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How to Send Text Messages With PHP

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Text messaging has become extremely widespread throughout the world—to the point where an increasing number of web applications have integrated SMS to notify users of events, sales or coupons directly through their mobile devices. If you're looking to grow your business, a PHP text message script can be crucial.

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to send a message to mobile using PHP code.

Premium Option

Before we get into the step-by-step process, you might want to look at a ready-made solution: Smart SMS & Email Manager (SSEM), available on CodeCanyon. This script to send SMS through PHP lets you:

  • manage your contacts
  • create SMS and email templates
  • send bulk SMS and email messages
  • schedule SMS and email
  • and much more
Smart SMS & Email Manager (SSEM) Smart SMS & Email Manager (SSEM) Smart SMS & Email Manager (SSEM)

If you want to learn how to send SMS through PHP code, here's how to do it.


Overview

Sending a text message (SMS) is actually pretty easy. Below is a simplified diagram of how a message can be sent from a web application to a wireless device.

Send Free SMS in PHP Tutorial HTTP To PhoneSend Free SMS in PHP Tutorial HTTP To PhoneSend Free SMS in PHP Tutorial HTTP To Phone
 

We'll break this down, one piece at a time:

  • The message is composed using a web application that's stored and executed on an HTTP server and then sent through the internet ("the cloud") as an email message.
  • The email is received by a Short Message Service Gateway (SMS Gateway), which converts the message from an email message to an SMS message.
  • The SMS message is then handed to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC), which is a server that routes data to specific mobile devices.
  • The message is finally transmitted over the wireless network to the recipient.

Most wireless networks have an SMS gateway through which email messages can be sent as text messages to a mobile device. This is nice because, from a developer's standpoint, it's generally free—however, it's of course not a free service for the end user. Fees still apply to the recipient, and messages sent via email will be billed as a non-network text message.


Email to SMS

To learn how to send a message to mobile via email using PHP code, you'll generally require only two things:

  1. the phone number or unique identifier of the mobile device you want to reach
  2. the wireless network's domain name (many can be found in this list of email to SMS addresses)

The following convention can be followed for most carriers:

phoneNumber is the phone number of the mobile device to send the message to, and domainName.com is the address for the network's SMS Gateway.

To send an SMS through PHP to Mr. Example, you could simply add 3855550168@vtext.com to any email client, type a message, and hit send. This will send a text message to phone number +1 (385) 555-0168 on the Verizon Wireless Network.

For example, I'll send a text message to myself using Gmail.

Send SMS Using PHP Tutorial GmailSend SMS Using PHP Tutorial GmailSend SMS Using PHP Tutorial Gmail
 

When my phone receives the message, it should look like this:

Send SMS to Mobile Using PHP Tutorial Result PHP Send SMS ExampleSend SMS to Mobile Using PHP Tutorial Result PHP Send SMS ExampleSend SMS to Mobile Using PHP Tutorial Result PHP Send SMS Example

Pretty awesome! It's fun to think of the possibilities available when sending SMS from a PHP website to mobile.


PHP's mail Function

Let's take things a step further. Using the SMS Gateway, we can send an SMS to mobile using PHP's mail function. The mail function has the following signature:

You can read more about it in the PHP documentation.

  • $to defines the receiver or receivers of the message. Valid examples include:
    • user@example.com
    • user1@example.com, user2@example.com
    • User <user@example.com>
    • User1 <user1@example.com>, User2 <user2@example.com>
  • $subject is rather self-explanatory; it should be a string containing the desired subject. However, SMS messages do not require a subject.
  • $message is the message to be delivered. As mentioned in the PHP manual, "each line should be separated with a LF (\n). Lines should not be larger than 70 characters."

