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I am seeking recommendations for an email web-app (webapp) that will send an SMS text message when an email is received. If nothing like that is available, I'm fine if it instead makes a telephone call with a voice announcement that an email message is waiting.

The requirements are very minimal:

  1. Gratis or very low cost (under 10 $/€ per year)
  2. Can handle 0-5 emails per month (which will total under 10KB of traffic!)
  3. Not run or owned by a data collection company, such as Google, Facebook, et. al.
  4. Will keep the phone number private

I don't even need to specify any sort of filters as to which received emails trigger sending an SMS message. That functionality would be a bonus, but not required.

Being able to receive attachments is not needed.

Being able to send emails is not even really needed. It would be a plus, but not required.

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    Why not just have a email client on the phone & turn on the new message alerts? Then you can read & respond to the message. Oct 22 '20 at 6:47
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    @SteveBarnes Good question Steve. 2 reasons: (1) battery longevity is key, and having an email app running frequently performing IMAP/POP3 checks in the background chews up battery when otherwise the device would be sleeping (2) cannot always guarantee a data connection, but more likely will be within SMS range (which is greater than data range and is often even greater than voice call range due to how SMS works) Oct 22 '20 at 14:32
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    Makes sense now :-) Oct 23 '20 at 5:26
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My obligatory Python based answer.

Given the requirement not to use a data collection company (there are a lot of them out there) and that most if not all of the free SMS sending services are run by some of them you need something that can:

  1. Check your emails
  2. Run some filters on them (presumably you don't want spam notifications)
  3. Send the SMS

I would suggest the combination of a RaspberryPi, a 3G/4G hat and a pre-pay SIM - total outlay should be very reasonable initial outlay and very low annual charges (you should be able to find a provider that offers 200 SMS for $/£5 or more). This can be set up at your home base and a python script used to:

  • poll your email account for new messages,
  • apply some rules to see if notification is required, (e.g. is it from specific account(s), does it greet you by name, etc.),
  • strip out attachments & images and
  • possibly summarise the message & then
  • send to your mobile number as an SMS (possibly with a unique ID).

You could also have the same system route incoming SMSs to the email originator based on a unique ID.

This set-up would have slightly higher setup costs than an online system but would give you maximum privacy, maximum control & minimum ongoing costs. The only possible issue would be if the power &/or internet connection at your base are unreliable.

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  • Thanks Steve. Very clever... that would certainly work! I would prefer something that involves less time to setup, but your answer is still very much appreciated... if I ever have enough free time, it would be a fun project. You mentioned "free SMS sending services"; are they any particular ones you recommend (feel free to write another answer with them, if you need the space). Oct 23 '20 at 14:20
  • @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket - one of the problems is that many of the SMS sending services are country specific, e.g. a quick google shows lots that are free if you and the recipients are in India, of course a lot are also the source of many phishing attacks so I wouldn't be keen to sign up to them. It may be paranoia but that doesn't mean that the barstuards arn't out to get you! Oct 23 '20 at 18:56
  • LOL. I might be able to add an SMS phone line with a number from any country, but I have to look into the cost. Then, of course, there is the reliability issue. I'm looking through a few of the free and low-cost SMS sending services, and I'm not seeing any that can be tied to an email account to automatically send SMS. Did you happen to find any? Oct 23 '20 at 19:15
  • @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket none that were rule based but I did find some with python APIs but since they were clearly aimed at either businesses (so had significant costs) or phishing attempts &would involve giving them your email, mobile & credit card defeated the privacy side of the question. Oct 24 '20 at 3:37
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    As always, thank you Steve. Oct 24 '20 at 22:58

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