Writing for a technology blog keeps me at the computer for extended periods of time. It’s just part of the job. I don’t mind it. Better that than working with pen and paper or god forbid a typewriter. However, I dislike going back and forth between my computer and phone to work and text simultaneously. Minor as the problem is, it irritates me.
That’s why I like Zipwhip so much. It’s exactly the solution I’m looking for. It brings SMS messaging to the PC in a native, browser-agnostic form available on Windows, OS X, and Linux. It sports great features and usability. Best of all, it’s totally free. Zipwhip is great and I would recommend it to everyone.
The Case for Texting
Let’s get this disclaimer out-of-the-way. The best way to chat with your friends is whatever your friends use. If everyone you know is on Google+, use Hangouts. If your buddies like Facebook messaging, use that. There is no right answer.
However, if your friends are like mine and don’t know Google+ exists, they text. Low-tech and dated as it is, SMS messaging is still incredibly popular in the United States and pretty everywhere else.
“SMS is here to stay for a really, really, really long time,” said Zipwhip CEO John Lauer. “It’s crossed the threshold of ubiquity that makes it nearly unstoppable.”
Texting is wildly popular. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 8 trillion text messages are sent each year.
Moreover, texting is the one truly universal messaging service. “It comes automatically on your phone,” Lauer said. “All new carrier messaging plans just bake it in.”
He’s right. SMS is universal across Android, iOS, Blackberry, and dumb phones (for lack of a better term). You don’t have to install an app, you don’t have to learn a new system, you just use it.
It’s the only way I can message friends without smartphones. That pool shrinks every year, but it’s still there. Not everyone has a smartphone.
In addition, texting works without an internet connection. You can send messages in places where 3G data would never reach.
Recommended Reading: EvolveSMS Brings a Clean, Beautiful Interface to SMS Messaging on Android
Putting texting on the PC
Zipwhip works by running an app on Android that collects your text messages. Each received message sends a signal to the Zipwhip servers, which in turn deliver a new notification the PC client. It’s that easy.
Zipwhip is a traditional desktop app (rather than a browser extension like MightyText). There are versions available for Windows, OS X, and Linux.
The app uses Java to provide a common experience to all platforms. We tested the OS X version, which runs a small process in the menu bar.
When you receive a text, an orange bubble appears in the upper left corner of the screen. Move the mouse over it to mark the text as read. Move the mouse away and the popup disappears.
Alternatively, you can click reply and tap out another message. This is relayed back through your phone as a new SMS message.
This simple interface is superb for texting while you’re at the computer. You don’t have to go back and forth between your PC and phone. In addition, texting with a real keyboard beats tapping out messages on a tiny phone screen.
The service streamlines texting. My texting rose when using Zipwhip because of how easy it makes sending messages. It’s like talking on an Instant Messaging client.
ZipWhip Vs. MightyText
These days, Zipwhip isn’t the only texting-on-PC game in town. MightyText has been getting more popular with a tablet app and support for more browsers like Safari.
Lauer cited his company’s focus on texting alone as a reason to use Zipwhip. “As other companies shift their focus to non-texting elements, or can’t fund continued development, they will just dilute their efforts on making a world-class texting experience and/or fade away.”
After using both services extensively, I prefer Zipwhip to MightyText. The former’s interface and reply system feel more intuitive than the latter. Zipwhip also has handy shortcuts for new messages and opening the conversation list, something MightText lacks.
The only problem with Zipwhip is by default it attaches “Sent from Zipwhip” or something similarly irritating to your texts. It’s especially devious since the web app doesn’t show you that this signature is attached. Disable it in the web app settings immediately.
Building products with Zipwhip
The company keeps a page on its website with an API for developers to write Java programs which can interact with Zipwhip’s services. People have created all kinds of interesting things using the API.
“The developer community’s imagination is broad, but I do think the coolest app we’ve seen built on top of our API is our own Textspresso machine,” Lauer said, citing the neat text-activated coffee machine that made the news earlier this year.
“Beyond our own example, we had a church interacting with our developer forum today that is building a full texting ecosystem for their parishioners to all stay in touch with each other.”
Zipwhip is confident in text messaging. They’re betting that no tech company’s in-house messaging service will overcome SMS. It’s a good bet. Texting is so easy and common that it’s hard to imagine it going away.
While that plays out, Zipwhip is working on some surprises. “We feel that we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible,” Lauer said.
“I’ll leave our new product development mostly secret, but it’s fair to say that Zipwhip will continue to be the single place you can go to login to your EXISTING phone number in the cloud–the one that really matters to you, not some throwaway number that a company just dumped in your lap.”
Zipwhip is a great experience. It makes texting on the desktop simple, friendly, and free. It’s my favorite way to text now, even more than actually using my phone. That’s saying something.
*Quotations edited for clarity and brevity.