How to Make Your Mobile Phone Smarter With SMS and MMS (Part 2)

In the first part of this article, we presented various ways for you to stay social on your regular cell phone thanks to SMS. SMS services abound nowadays and can make your regular mobile phone as reliable as smartphones without even the need for a data plan. It all depends on whether you’re aware of these SMS-integrating services.

This second part of this series on SMS tips and tricks will focus on productivity services that you can reach by SMS. They can simplify your usual web activities on-the-go. You must be aware that having an unlimited messaging plan will benefit you greatly if you follow our advice here because you’ll start texting a lot. If you don’t have such a messaging plan, be ready to pay your mobile company’s extra fees.

Be Productive

    1. View books and documents: BooksInMyPhone and ManyBooks offer lots of downloadable ebooks for Java-enabled phones (which you probably have if you own a regular phone that you got in the last five years.) So unless you don’t prefer these methods, you can try setting up an account with DailyLit, a bonus site from the top 6 sites for free books, that sends you snippets or installments of books in the form of email or RSS on a day-to-day basis for free. To be able to view books from DailyLit on your phone, it’s recommended to go to Settings and under Your DailyLit Reading, click on Manage the books you’re reading.

SMS tips and tricks

Select Plaintext Unicode in Installment Text, otherwise, you’ll see ugly HTML codes in your phone message later. Now use Gmail filters to forward DailyLit installments to your phone’s email. You could also email any plain text documents to your phone for view-only so you can read them while you’re waiting in-line somewhere.

  1. Transcribe messages or notes: You know you can create notes by calling Reqall which will transcribe the message you leave and can then be accessed on the Reqall website.

    SMS tips and tricks

    Alternatively, you could use Google Voice‘s transcription service to transcribe your notes by calling SlyDial (this site lets you head to someone’s voicemail directly) first and then your own Google Voice number. Since you get a transcribed copy of your message in Gmail, you don’t even have to go to the Google Voice page if you don’t want to. If you rather not hear SlyDial’s 10-second ads, follow the easy guide to set up your non-GVoice number in a group to which you’ll direct to voicemail right away here.

  2. Create and backup your notes: If you express yourself better by typing, try creating your notes in your phone’s built-in note application and then emailing your finalized notes to backup sites.

    SMS tips and tricks

    Some great note repository sites include Evernote (since you get a personalized email to upload notes) or your Gmail (with the appropriate filters to move the message to the appropriate label).

    You can also text your notes to your own Google Voice number so you’ll be able to view them on the Google Voice site later.

    One downside from the popular Google Voice and Evernote services is the fact that you can’t retrieve your notes. GluNote is a simple Twitter tool that saves your notes and retrieves them for you by DM. When you want to retrieve your notes, DM Glu with search keywords and it will send you back the notes that contain your words. Registration is virtually non-existent as you can easily get started by just following @Glu which will follow you back. After that, you’re ready to shoot some notes. RememberTheMilk’s Twitter bot can also help you retrieve lists (Shopping, Work To-Do’s, etc) as we will explain in the next section.

  3. Add to your calendar/to-do list and get reminders: Google Calendar has been featured over and over because it’s just a simple but powerful calendar app where you can create events and get reminded by text message. Heck, you can even be notified by GCal when someone contacts you on Pidgin.

    Main things to remember: Set up notifications in the GCal website so that you get an SMS reminder 10 minutes (or 10 days) before the event. Add 48368 to your Contacts in your phone as GCal and text it any event or to-do with a date and time. Any time you want to know what’s in your agenda, text GCal “next” for your next event or to-do, “day” for today’s agenda, and “nday” for the next day’s. Alternatively, RememberTheMilk lets you add tasks via SMS to your personalized email while its Twitter integration lets you direct message the service to also add tasks, get reminders and retrieve lists (e.g. shopping list). This is a great deal considering the applications for smartphones such as the iPhone app and MilkSync for BlackBerry/WinMo require you to have a Pro account.

  4. Get reference information, accurate translations, driving directions and answers to any question: Save 466453 (“GOOGLE”) in your Contacts as it will be your useful companion for any web searches you’d perform on Just be sure to remember certain keywords for input, such as “weather,” “flight,” “movies” and even name of hallmarks and restaurants to get your information. The same contact can be used to translate words as we’ve explained before why Google’s translation service rocks. Just text “translate WORD to LANGUAGE” and get your WORD translated back in a few seconds. For some quick directions, text “directions pasadena ca to 94043.” You can also SMS 242-242 (Chacha) to ask literally any question or 44636 (4info) for a service similar to Google.
  5. Save, backup and archive your text messages by forwarding your texts to your Google Voice number or directly texting to your family and friends through their GVoice-designated numbers. Or try DM @MyEN to archive your text messages to Evernote.
  6. Track your expenses: There are several services from our great list of expense tracking tools that are worth mentioning here. Texthog and Buxfer both excel as expense and budget tracking sites, where you can see beautiful pie chart and bar reports of your expenses, which you can input with a quick SMS to your personalized email (instructions for Buxfer/Texthog) or by sending a direct message to @Buxfer or @TextHog on Twitter.

    Texthog doesn’t pull transactions from your online bank accounts so you can rest if you’re worried about privacy, but you can export/download transactions to Quicken, MS Money, etc. on both Texthog and Buxfer. Some differences are that Buxfer offers the option of uploading your bank statements manually or automatically to the site and makes it easy to add IOUs. Read more on Texthog here and Buxfer here. BillMonk is another dedicated expense/IOU-tracking service. If you prefer something simpler, check out TweetWhatYouSpend.


    1. Shopping: See a product at the store and think you could buy it online at a better price? Text your product’s name to 262966 (AMAZON’s TextBuyIt), get search results with price information and buy it!

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  1. Entertainment: ChaCha is the service we recommended to find reference information and we second it again because it’s truly an amazingly helpful service that you can even set to send you weather, jokes, etc at a specific time daily. Here’s how you can Set Up a Fav on ChaCha.


While you’re making use of your regular phone, why not also take advantage of these bonus non-SMS tools that you can use on your regular phone? For a free call to anywhere in the world, call 1-800-FREE411 and say “Free Call” when prompted. You’ll have to wait through two short ads and you can talk for a maximum of 5 minutes, but there are no limits on how many times you can call. This service and Google’s GOOG411 number both offer free directory services.

Also, if your phone supports taking pictures and videos, that probably means you can play media on it. You may think it’s troublesome to mess with transferring files, but here’s something that will facilitate your media transferring: Use a file converter that understands your phone.

Daniusoft’s Online Converter is a free tool that elegantly describes the right video and audio file formats that your phone can take in. The user-friendly approach makes it easy for newer users to convert files to transfer to their phones, but it also features settings for more advanced users to tweak, such as frame rate, encoder, bit rate for videos and audio files, which can be as large as 100MB in size.

We weaved our way through plenty services today that we hope will generate more appreciation of the existent features in  your regular mobile. Want to recommed services that I missed? If not, which ones do you find yourself using the most? You may really enlighten fellow readers who aren’t familiar with these services.

Photo credit: Sarah Jones, j0438320, j0442135, j0436075, j0439835w

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