Interview: Sinch's new SMS API challenges Twilio

VoIP giant Rebtel spun-off a company called 'Sinch' back in May along with $12 million in funding from Index Ventures and Balderton Capital. The company has gained significant momentum, with sign-ups increasing 25% month-by-month and over four billion minutes of calls connected using its simple communications platform.

Sinch has been on the cutting-edge with powerful innovations such as WebRTC, but has been missing support for that legacy technology still kicking around called SMS. In fact, a report (PDF) released by OnePulse, on behalf of Text4Assist, points towards SMS being the third most effective channel for customer service behind in-app messaging and face-to-face.

Sinch believes their solution will be attractive due to their lower-cost and unique features

Today, Sinch has announced SMS on its platform and will allow developers to add its capabilities to their apps in minutes using just a few lines of code. Using the SMS API, developers can improve their in-app experience and/or customer support through allowing users to send and receive texts, download links, discount offers, and promo codes.

“Whether you’re a travel destination site that wants to power a better customer experience on mobile, or a retailer looking to send a compelling offer or discount, the big idea around in-app communications is to help reduce friction and offer a more compelling experience so your users don’t have to jump through unnecessary hoops or leave your app to accomplish what they want,” said Andreas Bernstrom, CEO of Sinch.

Adding SMS support hasn't been such an issue for big players as they can afford the infrastructure cost and expertise required to keep the back-end operations functioning. Traditionally this has been an issue for smaller developers due to a lack of resources, but players such as Sinch came along to their rescue to offer scalable functionality at a fraction of the cost.

Sinch isn't the only player in the market, however, and will be going up against well-established giants such as Twilio and Nexmo. We reached out to Bernstrom and asked how Sinch plans to tackle its competitors:

"There's multiple answers to that. The first is that we are a little bit different to Twilio, they were built around 2007 with the web as its primary platform for its SDK and APIs. We are built specifically for iOS and Android. In cases where we've come head-to-head with Twilio, the comments have often been that we are considerably easier and more intuitive in terms of integration.

The second is that Twilio is built as a sophisticated solution for things like customer service, whereby they've done amazing things like voice-to-text and queuing methodology. We are more like a toolkit, we'll give the code and the developer will decide how to use that to integrate voice or communication services into their apps.

The third is that from a price-point perspective - at least at the moment - we are leading and that is probably because we are the backend platform of Rebtel and we've already got extremely good relationships with the operators.

And the last one, and I might be wrong, is that Twilio generates most of its revenue from SMS. We generate the majority of our revenue from voice. Getting voice right - both data and PSDN - is very, very complex. We're not saying SMS is trivial, but voice is a more complex service and that is where we are spending our time developing..."

The communications platform is "mobile first" and has SDKs available for iOS, Android, and JavaScript to allow developers in 229 countries with all they need to keep their users connected. “We’re in a great position to help developers take advantage of huge time and cost savings while implementing a much needed communication layer into their offerings,” said Daniel Forsman, COO of Sinch.

Sinch's SMS solution includes a number of features such as;

  • Notifications: Notify your customers or users (including those who don’t have your app installed) instantly without relying on push notifications.
  • Two-factor authentication and account verification: Send an SMS with a unique code to verify user account information.
  • Marketing campaigns: Send messages and promotions to your customers via SMS.
  • Drive downloads: Remove friction and add an option for your users to enter their mobile number on your website and receive an SMS with a download link to your app.

Several esteemed apps are using Sinch including; KingsChat, PeppMeApp, Where The Hell Are You, and Gather. Peter Riegler, Android developer for Where The Hell Are You, said about working with the Sinch team: "We pretty much stayed in contact with Sinch during our core development phase and we always felt supported in our development"

Being part of Rebtel allowed the team behind Sinch to get insights from developers on what is good, and what is bad about adding communication to your apps. Bernstrom says it also, "gave us a good understanding of what we needed to do in terms of operator relationships and quality of the voice-line for it to reach mass market and turn it into a platform. We didn't rush anything, we tinkered with those things and spent a fair amount of engineering effort to get it right before we launched in May this year as a new company."

For more information on Sinch’s platform tools and developer APIs, visit here.

Do you think Sinch can take on Twilio and Nexmo? Let us know in the comments.

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