What Can I Use Twilio For? Is It Only Good for Business?
Who is Twilio and where it’s come from? the answer is, it is a US-based public trade company that provides the latest VoIP API interfaces for developers. With their services, it can integrate telephony functionality for many businesses’ needs. However, Twilio was mostly designed for developers, not end users. That brings up the question, then. Should your business use it?
Twilio has telecom functions in their apps that make the service more usable for most customers, specifically developers, app companies, and web development firms. For example, if you’re developing an app and you wanted to use your customer’s cell phone to authenticate, you could do so through Twilio’s programmable SMS. Within a few clicks, you’d add that functionality to your app. However, if you’re unfamiliar with making apps, Twilio might not fit your business needs.
In this article, we’ll cover Twilio in-depth. We’ll begin with an explanation of what it is, give an overview of its products, and tell you which customers are best-suited for this service. Let’s begin!
What Is Twilio?
They were founded in 2008 in the San Francisco area. They’re considered a cloud communications platform as a service or CPaaS. Twilio provides Application Programmable Interface or APIs for developers, as mentioned. Founders John Wolthius, Evan Cooke, and Jeff Lawson created Twilio to offer call functionality in the cloud. That occurred the year they started. Two years later, by 2010, Twilio had added a text messaging API to its list of services, and by 2011, SMS shortcodes.
Today Twilio owns a wealth of other firms and businesses, among them:
- Two-factor authentication startup Authy
- Kurento WebRTC founders Tikal Technologies
- Swedish SMS messaging company Beepsend
- Czech Republic speech analytics brand Ytica
- Colorado customer communications company SendGrid
It has a ton of products that its subscribers can use. Let’s discuss these more now.
One of Twilio’s better-known products involves SMS and MMS or Multimedia Messaging Service. To send these text messages, you will have to have a more advanced experience. This programmable SMS/MMS product uses programming languages like PHP, Java, C#, Ruby, Quickstart, and Python.
You can access phone numbers in more than 30 countries, with Twilio taking care of the carrier rules and telecom logic for you. That means no text gets bounced or never sent by accident.
The full list of SMS/MMS features through Twilio includes:
- Message expiration settings
- Message queuing
- Sticky sending
- Recipient Geomatch based on area code
- Shortcodes for the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States
- MMS numbers for Canadian and US users
Programmable Voice and SIP Trunking
Another service from Twilio, their Programmable Voice utilizes the brand’s Voice API. Developers fare better here since this service requires code expertise.
With Programmable Voice, you can route, manage, make, and receive calls from a phone, app, and even an Internet browser. This VoIP service supports coding languages and programs like Android, Apple, Ruby, PHP, Java, Quickstart, C#, and Python.
Twilio promises these calls to have clear audio and less latency by using global data center routing. You can add VoIP, SIP, or PSTN, aka public switched telephone network calls, as needed.
The other features are:
- Contact center building blocks like interactive voice response, skills-based routing, outbound conference API, warm transfers, agent coaching, and agent conferences
- Advanced media handling with dual-channel recording, call encryption and recording, answering machine detection, natural language understanding, and speech recognition
- Connections via SIP registration, SIP trunking, SIP interface, mobile VoIP, web-based VoIP, landline calls, and mobile calls
- Third-party API add-ons, among them IceHook, Nomorobo, VoiceBase, and IBM Watson
- Voice basics like ordered queue calls, grouped conference calls, gathered speech input, text-to-speech, and audio recordings
The third programmable service from Twilio is Programmable Wireless. This allows you to use the Internet of Things or IoT to track and manage your cellular services. You can do so either from the Twilio API or even the Twilio Console. Again, you’ll need to know programming languages like Ruby, PHP, Java, Quckstart, C#, or Python to use this service.
According to Twilio, its Programmable Wireless service offers several benefits. These include your own private virtual network, which links to the cloud. You can also obtain x.509 certificates for your SIM cards via Twilio’s Trust Onboard. Once you use the Twilio SIM, you can reach out to more than 180 countries.
You also gain access to Twilio usage data and analytics as well as their Commands API. This lets you integrate SMS channels for executing Machine-to-Machine commands.
Twilio WhatsApp API
If you already use WhatsApp for your business, then you might try it’s API for the communication service. They say you can link up with 1.5 billion leads and customers despite carrier, device, and mobile OS.
