The cost of cell data is very high, with unlimited plans going up to $95 a month, whereas unlimited texting has become a past novelty, and is included with even the most affordable plans.
What it does
We have created an Android web browser that uses SMS to browse the internet so that you can browse freely without wifi or cell data. Since many underprivileged countries and areas do not have reliable access to LTE or wifi, our application would also enable them with internet access, since the SMS network is separate and much more widespread and accessible than LTE.
How we built it
We used the Twilio API on the backend to handle sending and receiving messages from the Android client. When the user enters a search term, our python backend fetches all of the required data and assets and sends it back to the client via SMS.
Challenges we ran into
One of the first fundamental problems we faced in our project, was that SMS has a character limit of 160 characters, whereas the HTML webpages we were trying to serve were hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of characters long. So in order to view a single webpage, we would have had to send thousands of messages, which is simply not viable.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We were able to solve the problem of the SMS character limit, by encoding our HTML webpages as an image, such that every pixel (R, G, B) represents 3 different ASCII values. Using this method, we were able to send webpages over 1-3 images, rather than the thousands of messages otherwise.
What's next for SMS Browser
We hope to someday be able to release this to the public, as it could be very helpful for many people.