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Android Communications Network The Internet

App Enables Surfing Over SMS/MMS Through T-Mobile 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the wonder-how-long-this'll-last dept.
MrSeb writes "An ingenious browsing hack has emerged: if you have an Android smartphone and a T-Mobile (US) unlimited messaging plan, you can now use an app called Smozzy to surf the web... for free. Smozzy is just a wrapper around the standard Android browser, but instead of requiring a data connection, everything is funneled through SMS and MMS. Whenever you click a link, instead of firing off a packet to a remote web server, a web request is instead sent to Smozzy's intermediate server via SMS. Smozzy forwards the request, downloads the web page you're trying to visit, and then sends it along to your phone as MMS messages — and both SMS and MMS are completely free with T-Mobile's unlimited messaging plan."
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App Enables Surfing Over SMS/MMS Through T-Mobile

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  • This is really cool. I hope they do a version of BitTorrent as well...

  • How does this service handle SSL? Can Smozzy spy on you? This sounds very uncool.

    • by spud603 (832173)
      I'm not an expert, but i don't see why public-key encryption wouldn't work here. The browser (which supports the SSL) is still just a browser. It's just that your encrypted data gets sent via SMS rather than TCP/IP.
      Unless I'm missing something...
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I'm not an expert, but i don't see why public-key encryption wouldn't work here. The browser (which supports the SSL) is still just a browser. It's just that your encrypted data gets sent via SMS rather than TCP/IP.

        If you do this right, it's just another transport layer. At which point, it's just a variation of "IP over Avian Carrier". Just like any layer you treat as an unreliable datagram, you build the higher level stuff on top of it.

        Not sure how fast it would be, but using the unlimited SMS to get aro

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          Not sure how fast it would be, but using the unlimited SMS to get around bandwidth limits is brilliant.

          Brilliant until you realize that if you just limited yourself to these bit rates from the start, you'd never go over your normal bandwidth limit anyway.

        • by smoot123 (1027084)
          I looked up TCP over SMS a while back, assuming someone must have written an April Fool's RFC. Turns out some guy submitted a patent application for it (#20080146257 [uspto.gov]).
      • Sounds right. No different than SSL browsing through a proxy.

      • Update: Check out this post, this service works nothing like a normal proxy, and requires a voluntary SSL MITM to work:

        http://mobile.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2420650&cid=37351652 [slashdot.org]

    • Privacy aside, this is a very interesting way to solve the talk and surf problem for those stuck on the EDGE network with no 3G coverage, since plain text messages can be sent and received while on the phone. Yes, this would be painfully slow and inefficient, but it is a work around nonetheless.

    • by jciarlan (1152991)
      The guy who made Smozzy replied to a bunch of questions on HN [ycombinator.com] There is no encryption between the phone and his service (yet)
      • It's also explicitly noted in the app's Options:

        Confirm HTTPS Requests (checked by default)

        Prompt for confirmation before sending HTTPS requests (recommended as HTTPS requests sent through Smozzy are not secure)

        • Prompt for confirmation before sending HTTPS requests (recommended as HTTPS requests sent through Smozzy are not secure)

          Wait wut? Unless Smozzy has gone out of their way to install some SSL MITM mechanism there should be no problem with sending HTTPS requests through this service.

          Oh wait, just read the post below, this is nothing like a normal proxy, an SSL MITM would be necessary:

          http://mobile.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2420650&cid=37351652 [slashdot.org]

          • by BitZtream (692029)

            You do realize that you simply didn't have to post after you saw the answer to your question .... right? You actually bother to write the question, go find the answer, then come back say nevermind?

            • Other people might have had the same question, so he's saved them the trouble of trying to find the answer. At least that's what my teacher's always told me in class, that even if it's a stupid question, other people might be wondering as well...

    • According to the writeup on techcrunch [techcrunch.com] the service is quite high level: you SMS them a URL(through the app), they grab the webpage, bundle it up, and MMS it back for display. It isn't clear that that would even handle some of the dynamic/login-required stuff, much less do so in a manner that doesn't involve revealing your credentials to them.

      It's a pity, I was hoping for a more elegant hack, something along the lines of a VPN-style tunneling of arbitrary TCP/IP traffic encapsulated(in this case) in SMS m
  • I remember the first WAP browsers that could use (special) SMS as a transport.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday September 09, 2011 @10:59AM (#37351592) Journal
    A textbook case of perverse incentives...

