4 Examples of the Texting-Driven Life

How to power positive change with texting

I’ve always struggled to save money. Growing up, my family had just enough for necessities. Anything extra after food and bills was seen as just that — extra — and quickly spent.

Naturally, this wasn’t the best environment to learn budgeting.

Me, until recently.

I’ve tried to learn good budgeting habits over the years. But it’s always been hard to overcome the way I was raised. Not an excuse, just a fact.

I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever be able to save an emergency fund or get ahead in any meaningful way. Then I found an SMS-based app, and everything changed.

You may have heard of Digit already. It’s a service that connects to your bank account and helps you save money. The premise is simple: after analyzing your spending habits, Digit quietly moves money from your checking account to savings. So far, it’s helped its customers save over $125 million since its launch.

Digit automated savings via Digit Press Page

Everyday, I get a text showing how much I’ve saved.

Without even trying, I found I’d saved an extra $1,000 in just a few months — that’s a solid emergency fund. (I’m no longer one of the 63% of Americans who can’t afford an unexpected $500 emergency.)

As a UX/content/app guy, I’m compelled to ask, what makes Digit successful where other apps failed?

Here’s what I think: Digit doesn’t make me use a new platform. Instead, it focuses on building out a long-term financial relationship with me on a platform I already use day-in and day-out. After setup, there’s no additional apps to open, no website to visit, and no cumbersome interface to learn.

Digit is one of the many ‘invisible UI’ services that places messaging at the center stage. It’s powering my life through invisible SMS.

How SMS Powers Your Life in Novel Ways

The beauty of SMS-based apps and services like Digit is their transparency and automated assistance. These apps feature an effectively invisible UI.

The app ecosystem is bloated and overwhelming — there’s over 2 million apps in the App Store, after all. Soon, I believe, their functions will be replaced by frictionless messaging and agents to do those jobs.

I’d much rather use an AI-based agent than the current 9–10 step for a simple task.

Here’s Dennis Mortensen at X.AI explaining the problem:

Let’s compare using a traditional smartphone app versus SMS.

The app:

  1. Install the app
  2. Tap on it every day or when you need assistance
  3. Install it your notification center or widgets
  4. Remember to tap it when you want it to do something (and wait for it to load)
  5. Keep it updated with App store updates
  6. Remember to keep using it

Now, compare than to the experience of using an SMS app:

  1. Set it up
  2. Text it when you need it
  3. Respond to the texts (something you already do)

That’s an oversimplification, but it proves a point. As Tony Aube wrote for Tech Crunch, “No UI is the new UI.

What can take away the cognitive load more than removing the interface nearly altogether?

Even more importantly, SMS bridges the gap between our online and offline lives in ways no other app does. We text real people. Letting someone into the privacy of our SMS space is a sign of trust. It’s that offline pervasiveness that helps make SMS apps like Digit so effective where other apps aren’t.

An SMS Powered Life in Action

I’ve described what Digit did to my life. What could an entire life powered by SMS look like?

Example 1: Personal Fitness

Imagine this: you’re at home and receive a text. “Have you gone to the gym today?” With it, you get this meme:

Who could say no to that charming smile?

The text is welcome because you value your health. You grab your gym clothes and head out.

During your workout, instead of taking selfies, you text your personal trainer. “How many reps did I do last time?” Or, “What should I focus on today?” Your personal trainer — an AI-based bot — texts you a custom workout plan for the day just a few seconds later.

You have a great workout, and you’re excited to go back tomorrow.

Example 2: Car Info

What if you don’t go to the gym? Here’s another example of an SMS-powered life:

You’re preparing for a big road trip, and you want to check on your car to make sure everything is good to go. You text AutoBuddy and ask, “What type of oil does my car use?” and, “Is my registration up to date?” You receive immediate, helpful answers you didn’t know off the top of your head.

Now you’re prepared to hit the road with full confidence, thanks to your personalized auto assistance.

Easier, right? And probably something you’d use.

Example 3: Cutting Forgotten Subscriptions

Next example: you’re looking for ways to cut costs. You sign up for Trim, an app like Digit that analyzes your bank account and looks for subscriptions you may have forgotten about. (Why is Hubspot charging me $10 per month?)

During the day, you might get a text from Trim showing your active subscriptions. You can tell it which ones you don’t want anymore, and Trim automatically works for you to unsubscribe and save you money.

Example 4: Customer Support

Here’s the last example: you need help with an online purchase. You go to the company’s website and see an option for support via SMS. You text your order number to the support number, and in moments you’re in a conversation with a customer support rep who’s actually helpful.

Sounds great, right?

Why Aren’t More Businesses Embracing SMS for Their Customers?

In each of the examples I shared, an automated service makes technology more human. These bridge the gap between our online and offline lives, something many apps struggle to achieve.

They affect our lives in a positive and meaningful way. Customers love conversational interfaces because they are easier to navigate using a platform we’re already familiar with. SMS services solve real problems in a seamless way. And when they do, they deliver positive change in the real world — how many apps actually accomplish that?

These are services we don’t just like — we love.

With such high consumer interest, we’re compelled to ask, why aren’t more businesses using SMS-based services like this?

Users (like us) are waiting.

Preview your SMS powered life at squareonelabs.io.

©️ Square One Labs, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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