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Launching Verified SMS by Google: An Insider’s View

Nicole Culver Nicole Culver
Nicole Culver
Verified SMS

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with our VP of Product Management, Brad Roldan, to talk about the launch of Verified SMS by Google. We are all fangirling pretty hard over here about being one of the first companies to implement such an exciting new technology, but none more than Brad. Brad Roldan has been with Bandwidth for almost a decade, and it was under his leadership that the company launched its original CPaaS product. He is currently leading product strategy for Bandwidth’s A2P Messaging products, which allow product managers and developers to integrate text messaging into their platforms or apps using simple APIs—but from my point of view, Brad is simply my “go to guy” for messaging. 

As I’m brand new to Bandwidth, I was very interested to hear how all of this came about—I mean, Google with a capital “G”, people! According to Brad, Bandwidth has over a decade of history with Google. In fact, we partnered with them over ten years ago when we built our own VoIP network in support of their Google Voice launch, and now work with several product teams within Google on everything from Google’s Cloud Suite to Google Home, and now, Verified SMS. 

So, what is Verified SMS by Google, anyway?

Imagine if businesses could show, on a per-message basis, that they are the confirmed sender of that message to the customer. THAT is Verified SMS. When you receive a message from a verified sender, instead of just a phone number, you’ll see the business’ name and brand logo along with a bit of information about them—and the all-important verified checkmark right by their names. Think verified Twitter or Instagram accounts, but in your text messaging inbox. Google’s hypothesis is that consumers will feel safer about their messaging interactions with brands, and that brands will ultimately reap the benefits of higher response rates, and well… more warm and fuzzies with this verified experience. 

According to Brad, “the brilliance of Verified SMS is that it’s tied to the sender’s number so it just works—with no change on the part of the user.” Gradually, Android phone users with Google’s Messages app will be able to see a substantiated identity if a company that is verified sends them a message. 

{To see if your phone is enabled for Verified SMS, text Bandwidth’s own verified phone number at 844.661.1938 using Google Messages.}

Is Verified SMS secure?

A major concern for some might be that your messages are now routed through Google, but that’s not the case. You can check out Google’s Help Center article for more details, but essentially, when you receive a message from a business registered with Google (and Verified SMS is enabled), Google never sees the message content. According to their article, “Google translates the message you receive into an unreadable authenticity code, all on your device. Then, Google compares this code with unreadable authenticity codes sent to Google by the business. If these codes match, Google confirms that the message content was sent by the business, and Messages shows you information about the business, such as the business’ logo with a “verified” icon.”

Why does Verified SMS matter to businesses and consumers?

Yes, the ever lingering WIIFM (what’s in it for me) moment. Because of the additional branding right from the first message, Verified SMS creates a more impactful engagement that consumers (read: us average Joes) are more likely to remember and respond to without risk of being baited by fraudulent accounts. This might be a single step for Google, but it is a giant leap for the rest of us in reducing unwanted messages and identity fraud via text messaging, plus we don’t have to do anything to make this experience happen, it just works!

For businesses, the brand experience benefits are pretty rad. Using KAYAK as a real-world example, Brad explained to me how travel experiences could be made better with Verified SMS. “The travel booking industry is very competitive and this is a differentiator for KAYAK. On the consumer end, travel can also be chaotic and stressful so this helps clarify who is texting, why, and how to easily get in touch with a real person if they need help.” 

How does Verified SMS work?

Although I’m naturally curious, it’s also my *actual* job to understand the underlying processes that enable our technology. For Verified SMS, the process is actually quite straightforward. Once an organization expresses interest in becoming verified, Bandwidth works with Google to verify the sender ID (i.e., phone number) as actually belonging to the company and then establishes the business’s preferred logo and brand information to display along with the verified checkmark on any Android device through the Messages app—eventually. (Friendly neighborhood Yoda reminder: “Gradual, this rollout is; patience, you must have.”) Then Bandwidth works our magic to flip the switch on the back end and voila! The phone number will automatically display as verified across any of Bandwidth’s business messaging products. Bonus for businesses: phone numbers aren’t limited to a particular length or type—local, toll-free, or short codes can all be enabled for Verified SMS on Bandwidth’s platform. 

As Brad emphasized, the most incredible feature of Verified SMS is that there is no change in behavior or extra work required on the part of the user or the business. Bandwidth works with Google to verify the sender, and if the user’s phone is Verified SMS capable, they will automatically see an improved experience when exchanging messages with the verified brand. 

So what’s next?

For Verified SMS, the future lies in the brands that value building trust with their consumers and prioritizing their consumers’ experiences. While we don’t have exact timelines yet, Verified SMS will also be enabled for Bandwidth international messaging—ultimately, leading the way for a radical new messaging experience worldwide. 

Verified SMS is just one of many future possibilities to enhance our mobile communications, and I, for one, am here for it. Working with a company like Google who is influencing and pushing the industry forward is such an incredible opportunity. Brad Roldan agrees, as he left me with his final thought: “I was elated that Google asked Bandwidth to be an early partner—it became incredibly important that we didn’t squander the opportunity. I have made it my personal mission to shout the glories of Verified SMS to some of our most innovative customers like Kayak and FiveStars, getting them ready to take advantage of the new feature, so that Google has a successful Verified SMS launch. Over the years, we’ve demonstrated to Google and our other customers that our dedication is backed by real effort.” Brad’s belief is that, “by demonstrating our willingness to partner and how flexible we’ve always been in collaborating to build impactful solutions, Google felt comfortable inviting us to be among the first to implement Verified SMS. This is an exciting step for us as we continue to support the industry in defining best practices, guarding against spam traffic, and co-creating a better messaging experience with partnership opportunities like this one.”

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