Twilio Announces Picture Messaging and Drops Price on SMS in North America

When it comes to text messages, Twilio thinks pictures speak volumes. To that end, the cloud carrier has added MMS capabilities to and from Canadian numbers and via short code in the US, the company announced at its Twiliocon user conference today. In addition, Twilio is dropping the cost of its text messaging by 25% for US phone numbers.

If you are not familiar with what Twilio does, the company offers APIs that lets you send text, voice and VOiP messages through third-party applications. Companies or groups can use Twilio's service to instantly communicate with their customers or members.

With Twilio’s API, you can now send picture messages to and from Canadian numbers and via short code in the US as JPEG, GIF, PNG. Pricing for the MMS service is 2 cents outbound and 1 cent inbound with an activation fee of $500 for US short codes only, the company said.

With short codes (shortened phone numbers), businesses have the advantage of sending one-way high volume messages—30 at a time, as opposed to 1 at a time with regular numbers. The Twilio API with MMS capabilities is currently live for short codes, but available only in beta for Canada.

The San Francisco startup also dropped the cost of text messages sent in the US from 1 cent to .75 cent. The change brings Twilio's SMS costs more in line with those of its younger lower-cost rival Nexmo. Twilio is still the leader in the wholesale SMS market, but Nexmo's user base has been steadily growing.

Twilio is also adding support for sending messages up to 1,600 characters. SMS messages are traditionally limited to 160 characters. Now Twilio automatically splits up longer messages and sends a communications to the carrier, so that the carrier knows to wait for the other parts of the message to come through. For example, part 1 of 3, part 2 of 3, and so on.

In the past developers had to split up the longer text messages themselves, and the pieces would sometimes show up on the device in a different order. Twilio now handles long messages in such a way to ensure the messages are reassembled in the appropriate order.

Patrick Malatack, Twilio's director of product management explained this and other changes to the company's messaging API:

"Basically what we have done is built a new API endpoint, but it is completely backwards compatible with the existing API. So if you hit this new endpoint with the exact same request that you previously hit the old endpoint, messages will go out up to 1,600 characters. Secondly, if you would like to include a picture message, you just provide one new parameter. You just say, 'Twilio, here is a media URL. I want you to go fetch that media URL' and we’ll figure out how to deliver that. We worked pretty hard to make sure this is super simple and very, very similar to the existing one."

Growing like crazy, Twilio recently moved offices to accommodate its now 200 employees. In June, Twilio raised an eye popping $70 million in series D funding, bringing its total funding to $104 million. The company has a rumored valuation of $500 million, making it ripe for an IPO.

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Comments (2)


Is Twilio the leader in the wholesale SMS market and Nexmo in second place? No. Can I provide it? No. But neither has Twilio or Nexmo claimed to be "the leader" in wholesale SMS. And let's not forget that SMS is a global phenomenon. Twilio only has local SMS-enabled numbers in US, Canada, and UK. Nexmo has 20+ countries. There are about 200 countries in the world with different country dialing codes. OneAPI4SMS is not as global as we want to be either, but we are striving towards it. Check out