    From the perspective of efficiency or architectural sanity, that is about as far from optimal as you could wish to be(short of running the fastest analog modem connection that will survive GSM voice compression to take advantage of your unlimited voice minutes); but the magic of telco nonsense pricing makes it entirely reasonable.

    Hopefully getting their control channel hammered with SMS noise will induce them to offer some sort of reasonably priced modest-speed data mechanism that isn't a horrible pile of hack...

    Incidentally, of course, does this lovely mechanism make whoever runs "Smozzy" a MiTM even within SSL-wrapped browsing sessions, or does the TCP/IP->SMS insanity just wrap the packets whole and serve as a peculiar sort of link layer?
    • by tverbeek (457094)

      "Hopefully getting their control channel hammered with SMS noise will induce them to offer some sort of reasonably priced modest-speed data mechanism that isn't a horrible pile of hack..."

      More likely it will just result in the elimination of unlimited SMS plans.

    • Hopefully getting their control channel hammered with SMS noise will induce them to offer some sort of reasonably priced modest-speed data mechanism that isn't a horrible pile of hack...

      SMS might be over the control channel, but it's also the lowest possible priority over said channel. In short, not only will the latency be ridiculous and the bandwidth tiny, you'll also experience constantly high rates of dropped packets. It's a neat little project in a 'just to see if you can do it' kind of way, but I highly doubt it was ever meant to be practical.

      • It would definitely make T-Mobile even less happy; but bittorrent is actually an excellent choice for coping with every aspect of that except the tiny bandwidth bit...
        • by duguk (589689)

          It would definitely make T-Mobile even less happy; but bittorrent is actually an excellent choice for coping with every aspect of that except the tiny bandwidth bit...

          Yes... apart from the bandwidth. Just 1.3 million text messages later and you can have an entire episode of Futurama!

    • I see a TOS update in the near future, rather than a restructring of their nonsense pricing.
    • Unlimited internet is $20 with a 2GB cap. Once you reached the 2GB cap, you can still browse the internet for free just with a slower connection. I'm sure the slower connection is still faster than using SMS.
      • by Svartalf (2997)

        If their "slower" connection was something realistic...say 768k or so...it's be a winner. You get dropped to 128k max at best when you hit the cap. There needs to be a bit better tiers than what they're offering. I can assure you I can blow through 2GB in about 2 or so weeks of average usage. I should know- I was doing that with Verizon and I was being careful with my usages. 5GB and 10GB should be there with a higher throttling speed if you buy one or both of those higher tiers. If they did that, the

        • by Svartalf (2997)

          Arrgh...this is what I get for posting quickly on a tablet... The spelling and grammar on that post was atrocious.

          • by Trixter (9555)

            Arrgh...this is what I get for posting quickly on a tablet... The spelling and grammar on that post was atrocious.

            No, that's what you get for not proofreading your post before you submit it, tablet or not.

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          You get dropped to 128k max at best when you hit the cap.

          Which is still about 12.8k times faster than SMS.

      • One more thing. T-Mobile had a $5 unlimited web plan that was designed around WAP phones. I had this plan until recently when I foolishly switched to an Android phone. Foolishly meaning I gave up the $5 plan by purchasing the phone through T-Mobile instead of buying one off of E-Bay. I was able to tether to my old phone through bluetooth and enjoy blazing 2G speeds without caps (well it's so slow I doubt its even possible to reach a cap during a single billing cycle).

        The only saving grace being that T-Mobi

      • by tepples (727027)

        Unlimited internet is $20 with a 2GB cap.

        But how expensive of a voice plan does one have to buy in order to become eligible to buy "[u]nlimited internet [for] $20 with a 2GB cap"? Is it available to, say, someone on $10/mo pay-as-you-go voice, or does it need a $40/mo contract voice plan first? I'm thinking of switching from my current dumbphone on Virgin Mobile USA to a smartphone, and I want to know whether smartphone service is still priced as a luxury service.

        • If you like pays as you go, then stick with someone like virgin mobile. I think they have an unlimited data, talk, and messaging plan for like $35 bucks. I have a family plan with 4 people, so it's cheaper for me to stick with T-Mobile (well at least until ATT).
          • I just checked and Virgin Mobile's $35/month plan now only have 300 minutes of talk. This is not a problem if you use Google Talk. They used to have an unlimited everything plan for $55/first month, $45/second month, and $35/month after three months. They may still have it, no harm in checking. Virgin Mobile always come up with some nice promotions, just keep an out for them.

