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November 5, 2011

Tech Question of the Week: Group Texting

Not a day goes by that someone isn’t asking me some kind of tech question. Often I just get these random text messages from students, friends or colleagues. This week’s tech question comes via random text. Because I use Google Voice, often the texter is unidentified, so my usual response to random anonymous texts is first, “Who is this?” What’s funny about this question asker is before I could text my usual response, she realized her anonymity and quickly sent another text identifying herself. It made me laugh, so I was eager to help.

So here’s the question:

Now, I’ve gotten this question before, so I knew that Google Voice only permits you to send text messages to 5 people at a time. I had originally hoped that I could create groups in GVoice and then send text messages to that group, but that is not the case. Bummer. Google should really consider this, as there aren’t many options out there for this feature.

My next thought was to suggest one of the many new group texting apps that hit the market this year, GroupMe and FastSociety being my two favorites. But the problem with “group texting” is that their sole purpose is to be a mechanism for groups to communicate with each other. In the case of Terry’s question, she simply wants to send a message to all of her students. She doesn’t want to create a conversation amongst them via texting. That could result in a lot of unwanted text messages going back and forth between 20+ students. She just wants one way distribution, and if students want to reply, they can only do so back to her, not the whole class.

In order to do this, I had to search the web for a good alternative to the existing text messaging program on her cell phone. Luckily Terry has a shiny new Android phone, so this will be an Android only solution, but I’m sure there are apps for the iPhone that do the same thing. After my search I was surprised to find that the program I already have installed on my HTC Thunderbolt does exactly what Terry needs, and I didn’t even know it. Yep, Go SMS Pro (Download from Android Market) lets you send text messages to groups of people in your address book. And the best part is it uses your existing groups that you have set up in your Gmail contacts. It basically does what Google Voice should do.

Go SMS Pro works well with your existing messaging program on your phone, and it has a much nicer look and feel. There are lots of add on and features (that I didn’t even know about) to help you improve your texting productivity. To make GO SMS Pro your default messaging program and avoid receiving two notifications when a message comes in, open your stock SMS or other SMS app in Settings, disable the Notifications, and in GO SMS Pro’s Settings and verify that the Notifications option is enabled.

Some other cool features that I’m just now learning about are scheduled messages: Allows you to set a future point in time, and then send a text to single or multiple contacts. A ring tone appears when sent successfully. This is a nice feature. This app is definitely worth giving a try even if you’re not interested in sending text messages to groups. You’ll like the look and feel, and you’ll be able to so so much more with texting.


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