How Twilio’s new photo messaging service may soon save you $20 a month

As mobile app users increasingly turn from text-based messaging systems to more visual ones, skyrocketing startup Twilio is jumping onto that trend by adding photo messaging services to its offerings.

For those unfamiliar with it, Twilio is a cloud-focused company that lets developers build phone, text, and other voice communications directly into their apps, making an end-run around the telephone companies. By adding photo support, Twilio has jumped onto the idea that pictures really are worth 1000 words – or at least far more than you can wedge into a 160 character SMS message.

Twilio’s APIs are widely used by both third-party apps and websites to add text and voice messaging without a lot of development overhead. (The company claims it has observed some 1.5 billion API calls to its service so far, with 4 million voice calls completed every day.) The new update to add picture messaging to the mix won’t offer considerably more complexity. At first it will be made available to the company’s high-volume customers, with general availability to the masses coming soon.

Why does all of this matter to users like you? Because it’s another big step toward pushing the telecommunications carriers out the door when it comes to messaging services like SMS and MMS.

Already there are dozens of ways to communicate via mobile text message without having to rely on your carrier’s off-the-rack SMS system. Apps like WhatsApp Messenger, Google Voice, HeyWire, and TextFree are just a few of the many options that let users send text messages for free, in most cases even internationally. Photo-sharing services like Instagram are also incredibly popular. And what all of these apps have in common is that they don’t have to use the text messaging features built into your phone.

However, chances are you’re paying for SMS and MMS services as an add-on to your cell phone’s data and voice plan, and you’ve probably forgotten how much these can cost: $20 a month is typical for unlimited usage. As Twilio looks to displace voice calls and MMS photo sharing with its cloud-based alternatives, the opportunity to eventually shave away a considerable portion of your phone bill is becoming increasingly likely.

For developers, the picture is even more interesting. The ability to send text messages from within a web app alone was a great start. (Need to code a system so your garage door texts you if the door is left open? It’s easy with Twilio and far less expensive than it is to use the telco’s native texting services.) But now devs can add photographic evidence to their apps, opening up numerous new doors. Think about it: Now your garage can send you not just a note that the door is open, but a picture of anyone who wanders inside, as well.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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