            I don't know how good their customer service is. I had a prepaid plan when I was working outside the US for 3 months, and while the a

        • You can get a smartphone through virgin. Voice/data smartphone plans start at $35/month. They have some nice phones, too.
    • Hopefully getting their control channel hammered with SMS noise will induce them to offer some sort of reasonably priced modest-speed data mechanism that isn't a horrible pile of hack...

      You must be new here.

    • by Eil (82413)

      Hopefully getting their control channel hammered with SMS noise will induce them to offer some sort of reasonably priced modest-speed data mechanism that isn't a horrible pile of hack...

      Don't be silly. They'll just do what they did with all the VoIP apps: block or cripple them. And if that fails, it would be trivial to filter the messages as they're bouncing through the network. Until strong net neutrality laws are enacted, mobile carriers will always have the last word on how you use your phone no matter h

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Friday September 09, 2011 @12:29PM (#37352750)

      Hopefully getting their control channel hammered with SMS noise will induce them to offer some sort of reasonably priced modest-speed data mechanism that isn't a horrible pile of hack...
       

      Not before T-mo suffers a worse fate than AT&T in dropped calls and such.

      People think AT&T's atrocious dropped call rate is because of lousy signal - that's one reason to get a dropped call, but for AT&T, it's not. It's not even tower congestion (another reason, when the tower simply says it's full and you're just out of reach of the old tower).

      It's control-channel congestion. A phone like the iPhone makes and breaks data connections very frequently (maintaining a data context takes power, so if you only establish, do your tranfer, and tear down ASAP, you can extend the battery life significantly). However, doing so means a lot of control channel congestion as stuff like websurfing will establish a connection to do the HTTP transfer, then tear down while the user browses. Now get a bunch of phones doing that and if a new phone comes in, it literally can't get a word in edgewise to associate with the new tower. And the tower sits there with plenty of channels to offer up bandwidth for voice and data, but a full control channel.

      It happened to T-mo as well - there was an Android IM app that presumably managed to open a data connection right after Android shut it down, causing congestion from the bringup and teardown operations.

      One reason it really only happened recently is the rise of texting. Texting in Europe and Asia is huge, and the carriers had the same problems, but they adapted with control channels that can expand in bandwidth as required. Texting in North America was basically non-existent until the turn of the millennium. So carriers pretty much got stuck with the problem and since it didn't hurt things too badly, they let things be.

      Then the iPhone came about with its reckless (but power efficient) use of the control channel and AT&T suffered big time with control channel congestion. Places with the highest density of phone usage had the highest droped call rates.

      It's why Europe and Asia didn't see the iPhone meltdown that AT&T did, why AT&T can have the fastest network despite the dropped call rates (having spare channel capacity is meaningless if phones can't get at them because the control channel is full).

      Also, MMS isn't sent through the control channel - it's notified via the control channel and the phone's MMS client then establishes a regular data connection to download the attachments via the faster data interface.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      1. it is quite possible to deliver SMS via GPRS data traffic these days, if the phone is set to request it and the network supports it.

      2. i think one delivery mode for WAP was per SMS, as some kind of last resort.

    • Wow I flubbed that one and missed a closing tag
    • Its more expensive if you pay per message. Since this plan is unlimited messaging, it's cost per month / bits so the more you send/receive, the cheaper each bit is.
    • SMS is more expensive than Hubble data if you pay per message to send/receive them. However, every major provider offers an unlimited option, usually for around $10 per line. Although if this were to become popular those plans wouldn't last long. Really, this system has problems everywhere except cost: bad latency, horrible bandwidth, best effort transmission, delayed and lost messages just to name a few.

  • Is there anything like this for BB? My parents love theirs (big screen, nice keyboard) and only occasionally want to surf the web, so an app for RIM like this would be great.
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      Blackberries usually have a blackberry data plan, mine is 15 bucks from att and includes 200 megs per month, due to RIM's server side pre-cook for the browser it is tough to exceed 200 megs a month
  • Why bother? Just get a decent 4G data plan and use your browser.

    • by jandrese (485)
      Because a data plan is like $30 or $40 these days and the SMS plan is just included with the voice? That's a $360/year savings!
      • by Jeng (926980)

        That would be the data plan for a smartphone, there is also a data plan for non-smartphones that is less. I point this out because the service you would receive from using this would be much much worse than even their most basic data plan.

        It's like saying you save $250,000 by riding a bicycle to work because otherwise you would buy a Ferrari.

