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Top 9 Transactional SMS Service Providers [2023]

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Courier is a notification service that centralizes all of your templates and messaging channels in one place which increases visibility and reduces engineering time.


Choosing the right transactional SMS service provider from the numerous options available can be overwhelming. This article aims to help simplify this process by offering a comparison of the top providers, aiding you in making an informed decision. We’ll assess various factors such as pricing, SDK language support, supported countries, and more.

All the providers mentioned in this article seamlessly integrate with Courier. Courier is a notification platform that allows you to send multiple types of notification (such as email, SMS, chat, or push notifications).You can effortlessly integrate Courier into your codebase using its SDKs for various programming languages or directly through its API. One of the benefits of using Courier is the flexibility it provides: if you’re uncertain about which SMS provider to choose or if your requirements change later on, you can easily switch providers using Courier without the need to learn an entirely new API.

This article compares the features of nine big players in the SMS service provider industry, including factors such as user ratings on platforms like Trustpilot. It also examines the pros and cons of each provider, and provides insights into which provider is best suited for different situations.

What is a transactional SMS?

A transactional SMS is an automated SMS that is triggered by user-related activity on your website or application. A common example is when a user receives an SMS notification informing them about the imminent delivery of a product they have recently purchased. Although this notification isn't directly generated by the user, it is considered user-related since it is a consequence of their prior activity in making the purchase. Another example of a transactional SMS is when an SMS notification is sent as part of a two-factor authentication process when a user creates a new account.

What is a transactional SMS service provider?

This is an organization that takes on the responsibility of efficiently and promptly sending SMS messages on your behalf. They specialize in handling large volumes of transactional SMS, eliminating the need for you to deal directly with telecom providers or otherwise manage this process independently.

How to choose the right SMS service provider for your use case

When selecting the best SMS service provider, it's important to follow a few key steps. First, it is essential to narrow down your options to services that cater to your specific requirements. Ensure that the provider operates in the countries you need coverage in and offers SMS short codes if necessary. The next factor to consider is pricing, as you need to determine if the service is affordable for the volume of messages you intend to send.

Reliability and support are crucial considerations. Can the provider offer a dependable service and give you the level of support you need? Reading reviews can provide valuable insights into the provider's reputation and performance, including whether they are better suited for large enterprises or small- to medium-sized firms.

Finally, programming language support can be important if you intend to use their SDK directly, as you want to be able to use an SDK written in your language of choice. However, if you intend to integrate your transactional email service provider with Courier, then this is no longer relevant. Instead, you will want to look at the languages that Courier supports.

Comparison of transactional SMS service providers

In our comparison of transactional SMS service providers, we assess the features offered by each provider, including price per message. It's important to note that the price per message can vary significantly from what is displayed in the table below. This is because there can be different costs for different countries, or cheaper deals if you send large volumes of messages. Where possible, the price per message for each provider is for a basic package in the United States, to allow for easy comparison.

Another feature we compare is the availability of SMS short codes. Short codes are concise phone numbers commonly utilized by businesses. These codes are designed to enable recipients to respond to messages using specific keywords such as "STOP" or "OPT-OUT," allowing users to easily unsubscribe from receiving further text messages from that particular number.

ProviderWorks in these countriesSMS short codes available in these countriesAlphanumeric sender ID availableToll- free numbers availablePrice per messageHas Courier integrationSDKs available
Africa’s TalkingBenin
Burkina Faso
Côte d'Ivoire
South Africa
AWS SNSGlobalArgentina
Brazil Bulgaria Canada Chile China Colombia Denmark Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt Finland France Germany India Italy Japan Malaysia Mexico Morocco Netherlands New Zealand Peru Puerto Rico Russia Singapore South Africa Spain Sweden United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay
YesYes$0.00581C++ Go Java Ruby JavaScript .NET Node.js PHP Python
MessageBirdGlobalNetherlands United KingdomYes, in some countriesYes$0.006PHP Go Ruby Python C# Java Node.js
MessageMediaGlobalNew Zealand United Kingdom United StatesYesYes$0.06PHP Ruby Python C#
PlivoGlobalCanada United StatesYesYes$0.005.NET Java Go Ruby Python PHP Node.js
SinchGlobalNot specifiedYesYes$0.0078iOS Android JavaScript
TelnyxGlobalAustralia Brazil China Ireland Mexico Poland United KingdomYesYes$0.006Python Ruby Node PHP
TwilioGlobalArgentina Brazil Canada Colombia Dominican Republic France Germany Mexico New Zealand Spain Sweden United Kingdom United StatesYes, in most countriesYes, in some countries$0.0075C# Java Node.js PHP Python Ruby Go
VonageGlobalArgentina Canada Colombia Belgium Botswana Egypt France Ghana India Japan Kenya Malaysia New Zealand Nigeria Pakistan Tanzania United Kingdom United States ZambiaYesYes$0.007C# Java Node.js PHP Python Ruby NET

Customer ratings and company due diligence

This comparison shows how users have ranked each company, and provides valuable due diligence information about the companies themselves. This includes their size, longevity in the industry, and the amount of funding they have secured.

