Text messages are the preferred way of keeping in touch for many people. They are fast, efficient, personal. And you can (nearly) always be sure the recipient will get your message. If their phone happens to be switched off or out of range when you send, as soon as they have a signal again your SMS will reach them.

A lot of the time all we need to do is contact one person via SMS. But sometimes it’s more efficient to work with a group. You can tell your whole book club about the next read, or remind everyone coming to dinner where to meet up, for example. Groups can chat with each other via SMS, so that any changes to arrangements are easily shared by everyone.

See also: How to create groups in iOS

You can use third-party apps to help keep in touch with groups. WhatsApp and Viber, for example, are great if everyone has a smartphone that can run them, and they’re free to use.

Sometimes, if you do a lot of group communications, they might be your best bet. But your Android smartphone or iPhone* can handle it without any help too. We show you how. We’ve worked with Apple iOS 6 and a Samsung Galaxy SIII running Android.

*The iPhone can send text messages to multiple people, but it's a far cry from Android's easy-to-use system. We'll explain here how to make your life easier as well as sending group texts the hard way.

How to send group texts on an Android smartphone

Step 1.

With Android, a good way to manage group texts is to set up a contacts group first. So the first thing to do is go into Contacts. Tap Apps then Contacts or tap Contacts from the home screen.

Step 1 Group text from Android

Step 2.

Tap Groups to get into the Groups area of the phone. Depending on your Android version and phone you might have an Add Groups option or you might need to tap the Menu to call up a Create Groups option.

Step 2 Group text from Android

Step 3.

You group needs a meaningful, such as PCA Softball team. Once you’ve typed it in, tap Save to finish creating the group of friends.

Step 3 Group text from Android

Step 4.

Now you can add people to the group by selecting them from your contacts list. On a Samsung Galaxy S III this involves tapping the group then the add contact button and picking from the full contact list.

Step 4 Group text from Android

Step 5.

Go to the messaging app, tap the contacts icon, pick your group and then either Select All or make specific choices for a subset. Tap Done and you return to the messaging app where you can add more recipients or type and send your message.

Step 5 Group text from Android

Next page: How to send group texts on an iPhone

How to send group texts on an iPhone

Step 1.

There’s no grouping contacts facility on the iPhone (even in iOS 7) so you need to create groups from the Messages app every time you send a message. On your iPhone open Messages to start the process of creating a new SMS.

Group text iPhone 1

Step 2.

Tap the small + icon to the right of the To field and you can see your contacts listed. To add one tap the name. If you’ve got lots of contacts, use the Search box to find who you are looking for.

Group text iPhone 2

Step 3.

Type out the text of the message you want to send and then send the message when you are ready. The group will see it and can chat with each other.

Group text iPhone 3

Step 4.

To make things easier, you can create a group of contacts. Again, this is not possible on the iPhone, but you can set them up at www.iCloud.com. Log in with your Apple ID, create a group and drag contacts into the group.

Group text iPhone 4

Step 5.

This will sync to the iPhone as long as iCloud is enabled (go to Settings > iCloud to check). However, you still need to select people individually from the group when you want to send them all a message.

Group text iPhone 5

Step 6.

Third-party apps such as Text2Group and Easy Group are the only way to get around iOS’s limitations, and can allow you to create groups on your iPhone as well as send texts to groups with minimal hassle.

Group text iPhone Easy Group