All posts in “SMS”

Google says more than 40 carriers and device manufacturers now support RCS, the next generation of SMS


Rich Communication Services (RCS) is basically the standard for the next generation of text messaging, with apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, LINE and others now offering features that go far beyond the standard SMS-based messaging apps that tend to ship with your phone — unless, of course, you are an Apple and iMessage user.

As Google announced today, more than 40 carriers and device manufacturers now support RCS. That’s up from the 27 Google cited last year.

RCS is a GSM standard, but its biggest champion has long been Google, which looks at the service to allow its Android platform to get at least some feature parity with Apple’s iMessage service.

With Mobile World Congress coming up next week, it’s no surprise that Google wants to talk a bit more about RCS ahead of the event. Specifically, the company today noted Business Messaging as one of the central features of the new service. With this, businesses can send verified rich messages with boarding passes, credit card fraud alerts and package delivery notifications, for example. Those messages can include suggested replies and actions (change seat, call airline, etc.).

The standard Android Messages app started supporting it a year ago and with Jibe, Google offers a platform for launching and managing RCS services.

Over the course of the last year, a number of new carriers in Europe and Latin American have signed on to Google’s Jibe RCS cloud, including America Movil, AT&T, Celcom Axiata, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia and Telefonica.

Among the partners is messaging service Twilio, which today announced it has added support for RCS to its service. “By making rich, interactive messaging features available to consumers in their default messaging app, RCS has the potential to be as ubiquitous as SMS is today,” Patrick Malatack, VP of Product and GM of Messaging at Twilio told me. “Developers choose to build this messaging experience using Twilio because instead of wrestling with variations in APIs and tooling, they can integrate every messaging channel — including RCS — into their applications through one simple API. We can’t wait to see what our customers build.”

Other partners Google has worked with include 3C, CM.com, Mobivity, OpenMarket and Smooch.

Featured Image: Tero Vesalainen/Getty Images

SuperPhone is building a Salesforce for texting


The address book is the last, worst default app you rely on. It’s time it got as smart as the rest of our phones. That’s the idea behind SuperPhone.

Email isn’t how you build relationships anymore. Yet most business software sanctifies the spammy inbox when it’s the immediacy of text messaging that keeps people in touch today. Musician Ryan Leslie learned that when he earned $2 million by building a custom text management product to track, talk to, and transact with his fans. Now he’s turning SuperPhone into a full-fledged CRM for SMS with a new app and round of funding.

Designed for entrepreneurs, entertainers, and anyone juggling clients or sales contacts, SuperPhone tells you who you’re forgetting to connect with. Its Never Lose Touch feature can automatically ping lapsed contacts to keep the conversation and collaboration alive. You can monitor how your address book is growing, and sort people by location, title, or how much they’ve spent with you. Next it’s adding analytics to show who messages who more and other communication health signals.

“SuperPhone is the first foray into personal relationship management” says co-founder and CEO Ryan Leslie.

The Grammy nominated RnB singer and producer made 2006’s top five hit “M & U” for pop star Cassie, plus has created tracks for Usher and Britney Spears. But then he taught himself to program on Codeacademy, realizing that the imploding record industry would turn being a successful celebrity into a game of who had the best tools for connecting with fans.

The result was SuperPhone, and Leslie giving all his listeners his phone number. The app let him see who had spent the most on his music and merch, and speak with them directly to keep them loyal. While other artists were counting their meager streaming royalty pennies, Leslie was finding out who would pay $1,700 for tickets to a private New Year’s Eve concert. SuperPhone turned his modest fame into massive revenue.

Hip-hop super fan and VC super star Ben Horowitz joined Leslie’s $1.5 million seed round alongside BetaWorks and a slew of angels. Atlantic Records became SuperPhone’s top enterprise client, managing half a million conversations with fans of its artists from Cardi B to Matchbox 20. Now the company has 22 employees and grander visions than equipping musicians.

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The original product was centered around driving and tabulating purchases. The new SuperPhone now available on iOS and coming to Android soon focuses on the most common address book problem: connecting with someone important then drifting apart. Whether they’re buried by additional contacts, lost due to forgetfulness, or things just get weird because so much time has passed, accidental disconnection erodes the networks professionals try hard to build.

