In 2008, Oscar winner for best song Glen Hansard received a congratulatory text from fellow Irish musician Bono for snagging the golden statue. Jaded observers scoffed, “why not a call?” Well, despite the benefits of immediacy, intimacy and convenience, it’s also much cheaper than an international mobile call–for the caller as well as the call-ee, who pays exorbitant roaming charges while in a different country. What can be better than an international text message from a friend or music idol? A free text message.
MediaFriends Inc., a mobile-to-IP and multi-screen messaging software company, has announced free international text messaging with its service called HeyWire. Available now for iPhones, iPads, and computers, and later this fall for Android and Blackberry, HeyWire is more like an SMS-IM hybrid. It can send messages to and from phones, using the phone number as the messager’s identity, like SMS–but on its own, IM-like platform.
Sure, the same things that make HeyWire compelling also make the term “international text messaging” a misnomer. The service aims to combine all real-time messaging–not just SMS, and IM, but also Facebook chat and Twitter–into one service that can be delivered on phone or computer screens. One has to sign up for the service, which while free is ad-supported, which may lead to a less-than-smooth experience (though it offers interesting advertising opportunities).
The service only works can be initiated on smart phones: Glenn J. Kaldis of MediaFriends tells me that while an initial sender needs a smart phone that can download the HeyWire app, the message recipient’s phone can be any handset that’s SMS-capable, and the recipient can reply via SMS. UPDATE: The service is only accessible right now for consumers in 114 supported countries using certain mobile operators, though Mr. Kaldis claims the company expects “to cover 193 countries, 850 operators, and 4.1 billion people by year end.”
HeyWire is a great gateway drug to lure consumers into MediaFriends’ offerings, though. Whet the public’s appetite for more, and the company will pique mobile carriers’ interest in partnerships and offering its services. And its ability to go cross-platform–working on either computers or phones, and making computer-based communications accessible on handsets–is yet another example of the convergence of Internet and phones.