If you have an Android smartphone and a T-mobile unlimited text plan, there's a new, free, way to browse the web. Smozzy Beta, developed by Jeff Donahue is a free app available on the Android market that is at first-glance simply a wrapper for the built-in web browser. The brilliant difference is that instead of transferring data over 3G, packets are transmitted and received entirely via text message (SMS and MMS).
So how does it work? Most URLs can be sent within the 160-character constraint of SMS (if not, they are simply broken up in multiple messages). The resulting web page is then sent over in a fairly hackish manner: the entire site is loaded on Smozzy's remote server and compressed in a ZIP file. The ZIP file is encoded as a hacked PNG image file, which is an acceptable file to be sent over MMS (in parts, if necessary). The Smozzy app simply reverses the process and displays site content.
The developer recommends only using Smozzy if you have an unlimited texting plan. Since all data is transferred over text message, you could definitely go over your message limit quickly if you don't- a bit counter-intuitive if you're the kind of person interested in saving on 3G usage.
Speed of Smozzy is purportedly usable but by no means as fast as 3G. The packaging of site data, the speed of SMS, and reliance on Smozzy's remote server are all bottlenecks. Another issue is that Smozzy does not currently support SSL encryption. This is probably an OK limitation- since data is sent via plain text and filtered through Smozzy's remote server, you probably wouldn't want to do any online banking with this anyway.
While this would be a great app for those times when 3G is unavailable, I wouldn't recommend T-mobile users immediately go out and cancel their data plans at this time. This is a hack and if T-mobile figures out how to detect its usage, I don't imagine they would hesitate sealing it up on their end. In any case, kudos to Smozzy developer Jeff Donahue for a most righteous hack. Now if you could only figure out how to package VoIP over SMS you'd really have something!
Mike Keller is PCWorld's resident iOS developer nerd. Catch Diary of a Developer (at least) every Tuesday here at GeekTech.