With SuperPhone’s patent-pending Never Lose Touch, you choose a time interval and create several custom reconnection messages. Anyone you haven’t talked to during that time receives one of the notes. That could be something simple and organic-seeming like “sorry I disappeared. What have you been up to?” or more specific like “Hey, it’s Josh Constine. You have 10 minutes this week so I can get your thoughts on some tech trends and hear what you’re working on?”

SuperPhone costs about $0.10 per active conversation per month, so $20 for 200 or $100 for 1000 that also comes with a Shopify ecommerce integration. That could be workable for small-business owners and professionals communicating with clients that make them significant revenue each. But at $1.20 per contact per year, SuperPhone might be too expensive for influencers or artists trying to stay in touch with a big audience. It will have to compete with other mass-texting tools and CRM systems that have expanded into mobile including Hustle, ZipWhip, Teckst, Zingle,

New investors are betting on the idea of a Salesforce for the instant messaging era, putting another $2.5 million into SuperPhone to bring it to $4.7 million in total funding. Runway Venture Partners’ Marc Michel led the round, with participation from FYRFLY Venture Partners, Yard Ventures, and Transmedia Capital. SuperPhone’s progress signing up customers hasn’t been stellar, though, so the raise is considered a “seed prime” round with only a slightly higher valuation than the 2016 seed.

The cash will go towards building out an API for connecting with traditional CRM software and the business texting tools mentioned above. That could bridge the gap between its pro-sumer product and true enterprise sales. The company has also struck a deal with a top phone manufacturer to develop its conversation health analytics. That could give teens a free or subsidized way to access SuperPhone’s forthcoming conversation metrics. “When we sat down with young people and said ‘would you like to know who messages who more in a relationship?’, we’ve been met with overwhelmingly positive results” says Leslie.

The risk of the product is that some users or their contacts might find it inauthentic or disingenuous to send pre-scripted reengagement messages. Maybe if it gets you legitimately talking, maybe that’s ok. And some people accept that it’s just business and it’s tough to keep up with everyone. I suggested SuperPhone send you a list of people you’ve lapsed with who you might want to ping directly. Leslie says tests showed people just dismissed those reminders, so sending messages on users’ behalf worked better, but he’s still open to a less aggressive implementation.

Between all our notifications, emails, and message threads, there’s just too much for people to balance in their heads. We’re battling to break past Dunbar’s Number, a theory that says you can only maintain relationships with about 150 people at a time. Technology obviously should extend our potential for connectivity, but designing it to feel natural rather than an arduous chore is the real challenge.

The address book is one of the last manufacturer-made default apps we still depend on, yet the experience is reliably awful. Beyond searchability, it’s no smarter than pen and paper. Whether it’s reminding you to call mom, butter up that sales prospect, or coax a hiring candidate to leave their job, SuperPhone could become what our phones should have always been.

Twitter adds support for app-based two-factor authentication


Twitter is rolling out an update to its platform security that will allow users to employ third-part authentication apps to receive a two-factor login authentication for their Twitter account. Twitter has offered two-factor for a long while now, but it’s used the less secure SMS-based verification method excessively until now.

The third-party app support means you can use tools like Google Authenticator, Authy or Duo Mobile to verify your login instead of SMS – and all you need to get set up is a one-time verification from within your logged in about on the desktop using your mobile Twitter app, your phone’s camera, and a uniquely generated QR code to establish the connection between app and Twitter. For more info on how to get set up, check out Twitter’s official support document on the subject.

In case you’re wondering why you’d even want to do this, it’s a bit more secure than SMS, since SMS-based two factor is subject to hacks where attackers take over your mobile account, for example through requesting a new SIM for your account from a human service agent. Authentication apps are harder to swipe, and can follow you even if you change numbers or lose access to your phone.

Featured Image: DragojaGagiTubic / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

Delta to offer free in-flight use of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage


Starting October 1, passengers on most Delta will have free access to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage. To access the feature, a passenger will have to log into Delta’s in-flight wifi portal powered by Gogo. This is first time an airline has offered such a service throughout its fleet.

