Even though it has been around for nearly 4 years already, I just discovered IFTTT, short for "If This Then That", the other month, and instantly thought that it’s the best thing on the internet I’ve found to date.
IFTTT, like the tagline suggests, makes the internet work for you. There are a multitude of channels available to you including RSS, email, phone call and SMS, and to go together with this are recipes which will help keep you abreast of whatever it is you need to keep abreast of. For example, if you need an alert every time a specific website posts something new, you can save a recipe and even customise it so you will be one of the first to know when the website posts and update, usually accomplished by using a recipe which would involve the RSS and email/SMS channel.
While this is all fantastic, it turns out there are limits to this wondrous thing I've discovered. IFTTT recently introduced a new 10 SMS limit per month, and needless to say this had a lot of people peeved, including me. You will receive a warning via email after 7 SMSes have been sent, informing you that once the 10 SMS limit has been reached, your recipe will be paused, and will only resume functioning on the first of the following month, followed by another notification that the recipe has been paused when you actually reach 10 SMSes sent. In my case, that limit was once reached in less than one week, leaving me in the dark for three, and having to search manually instead, which takes up a lot of time and data on a capped data plan.
So I thought about ways to bypass this limit, and so far I’ve thought of two, and neither of them involves using the SMS channel in a recipe, but instead the email channel. There is another method too, but it is sneakier.
Method 1: Make use of an SMS notification feature provided by your cellular network/ISP
This method relies on whether your ISP (which might be a cellular network) has an SMS notification feature bundled with its’ mail service or not. For the purposes of this segment, I’m going to talk about using MTN’s SMS notification system, so this can probably be useful to a lot of people in the Middle East and African regions. This definitely is available in South Africa -- that I can confirm. For those in other regions where the MTN network might not be available to you, you can still follow this advice if your ISP supports this but you’ll have to change a few things, likely.
Set up your My MTN Mail account. You can do this once you have bought an MTN SIM card. You need to register on the main MTN website in your region for with your details and after this you need to create an My MTN Mail account (so two accounts). If you want to download email through a client you’ll need to set up the account in your email client so it can at least receive email – sending isn’t as important in the case with getting alerts from IFTTT, but you can do that anyway.
This is the incoming mail server: mail.mtn.co.za (this is necessary)
And the outgoing one is mail.mymtnmail.co.za. (not as necessary)
Note that MTN claims that you cannot send email from a client unless you are using an MTN SIM card. It used to be the case apparently where if you were using say, a 3G dongle on a different network, and wished to send email from an My MTN Mail account, you could use the outgoing mail server settings from another ISP. I don’t know if it’s still possible, but you can still send email from the webmail server if you can’t do it from your client.
The last time I checked, for Telkom Mobile it’s smtp.telkomsa.net; Cell C is mail.cmobile.co.za; Vodacom is smtp.vodamail.co.za.
Then after you’ve set up the account in your email client (or not if you prefer to access email on the website, which is easier), you can set your email channel in IFTTT to use your email address (in this case My MTN Mail, previously known as MTNloaded). Then when IFTTT sends you an email, you will get an SMS notification from MTN. I don’t know of any SMS limits with MTN’s service, but they are at least free. You will just have to watch out for the 500 MB inbox limit. So while SMSes are unlimited, the amount of email you can receive isn’t.
The great thing is you don’t even need to download the email or log in to your account online. You can just view the header in the SMS sent to you. Just be sure in your My MTN Mail account to go to "SMS notifications" and switch them on, and set them to any time, or between certain times only. If you want instant alerts, then you want any time set. Remember that IFTTT checks recipes only every 15 minutes, so there might be a small delay in getting your alert from them, but the MTN SMS notification will arrive within seconds of you getting an email.
Method 2: Set up SMS notifications with the Gmail app on your phone
The second method relies chiefly on whether you possess a supported device. If you have an Android device (Android 4.0 and up) like a Samsung phone, tablet, or phablet, or an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad, then you can use this method. If you don't you might be able to work something using Android emulator software such as Bluestacks.
Obviously you’ll have to download the app, which is free, and from there follow the instructions here for an Android device, and here for an iOS device. I suppose I could have gone more in depth, but it’s perfectly laid out there from what I can see, and I haven’t used this app or at least this method yet, so I am unfamiliar with it, admittedly. But it will work.
Anyway, once you’ve got the app downloaded, installed, and set up, you can then make sure that the email channel in IFTTT is set up, so then when you receive email in your gmail account, then you’ll get an SMS notification from Google, and not IFTTT. Note that the SMSes should be free if you are outside North America, but Google states that if you are in the US and Canada, you may be charged fees by your cellular provider for receiving SMSes.
Method 3: Create multiple IFTTT accounts
This method doesn’t require as much work (or it might, it depends), and you can still use the SMS channel on IFTTT.
All you must do is just create multiple accounts on IFTTT and use the same recipes on all of them. I've poured over the terms of service at IFTTT and there's nothing in it to say that it's wrong to do this as far as I can tell.
I don’t know about using the same mobile number on all accounts in your SMS channel, or even changing the number in your SMS channel to another once the limit has been reached – I don't think these methods would work. But you can definitely use different numbers on the accounts if you have more than one device. So then you will effectively double, triple, or even quadruple your SMS limit per month. But with this method, SMSes are still limited. With the other two methods above, they are effectively unlimited. So while they take more effort to set up, they probably will work better in the long run.
© 2014 Anti-Valentine
Brian Freifelder on October 20, 2014:
The Pushbullet Channel is the best solution. It essentially does the same thing as SMS but you can be alerted on multiple devices.
Anti-Valentine (author) from My lair on October 07, 2014:
There seems to be a limit in some countries. Where I am in SA, that limit is in effect.
ERM... on September 24, 2014:
What limit? I'm not seeing a limit here in the UK...