16 Things You Can Do with SMS Text Messages

So you’ve got a phone and unlimited text messaging, but now what? There are tons of useful things you can do with SMS, if you only know how. If you want to use your cell phone to make your life easier, but don’t want to purchase a PDA phone or subscribe to a data plan, then these tips and tricks could be just what you’re looking for. . . Read On.

1. Google Mobile

google_sm Do you depend on Google like I do? If so, they have a full suite of feature available by SMS. All of the following should be sent to 466453 (GOOGLE). A few seconds later, Google will text you the results. Here are a few of the best:

Fist off, set your location in Google. This will allow you to search for local results much easier. Send the following message followed by your 5-digit zip code:

set location 10012

To check or clear your location, simply send:

view location

clear location

Once you’ve done this, all searches will default to results within your Zip code.

If you don’t want to set a default location, you can also append your 5-digit zip code to any search to localize the results.

pizza 10012

movies 10012

Finally, if you’re out shopping and you’re wondering if that ipod sale price is a good deal or not, simply text

ipod player 40gb

and Google will send you prices and info.

For a full list of Google Mobile features, just visit the Google Mobile page.

2. Send Email by SMS

Most text messaging services will allow you to send email from you text message client. Simply enter the email address instead of the cell phone # in the To: field.

Length will be restricted to SMS limits (approx. 140 characters), but if you can use this feature, it will allow you to do other things like. . .

3. Post to Your Blog

Using the above email trick, some blog services allow you to post via email.

WordPress: Login to Admin – visit Options->Writing and fill out the Post via e-mail section.
Blogger: Start a new mobile blog at http://www.blogger.com/mobile-start.g or you can configure an existing Blogger account to accept post by email. Blogger has step-by-step instructions.

4. Receive Email by SMS

If you can send it, you can also receive it. Most cell carrier have an email/SMS relay in place. By sending an email to a specific address, you will receive a text message with the email contents. Be warned, long emails will be broken into multiple message. This feature is generally  best for receiving important email updates or notices. Below is a list of cell-service providers and how to send email to SMS:

[10-digit phone number]@message.alltel.com

AT&T Wireless (now part of Cingular)
[10-digit phone number]@mmode.com

Boost Mobile
[10-digit phone number]@myboostmobile.com

[10-digit phone number]@mobile.mycingular.com OR
[10-digit number]@cingularme.com

Nextel (now part of Sprint Nextel)
[10-digit telephone number]@messaging.nextel.com

Sprint PCS (now Sprint Nextel)
[10-digit phone number]@messaging.sprintpcs.com

[10-digit phone number]@tmomail.net

[10-digit phone number]@vtext.com

Virgin Mobile USA
[10-digit phone number]@vmobl.com

For example, you can set your Gmail account to forward email based on filters to your cell sms email address (see above).

Another handy tip for creating an SMS email forward in Gmail is to use the “+” sign in your email address. If your Gmail address is MyEmail@gmail.com, you can add a “+” sign and a phrase and you will still get the email. So, setup up important emails to go to MyEmail+sms@gmail.com and automatically forward them to your SMS address.

5. Twitter

twitter Of course, you can set up a Twitter account. It’s one of the most popular SMS services around. Instantly let your friends or family know what you’re doing.

One of the best features about Twitter, is the Twitter Timer. By direct messaging the Twitter timer, it will remind in a set number of minutes to do anything. To have a SMS reminder sent in 45 minutes to meet for lunch, text the following to Twitter:

d timer 45 lunch with michael

45 minutes later you’ll get a text message reminding you to meet Michael for lunch. The time is always minutes, so 1 hour = 60, 2 hours = 120, etc.

There are other similar services, but Twitter is the most popular and stable.

6. Remember the Milk

rtmlogo This oddly named web site is an online to-do list service that lets you add events in numerous ways. Reminders are sent via SMS so you don’t forget to pick up that jug if milk on the way home.

By itself, it’s a great service, but you can’t add reminders via SMS. That’s where Twitter (see above) comes in.

Using the Twitter direct messaging feature, you can manage your Remember The Milk lists quite easily.

Adding tasks
pick up the milk – adds a new task with the specified name to the Inbox

call jimmy at 5pm tomorrow – adds a new task with the specified name and due date to the Inbox

return library books in 2 weeks – adds a new task with the specified name and due date to the Inbox

Updating tasks
!complete call jimmy – completes the specified task (shortcut: !c)

!postpone call jimmy – postpones the specified task (shortcut: !p)

Getting tasks
!today – gets tasks due today (shortcut: !tod)

!tomorrow – gets tasks due tomorrow (shortcut: !tom)

Even more Twitter shortcuts for Remember the Milk are available at the Remember the Milk Twitter Services Page.

7. Google Calendar

calendar_logo Google Calendar has many SMS features. You’ll need to register your phone to your GCal first, just follow these instructions if you’ve not done so already. Once set up, you can set individual events in Google Calendar to remind you via SMS at certain times (10 minutes before, 20 minutes before, etc).

