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1. Introduction

Sending SMS messages is a big part of many modern applications. There are a variety of uses cases that SMS messages can serve: two-factor authentication, real-time alerts, chatbots, and many more.

In this tutorial, we’ll build a simple Java application that sends SMS messages using Twilio.

There are a number of services that provide SMS capabilities, such as Nexmo, Plivo, Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), Zapier, and more.

Using the Twilio Java client, we can send an SMS message in just a few lines of code.

2. Setting up Twilio

To get started we’ll need a Twilio account. They offer a trial account that is sufficient for testing every feature of their platform.

As part of the account setup, we must also create a phone number. This is important because the trial account requires a verified phone number for sending messages.

Twilio offers a quick setup tutorial for new accounts. Once we complete the account setup and verify our phone number, we can start sending messages.

3. Introduction to TwiML

Before we write our sample application, let’s take a quick look at the data exchange format used for Twilio services.

TwiML is a proprietary markup language based on XML. The elements in a TwiML message mirror the different actions we can take related to telephony: make a phone call, record a message, send a message, and so on.

Here is an example TwiML message for sending an SMS:

<Response>
    <Message>
        <Body>Sample Twilio SMS</Body>
    </Message>
</Response>

And here is another example TwiML message that makes a phone call:

<Response>
    <Dial>
        <Number>415-123-4567</Number>
    </Dial>
</Response>

These are both trivial examples, but they give us a good understanding of how TwiML looks like.  It’s composed of verbs and nouns that are easy to remember and directly relate to the action we’d perform with a phone.

4. Sending SMS in Java with Twilio

Twilio provides a rich Java client that makes interacting with their services easy. Instead of having to write code that builds TwiML messages from scratch, we can use an out-of-the-box Java client.

4.1. Dependencies

We can download the dependency directly from Maven Central or by adding the following entry to our pom.xml file:

<dependency>
    <groupId>com.twilio.sdk</groupId>
    <artifactId>twilio</artifactId>
    <version>7.20.0</version>
</dependency>

4.2. Sending an SMS

To get started, let’s look at some sample code:

Twilio.init(ACCOUNT_SID, AUTH_TOKEN);
Message message = Message.creator(
    new PhoneNumber("+12225559999"),
    new PhoneNumber(TWILIO_NUMBER),
    "Sample Twilio SMS using Java")
.create();

Let’s break down into key pieces the code in the above sample:

  • The Twilio.init() call is required once to set up the Twilio environment with our unique Account Sid and Token
  • The Message object is the Java equivalent to the TwiML <Message> element we saw earlier
  • Message.creator() requires 3 parameters: To phone number, From phone number, and the message body
  • The create() method handles sending the message

4.3. Sending an MMS

The Twilio API also supports sending multimedia messages. We can mix and match text and images, for this to work the receiving phone must support media messaging:

Twilio.init(ACCOUNT_SID, AUTH_TOKEN);
Message message = Message.creator(
    new PhoneNumber("+12225559999"),
    new PhoneNumber(TWILIO_NUMBER),
    "Sample Twilio MMS using Java")
.setMediaUrl(
    Promoter.listOfOne(URI.create("http://www.domain.com/image.png")))
.create();

5. Tracking Message Status

In the previous examples, we didn’t confirm if the message was actually delivered. However Twilio provides a mechanism for us to determine whether a message was successfully delivered or not.

5.1. Message Status Codes

When sending a message, it’ll have one of the statuses at any time:

  • Queued – Twilio has received the message and queued it for delivery
  • Sending – the server is in the process of dispatching your message to the nearest upstream carrier in the network
  • Sent – the message was successfully accepted by the nearest upstream carrier
  • Delivered – Twilio has received confirmation of message delivery from the upstream carrier, and possibly the destination handset when available
  • Failed – the message couldn’t be send
  • Undelivered – the server has received a delivery receipt indicating the message wasn’t delivered

Note that for the last two statuses we can find an error code with more specific details to help us troubleshoot delivery problems.

The Twilio Java Client offers a synchronous and asynchronous methods to fetch status. Let’s have a look.

5.2. Checking Delivery Status (Synchronous)

Once we’ve created a Message object, we can call Message.getStatus() to see which status it’s currently in:

Twilio.init(ACCOUNT_SID, AUTH_TOKEN);
ResourceSet messages = Message.reader().read();
for (Message message : messages) {
    System.out.println(message.getSid() + " : " + message.getStatus());
}

Note that Message.reader().read() makes a remote API call so use it sparingly. By default, it returns all messages we’ve sent, but we can filter the returned messages by phone numbers or date range.

5.3. Checking Delivery Status (Async)

Because retrieving message status requires a remote API call, it can take a long time. To avoid blocking the current thread, the Twilio Java client provides also an asynchronous version of Message.getStatus().read().

Twilio.init(ACCOUNT_SID, AUTH_TOKEN);
ListenableFuture<ResourceSet<Message>> future = Message.reader().readAsync();
Futures.addCallback(
    future,
    new FutureCallback<ResourceSet<Message>>() {
        public void onSuccess(ResourceSet<Message> messages) {
            for (Message message : messages) {
                System.out.println(message.getSid() + " : " + message.getStatus());
             }
         }
         public void onFailure(Throwable t) {
             System.out.println("Failed to get message status: " + t.getMessage());
         }
     });

This uses the Guava ListenableFuture interface to process the response from Twilio on a different thread.

6. Conclusion

In this article, we learned how to send SMS and MMS using Twilio and Java.

While TwiML is the basis of all messages to and from Twilio servers, the Twilio Java client makes sending messages incredibly easy.

And, as always, the full codebase for this example can be found in our GitHub repository.

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