This one I’ll keep brief: the folks at Google have cooked up the best tool yet for mobile phone users of all stripes. Through the fast, cheap SMS (Short Message Service—widely known as “text messaging”) utility, Google brings the power of its search engine right to your mobile phone, without all the 3G overhype, expense, and complexity.
Readers of the Roam Office column know that I have not been impressed with carriers’ attempts to bring useful services to mobile phones (such as being able to locate a nearby business, look up phone numbers, or search the web). Web-over-the-phone attempts have been slow and clunky to the point of uselessness, or the carriers offer expensive live-person services.
Well, Google has a better alternative: just send a simple text message to Google SMS, and you’ll get a fast response in the form of a text message right back to you. Here’s a real-life example: I wondered what pizza place would come up as being close to my church, which is in the 90807 zip code, so I texted a message to Google (#46645, or ‘GOOGL’ on most phones), like so:
And here’s what I got back from Google just seconds later:
This happens to be my favorite pizza place in town! Lower in the message was the phone number, and Google SMS also provided a second choice (a local Domino’s).
A Search Engine for Your Phone
I also used Google SMS like a regular search engine to get some info about Samarra, Iraq by inserting a ‘g’ in front of my search term:
G population samarra, iraq
Seconds later, I received back:
bastion in Sunni
north of Baghdad
The following messages contained more info about Samarra, including the population (250,000). As it turns out, the result I received was the same as the result I would have gotten had I typed “population samarra, iraq” into Google and hit the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button: a news article from News.Designerz.com that contained a nice primer on Samarra that Google SMS further digested for its response to my query. Very interesting indeed.
Other possible uses for Google SMS include:
- Checking for the lowest price on an item online
- Checking a residential phone listing
- Finding zip codes and area codes for cities (or the reverse, finding cities by zip code or area code)
- Having Google calculate math problems for you
- Having Google tell you how many teaspoons are in half a cup (a service I will be sure to use in the grocery store many times)
- Look up definitions of words
Solving Arguments on the Fly
Probably one of the most intriguing potential uses for Google SMS is the near-instant resolution of those frequent arguments that we get into. Use your imagination… I once got into an argument with my daughter, who insisted that a certain actor was not in a movie we were watching. Easily enough solved: just type ‘g’, then the actor’s name, then ‘filmography’. Use it for Scrabble when there’s no dictionary around. Use it to find out who the 23rd President of the United States was. And so on.
Thank you, Google!
This has to be one of the most useful implementations of cell phone technology outside of voice and email. Well done, lads! Definitely a Roam Office highly recommended.