Smozzy, a new Android app, provides a way for users to access websites on their phones without a data plan. No, it’s not powered by black magicks as one might expect, but rather allows users to receive web content, in full, via SMS. Now before you go getting too excited, it’s worth mentioning that the app only works for T-Mobile users in the U.S. at the moment and you also need unlimited texting if you don’t want it to cost you more than a data plan, but aside from that, it miraculously functions as advertised.
It’s a simple concept really, and where the app excels is in actually pulling it off. When you type an address or search term into the Smozzy browser address bar, the request gets sent to the Smozzy servers via SMS. The servers then go out and find what you’re looking for, download the website, put it in a ZIP file, encode that as a .png, and send it back to you via MMS. The end result is a completely surfable page, content and links intact.
It goes without saying that Smozzy is a bit slower than your average phone web-browsing experience. The other hurdle is that content sent to and from Smozzy isn’t encrypted, so anything where you have to login with a password is inadvisable. Other than those two caveats however, it seems that Smozzy provides an interesting and creative alternative to having a data plan. This isn’t the first time someone has tried to make SMS web-surfing a reality, but it is the first time it has been possible without requiring the destination pages to make any accommodations for it. That detail could make Smozzy a huge success.
Of course, the myriad ways in which this could play out are pretty unpredictable. It’s hard to tell if Smozzy will (or will be able) to come to other services, other phones, and other locations. If it does, wireless providers are going to have a pretty strong incentive to try and stop it considering that unlimited texting plan money is money they’re already getting from pretty much everyone and this SMS web-surfing would net them exactly zero more dollars. Even if they do make moves to stop it, it could require some changes to texting plans that might be complex, confusing, or complex and confusing. Still, SMS web-browsing is here, and now that somebody found an effective way to do it, it’s probably here to stay. Whether it’ll change the face of mobile web as we know it or just enjoy the popularity of being a hipster fad is up for grabs.