SMS responses from Android phones not reaching xMatters

Some customers have noticed an issue when trying to respond to an SMS notification using an Android phone. Even though the notification arrives properly and the user submits a response, the response never seems to get back to xMatters - or, at least, it's never recorded.

Issue details

If this is happening to you, here are a couple of things that might help pinpoint the cause:

  • First of all, have you dismissed any warning messages about "extra charges" when responding to a short code lately?
  • Second, what app or SMS client are you using? Is it Hangouts? I bet it's Hangouts.

Short code warning message

In early 2015, Google implemented a warning to protect Android users against accidentally getting charged for SMS spam. This means that the first time a user responds to a message from a shortcode, such as the one xMatters uses, a system warning message (like the one below) cautions users that responding to a short code "may cause charges" to their account. 

The good news is that these charges are just the normal costs for sending SMS messages - there are no extra fees to worry about when responding to xMatters.

The bad news is that cancelling this message (even without selecting the Remember my choice option) a few times might result in your responses not being sent to xMatters. Some users have reported that the warning message stops being displayed after three or four appearances, and there's no indication that the response is not being sent.

The best way to deal with this is to make sure that users know that the first time they encounter this message, they should select the "Remember my choice" option and then click Send. This will add the short code for xMatters as a safe target in their phone, and they won't see the warning again.

If you have already ignored the warning message, you can resolve this problem by enabling the "Premium SMS Services" option on your phone:

  1. Go into your phone Settings, and scroll down to Apps (or Applications, or Applications Manager, depending on your phone).
  2. Go to the All list of apps, and locate your SMS messaging app.
  3. Open the messaging app settings, and locate the Permissions section. 
  4. Find the setting named Send premium text message (or something similar), and set it to Always allow
    • You could also set it to Ask, and then use the "Remember my choice option" the next time you are prompted.

You should now be able to send SMS messages to the xMatters short code.

Hangouts

At other times when this issue is reported, the user is trying to respond to an xMatters notification using the Google Hangouts app. (Version 2.5.83281670 to be precise, though the issue probably occurs in earlier versions - and later versions, too, unless Google releases a fix for it.)

The problem is that Hangouts automatically prepends the country code (in North America, this is a "1") to the front of the five-digit short code when sending the response. This makes it a six-digit short code. Six-digit short codes don't work. I think you can see the problem.

The easiest, and most obvious solution for the Hangouts issue is to switch from Hangouts to another SMS app. The native Android SMS app called "Messaging" does not have this issue, nor does another Google app, "Messenger". There are many other SMS apps available, but they haven't been tested yet, so we can't necessarily recommend them (I myself use an app called Textra that SEEMS to work okay - and no, I don't get kickbacks for mentioning it).

If there are reasons that you can't change the SMS app you're using, there is also a workaround for Hangouts:

  • Add a new entry to your Android phone's contacts, named "xMatters SMS", and enter the xMatters five-digit short code as the phone number.

Now, notifications from xMatters will appear to come from "xMatters SMS", and Hangouts should send any responses directly to the short code without prepending the country code.

Happy texting!

 

 

 

xMatters internal reference: DTN-4110

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1 Comments

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    Don Clark

    pdated with more information about another potential issue - and its solution.

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