Murray Picton

How to group contacts and bulk send sms on the iPhone

One of the big downfalls of the iPhone is that it offers no functionality for effectively grouping contacts and then bulk sending SMS messages to groups. This is something I have decided to tackle in my first iPhone app release – Pin-Point SMS [iTunes] [free]. In this post I will go over the features I think the iPhone is missing and how they have been overcome in Pin-Point SMS.

iPhone Contact Management

The iPhone’s native “Contacts” app provides great functionality for managing contacts and storing loads of information against each one. It allows you to store almost any piece of information you could want against a contact, not just phone number and email address but also expands into address, nickname, birthday and lots more. There is one thing Apple has overlooked through their design of the Contacts – there is no way to group contacts into useful lists and then use them throughout the phone.

This is the first feature I decided to add to my app. Decent contact management allowing the creation of contact groups and then selecting contacts to add to the group – any that have multiple phone number allow selection of a single number out of all saved. In Pin-Point SMS you are able to create as many contact lists as needed and select an unlimited number of people in each group (limited to 5 per group in the free version).

Bulk send personalised SMS messages

The next feature I felt the iPhone is missing is the ability to then easily bulk send SMS messages to the contact groups. This then leads to the functionality of being able to simply send an SMS with a placeholder for some personalised information for each of the contacts in the group. This functionality is the next thing I build into Pin-Point SMS and provides the ability to place almost any of the information stored in Contacts as a piece of information in a bulk text. For example, you could do the following:

Hey <<First>>, party at mine on saturday!

Dear <<Company>>, your contract is up for renewal, please contact us ASAP

Hi <<First>> <<Last>>, today’s lecture has been cancelled

Due to restrictions imposed by the iOS API, unfortunately it was not possible to have a single user action to send all of the messages in the group. The user has to click “send” on every message individually. This is a restriction imposed by Apple but also provides the security of being able to check every message looks as the user would like before clicking send against each one.

Being able to manage contact groups and then send personalised SMS messages to the contents of the groups, it adds needed functionality to the iPhone in terms of personal situations and business situations. You can now manage clients and contacts easily through your iPhone and make sure that people get the personal service that they deserve.

I realise this post is not in keeping with my standard posts about PHP, MySQL and programming on the web. I will get back to those soon, and will soon post about my experience submitting an app to the app store – what I found easy and what I found hard. As always, if you have liked this post please take a look at some of my other posts and subscribe to my RSS feed to get future posts straight to you. Thanks for reading!