Android app gives you free Web access via texting

Smozzy gives T-Mobile users free Web access. If you can tolerate slow browsing, you might be able to ditch your data plan.

Smozzy screenshots
A Web page fetched by Smozzy (left), and the Smozzy options screen (right). Smozzy

Getting something for nothing is awfully hard to resist. If you have T-Mobile's unlimited messaging plan for your Android phone, the "something" is Web access and "for nothing" means no data plan required.

Smozzy is an Android app that cleverly packages communications between Android browser and Web as messages transmitted via T-Mobile's text messaging service. The result is slow but free Web access (given that you have T-Mobile's unlimited messaging plan).

Under this scheme, Web requests are sent via SMS to Smozzy's server, which retrieves the pages and returns them to your phone via MMS. The tricky part is in how Smozzy fits the camel through the needle's eye. The Smozzy server chops up a Web page, zips each piece, packages the zip files as PNGs, and sends the faux image files via MMS. The app unpacks the files and reassembles the Web page.

Smozzy's Android Market page includes these caveats from the developer, Jeff Donahue:

This app currently works with U.S. T-MOBILE SERVICE ONLY. This application may send and receive a large number of messages, so use of it without an unlimited messaging plan is NOT recommended. It is currently in beta, and has been tested only on Nexus S and HTC G2 devices.

ExtremeTech's Sebastian Anthony lays out some of the app's downsides:

There are some security issues, of course--there's no encryption (though some could be added), so passwords are sent as plaintext--and the entire service currently runs through one man's, cheap-and-cheerful VPS, so it would be unwise to rely on Smozzy being available. It's also incredibly likely that T-Mobile will close this hole, so you probably shouldn't use Smozzy as an excuse to cancel your overpriced data plan and transfer to T-Mobile.

Still, you've got to admire the creativity, and hey, free is free--for as long as it lasts.

Donahue is considering extending the app to other unlimited messaging services beyond T-Mobile, but he's not sure about other platforms, he said. "It was quite a bit of work getting it to work on Android."

Smozzy is a beta release. Donahue is taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to do a commercial release and figuring out how to charge for it, he said. And yes, T-Mobile could shut him down. "I don't think there's much I can do if they block me," he said.

I wonder if they will. Does the disadvantage of some T-Mobile users getting data for free outweigh more people joining T-Mobile to get data for free? What do you think?

via ExtremeTech

 

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