Text messaging, or SMS (Short Message Service), long popular in Europe and Asia, is surging in the United States, where it has grown dramatically since the carriers agreed on pricing structures for intercarrier messaging in 2002. If you use SMS only for text messaging with friends, you're missing out on the many directories and other services that your cell phone can access. We've highlighted a few of the top resources to start your transition into the mobile-messaging market—they're all free (except FeedBeep), apart from your service provider's text-messaging fees. Whether you seek travel advisories, the latest ball-game scores, RSS feeds, good sushi, or new friends, these services will return the information you need to your cell phone's screen.
Fire a text message with a product's name, SKU, or model number to 6107627837, and Smarter.com will quickly reply with the lowest online price it can find. This is just a ballpark figure, however—we found that the prices listed on Smarter's Web site were more up to date (and lower) than what its SMS service said.
SMS: 44636; www.4info.net
The online directory 4INFO is similar to Google's SMS search, with a few interesting exceptions. You can search sports scores by messaging 44636 with the name of your favorite team. Look up your horoscope by texting your zodiac sign, or check flight information by entering the carrier and the flight number.
SMS: 8762; www.upoc.com
Once you sign up your cell number at Upoc's Web site, you gain access to a free, SMS-searchable social network. On most carriers, you can then text 8762 with a variety of commands: .who M 21-25 NY Computers will find a male computer enthusiast from New York age 21 to 25, for instance. Upoc also features interest groups, which let you join and text a number of users at once.
Synfonic is another free, SMS-searchable online directory with most of the common options: movie times, sports scores, 411-esque directory service. You can also text message 16504307183 to receive the weather forecast for your ZIP code. Cooler still, Synfonic has a ZIP code–based search for local Wi-Fi hot spots. Just type wifi [your ZIP code] in your message to Synfonic, and you'll be on your way to Internet access.
SMS: 3109043113; www.411sms.com
The 411sms service offers exactly what its name suggests: a directory-based service you can text message to access phone book–style information. Make sure you follow the Web site's instructions for setting up your phone before requesting information. Once ready, try using the handy language translation service. For example, if you message 3109043113 with the phrase E2F hello world, 411sms will reply with "hello world" in French. Bonjour, monde!
You can have RSS feeds messaged to your cell phone with FeedBeep. The $2.95 basic package gets you 10 to 30 messages per month, while the $14.95 monthly plan lets FeedBeep send you 100 to 200. You can track listings from craigslist, catch the latest deals from Overstock.com, or receive practically any RSS feed that's available on the Internet.
MSN Autos Traffic Reports
Sign up for a free .Net passport and receive Microsoft's traffic alerts directly on your cell phone. You can customize the alerts for various metropolitan regions, as well as set the severity level for alerts you want to receive. MSN Autos will even send you alerts according to a personalized time frame: For example, start getting the latest traffic updates an hour before you leave work to plan the best commute home.