NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, April 2007
Access Google from Your Cell Phone
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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Most of us are familiar with the search engine Google. Often we may need to “google” information while we are away from our computers. Sometimes we may need to know the weather anywhere, or where to find a pizza locally. Sports addicts may need to know the latest scores, while sometimes we may just want to know local movie times. Active investors may want to know the latest stock quotes, while some of us may just need the definition for some obscure word or term. Maybe we may need to translate some word or term between English and a foreign language, in either direction. I travel a lot and sometimes I need driving directions from here to there, but often lack a map or GPS. Being an active shopper, I often want to know if I am finding a good deal on a product, or if I am over paying. Many of us have trouble converting from one unit to another, such as miles to kilometers, or pints to liters. Travelers may wish to convert the value of different currencies, such as dollars to yen or euros. Fortunately these and other services are now available on our standard cellular phones, with or without web access, compliments of Google.

Google has made a wide assortment of information available via cell phone SMS (Short Message Service; text messages typically up to 160 characters) or traditional text messaging, including all of the scenarios listed above. Google does not charge for the service, but many cell phone plans incur a charge for each message sent or received. Almost all cell phones in use today have the capability to use SMS, or otherwise send and receive text messages. While SMS or text messaging is included on some cell phone rate plans, on other plans there is often a charge (typically a dime) for each text message sent or received; prior to doing any text messaging it would be a good idea to check with your cell phone provider to predetermine the fees, if any, for text messaging.

The secret to using Google’s free service (being totally cognizant that the cell phone provider may charge a fee) is to type a short query on the cell phone as a text message, and then send the message to “466453” (which is g-o-o-g-l-e on the keypad). A summary of the most popular requests is online at sms.google.com, or can be found via cell phone by sending the query “help” or “tips” to 466453, which will result in a reply giving the common commands and abbreviations, along with keyboard shortcuts.

Being the curious one, and having unlimited text messaging included on my cell phone rate plan, I typed “pizza 77706” on my cell phone keypad, and sent the query to phone number 466453. Moments later I received the reply that there was a Domino’s, Chuck E Cheese, and Papa John’s in that zip code, complete with their street addresses and phone numbers. By sending a similar message, but as “local pizza 77706” (adding the prefix “local”) the reply message also included pizzerias close to zip code 77706.

We often want to know weather conditions, either locally or in some distant city. By creating a text message preceded with the word “weather” or simply the abbreviation “w”, followed by a city and state, or just a zip code, and sending the inquiry to 466453, a prompt reply will be received. To sample Google’s cell phone weather service, I entered a “w” followed by my home zip code, and quickly received a text message giving me the current temperature, cloud conditions, winds, humidity, and a daily prediction for the following three days. Typing and then sending “w dallas tx” (no punctuation) gave me the Dallas weather conditions and predictions.

Being a consummate investor, I like to closely follow the performance of my favorite stocks. By typing “stock” followed by the stock symbol, and sending it to Google, I quickly received a reply giving the company name, latest quote (subject to traditional delay requirements), price change both in dollars and percentage, and any after hours activity.

Often I am required to drive to locations where I do not know the route. Google can text message detailed driving directions that are often reasonable, but not necessary ideal, especially for those who know back roads and shortcuts. As a test, I typed the word “directions” followed by my home zip code, and the airport code for Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport, IAH (“directions to IAH”). The rapid reply started the route near the center of my zip code, and gave a reasonable route to IAH complete with turn-by-turn directions and distances for each leg of the route; knowing that route very well, the response was a very reasonable way of getting to the airport.

Being a bargain shopper who hates to overpay for a product, it would be nice to know if the price displayed in a local store is competitive or not. Google’s text messaging service can come to the rescue by displaying the results of its “Froogle” pricing service. By typing “froogle” or the shortcut “f”, followed by the brand name and model number, and sending the message to 466453, a response will show the prices charged by competitors.

A traditional, but abridged, Google database search can be accomplished by sending the message “g” followed by the search term. I tried it typing “g Lamar Institute of Technology” and sending it. I promptly received a text message from Google giving me much the same information on my cell phone screen as a computer search would have provided.

There are many such resources available to a cell phone from Google; the list can be found online at sms.google.com or by text messaging “help” and “tips” (no quotation marks) to 466453 (g-o-o-g-l-e). While Google does not charge for the service, be acutely aware that frequent use of the service may result in text messaging charges on your cell phone bill!

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