cosmos sms browser

Cosmos for Android is a browser that makes clever use of text messages to load up basic versions of websites even without an internet connection.

The app was created in just 36 hours by four students during the MHacks IV hackaton on September 6.

The browser sends the URL of a requested page to a backend system built with Twilio and Node.JS, which loads up the content of the web page, strips it from images, CSS, and JavaScript, compresses it, and sends it by SMS back to the phone, at a rate of three messages per second. This striped down content is then loaded up and displayed in the browser. The result is a “lo-fi” version of the internet that won’t work for everyone all the time, but may just be good enough under some circumstances.

Large pages with lots of text may take a while to load (one of the developers said a large Reddit thread will probably load up in about 12 seconds), but again, this works without data connectivity, so it’s still better than having to hunt for open WiFi or simply staying offline. And it works with links, text boxes, and buttons, so you can interact with the web, rather than just consume raw text.

Even with the massive expansion of wireless internet, there are still areas – even in developed markets – where you can’t connect to 3G or LTE, but you can still get a basic cell signal. But the concept could explode in developing countries where internet access is still underdeveloped or too expensive for most users. There are some limitations of course – besides the limited usefulness of no-images, no-scripts websites, an unlimited or cheap SMS plan is needed. Slow loading times and potential limitations imposed by carriers could also affect the experience.

For now, Stefan, Justice, Rohith, and Shreyas are working hard to develop their initial work into a full-fledged service, with an estimated time of arrival in the Play Store of under a month. The code of the Cosmos app and backend is available on Github. We’ll definitely keep an eye on this interesting project!

Bogdan Petrovan
Bogdan is the European Managing Editor of Android Authority. He loves tech, travel, and fantasy. He wishes he had more time for two of those things. Bogdan's phone is a Nexus 6P.