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          Wow, thanks! Now I can go buy ~1/2 of a house now that I've given up that Ferrari dream.

          heh heh

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      Because that only works in areas that they have coverage. Heh...in the area I would've needed their voice and data services, they've got bupkus and AT&T and Verizon have 3G, with Verizon having the more solid offering in the area.

    • Great idea! Unless of course you live in the ~85% of the country that doesn't have 4G rolled out to it yet.
  • I went straight to the Market to download the browser for my Android. Fired it up... now I'm stuck at "Request sent. Waiting for response..."

    I suspect that every other T-Mobile Android user on Slashdot is doing the same, and the poor guy's SMS gateway is now a smoldering heap of slag.

    Interestingly, the Market reported that the download count was "10+". Obviously, there's some latency there...

    • by sys_mast (452486)

      And posting it to /. was T-Mobile's method of taking the service down. Quick,cheap,effective.

    • Slashdotted over SMS? Sounds like we have a new alternative to DDOS attacks.

      SOS! It means hell (for your server).
  • by eclectus (209883)

    Now to get around data caps we need to have someone hack up a system that will use IP over voice so you can surf unlimited for free on nights & weekends. Now if we only had a way to carry electronic communication over phone lines.....

    Although I'm sure someone has already patented using a modem over cellphones by putting 'on the internet' in it, so this won't work.

    • It's called a WinModem. The connections are in hardware, but the expensive DSP is done in software. So you just dial a modem-capable (SLIP/PPP) ISP and do the DSP in software. Any phone these days is capable of that.

      Now, if only we were using a phone that we could see the source code, so we could figure how to route the software output to the phone instead of from the mic...

    • Now to get around data caps we need to have someone hack up a system that will use IP over voice

      The lossy compression that both GSM and CDMA2000 use for voice signals would interfere with using any decently fast modulation.

      so you can surf unlimited for free on nights & weekends.

      HughesNet satellite already offers unmetered wee hours (called "Download Zone") [hughesnet.com]. Why doesn't cellular?

  • We can't have nice things. Someone always has to go and abuse the system and get it stuff banned for everyone. $5 this is banned within the month.
  • VOIP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by z_gringo (452163) <z_gringo@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday September 09, 2011 @11:48AM (#37352196)
    Awesome. Now if we can just tunnel VOIP through it we can have free calling as well.
  • by Quila (201335)

    "Please explain exactly how you sent and received 4.5 million text messages this month! Were you even doing your homework?"

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Friday September 09, 2011 @12:37PM (#37352856) Homepage Journal

    And it's not too slow for being essentially 'free', as in beer.

    Not 'too' slow. No, not speedy. But it works. SSL is an issue, so I suspect this is not useful to do any banking with.

    BUT...

    One important item. TMO and everyone else expects you to have a data plan with your smartphone. So this does not get you out of a data plan. It does, however, make that 200MB plan with TMO a lot more useful. By limiting your use of that to say HTTPS and anything SMOZZY doesn't handle, and using SMOZZY to fully exploit your SMS plan, you'll avoid overages (caps and throttling) and incidentally fully leverage your SMS plan.

    Since SMS was always a clever use of signalling, it will be the carriers' response to re-prioritize any excess SMS traffic to ensure network signalling gets through. as far as I recall, they never even promise SMS will be delivered, so if SMOZZY gets out of hand, they could respond as if it were SMS spam. And TMO might, though they might hold off longer than, say, VZW, which I predict would boil your firstborn if you tried this on their network. AT&T would attend the buffet. Sprint would probably quietly block them and deny all knowledge.

  • Just remember that at 20 cents per message to send and 20 cents to receive (40 cents per message), it will cost $61,000,000 to transfer your mp3 collection over tcp/sms.

    http://gthing.net/the-true-price-of-sms-messages [gthing.net]

  • http://press.nokia.com/1997/07/31/nokia-provides-narrowband-sockets-server-implementation/ [nokia.com]

    "Narrowband Sockets defines an efficient implementation of User Datagram Protocol (UDP) using store and forward services over wireless messaging networks."

    Failed horribly of course. I know cause I once built an agent to send push email to phones with it. Worked pretty well with my old Nokia 9110. I should have called it blackberry and built a big company around it ;)

  • From what I read on the MMS Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] it looks like MMS uses the data channel anyway - there is an initial SMS message which refers to the attachment, and the attachment is downloaded by HTTP or WAP. I would think the carrier would charge you for that data.

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