FrontlineSMS let users send, receive and manage SMS over a mobile network.


Did tests on FrontlineSMS version 1.4.7 and thought I'd share some of the results :-)

I decided not to do a random test of the features but instead used a scenario based on an existing project. This way the test gets to be focused on the relevant features based on known requirements.

I hope that the test results give you an idea of the existing capabilities of frontlineSMS and maybe be applicable to some scenarios that you are currently thinking of.

I'll be doing more tests later on, so if you have scenarios in mind let me know :-)

So here it goes ....

1) Scenario

The project is an TXT based SOS/distress facility for Over seas Filipino Workers (OFW). It attempts to maximize the widespread ownership and use of mobile phones in and outside of the country. It also leverages the idea that most if not all of the OFWs have 2 phones with a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) from their country of work and another SIM from a Filipino mobile operator. The personal and handy nature of the mobile phone makes it an "always with you" device thus providing OFWs with a readily available communications facility that can be utilised for emergency purposes.

The project aims to provide a 24/7 system that OFWs can use to send in their SOS TXT and have this forwarded to numerous organisations and agencies that are capable of responding to these emergency situations. These support organisations can be located within the country but most especially should be located in countries where there is a high level of OFW concentration.

2) Systems Setup

a ) FrontlineSMS version 1.4.7 (upgraded from 1.4.4 to 1.4.5 to 1.4.6 to 1.4.7)

This testing only covers the new view and not the classic view.

b) Computer
Intel Dual Core 3Ghz processor
2Gb memory
80Gb hardisk
Dual Network Cards (connected to 2 separate ISPs, 1 for backup)

c) Computer OS
Microsoft Windows XP with all the latest patches and security fix

d) Internet Service Provider/s
1 512Kbps Symetric Wireless DSL (connection over cellular frequency)
1 3Mbps Asymetric Wired DSL

e) SMS Modem/s
1 Seimens MC35i connected via serial to com1 port, with baud rate of 115200, used for receiving TXT messages
1 Seimens MC35i connected via usb to com5 port, using Prolific usb to serial device and driver, with baud rate of 230400, use for sending TXT messages.

f) Mobile Phones (used for sending and receiving)
3 for receiving forwarded TXT messages
1 for sending TXT messages

g) Mobile Providers
Same provider for SMS modems, 2 mobile phones for receiving forwarded messages and 1 mobile phone for sending
Another provider for 1 mobile phone for receiving forwarded massages
*limitation - only 2 providers are used and no provider outside of the Philippines

h) Clickatell API account with approved sender number

3) Testing Results

a) SMS Modem Detection

The SMS Modems were detected without any problems. Although upgrading to a higher version of FrontlineSMS requires a full systems restart (Computer and SMS Modems) for the SMS Modems to be detected properly. If after an upgrade you are experiencing a message "Cannot Connect" on the Phones Tab, a system restart might correct the problem.

A FrontlineSMS or even a full computer restart retains the configuration of the previously detected SMS Modems.

b) SMS Modem Use

There was no problem configuring the SMS Modems either for only for sending, receiving or both for sending and receiving. Although the test was limited to 1 SMS Modem for sending and 1 SMS Modem for receiving. The test did not utilise other configurations such as both SMS Modems sending and receiving. Also, configuring "Don't use this phone" works.

c) E-mail Settings

E-mail Settings work and forwarding works!

I created a Gmail account to be used for forwarding TXT messages to other e-mail accounts.

Account Server =
Account E-mail =
Account Password =

Using E-mail with or without SSL works. But it might be a good idea to stick with SSL for security reasons and also consider using a more secure e-mail account if security is a concern.

Sending to multiple email recipients work!

d) Clickatell Account Management

Clikatell setup works. Also a FrontlineSMS or a computer restart retains previous Clickatell settings. Forwarding and auto reply using clickatell works like a charm. You might want to consider having clickatell approve a sender number so that autoreply and forwarded messages contain the your own number. This is handy and allows users to simply press the reply button and send another txt to your number attached to your FrontlineSMS box.

e) TXT Message Length

FrontlineSMS supports more than 160 character txt messages! Yahoo! This means incoming txt of more than 160 characters are accepted and can also be forwarded. Auto reply of more that 160 characters is also supported.

f) Keywords

Reply and Forward works great!

Join group works. The value of having senders added in groups may be, to be able to send TXT blast messages as follow ups to campaigns or projects.

Leave group works.

E-mail works with one recipient or multiple recipients separated by semicolon (e-mail address) being keyed in or taken from the contact list. Variables ${sender_name}, ${sender_number}, ${keyword}, and ${message_content} works on both the subject and e-mail message body.

g) Load and other tests

I tried sending 10 messages in succession and FrontlineSMS works pretty well. All messages have been received and forwarded, forwarded to 3 mobile phones and 1 email address. That is receiving 10 TXT messages and sending out 30 TXT forwarded messages, 10 auto reply TXT messages and 10 e-mail messages. It might be a good idea to test it with a heavier load, although this requires a bit of automation and more resources ;-). This works by the way for the SMS modem as sending and also for clikatell.

Power off test. This test was done while FrontlineSMS and the SMS modems are not powered on. Sent 10 messages in succession and when the FrontlineSMS was powered on, the messages were received, auto reply, forwarded messages and e-mail was sent out. Need to try heavier load too on this test.

Power failure test. Sent 10 messages in succession and in the middle of the processing pulled the power off the pc and the SMS Modems. Once the power was back and FrontlineSMS was online, pending auto reply forwarding and email was sent out. Works for both SMS Modems and Clickatell. Like the above tests a heavier load is needed for further testing.

4) Summary

a) Limitations

- Not all features tested. Need more time and more scenarios ;-)
- PC configuration is quite fast. Need to test it out on slower machines, which is more available in some countries.
- Used only SMS modems and not regular mobile phones. The SMS modems are designed for heavier load than mobile phones. Need to test it out on more mobile phones.
- Need to test it out with 1 mobile phone for use as receiving and sending.
- Internet connection is quite fast. Need to test it out with slower Internet connection which is still the case in some countries.

b) Some bugs!

- Deleting the email settings also deletes all of the email messages.
- Exporting the messages form the file menu does not work and outputs an empty file. Although selecting all of the messages from the Messages tab works.
- Exporting keywords from the file menu does not include the messages and other details.

C) Insights

Works great! and is perfectly usable in it's current version and tested features.


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Fantastic test report, thanks Bobby!

this is incredibly useful, well structured feedback, and we'll look into the export issues straight away.

Interested to see what your findings are with slower computers, as we've worked quite hard at building frontline with technologies that should still run acceptably on older PC's, despite our use of Java to provide compatability with multiple operating systems.

We've tested it on Windows95 with 64MB of RAM, which worked, so most PC's that people are using should be better than that and run better.
Hey Bobby!

A huge thanks for this. As you know we're continually trying to improve on mobile connectivity issues, but it's good to know that once people get connected there's a feature-rich and solid application for them to look forward to.

It's been just a month since we did the main launch, and your testing goes to show we're making considerable progress. Similar reports from users such as Erik (at Ushahidi) back up your own findings. More will soon follow.

Cheers for being so helpful, open and collaborative!

Hiya Ben!

Thanks glad to help out :-) Did some more tests on a Pentium III 751Mhz, 64Mb RAM, 4Mb video memory, 20Gb HD, running WinXp. WorkS fine but a bit sluggish ;-). Although increasing the RAM to 128 Mb works great!

No worries Ken :-) Looking forward to future versions and doing more tests.

How does one work with the form, I think it is a new feature for the upgrade?

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