Can’t remember what time your next meeting takes place? If you’re a Google Calendar user, you can find out in a flash: Just send a message with the word “next” to GVENT (dial 48368) and you’ll get back the time and details of your next scheduled event. Send “day” for a full list of today’s appointments and “nday” for tomorrow’s.
Google Calendar also lets you add new events via SMS — and you can use plain English to do it. For example: “Lunch with Joe at Panera Bread tomorrow at noon.” Shoot a message like that to GVENT, and Google will add it to your calendar with all the appropriate details.
If you’re watching your weight, Diet.com can help you count your calories. Text any major restaurant chain’s name and menu item to DIET1 (dial 34381) and Diet.com will shoot you back the nutrition stats: calories, fat, carbs and protein.
Quicken Online can send you a text-message reminder when a bill is due, so you won’t have to worry about racking up late fees. Other Web-based money managers like Buxfer and Mint offer even more SMS-alert options: They can notify you of low balances, unusual spending and large deposits (such as a paycheck). You can even record transactions (great for tracking expenses on the run) or request an account balance.
Most people who hate text messaging do so for the simple reason that it’s such a hassle to compose messages using a cell-phone keypad. You could always upgrade to a keyboard-equipped phone like the AT&T Tilt, LG Voyager or RIM BlackBerry Curve, but even those models are “all thumbs” when it comes to text input. Plus, it probably seems excessive to spend hundreds of dollars on a new phone just for the sake of easier text messaging.
Instead, let your voice do the legwork — or fingerwork. A free service called Jott will transcribe your spoken message into text and deliver it via SMS to anyone in your contact list (which you have to set up in advance on the Jott site). Just speed-dial Jott from your cell phone, say the name of the person you want to contact, and then start talking. (Remember to keep it short: Text messages can’t be longer than a few sentences.) This is also a much safer way to send a message while you’re at the wheel. (Note, however, that some states ban or discourage using the phone while driving, or are considering laws against it.)
If you’re away from your PC, tap Google SMS for on-the-fly navigation. Create a new message with your starting point and destination, then send it to GOOGLE (dial 466453). In return, you’ll receive Google Maps directions in one or more text messages (depending on the length of the route). You can also get an actual map by texting “map” and your location.
Need directions but don’t want to take your hands off the wheel? Dial 800-FREE-411, 800-GOOG-411 or DIRECTIONS (dial 347-328-4667) for voice-prompted assistance. State your starting address and where you want to go; all three services will whip up directions and shoot them to your phone via SMS. Best of all, they’re free. You pay only standard calling and text-message charges.
4INFO offers a similar batch of SMS services, but adds helpful extras like package tracking and a Wi-Fi hotspot finder. You’ll find fun stuff, too, such as jokes, drink recipes and pickup lines. You can also sign up for text-message alerts: 4INFO will send you the game scores for your favorite teams, educate you with a word of the day, and even deliver Craigslist ad updates (so you can swoop in the moment playoff tickets go on sale).
Jet-setters can also tap Google SMS and 4INFO for flight information. Just text your airline and flight number to receive up-to-the-minute arrival and departure times. If you’d rather have flight updates pushed to your phone, head to FlightStats, sign up for a free account, and then set up some Flight Alerts. The site will send you a status report up to three hours before departure, notifications of any flight delays or cancellations, and a notification when the flight lands (helpful if you’re on airport-pickup detail).
Fans of Twitter, the micro-blogging service that lets others know what you’re doing at this very minute, will find SMS virtually indispensable for sending and receiving updates. Start by configuring your Twitter account to support text messaging: Click the Settings link and then click Phone & IM. Follow the instructions to enable your phone, then set Device Updates to “on.” (While you’re at it, click the Notices option and set “sleep” hours so you’re not bothered by new messages all through the night.)
To receive text-message updates from your friends and family, click the Following link in your profile and set Device Updates to “on” for each person. To broadcast your own updates straight from your phone, text your messages to 40404.
Enter Beam It Up Scotty, a free Web-based service that leverages SMS to send just about any kind of file to your phone. Just browse your hard drive for the desired file — document, photo, MP3, movie or whatever — and then choose a compression setting. Beam It Up Scotty can automatically optimize video and audio files for mobile-phone playback and can compress other kinds of files for speedier transfer.
Finally, enter your cell-phone number. Within a few minutes you’ll receive a text message containing a link to download the file straight to your phone.
To preserve only a select few messages (and avoid the hassles of software and cables), check out Treasuremytext. This free Web service archives and manages all messages forwarded from your phone. Later, you can visit the Treasuremytext site to review your messages, add notes and organize them in custom folders.