Twilio Functions are a perfect fit for mobile app developers. You can focus on writing your app, and let Twilio host and run the server code you need.
You don't need a special SDK to call Twilio Functions from your mobile app—your Function will respond to a normal HTTP call, making it accessible from standard iOS Networking code.
In this guide, we'll show you how to set up a Twilio Function, call it from a web browser, and then call that function from an iOS application. Our Function will return a joke as a string. You could extend it to make it choose a random joke from a list, or by category. We'll keep it brief, and just return a hard coded string.
Let's start by creating a Function and giving it the path of
/joke. Be sure to set the visibility of this Function to public, to avoid any hurdles when making your HTTP calls:
In order to run any of the following examples, you will first need to create a Function into which you can paste the example code. You can create a Function using the Twilio Console or the Serverless Toolkit as explained below:
If you prefer a UI-driven approach, creating and deploying a Function can be done entirely using the Twilio Console and the following steps:
- Log in to the Twilio Console and navigate to the Functions tab. If you need an account, you can sign up for a free Twilio account here!
- Functions are contained within Services. Create a Service by clicking the Create Service button and providing a name such as test-function.
- Once you've been redirected to the new Service, click the Add + button and select Add Function from the dropdown.
- This will create a new Protected Function for you with the option to rename it. The name of the file will be path it is accessed from.
- Copy any one of the example code snippets from this page that you want to experiment with, and paste the code into your newly created Function. You can quickly switch examples by using the dropdown menu of the code rail.
- Click Save to save your Function's contents.
- Click Deploy All to build and deploy the Function. After a short delay, your Function will be accesible from:
The Serverless Toolkit enables you with local development, project deployment, and other functionality via the Twilio CLI. To get up and running with these examples using Serverless Toolkit, follow this process:
- From the CLI, run
twilio serverless:init <your-service-name> --emptyto bootstrap your local environment.
- Navigate into your new project directory using
- In the
sms-reply.protected.jsfor a Protected Function intended to handle incoming SMS.
- Populate the file using the code example of your choice and save.
Note A Function can only export a single handler. You will want to create separate files if you want to run and/or deploy multiple examples at once.
Once your Function(s) code is written and saved, you can test it either by running it locally (and optionally tunneling requests to it via a tool like ngrok), or by deploying the Function and executing against the deployed url(s).
twilio serverless:start from your CLI to start the project locally. The Function(s) in your project will be accesible from
- If you want to test a Function as a Twilio webhook, run:
twilio phone-numbers:update <your Twilio phone number> --sms-url "http://localhost:3000/sms-reply"
This will automatically generate an ngrok tunnel from Twilio to your locally running Function, so you can start sending texts to it. You can apply the same process but with the
voice-urlflag instead if you want to test with Twilio Voice.
- If your code does not connect to Twilio Voice/Messages as a webhook, you can start your dev server and start an ngrok tunnel in the same command with the
ngrokflag. For example:
twilio serverless:start --ngrok=""
To deploy your Function and have access to live url(s), run
twilio serverless:deploy from your CLI. This will deploy your Function(s) to Twilio under a development environment by default, where they can be accessed from:
With the Function created, we'll need to edit the boilerplate code that is generated for the Function—by default, it comes with some code to return TwiML. We're only going to return a joke. And it's a bad joke.
Copy the above code into the Twilio Functions code editor. Please, change the joke to something better. Press the Save button to save that code, and Deploy All to deploy your Function.
To call your new Function from the web, get the Function's URL by clicking the Copy URL icon next to the path, and then paste that URL into any web browser (you don't have to be authenticated with Twilio). You'll get a text response containing whatever you return from your Function!
We can use the standard iOS library to call our Twilio Function. The
NSURLSession with Objective-C) class lets us create a data task that takes a URL and a closure (completion block in Objective-C) as an argument. Your closure will get the HTTP response, the
NSData returned by the server, and an error (if there was one) as arguments. We check to see if the error exists, and if it does not, we create a string from the
Data and print it out. Be sure to call resume on the task to initiate the HTTP Request—this step is commonly forgotten.
If you are calling Twilio Functions from an Xcode Playground with Swift, you will need to tell the Playground to run indefinitely (so the HTTP call can return).
To do this, you will need to import the
PlaygroundSupport framework, and then include this line of code at the bottom:
PlaygroundPage.current.needsIndefiniteExecution = true
callback function. For instance, we can create another Twilio Function to return a list of jokes, along with an id and a favorite count. Create a new Function with a path of
From iOS, we call this Function the same way that we did our first Function (don't forget to change the path to
/jokes). Instead of creating a
NSString from data, we will use iOS's built-in JSON Serialization to parse the response data into an array.
You've now seen how to run Node.js code as a Twilio Function, and how your mobile application can use this as a serverless backend to provide data for your application.
Where to go next? You could extend the Function to choose a random joke from that array. You can also use Twilio functionality from inside your Function, for instance to send an SMS, or to return an access token for Video, Chat, or Sync. Check out the Programmable SMS Quickstart for Twilio Functions and Programmable Voice Quickstart for Twilio Functions for more quick introductions to these key features of Functions.