Jaxtr, an Internet Telephony startup which was acquired by Sabeer Bhatia’s SabSe Technologies in June 2009, has been relaunched as JaxtrSMS, a mobile app which allows users to send national and international text messages for free.
JaxtrSMS allows users to send SMS’s to their friends and family irrespective of whether they have the app installed or not, although they would need to install the app to reply to it free of charge through the service. The app is currently in beta and is available across all major platforms including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Java with a Windows Phone version expected to arrive soon.
The company intends to make money by selling value added services like sending videos, having an online archive of sent pictures and so on, keeping the SMS service free of cost, as noted by The Wall Street Journal.
The app is pretty basic right now with a generic user interface (We tried the app on an HTC Desire Z running on Android 2.3.5 and on an iPhone 4). Functionality-wise, the app works just like any other group messaging app such as Whatsapp or Viber. The user is prompted to register details like the first and last name, country and phone number, the first time he fires up the app. After verifying one’s mobile number by visiting a link sent via SMS, the user can send messages to phonebook contacts or any specific phone number. The user can view all the messages sent or received and delete any message thread by long tapping on it on a touchscreen phone.
While messages can be received over SMS’s, an active data connection is required to send messages. Adding to this, we also noticed an option in the settings menu which allowed users to send messages through ‘Jax Credits’. This indicates that Jaxtr will roll out a credit system in the future, which will probably allow users to make use of Jaxtr’s paid services and products like sending messages without a data connection.
While the company claims that the app has recorded 120,000 downloads across 197 countries in few weeks of its soft launch, it appears to be a me-too app which tries to leverage on the current group messaging hype. Further, it has less features in comparison to other messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber, so I am not currently seeing a single reason why this app will gain any traction among users.
Anupam adds: There is nothing revolutionary about the free-SMS service model, with tons of services being already available in the market and new ones being introduced by Netcore, SMS Gupshup and others. After the implementation of TRAI’s SMS Spam guidelines, websites such as 160by2, way2sms and others, which were being used for sending text messages via the internet were restricted to mobile numbers that were not in the DND list and sending messages was not possible between 9pm to 9am. However, we were able to send messages to a DND registered mobile number through the Jaxtr app. Also, we are assuming that the 200 SMS per day limit does not apply to Jaxtr. Although the app requires registration, doesn’t this loophole make it a possible tool for sending spam SMS?