Text Message Email notification with Gmail Filters

OK, I’m sure I’m not breaking any new ground here, but a quick Google search didn’t turn anything up so whatever, I’ll post it here [end comma-spliced run on sentence]. I’ll also give credit where it is do. This is a combination of two techniques picked up from two sources. One is an article I found on tech-recipes.com and the other from a posting on lifeHacker.com.

Combine these two articles and you get the following mathematically irrelevant yet shamelessly marketable equation:

Gmail Filters + SMS = Select Email Notification To Your Cell Phone

For those asking, “huh?, ” I am referring to using Gmail filters too evaluate incoming messages using criteria you devise to determine if a message should be sent to your phone via text message.

Before I get into the how, I’ll address the why. Don’t care why? Skip it and go straight to the how.


Sometimes I am away from my computer.  I know.  It’s terrible of me, but It’s true.  During these times I don’t care so much about email.  Most if it anyway.  Part of my job as system administrator is to be accessible all the time.  If a client reports a problem, I need to know right away.  Since many of my clients reach me by email instead of by phone (even when it’s critical), I need a way of knowing when critical email arrives.
I know I’m sure to hear questions like, “Why not get a smart phone?”, “Why not just install Gmail for Mobile?”, etc.. The reason I have this setup is for mainly for two reasons.

First, I have a smart phone. It’s a Sprint Mogul and I like it (for the most part). But when it comes to email, there are many things I don’t like. First and foremost is the immense drain email puts on battery life. I had used the email features built into the phone via Windows Mobile 6 and found that even checking every 2 hours seemed to drain the battery life. I switched it to 4 hours, but then what’s the point. My mobile email solution was supposed to make me more accessible. Every 4 hours isn’t gonna help me accomplish that goal.

As far as Gmail for Mobile goes, this isn’t the best solution for me either. First, there is some sort of limitation on the Mogul that requires Gmail for Mobile to run through a Midlet Manager. This make logging in a pain in the ass because I have to open two apps, the midlet manager and GMail for Mobile. Then, for some reason, I have to provide log in credentials almost every time. Even if those problems no longer existed, I wanted a solution that came to me. Remembering to check my email every so often isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

One final reason too. Sometimes the mobile internet is sketchy. Even in metro areas like Philadelphia. The mobile web, so far, doesn’t seem to be as far along as Sprint seemed to imply it was. Even if I can’t check my mail where I am, it’s still nice to know what’s going on. This is also handy for people who have older phones.
So here’s how I do it.


  1. Log into Gmail. Get Gmail if you don’t have it. Just kidding, everyone uses Gmail right?
  2. Click on Settings, then go to the ‘Filters’ tab.
  3. Click on ‘create a new filter’. You could click on this in the main window, but it’s small and not everyone sees it.
  4. Create your filter using Google operators (the same ones for searching). Because google filters always imply an AND operator between the various fields I just use the “has the words” field. More on this in the lifeHacker.com article. Here’s an example.
    Note the parenthesis.  Check out the LifeHacker Article to see why we use them.
  5. Test your filter if want and click ‘Next Step’.
  6. Check the box for ‘forward it to’ and put in your cellphone’s SMS email. Just about every phone with text messaging has this. For me it is my-10-digit-phone-number@messaging.sprint.com. Not a Sprint customer, go to tech-recipes.com and find out what to use. Don’t use hyphens or periods, just the numbers. Here’s another example.
    Refer to tech-recipes.com for your provider's SMS domain.
  7. Click on ‘create filter’.
  8. Send yourself a test by writing an email to the email you used in step 6. Sometimes it takes a few minutes.

The Caveats

The only thing I’m not sure about is non US carriers. It should work in theory (since USA is the slow adopter of SMS) if you know what email to use. Another caveat is the 160 character limit on text messages. The subject line of the email is included in that limit. I’m cool with this because I only want a notification of the email. That way I don’t have to explain that I didn’t respond to Client X’s 9:30 PM website outage because I was busy getting my ass kicked on Xbox Live. Also, be advised that replying to the text message will give out your phone number because it will use the phonenumber@carriers-sms-domain.com address, not your regular email address. See below.
Just so you know.

If anyone else finds caveats, improvements, or [GASP!] errors, please comment below. Good luck.


17 Comments on "Text Message Email notification with Gmail Filters"

  1. Flemo says:

    Sometimes Duchess, you have some usefulness. I’m still shocked that you blogged!

