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A Few Words About SMS Texting

A friend of mine recently said he “just wants a phone that is a phone” when I showed him my Palm Pre. I replied back to him asking why he would only “want a phone when he could have a tricorder?” To which he replied, “What’s a tricorder?” I stopped to pick my jaw up off the floor and explained. And I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “Why would you want just a phone?” I can’t imagine not having Facebook, twitter, Yahoo and Windows Live all available on my phone. Yeah, I’m a gadget geek that needs to express myself. But even if that’s a little extreme, I still need texting. Texting or SMS (Short Message Service) is a must have feature of any phone plan I will ever have. That is unless something better comes along. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting it. I use it far more that I actually talk to people, and as a protocol, it is becoming integrated into most everything. If you’re on Facebook, twitter or Windows Live you’ll see it. If you’re a student, you’ve probably been added to the emergency messaging system. Maybe you use it at work. I do. It is a must have tool. I get texts from cable telling me to watch TV. I used to text into reality TV to vote. I can go on…

Hi. My names John, and I’m a textaholic.

Did you know that in certain localities, such as the US and Canada, that Windows Live integrates SMS functionality into it’s service ? It’s been this way for a long time, at least since Wave 3 era. But many of us became frustrated with it’s SMS when alerts, for example, would quit working. While SMS is only one component of alerts, it happened to be the one I relied on the most. I used it for two things primarily. One was for email alerts. I wanted it for web based instant messaging too, but Live didn’t have it. The other was for Spaces posts and comments.

But recently they completely stopped alerts for Spaces. In fact, Windows Live stopped them for many services. It doesn’t matter whether you got them from SMS or email or whatever. That point is moot. Spaces is yesterday. WordPress is today.

The web based Windows Live Hotmail, on the other hand, continues to use the SMS features, and they have been improved in Wave 4. You can now text back into your email and ask for recent emails, lists, delete items, etc., all from texting. I don’t find this particularly useful as my smartphone can just open the mobile version of Hotmail (which is fantastic, by the way) or even use the EAS features. But only about 17% of mobile phones are smart phones. The other 83% might find this new ability to be a god send.

So, when do you go check your email? Once a day? On the hour? Not me. I check it periodically, but I get an SMS text alert when someone I know sends me an email. I know to go read it because I know it’s there waiting. Think of it like checking the front door every five minutes to see if you have a visitor versus just waiting for the doorbell to ring. SMS is the email’s doorbell. But it’s so much more. You can set it up to SMS you when you receive an email from a contact or you can use filters to send an SMS when the filter triggers it. I use the contacts method.

Windows Live Messenger has always been hooked up to SMS texting as well. But now, the web based version of the Messenger can also text. This is a powerful new tool and very useful feature. Both Google and Yahoo have had services to do this for a while. And it’s a great new addition to Wave 4 that this feature now integrates in with the web based Windows Live Messenger. You’d be surprised how useful it is. I can text a friend from the web based Windows Live Messenger, and when they reply back with an SMS text from their phone it goes right back into my web Messenger conversation on the web. This always worked in the desktop version, but that has to be installed. The web version does not. And I have held many long winded chats this way. It’s a new way to collaborate. Why send an email when you can send it instantly. Emails take time. Instant is good. Please use this feature so Windows Live won’t drop it!

Along with these nifty SMS features are some others such as being able to post a status update or get your daily calendar. You can learn more and set up your phone to use these features by visiting the devices page in Windows Live. I encourage you to try this out. I did, and I love it. I’m sure you will too.

But there’s more! Now that Spaces is soon to be not of this Earth, and most Spaces bloggers will likely relocate their blog to WordPress, if for nothing more than to archive their old posts, it would be nice if we could use some of this SMS goodness with WordPress. WordPress doesn’t seem to include any SMS capability natively, but there are plugins for it that do. The problem is, WordPress.com, Spaces replacement host, doesn’t allow users to just use these at will. There is that added fee. Or you must host your own blog somewhere else, and that’s not free.

But WordPress.com will send you emails. And an email is better than nothing, right? You bet! If you use your Windows Live Hotmail with your WordPress account then you can add the WordPress address as a contact. WordPress can email you for certain events such as when a guest leaves a comment. And guess what? When WordPress sends you that email the good ol’ doorbell rings. Ding dong! You have a comment on your blog! SMS instantly notified you via your phone. This is free, all courtesy of Windows Live.

If you don’t want all your contacts emails resulting in SMSing you, you can also set up filters. This gives you much finer granularity of control, but it requires you to manage the filters. Filters are easy, and the new Hotmail sets up many for you automatically behind the scenes to accomplish new features such as “Sweep” for email. And, most filters only have to be set up once. I’m considering changing from contacts to filters because there are many more options.

Whatever you do, be sure you have an unlimited SMS texting plan if you do this or be prepared to limit how much service you use. There are throttles that you can set to keep you under your texting limits, but many phone plans now include unlimited or a huge number for a small price. Also, these features may or may not be available in your country. In the US we can use SMS on Windows Live within the states and Canada. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could use the service to send international SMS? Well, other than Canada, I mean… Ah, something for my next wish list!

Final thought, before I go, don’t text and drive!

-Jeff

 

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