You can also check your calendar for upcoming events and set events via SMS to Google Calendar as well.

You can check your calendar by SMS. Sending certain messages (next, day, nday) to GVENT (48368) will return upcoming events.

Send a message to GVENT (48368) with date and time details and Google will interpret the message and add it to your calendar.

Date and time can be formatted in any number of ways. Dates can be: Saturday, March 20, 3/20/2008 and Time can be: Noon, 3pm, 3 p.m., 3:15, 15:15.

8. Buxfer Expense Tracker

logo-buxfer If you’re on the go and need to track expenses, there’s no need for a PDA phone or a mobile spreadsheet, just use Buxfer to manage your expenses.

Buxfer supports several SMS features if your SMS client allows messages to email addresses. If not, never fear, just intergrate Buxfer with your Twitter account and you’ll be tracking expenses on the go in no time.

The features and syntax are very specific to Buxfer (but easy to understand), so I’ll leave the explaining to them. Just view their mobile guide for all the details.

I’ve never used their service, but they support ID’s from AIM, Facebook, Google, Yahoo! and MS. So signing up should be a snap.

A similar service is offered by Xpen$er and offers SMS and Twitter submissions as well.

9. House Prices and Info

If you’ve ever been looking for a house, then you know how frustrating the process can be. If you’ve ever been driving around and you think you’ve found the perfect house (from the outside) just text the street address to HOUSE (46873) and in a few moments you’ll have the year the house was build, the square footage, the number of bedrooms/bathrooms and the estimated price.

Unfortunately, it is the estimated price, not the actual for sale price. Estimates can vary widely, so it might be best to do the same thing using Zillow Mobile. Send the street address and zip code to z@labs.zillow.com and Zillow will send you the results.

10. Movie Times

Similar to the Google movie trick above, Fandango.com also offers a SMS movie time service. Text the movie name and zip code to FNDGO (36346) and you’ll get a list of results. Some mobile carries may support ticket purchase as well.

11. MyMilemarker Mileage Tracking

mymmlogo While it’s not an incredibly useful service (the same can be done with pad and paper), I’ll try anything with a pretty interface and a promise to make my life easier. MyMilemarker is a site that lets you track mileage for one or more vehicles.

Hooking up with Twitter, MyMilemarker offers a simple SMS interface to track gasoline purchases (which you don’t really want to do with gas being so high right now).

Just send Twitter a message using the following syntax:

d mymm [miles] [gallons] [price]

For example, your last fill-up would look like this:

d mymm 156108 6.67 2.54

MyMilemarker will add the record to the vehicle with similar mile and just like that, you’ve calculated how many miles per gallon your getting.


paypal_logo With Paypal’s SMS support you can can perform a number of Paypal related functions via Paypal. Just add your phone to your Paypal account and use the tips below. All text should be sent to 729725 (PAYPAL)

Check your balance: bal
Send Money: send 10 to 4085552388,  or 10 4085552388, or send 10 to joe@domain.com
Request Money: get 5 from 4085552388 or get 5 from joe@domain.com

13. RSS Updates

Here’s another one I don’t use and don’t think I would, but it could come in useful if you needed to monitor an RSS feed for updates.

There are a few free services that will monitor a RSS feed and text message an update to you when the feed is updated. So far, I’ve found: Pingie and Web-Alerts.com

14. Starbucks Coffee

logo_starbucks If you’ve got a Starbucks craving and you’re on the road just your ZIP code to MYSBUX (697289) and you’ll get a listing of the 3 closest Starbucks shops complete with address and phone number. Now all you need to find is the Zip code for the town you’re passing through (see Where Am I below).

15. Traffic Updates

traffic_logo Traffic.com will send you email or SMS updates (Traffic Alerts) when traffic conditions on roads you frequent reach certain conditions that you prescribe. Just sign up for their free service and get notified when it’s time to take that alternate way home.

16. Where Am I

If you want to use any of the tips on this page that require a Zip Code, but you’re traveling and you don’t know the Zip of where you are on the Interstate or Highway, just use the following tip to find out.

Just SMS the town name and a store they’re likely to have (gas is a god one) and you’ll get the ZIP code back by SMS. For instance, if you’re traveling through Alabama and you need the Zip code for the city you’re in, just text the following to 466453 (GOOGLE):

moundville, al gas

You should get a response with gas station address–including a Zip code–to your phone in a few seconds. Now you know exactly where you are.

That’s all I’ve got for this time. I’m sure there are more SMS services and tricks out there. If you know of one I’ve missed, just leave it in the comments and I’ll check it out.

It’s really amazing the things you can do with a cell phone and SMS when you think about it. Hopefully you’ve learned a new trick or tw
o from this post and maybe you’ll save a little money or be a little more productive because of it.


  1. great list! here’s one you should include. if you’re out eating somewhere (i.e. – McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc…) and you wanna know nutrition info, just text the name of the restaurant and the food item (McDonald’s Big Mac) to Diet1 (34381) and it will text you back nutrition info. good for those trying to count calories and watch their diets 🙂

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