All messages have end-to-end encryption and an HTTPS security so your communications stay safe. You can even use a branded business identity to drive more company loyalty and trust. Other features that might interest you include:
- User verifications
- Customer support with a sales team
- Notifications and alerts at message arrival
As we mentioned earlier in this article, Twilio bought Authy, a two-factor authentication startup. Now they’ve introduced Authy as one of their services. This app and API uses push authentication. Twilio says this authentication provides more security than traditional methods, even using a password.
Authy has soft tokens, a means of authentication even if a user doesn’t have data or goes offline. These soft tokens provide a single-use password known as a TOTP. Another service you might use under Authy is their SMS and Voice. These provide further means of authentication that might provide more security over traditional passwords.
Next, there’s Twilio SendGrid. Again, SendGrid was a communications company in Colorado that Twilio acquired and still uses today. With SendGrid, you can email your customers via API.
Those familiar with programming languages like C#, Java, PHP, Go, Python, and Ruby can get started in a matter of minutes, says Twilio. With these languages, you make client libraries and development frameworks that allow you to tailor your emails.
You can also track customer history, email activity (via a live feed), and use Event Webhooks to see who’s engaging with you. Whether it’s an email marketing campaign, transactional emails, or anything in between, Twilio SendGrid can help.
The last product from Twilio is Twilio Flex. This contact center platform uses the cloud for setup ease and scalability. You can make changes to any part of the Flex interface with programmable building blocks and API.
Should You Use Twilio for Your Business?
Now that you’re more familiar with Twilio and its suite of products, it’s time to discuss whether it suits your business needs. As we mentioned in the intro, it depends.
If you’re a company that regularly makes apps, then you should have no problems adapting Twilio’s API and other features. Businesses that deal in web development should also find it easy to implement their knowledge of coding languages to Twilio. This gives you the freedom to integrate Twilio’s many services into your platform. Do know that, as of this writing, Twilio lacks a business phone system. That might be detrimental for some businesses.
Unless you have coding experts or developers in your company, though, then Twilio probably isn’t the right fit. Some small and mid-sized businesses might struggle to grasp the more complicated tech knowledge requisite for Twilio.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While Twilio offers a range of great services, they’re not the only company of their kind out there. If you want something that relies less on coding knowledge, you can probably find another solution for your company.
Frequency Asked Questions.
Q: How much does Twilio cost?
While we discussed Twilio’s products at length in this article, we didn’t touch on pricing yet. Twilio has several payment plans. There’s the pay-as-you-go plan where your monthly fees reflect how much you use the service. There’s also committed-use discounts and volume discounts for scalability with your business. You can even take advantage of a free plan with trial credits.
Otherwise, here’s how the pricing breaks down:
- Programmable Wireless: $0.100 a megabyte and $2 per SIM card
- Twilio Programmable Video: $0.0015 a minute for each participant
- Programmable Chat: $0.020 for each user and $0.0008 for each message
- Elastic SIP Trunking: $0.007 a minute to terminate and $0.0045 a minute to originate
- Twilio WhatsApp API: $0.005 to send/receive WhatsApp Session messages and $0.0042 for a WhatsApp Template message
- Twilio SendGrid API: $14.95 per month to send 100,000 emails, with a 30-day free plan for your first 40,000 emails
- Programmable SMS: $0.0075 per message (sent or received)
- Programmable Voice: $0.013 per minute for making calls and $0.0085 per minute to receive them
- Proxy, a privacy service: $0.10 for each session after the first 50 free ones
- Verify: $0.05 for each verification
- Authy: $0.09 for each authentication
- Notify: $0.00025 for each action or delivery request, although 10,000 each month come free
- TaskRouter, an API for skills: $0.025 a task, but 100 each month come free
- Autopilot for AI: $0.001 for each Alexa utterance and $0.001 for each message
- Twilio SendGrid: $10 a month, and you get 10,000 contacts, of which 2,000 don’t cost you anything
- Twilio Flex: $150 a month for each user and $1 an hour for an active user, with free use for 5,000 hours
Q: What is SIP trunking?
Session Initiation Protocol or SIP trunking integrates the Internet into a phone exchange system or PBX. SIP trunking includes messaging, video, and voice services via VoIP. Sometimes, you can even use streaming media, including web conferencing and desktop sharing.
Twilio, a VoIP API service, has a slew of products for companies. One service it’s lacking? A business phone system. Also, to use it, you must have a deep knowledge of apps, API, and coding languages. If you don’t, then integrating Twilio will create more headaches than it’s worth.
That’s not to say businesses shouldn’t use Twilio. We’d recommend it more for companies that make apps or have web development pros. Most small and mid-sized companies probably don’t fit the bill.