  2. SMS Toolbag says:

    Just to clarify a point or two, SMS does not have email. That address you are referring to is your mobile phone’s email address. As you well know, Email uses SMTP with the format “username@domain.xxx” and MT (Mobile Terminated) SMTP messages are no exception. SMS uses the SMPP protocol where an address is the phone’s MSIDIN and traffic is directed to the device based on the IMSI or IEMI numbers depending on the system. This is for both MO (Mobile Originated) and MT (Mobile Terminated) messages with 3rd parties redirecting messages between carriers (and taking a fee for each message… which explains why a 15 yr old tech that hasn’t gotten a lick better since its first introduction somehow keeps getting more expensive every year instead of cheaper). How this message is delivered to the phone depends on the device and carrier. Most translate to SMPP to deliver the message from a domain proxy to the MSIDIN not because its better than using SMTP down to the device, but because they can then charge you as if it were an SMS. They do this despite it meaning that you often can’t reply to the sender as there is no return shortcode or MSIDIN that can be associated to an email. Replies just go to a system catch all that deletes them so that they can charge you for sending the reply without having to actually deliver it. They don’t have to do this as SMTP messages sent from the phone usually use SMTP because its cheaper for the MNO (mobile network operator) as they don’t have to pay SMS aggregation fees. They cut the balls off of SMTP messaging on the phone simply because it competes with their SMPP based text messaging services which carry a premium as opposed to the free SMTP messages. Don’t forget though, this is in your best interest and there is no need for net nutrality or open networks that would allow you pick the device and configure the services to work in a way that prevents them from nickel and diming you to death for sub-optimal services.

    Additionally, this is available internationally as nearly all carriers world wide support mobile SMTP, even if they do it in different ways.

  3. Davak says:

    Thanks for the link lovin back to tech-recipes. Awesome (and funny) tutorial…

  4. Textless says:

    Hopefully somebody will see this and be able to help me out. I have text messaging disabled for my phone since its not a service I subscribe to and I don’t want to be charged if somebody decides to text me. However, I’d like to receive some sort of notification when I receive specific e-mails (as discussed above “has the words”). Is there anyway to get notification of an e-mail (doesn’t even need any text/info, if that makes a difference) on a phone (Sprint, btw) without dealing with text messages, and thus the charges associated with it. Thanks for any help on this matter.

  5. adam says:

    As far as I know, this would require a pay service such as http://eMail2Phone.net. This service will convert an email sent to yourMailBox@email2phone.net to voice and call you with the message. To do this through Gmail filters you could just forward it along to the email address email2phone.net gives you instead of your phone’s email address (SMS).

    I know you are trying to avoid fees, but the pricing model may work better for you if you don’t expect a huge amount of these emails. The service also seems to offer a trial period so you wouldn’t have to pay while you test out the system.

    Just so you know, I have never used this service. If you do opt to try it, let me know how it works out. Also, this is the only solution I know of, not necessarily the only solution.

  6. Thank you says:

    Thanks for posting this, I found it as the first link using google, and it WAS WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOOOOOOOOOOR!

    I was looking for this —>> http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Is+there+a+way+to+make+gmail+text+message+me%3F&btnG=Google+Search


  7. Easily Impressed says:

    Cool trick, I was sick of having to open the Gmail app on my phone only to see the email I was waiting for had not yet been sent.


  8. Brandon says:

    Ok, well if you go to the settings on gmail, you can simply click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab, and enter an email address, the one for your cell phone, and have them forwarded that way, if you want all of them instead of just some being filtered.

  9. christopher says:

    after doing a quick google search on the topic, your link was the first & accurate page to show up. i just set it up & received the email i was looking for- thanks!

  10. Cramm says:

    You are a life saver THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!!

  11. santlou says:

    This is great and almost what I was looking for. Like you, I only want to be notified that I have an important email in my gmail acct on my cell phone. I don’t want the email message sent to my phone, just a notification. Something like “You’ve Got Gmail”. Then I will log into gmail from my phone and read the new email. Sometimes my wife will pick up my phone when I get a text message and I don’t need her reading the email that I get from Everyone! So a text message that I’ve got new Gmail is what I’m looking for.

    Thanks for the tips.

  12. apw says:

    “despite it meaning that you often can’t reply to the sender as there is no return shortcode or MSIDIN that can be associated to an email”
    not true, my gf’s fone can reply directly to the ‘from 101000030’sms msg and it sends back to my originating gmail

  13. Jason says:

    Gmail requires that you verify the “email address”, and when it sends my phone the verification code the message is to long (over 160 characters), and I don’t receive the code because its at the bottom of the message. Therefor its impossible for me to get the verification code and add my phone as a forwarding filter.
    Any advice?

  14. PHIL VARU says:


  15. Jon says:

    Thank you! This is great.

    One thing I tried that was even easier when using filters was entering my own email address under the “To:” section — that included everything in my inbox.

    Then forwarding it to my cell!

    Great article! Love it!

  16. lara says:

    I am shaving the same problem as Jason!

  17. Vic says:

    I also use Google Drive, Gmail, etc., but have found http://www.ischedule247.com much easier in many ways from email and or text reminders to not only myself but my team. Thanks

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