SMS (text) messages are the big thing at the moment and they are no longer the exclusive domain of the mobile phone. Apart from the home phone unit allowing SMS messaging though the landline, and various online SMS services, there is now e-txt which provides you with the ability to send and receive messages from your computer.

The system looks remarkably like Outlook Express, with the same layout of boxes and buttons, so it is easy to just leap into texting action, using your keyboard to spin off messages and sending, just like an email. Because it is a computer based system, using a mobile concept, you are given a number of options to select - no reply, reply to a mobile, or reply to a PC - back into the e-txt system. You can set up templates and merge fields to simply assemble messages.

Searching for uses for this system as a home user left us a bit stumped - perhaps a clean way for those on the internet to track down their kids - but why not phone them? Or maybe you are co-ordinating an event, like a swingers party. Other than that, this is strictly to domain of business, and those that want to spam people. Yes, the ability to write one message and send it to an entire address book of mobile phone numbers is easy. The system could easily be used to send news to pocket-lint users, for example. And this is something that is on the rise commercially - shops and nightclubs are sending messages to subscribers announcing special events or bargains, and this is how they do it.

Of course, there is a cost for the sender. The software comes with 100 free messages, and after that you have to buy more and there are four purchase options: 200 SMS for £12 (6p each), 500 for £27.50 (5.5p each), 1000 for £50 (5p each), or 5000 for £225 (4.5p each). You can clearly see where the company’s profits lie, and their intended users. This is much cheaper than the 11p a SMS that most mobile users pay. For a small business, £12 is a cheap way to contact 200 customers - and you know it is going right to them.

After sending a few messages, replies were appearing in the inbox, just like emails. Writing an SMS is as easy as composing an email. There is a translator that will put in those annoying abbreviations for you, if that’s your thing. You can also schedule a delivery time, like with emails, so that your message appears just when it is needed.

There is also the ability to import CSV data into the contacts list, so you could pull all the information from an existing database and start your mass communication campaign. As a home user, there is little advantage after paying £30 for the software, but for the business user this is a great way to link mobiles to the office without having to speak to anyone. Of course, now most mobiles can email anyway, so it begs the question of what uses there are apart from the marketing aspects.

Price when reviewed:

Overall, put to the right uses e-txt is a powerful and practical tool to set your marketing department on the trail of customers. If your company collects mobile phone numbers then perhaps this is the way to put them to good use. At a cost of £30 for the software, and then relatively low costs for message credit, it is a worthy investment, even for a single campaign. Whilst we at pocket-lint are not keen to promote mass SMS marketing, this certainly an easy way to do it!