sends your message to the correct aggregator
  • The aggregator delivers the message to the correct carrier
  • The carrier delivers the message to the intended recipient’s phone

The different network carriers connect through Short Message Service Centers (SMSCs), which are the part of wireless networks that handle SMS operations. This includes routing, forwarding, storing, and rejecting incoming SMS messages as they’re being delivered.

SMS API Gateways

So network carriers connect to each other through SMSCs–got it. But here’s another piece of the puzzle: there are different SMSCs, which have to connect to each other.

And here’s where SMS gateway providers come in. SMSCs all speak different languages, called communication protocols. So on their own, they can’t “understand” each other. SMS gateways serve as the translator so that SMS messages can be sent and received. Gateway providers are what actually connect computers, software, phones, etc. to SMS-capable devices (i.e., smartphones and cellphones).

The best messaging APIs will include all the functions of an SMS gateway for your convenience, so that you don’t have to integrate two different applications.

When To Use An SMS API?

SMS APIs can be used for a variety of purposes across most industries, including retail, education, hospitality, real estate, insurance, healthcare, banking, and more.

Here are just a few ways businesses can use SMS APIs:

  • Marketing promotions, sales, and discounts
  • Competitions and contests
  • Surveys and customer feedback
  • Reminders or notifications
  • Emergency or time-sensitive communication
  • Customized or two-way communication
  • Two-factor authentication and one-time passwords
  • Tracking and delivery updates
  • Internal communication

Of course, these are very broad suggestions. But that’s the advantage of SMS! No matter how you specifically apply these suggestions to your industry or brand, SMS web services are perfectly suited to it.

Take reminders, for example: you can send reminders about deliveries, appointments, meetings, bills, applications, classes or trainings, book rentals, restaurant reservations, and just about a million other things. And no matter how you want to apply it to your business, you can use a text messaging API to connect in real time or at a later, more convenient date.

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A man sitting on a laptop sending text messages from his laptop, while a woman is standing besides the laptop sending text messages from her mobile device.

Benefits Of An SMS API

SMS APIs allow companies to easily send mass texts without investing in complicated or expensive telecom infrastructure. Instead, you can simply integrate an SMS API into an existing application, website, or CRM.

By doing so, you’ll also have access to all the benefits of SMS messaging:

  • Affordable – SMS APIs are one of the most affordable forms of marketing and messaging methods available. SMS API pricing is often volume-based, which means that you never pay for more than you need (or use).
  • Reliable – The best SMS APIs will provide reliable deliverability by utilizing a Tier 1 network and offering a detailed SLA, such as one with a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
  • Universal – No matter whether you have a smartphone or a regular cellphone, SMS messaging is supported. When you use an SMS API, you’re connected to customers around the world.
  • International – Perhaps the last point covered it, but it bears repeating: you can connect with customers domestically and globally using an SMS API.
  • Inclusive – Thanks to smartphone accessibility features, SMS messages are only of the most user-friendly and inclusive forms of communication.
  • Non-Intrusive – Because users check their messages when they want to, and because messages only result in one or two quick notifications (if the user hasn’t silenced their phone), SMS messages are the most non-intrusive form of marketing.
  • Versatility – SMS messaging is one of (perhaps the) most versatile marketing method currently available. The list of uses in the section above cover just a fraction of what it can do for businesses.
  • Scheduling – Besides being forwarded to the correct recipients, messages can also be queued for a later delivery. This can be at the request of your company or because the message was too long.
  • Content – Typically, SMS messages are limited to 160 characters. However, some SMS APIs have the ability to automatically break up messages that exceed this limit and send them to users in the correct order.
  • MMS Capabilities – SMS is limited to regular text characters and links. However, it is possible to integrate MMS messaging into your text campaigns, which would allow you to send pictures, videos, audio files, .gifs, and other embedded media.

An SMS API service lets you access all these benefits. And while it’s true that other communication and marketing mediums have some of these benefits, none of them have all of them.

However, you can’t fully understand the benefits of SMS messaging and SMS APIs until you understand the powerful statistics backing this medium and its users.

Text Messaging Statistics

Globally, more than five billion people have smartphones; by 2024, this number is project to rise to more than seven billion. So, knowing that, what can you do with SMS messaging? Just how effective is it? Here are some statistics about text messaging that demonstrate just why it’s so useful and popular:

  • 70% of users check their messages within five minutes of receipt
  • 90% of users respond to text messages within 30 minutes of receipt
  • 98% of users engage with text messages in some manner, including responding
  • 86% of small businesses reported higher engagement rates using SMS messaging compared to email marketing
  • 81% of users said that they ignore calls from unknown numbers, bolstering the appeal and opportunity for SMS marketing
  • And for any industry that deals with current events or news, 57% of users favor mobile devices over laptops or other devices for receiving news

These are impressive statistics and clearly demonstrate just why SMS marketing and text message APIs are so valuable to companies.

But keep in mind, these statistics don’t paint the whole picture. Companies shouldn’t just educate themselves on smartphone use— they should also focus on the users.

After all, it’s great that 90% of users check their messages within 30 minutes. But will that be true for the demographics you’re involved with? For example, if your company primarily caters to high schoolers or younger audiences, then this may not be true Monday through Friday during school hours.

Businesses need to learn how to use texting APIs to their best advantage. And this means learning about your customers, not just their phones.

Smartphone and Cellphone User Statistics

The statistics on smartphone and cellphones is bolstered by research users for these devices. Every person who owns a smartphone represents an opportunity for businesses to connect.

These statistics cover geographic areas, socioeconomic status, and demographics. The result? Companies can serve their audiences better than ever, no matter what kind of individuals make up that audience or where they’re located.

  • National Economy – 94% of people in advanced economies and 83% of people in emerging economies have a mobile phone
  • Geographic Location – 80% of rural Americans have a smartphone, 84% of urban Americans have a smartphone, and 98% of suburban Americans have a smartphone
  • Age – 96% of adults aged 18 – 29 have a smartphone, 95% adults aged 30 – 49 have a smartphone, 83% aged 50 – 64 have a smartphone, and even 61% of adults aged 65+ have a smartphone
  • Education – 93% of college graduates have smartphones, 89% of individuals with some college education have smartphones, and 75% of individuals with a high school diploma or less education have a smartphone
  • Income – 96% of people who make $75+/year have a smartphone, 84% of people who make $30K – $74K/year have a smartphone, and 75% of people who make less than $30K/year have a smartphone
  • Gender – 97% of men and 98% of women have a cellphone; 85% of men and 85% of women have a smartphone
  • Race – 85% of people who are White have a smartphone, 85% of people who are Hispanic have a smartphone, and 83% of people who are Black have a smartphone
  • Internet Connection – 15% of American adults (18+) are “smartphone dependent” and use smartphones as their only internet connection (i.e., they do not have internet connection at home)
  • Smartphone Use – 31% of American adults report that they use their cellphone and go online “almost constantly,” 48% say they use it several times per day, and 6% say they check it at least daily.

This is a lot of information, but don’t be bogged down by all the percentages. Instead, focus on the ones that most impact your audience. What demographics does your company cater to? What factors, such as their location or economy, affect the demographics you deal with?

But keep in mind, these statistics don’t paint the whole picture. Companies shouldn’t just educate themselves on smartphone use— they should also focus on the users.

After all, it’s great that 90% of users check their messages within 30 minutes. But will that be true for the demographics you’re involved with? For example, if your company primarily caters to high schoolers or younger audiences, then this may not be true Monday through Friday during school hours.

Businesses need to learn how to use texting APIs to their best advantage. And this means learning about your customers, not just their phones.

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