The key pros and cons of each SMS service provider

ProviderTrustpilot Rating (out of 5)G2 Rating (out of 5)Alexa RankFundingEmployee CountDate FoundedHeadquarters
Africa’s Talking3.84.268,144$8.6M952010Nairobi, Kenya
AWS SNS2.34.211Public company with $1.26T market value450002006Seattle, WA, USA
MessageBird1.34.19,995$1.1B7502011Amsterdam, Netherlands
MessageMedia3.5457,877$42M2002000Melbourne, Australia
Plivo3.64.533,368$2.1M2002011Austin, TX, USA
Sinch3.74.253,376Public company with $1.85B market cap24222008Stockholm, Sweden
Telnyx3.84.831,891$2.1M2002009Chicago, IL, USA
Twilio1.44.52,005Public company with $11.1B market cap14402008San Francisco, CA, USA
Vonage1.54.28,904Public company with $5.8B market cap22482012Holmdel, NJ, USA

To provide a concise overview, we have compiled a pros and cons table summarizing the key points of each transactional SMS service provider.

Africa’s Talking- The cost is relatively affordable.
- It is easy to implement and integrate.
- If you don’t have a developer to integrate it, they can organize this for you.
- The services are restricted to African countries.
AWS SNS- Part of the AWS stack.
- You can access daily reports.
- Setup is quite complex and challenging, requiring knowledge of AWS CLI and how to adapt these commands to whichever SDK you use.
- Getting fast customer support can be difficult for smaller companies.
- Debugging errors can be difficult.
- Does not offer MMS.
MessageBird- It has an easily navigable UI.
- Quick to set up.
- Supports other channels in addition to SMS.
- It’s more expensive than average.
MessageMedia- You have access to personalized and quick customer service.
- You can view analytics and track your progress.
- Non-developers can use no-code tools to send messages.
- It is by far the most expensive.
Plivo- It is easy to set up.
- It has fantastic UI/UX.
- Customization is seamless.
- Logging and error messaging could be improved.
Sinch- Sinch's Conversation API allows you to connect to multiple communication channels to reach all your customers.
- Setup is smooth with good documentation and a walk-through by and with the support team.
- It’s more expensive than average.
Telnyx- It has clear documentation.- You need basic technical knowledge to use; otherwise, it may not be easily navigable.
Twilio- Offers well-supported SDKs for many programming languages.
- It has easy-to-understand documentation available and lots of community support.
- You only get charged for what you use.
- It’s more expensive than average.
Vonage- It's relatively easy to set up.
- It's omnichannel.
- Customer support is slow and sometimes unresponsive.
- They have been accused by the FTC of deliberately obscuring how to cancel their service and were forced to refund their customers in a $100M settlement.

The best SMS service provider for your needs

Best developer experience — Twilio

Twilio provides a platform with which developers can build web-based applications that use voice, video, chat, and SMS to communicate with end users. Developers love it because it has SDKs for the most popular languages and its API documentation is very clear. Screenshot of Twilio’s Message Deliverability Insights dashboard

Best on a budget — Plivo

Plivo is a cloud-based API platform for building voice, video, SMS, push notifications, and other communications into your application. With a price per message of $0.005, Plivo offers one of the cheapest rates on the market. However, bear in mind that the pricing systems of most SMS service providers vary depending on your message volume or the size of your business, so it’s alway worth checking the different price tiers that they offer.

Screenshot of Plivo’s no-code option for sending an SMS

Best in Europe - MessageBird

MessageBird has been described as Europe’s Twilio rival, and is a well-established company that offers a cheaper price per message for most European countries than either Twilio or Plivo (winner of our “best on a budget” category).

Screenshot of MessageBird’s automated flow dashboard.

Best in Africa — Africa’s Talking

Africa's Talking allows you to send push notifications, SMS messaging, and voice messages to Africa. The founders of the company are Nigerian developers, who were looking for a way to send SMS messages to African countries at a lower cost than other companies.

Screenshot of Africa’s Talking’s sandbox

Best overall — Twilio

Twilio stands out as an industry leader in the transactional SMS domain, and it has a robust infrastructure, allowing for reliability when handling high volumes of messages. Their scalable platform caters to the needs of businesses of all sizes, ensuring a seamless experience. Their service also offers global coverage and is reasonably priced.

Twilio provides developer-friendly tools, comprehensive APIs, and SDKs compatible with various programming languages. This empowers developers to effortlessly integrate SMS functionality into their applications or systems, reducing implementation complexities.

Finally, Twilio offers detailed analytics and reporting features, giving you insights into message delivery statuses, and performance metrics.

Overall, Twilio's industry leadership, reliable infrastructure, global coverage, developer-friendly approach, and insightful analytics make it a top choice for businesses seeking a robust and efficient transactional SMS service provider.

Use any provider with Courier — and get additional benefits

All of the transactional SMS service providers we cover above are supported within Courier. If you are a developer looking to add SMS notification support to your product, consider using Courier together with one or more providers.

Courier offers a developer-focused API for sending SMS notifications. Courier itself isn’t an SMS provider, so you can choose any number of providers and split SMS traffic between them, or dynamically change from one provider to another.

As Courier provides a unified API for all types of notifications (not just SMS), adding Courier into your application makes it quick to add other kinds of notifications later, such as Slack or MS Teams notifications, email, or push notifications on iOS, Android, as well as Flutter and React Native.

Finally, Courier offers a visual interface for creating notification workflows and templates that can be used by non-technical staff. Developers can do the implementation of Courier in their app and then hand off the work of creating notification workflows to product managers or other team members within the company.

For a demonstration of how Courier works, check out this blog post.

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Courier is a notification service that centralizes all of your templates and messaging channels in one place which increases visibility and reduces engineering time.


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