To replicate the earlier functionality, we could write the following PHP code:


A Test Drive

Let's run a test with PHP to make sure that everything is set up correctly and that the mail function will, in fact, send a text message. Using the following code, we can run:

When my phone receives the message, it looks like this:

PHP Email to SMS Tutorial PHP Send SMS ExamplePHP Email to SMS Tutorial PHP Send SMS ExamplePHP Email to SMS Tutorial PHP Send SMS Example
 

If you are getting an error, see the troubleshooting section.

As you can see in the PHP send SMS example above, the message shows that it's from Gmail. This is because I route all my outgoing messages from my local server through that service. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I have been unsuccessful at altering the From header to reflect an alternate address. It seems that the email headers are stripped and replaced with headers prepared by the SMS gateway. If anyone knows of a workaround, please leave a comment and let the rest of us know!


Adding Usability

The Markup

With the basics out of the way, let's take this PHP text message script and wrap a user interface around it. First, we'll set up a simple form to our send free SMS HTML code:

The Style

Next, we'll sprinkle in some CSS:

Our "send free SMS" HTML code and CSS give us the following simple form:

Send Free SMS to PHP Tutorial FormSend Free SMS to PHP Tutorial FormSend Free SMS to PHP Tutorial Form
 

The Script

The most important part of this is the PHP text message script. We'll write that bit of code now:

  • The script first checks to see if the form has been submitted.
  • If yes, it checks to see if the phoneNumber, carrier, and smsMessage variables were sent. This is useful in the case where there may be more than one form on the page.
  • If phoneNumber, carrier, and smsMessage are available and phoneNumber and carrier are not empty, it's okay to attempt to send the message.
  • The message argument in the mail function should be 70 characters in length per line. We can chop the message into 70-character chunks using the wordwrap function.
  • phoneNumber and carrier are concatenated, and then the message is sent using the mail function.
  • If data is missing or it cannot be validated, the script simply returns Not all information was submitted.
  • Finally, mail returns a boolean indicating whether it was successful or not. The value is stored in $result in case I need to verify that the message was in fact sent.

Note: The mail method only notifies whether the message was sent or not. It does not provide a way to check to see if the message was successfully received by the recipient server or mailbox.


The Final Code


Troubleshooting

Localhost Error

In order to use the mail function, you must have a mail server running. If you're running this SMS PHP free script on a web host, you're probably okay. But if you're unsure, I recommend talking to an administrator. This also holds true for personal machines. So if you get errors like...

... you'll have to install and configure a mail server. This is out of the scope of this tutorial. However, if you're working on your local machine, switching to something like XAMPP might solve this problem. Alternatively, try installing Mercury Mail alongside WAMP, MAMP, or on a LAMP (or SAMP or OAMP, etc.) system (that's a lot of 'AMPs').

PHPMailer

Another option (which is the method I prefer) is to use PHPMailer. Below is an example of how to use PHPMailer to connect to Gmail's SMTP server and send the message.

Using it is as simple as including a class in your PHP send SMS script.

This should print out something along the lines of:

result of using PHPMailerresult of using PHPMailerresult of using PHPMailer

It may take a little more to set up the connection, depending on your situation. If you're planning on using PHP to send a text message free via Gmail, Google has provided information on connecting.


Download SMS Message PHP Code From CodeCanyon

It's great that you now know how to send and receive a message in PHP with SMS Sender. But SMS Sender isn't the only PHP script for sending SMS to mobile. CodeCanyon is home to many other options that have this feature and more. Here are just a few great choices for those hunting for SMS message PHP code.

1. XeroChat—Best Multichannel Marketing Application (SaaS Platform)

XeroChat lets you send free SMS in PHP and a whole lot more. You can set up Facebook Messenger chatbots, Instagram auto comment replies, ordering, and other marketing functions. This PHP email to SMS platform perfect for a restaurant or eCommerce store. If your business needs a single hub for marketing solutions, including a PHP send SMS script, try XeroChat.

