10 Killer Texting Tricks

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3. Compose Text Messages with Your Voice

The RIM BlackBerry Curve is the kind of phone that makes text messaging easy on the thumbs, thanks to its spacious QWERTY keyboard.
Most people who hate text messaging do so for the simple reason that'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.)

4. Get Driving Directions

If your phone lacks GPS and you need to find your way between points A and B, let SMS be your guide. Before you hit the road, head to MapQuest in your desktop browser and input your destination. Once the site generates the driving directions, click the Send to Cell option and enter your cell number. In seconds you'll receive a text message containing a link to turn-by-turn directions for your route.

If you need help finding your way, text your starting location and destination to Google SMS, and you'll receive turn-by-turn directions in a return message.
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.

5. Search Google From the Road

Google SMS offers more than just driving directions: You can text your way to stock quotes, movie showtimes, currency conversions, and much more. The trick lies in remembering the proper syntax to receive the information you want. To access Google's glossary, for instance, your message should read "Define" and then the word. Looking for a particular business in your area? Send the business name (or category, such as "pizza") and the zip code or the city and state. If you can't remember the proper format for a particular inquiry, just send "help" or "tips" to Google SMS (dial 466453), and the service will send you a cheat sheet.

You can fetch all kinds of info from 4INFO--everything from sports scores to drink recipes.
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).

6. Keep Tabs on Flights...

Among other information, Google SMS can provide flight status for almost any airline.
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).

7. ...And Keep Tabs on Friends

Follow your friends by enabling Twitter's SMS features: Their updates will arrive on your phone.
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.

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