lukeasch21 13 days ago

Hello HN, I've been working on this project for a little under a year now as a college student. I was inspired by the user coldsauce who also created a similar project back in 2014. It turns out this was harder than I anticipated because of the many facets of dealing with SMS - for example, sending over most Greek characters completely garbles the message over Twilio! The final product (although still in early beta stage) allows most websites (except many sites using Cloudflare) to be viewed in their HTML form without any internet data being transmitted to or from your phone! I have a couple hundred dollars of Twilio credits in my server right now, so hopefully that will last :)

Here are a couple relevant threads to this project: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30685223 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8304409

inconvineable 13 days ago

This is awesome! I remember seeing the comment from coldsauce and your comment a while ago. How fast do websites load over SMS with this app? It's obviously slower than a 3G connection, but do you have any idea in terms of bytes/sec or kbps?

  • lukeasch21 13 days ago

    Thanks for the praise, I know it's not a super huge scale project but it was a good challenge to develop. As far as speed goes, I'm not exactly sure. I know that Twilio's toll free numbers send about 5 SMS messages a second, so once many users use the app at once it would slow down significantly. One thing I'm working on is decentralizing the app so that a Server Android app could be run on a phone that has an internet connection, using that phone's phone number as a way to send pages. About speed, I just ran a test and checked google.com's file size (it's 112 bytes) and timed the page request, upon the first text arriving it only took 4.5 seconds to load. That's a staggering 40kbps! Pretty impressive as a best case scenario, but a bunch of factors will probably make the average a bit lower.

    • lukeasch21 13 days ago

      Just realized I had a brain fart, there's no way that those kind of speeds would be possible! I meant to say 25 bytes per second. Very slow compared to any mobile network, but better than not having any internet access at all.

      • lukeasch21 12 days ago

        Yet again, I really ought to pay more attention to my results! I was looking at the website https://example.com, which does only total 112 bytes. But https://google.com is actually 3.42kb! That means the actual effective speed is 0.76 kilobytes/second, or about 6 kilobits/sec. A lot faster than I expected!

yrgulation 12 days ago

What a cool idea and project! Curious how fast it can go for “downloading” web pages in network speeds.

  • lukeasch21 12 days ago

    Thanks! Another user asked a similar question, so I tested loading a simple(r) website like Google. The stripped HTML totaled to 3.42kb, which took 4.5 seconds to transmit. That totals out to 0.76 kilobytes/second of raw transfer speed. This might be lower or higher than the average, but it's a good rough estimate that something like dial-up speeds aren't exactly feasible. This is definitely promising as an alternative when this is the only option available!

adamsiem 12 days ago

I loved texting 46645 (GOOGL) to get directions and answers to simple questions on my Sony Ericsson T616, and my Samsung Blackjack. So simple.

HotGarbage 12 days ago

This is awesome.

Have you thought about trying to use a GSM or LTE modem and a SIM with unlimited SMS instead of Twilio?

  • lukeasch21 12 days ago

    Thanks for the reply! I have considered this idea as a potential solution, which would overcome some of the hurdles of Android's SMS limitations. However, I think the real bottleneck for sending SMS would inevitably be the carriers. Though once I can get some more hardware on my hands, I'd love to try this idea out to see how feasible it might be. In terms of hardware requirements, it would still be a much lower barrier to entry to create a server app that houses the cellular modem and internet abilities into one single package, since no extra hardware cost would be required for small scale operations. But for larger operations, this is definitely the endgame assuming carrier restrictions allow throughput to be faster than achievable with Android.