Receiving MMS on an iPhone sucks. I'm notoriously bad at returning texts, calls, and emails. Any added friction in the process and I'm, in a word, fucked. The process for retrieving MMS on the iPhone is so full of friction that I've all but begged my family not to send me picture mail.

I've written about this before:
Here's the workflow:
  • Receive text message
  • Find a scrap of paper and pen
  • Write down two arbitrary 8-10 character sequences (message id and password)
  • Go to viewmymessage.com by clicking the link in the text message
  • Type in both sequences
  • See picture

I really can't believe that this is the status quo for receiving picture mail. The message IDs I'm supposed to commit to short term memory are things like "u08lr1rdz" and "o1xe34c87". Ludicrous.
iPhone OS 3.0 brought with it the ability to receive MMS directly, and in fact this feature is enjoyed by many iPhone users in other countries. But AT&T has yet to enable their iPhone plans for it. There are some unofficial methods for routing your texts through third party systems in order to capture and email you any MMS you may receive. There are also ways to accomplish MMS on a jailbroken iPhone. None of these methods appeals to me, however. They are too complex and hamfisted for my taste.
We're told by AT&T that MMS is coming soon and it's coming free. But in the meantime, iPhone OS 3.0 also brought with it a way to work around the nuisance of memorizing those godawful message IDs: copy and paste.

It didn't dawn on me that copy/paste could be useful for MMS retrieval until one day when one of those dreaded MMS notifications arrived:

I sent you a multimedia message. You can view my message w/in the next 7 days via the web at www.viewmymessage.com/1 using MSG ID w14xxu4ff Password you5sews

I sighed heavily. Frustrated, alone, and confused, I stared at the screen, wishing there was a better way. And then, there was: http://bit.ly/fetchMMS. The instructions are simple:
  1. copy an entire MMS text message ("I sent you a multimedia message. You can view my message w/in the next 7 days...")
  2. paste
  3. fetch

See it in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op1xxOsOWFw.

No data is sent to or collected by my server. It's purely client-side - you're redirected to your MMS after a quick javascript parse of the message you paste in. This "No Data Left Behind" policy was partially inspired by David Friedman's Google Voice Speed Dial Bookmarklet Generator, which is similarly simple, functional, and private.

I hope others find this as useful and liberating as I did. Let fetchMMS put the "mmm" back in MMS.

P.S. Mom, you can send me picture mail again. Love you!


Ben said...

email me a pic when the iphone doesn't have pain points.

Mike Machenry said...

Hey, man, how come you never return my calls? I keep texting you photos of printed-out messages I write you. I figured taking pictures of several pieces of paper would be a good way to get around the 160 character limit. Please write back. I'm most easily reached by calling my neighbor and dictating a message to that he'll fax to a number I have hooked up to an OCR and text-to-speak system that calls my cell.