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> Instead of SMS, wouldn't email notifications suffice?

Maybe? Email requires a data connection but SMS can reach more places on more phones in worse conditions. I mean sure if you have a terrible or no internet connection then you won't be able to address it anyway but SMS at least in my anecdotal experience has given me much better notifications than email (occasionally I've had issues even with my Nexus 6P where I have to manually refresh my email).

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