Traditional SMS messages will not work. Only the aforementioned mobile messaging services are supported at launch and users will not be able to send videos or pictures. Passengers are, thankfully, not able to use this service to live stream from their flight.

I fly a lot and this is a significant free service to me. Over countless flights, I purchased a costly Gogo internet package just to use iMessage. Most of the time in a flight I don’t want to check my email or Slack or Twitter. When flying I want some me time, but sometimes, it’s also nice to just chat with some friends and now that can be done for free.

Even before this, there was some hacks and workarounds to let users access these services without paying. Not that I’m the sort of guy to exploit such loopholes.

Twitter’s 2-factor authentication has a serious problem

Adding an extra layer of security to your online accounts is a fundamental step to protect your digital life from hackers, but what’s the point if the new methods are just as vulnerable as the old ones?

It’s a question some Twitter users are asking after discovering that the two-factor authentication on their accounts isn’t as secure as it seems. 

But let’s back up for a second. No matter who you are, having your Twitter hacked would be a major bummer. In the case of political figures like Donald Trump, however, a hijacked account means more than just a headache — think of the havoc a fake policy pronouncement could wreak?

And so it was welcome news back in 2013 when Twitter rolled out two-factor authentication (2FA) to all of its users. This added layer of security allows users to protect their accounts, even if their passwords had been stolen, by requiring a second login credential sent via text message. 

Great, right? Well, kinda. 

While SMS-based 2FA does provide additional protection, there’s a big problem with it. Namely, SMS itself isn’t secure. A flaw in what is known as Signaling System 7 protocol (SS7) — something that allows different phone carriers to communicate back and forth — means that hackers can redirect texts to practically any number they want. 

That means your SMS verification code could end up being sent directly to the cellphone of your hacker. 

And this is not just theoretical. In January, reports Ars Technica, a group of criminals exploited this flaw to snatch victims’ SMS 2FA verification codes and drain their bank accounts. 

So, with text-based 2FA known to have a security hole so large you could drive a truck through it, Twitter helpfully introduced additional ways to set up 2FA. Users who already have access to their accounts via the Twitter mobile app can use something called a login code generator, but as this requires already being logged in on mobile, it doesn’t help if you’re signed out.

The other method, a 3rd-party authenticator app, offers a better option. These apps, like Google Authenticator, generate a number sequence on your phone as your verification code — no vulnerable text message required.  

Image: twitter

Problem solved, right? 

Not so fast. Because here’s the thing, even with an authenticator app enabled Twitter still sends out SMS verification codes. That’s right, the people that have taken the extra step to secure their Twitter accounts with an authenticator app — arguably the people most concerned about having their accounts hacked — are still just as vulnerable as those who rely on SMS-based verification codes. 

And this has not gone unnoticed. 

Users are rightly wondering what’s the point of having a 3rd-party authenticator app set up if Twitter still sends out text messages with the codes.  

Twitter, for its part, is staying silent on the matter. 

We reached out to the company and exchanged multiple emails with numerous employees who all categorically refused to explain if there was any way to disable SMS-based 2FA verification codes while maintaining a 3rd-party authenticator app, as well as why that would be the case.

One spokesperson simply responded the company had “nothing to share on our 2FA beyond what’s in our help center.” To be clear, the help center does not address this issue. 

What about just deleting your phone number from your Twitter account? Then it can’t send you texts, right? Go ahead, but then you can no longer use the 3rd-party authenticator app. 

The company, through spokespersons, also refused to comment on the SS7 exploit rendering SMS vulnerable to hackers.

Why this matters

For the average Twitter user, a text message-based verification code — despite its flaws — is a great added layer of security. However, as demonstrated by the criminals that emptied bank accounts in January, a determined hacker can bypass this security measure. 

And maybe this is just a bug affecting some users’ accounts, and not each and every one of Twitter’s users with 3rd-party 2FA apps. Twitter’s refusal to discuss the matter, however, means we don’t know. 

For you and me, this might not be that big of a deal at the end of the day. For celebrities, politicians, and members of the Silicon Valley elite? Well, that’s a different matter — and it’s one that Twitter should quickly address. 

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