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Understanding Flash SMS Messages

Find out how flash text messages can help you get urgent information in front of your audience.

animated version of a flash text
July 19, 2023
Chloe Mulliner
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Reading time about 5 min

If you’ve ever had messages pop up on your smartphone regarding flood warnings, AMBER alerts, or even security notifications, then you’ve received a flash SMS message.

As you’ve probably noticed, a Flash text message differs from traditional SMS marketing text messages as it doesn’t appear in your text message inbox. Instead, it appears right on the front of your phone screen. But that’s not the only difference.

Keep reading our guide below as it unpacks everything you need about Flash texts.

More About Flash SMS Messages

First, let's discuss what a flash SMS is and how it compares to a regular SMS text.

A flash text is unique in that it pops up on your smartphone, displaying the text without you having to open or interact with it. It doesn't get routed into your text inbox; therefore, it isn't saved with other text messages. In fact, it doesn't get saved at all.

It's gone for good once you click the option to "dismiss" the flash SMS message. It doesn't stay on your phone, and you can't go back to retrieve it. If you think about it, it's a bit like Chief Quimby's self-destructing messages to Inspector Gadget, but rather than exploding, these flash texts simply disappear from your phone.


Pros and Cons of Sending Flash SMS

Now, as you might expect, there are some pros and cons that come with this sort of messaging feature.

One major pro is that it’s a quick and easy way to get an urgent message in front of an audience. It flashes across the lock screen, usually accompanied by a sound, making it difficult to ignore the text. That’s why it’s a great method for disseminating urgent information like evacuations, emergency alerts, weather warnings, or power outages.

Another pro is that because these flash text messages aren’t stored on your mobile phone, you can’t retrieve them, which is especially important if they contain confidential information, like a one-time password. This means you can’t retrieve them on your phone again—and neither can anyone else. And because they’re not saved on your phone, you don’t have to worry about them taking up memory space. That said, this could be a con if you want or need to go back and revisit the message.

On the flip side, some of these features can pose security concerns. For instance, because the messages in their entirety appear on the home or lock screen of your phone, anyone can see the message whether they’re glancing over your shoulder or borrowing your phone. Sure, that’s fine if it were something public like a winter weather warning or event cancellation, but what if it was private information about your doctor’s visit or sensitive information about your finances?

And finally, one other con is that while these flash messages offer a prime way of sending urgent information, they can be intrusive. Of course, you'd want to receive a message this way if your neighborhood has a tornado watch. Would you want to receive a flash SMS message regarding an upcoming sale at your local boutique? Probably not.

When to Use a Flash SMS Text

Because of the nature of flash SMS texts, they’re best reserved for those in industries that need to send out timely messages or information that requires instant action. That said, it needs to be information that the recipient doesn’t need to go back and review since the message disappears.

For instance, if there is a storm brewing in your region, the National Weather Service may send out a flash text that says something like, “National Weather Service: FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY in San Diego County until 11 p.m. Avoid flooded areas.”

Or, maybe a major car accident has caused a portion of a highway to shut down. In this case, the local police may send a flash message such as, “LAPD: Southbound I-5 is closed between Exit 14 and 17. Please avoid the area and find alternate routes.”

Sample Text Message

And last but not least, some industries rely on flash texts to send out one-time passwords as part of their two-factor authentication process. For example, a flash SMS message might look like this, “US BANK FRAUD PREVENTION: This is your one-time password: 155223. It expires in 10 minutes. Do not share it with anyone.” However, it’s important to note that while this is a one-time password, it’s not the same as sharing a user’s full-time private password or other sensitive information, which is not advised.


When Not to Use a Flash Text

Remember how these texts flash on your screen for anyone and everyone to see them? Since there are some concerns over how secure these messages are, those in industries that adhere to HIPPA, GLBA, or other privacy standards should avoid using flash messages to convey private and sensitive information to their clients. Never send account information, social security numbers, or other personal identification info via flash texts.

But that’s not the only information you shouldn’t send via flash SMS texts. Many agree that businesses should not send marketing material via this avenue because it can be intrusive. Customers might even get annoyed with a brand for sending information that way, especially if they expect a more dire message. In these situations, SMS messages for customer service helps.

Not only is a flash marketing text considered invasive, but it also doesn’t make much sense because the recipient can’t go back and see the message. That means they might miss the promo code, link, or sale date (the whole point of the message!), rendering the marketing text useless. Instead, marketers should stick with crafting SMS messages, a more customer-approved option.

Learn More About EZ Texting

Flash texting can be useful for some industries, but there is a time and a place for it. If you’re looking to send an urgent message to a mass of people, you might consider EZ Texting’s group texting feature. We’re here to also walk you through writing an effective text message if you need to mobilize action with your audience. Contact us today to learn more about the different kinds of text messages you can send your clients with our SMS platform.

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