sms is a garbage protocol

August 8th, 2009
  • no error on transmission failure
  • no failure on invalid recipient
  • no assurance of delivery to temporarily disconnected recipient

All of which amounts to the result that when you do send a text you have no idea if the number is correct, if the message went through, and in the event the person's phone is turned off if he'll ever see it.

Now, I really don't care if the flaws are in the protocol, the phones or the services we pay for; what I do know is that it all makes for an appalling technology whose reliability imitates Microsoft's infamous msn messenger where messages constantly go missing without notice. I hear all the time about messages I never saw and apparently when my phone is off for a few days there is zero chance of getting messages sent in that interval.

Compare it to email, which doesn't have any of these flaws, and it seems incredible that we are actually paying to use this.

And that's to say nothing of the horrendous user interface for typing messages on a phone to begin with.

This entry belongs in a comprehensive tome I have been writing in my head for a decade, detailing just how much cell phones suck. But the field is so vast that it overwhelms my ability to articulate it.

:: random entries in this category ::

5 Responses to "sms is a garbage protocol"

  1. Mike Lothian says:

    You do realise that SMS wasn't designed as a messaging system don't you?

    It was originally designed to check your phone is still connected to the network, instead some bright spark though why not get it to send messages in these small packets too

    Also you should turn on delivery reports that should take away half your issues of not knowing


  2. numerodix says:

    Yes, I read that a while back. But does it matter what it was designed as, or does it matter what it's being used for, even 10 years or more down the line? I take the latter view.

    And my phone doesn't have anything like that as far as I know, so it's clearly not a matter of standard functionality.

  3. Boyo says:

    Sometimes those text messages are delivered days, even weeks, after they were send. For no apparent reason. Also, I would like to have a 'night mode', where I don't receive text messages during the night. As it is now, I have to turn my phone off before going to sleep, otherwise there's a good chance I'm woken up at 3 in the morning by one of those damn messages. :stress:

  4. [...] skype, voip I read a blog post recently on Planet Larry, which describes only one facet of how cell-phones are disgusting. It reminded me that I’ll have to get one soon. All the same, it’s nice [...]

  5. Jim says:

    Many of the problems that you are describing are due to either settings on your phone, or poor setup on the part of your provider.

    Every GSM (+) phone that I have bought supports "Message Receipts", which are sent to the senders phone when the recipient receives a message. Last week, I was sending text messages from Ireland to Italy, with total knowledge of when my girlfriend was receiving them.

    Another feature of SMS that every phone I have ever owned is a message timeout option. I have the ability to set the expiration of my messages if the intended recipient never appears on the network; I have options up to 2 weeks, or "Never". I have it set to "Never", as do many of my friends. It is my experience that my network caches the messages for up to months, and then delivers them.

    In case you're wondering, these are not special features implemented by my network - they are available with standard Nokia, and Motorola firmware. If you don't have access to these options, complain to your provider.