XeroChat PHP Send SMSXeroChat PHP Send SMSXeroChat PHP Send SMS

2. Ultimate SMS—Bulk SMS Application For Marketing

Are you looking for a PHP send text message script that can handle bulk SMS? Then you're looking for something like Ultimate SMS. It's a powerful PHP script for sending SMS to mobile that's also user-friendly. You can build your own API to suit your needs, and Ultimate also supports two-way SMS. There's even an option to create custom SMS templates for common messages. It's a great option if sending SMS from a PHP website to mobile is a priority for your new business.

Ultimate SMS PHP Send Text Message to Cell PhoneUltimate SMS PHP Send Text Message to Cell PhoneUltimate SMS PHP Send Text Message to Cell Phone

3. Smart SMS and Email Manager (SSEM)

SSEM is another PHP to email SMS script that also does more for you. Create, send, and schedule both SMS and emails for your project or business. These features make marketing much easier. Thanks to the continued updates of the developers, the new SSEM UI now makes this PHP send SMS script easier to use. If you're looking for PHP code to send SMS to mobile from website for free, try out SSEM.

Smart SMS PHP Script for Sending SMS to MobileSmart SMS PHP Script for Sending SMS to MobileSmart SMS PHP Script for Sending SMS to Mobile

4. SMS Gateway—Use Your Phone as SMS Gateway

You can send free SMS in PHP with the SMS Gateway script. It allows you to send bulk messages through a CSV or Excel file. You can also use your phone as an SMS gateway. Other features of this send SMS using PHP script include:

  • auto-responder
  • contact list creation
  • multilanguage support
  • delivery reports
  • messages in the admin panel 

Not a bad batch of features to have for a PHP send text message free script.

SMS Gateway Send SMS to Mobile Using PHPSMS Gateway Send SMS to Mobile Using PHPSMS Gateway Send SMS to Mobile Using PHP

5. Nimble Messaging Professional SMS Marketing Application For Business

We round out our list of SMS message PHP code with the comprehensive Nimble. This free script to send SMS using PHP is perfect for digital marketing. Not only can you send bulk SMS messages, but this script also has WhatsApp integration. Now you'll be able to reach contacts with important messages on the platform of their choice. Use this PHP code to send SMS to mobile from website free script if you want to send deals or product updates to customers.

Nimble Messaging PHP Send Text Message to Cell PhoneNimble Messaging PHP Send Text Message to Cell PhoneNimble Messaging PHP Send Text Message to Cell Phone

Find More PHP Scripts From Envato Tuts+

If learning how to send SMS through PHP code makes you interested in downloading more scripts, Envato Tuts+ is here for you. We've gathered some of the best PHP scripts for different niches. You can check them out here:

Conclusion

Learning how to send and receive a message in PHP can be simple. It's nice that there are a myriad of methods to accomplish the task of sending an SMS through a web application. This method is really meant for low-volume messaging (most likely less than 1,000 text messages per month) and developers looking to get their feet wet without forking out cash. Other options include:

  • Using an SMS Gateway Provider
    • Doing a Google search will return plenty of options.
    • Most SMS gateway providers include an API for sending messages through a web application.
    • You can usually sign up for a service for a reasonable price, assuming you're planning on sending at least 1,000 SMS messages per month.
    • You can rent a short code number.
  • Using a GSM modem
    • This can be a costly and slow way to do it, since you have to buy a modem and have a contract with a wireless network.
    • You'll also have to use the AT (Hayes) command set.
  • Use a direct connection to a wireless network, which will require some strong negotiating and a whole lot of money.

This tutorial is in no way a comprehensive review of how to send SMS through PHP code, but it should get you started! I hope this PHP text message script tutorial has been of interest to you. Thank you so much for reading!

If you still need help with this or any other PHP issue, try contacting one of the experienced PHP developers on Envato Studio. Or try our free PHP tutorial, which takes you through the fundamentals of PHP in a methodical, comprehensive set of video classes. You can also learn more about PHP from the articles below.

This post has been updated with contributions from Nathan Umoh. Nathan is a staff writer for Envato Tuts+.

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