April 01, 2005

Doing E-Mail on Your Cell Phone

Don't have a BlackBerry or Treo, but just a regular cell phone? Want to do mobile e-mail on the cheap? Try this and see if it works with your particular phone and cell provider:

Send an e-mail from your e-mail program to your SMS text messaging-enabled phone:

1) Go to "How To Address A Message To Other Wireless Devices", and bookmark it.
2) Scroll halfway down to the listing of wireless carriers. Note the e-mail address format for the desired carrier.
3) Go into your e-mail program, and address and send a message to your cell phone. (E.g., 8005555555@vtext.com for Verizon Wireless, substituting your 10-digit phone number.)

Once you receive it, reply to it on your phone.

So, what just happened? E-mail services talked to SMS text messaging services, and vice versa. In essence, your message went through an SMS-to-e-mail gateway. So folks can e-mail your cell phone using their regular e-mail program, and you can reply back. This is great if they don't have text messaging enabled on their phone, don't have a cell phone, don't know how to text message, or don't know the URL for your carrier's web-based "Send text message" feature.

The catch? Yes, there are several that come to mind:

  • SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, including the To: and Subject: fields. Longer e-mail messages get truncated.

  • The sender needs to know which wireless carrier you're using for the domain name portion of your phone's e-mail address (see the list linked above).

  • Attachments may get stripped.

  • Number portability: If you change carriers but keep your prior number, your e-mail domain name probably changed, so you'll need to alert others to update their e-mail address book. While your cell phone number stays the same, its e-mail address changes.
Apply KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) and you may find this works well enough. It can work with family members, and between office staff and mobile professionals. It's no substitute for a full mobile e-mail solution, but for occasional and simple needs, it's yet another enabling technology in your mobile tool kit. It's also easy to teach nearly anyone within a few moments.

On some phones, you can save e-mail addresses. So you can be the originator and send them e-mail directly from your phone. By the way, if your phone has some type of predictive text entry option, such as T9 or iTap, try using it. It saves a ton of time because you only have to press each phone key once per letter. There are a few tricks to using predictive text entry, and so it's worth perusing your phone's manual.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard

Jeff -- this is a great practical tip. I recently tried the Blackberry, and decided that the additional connectivity it offered wasn't worth the cost (in dollars and personal time), especially in light of the growing wireless cloud that allows me to use my laptop in more and more locations. I now use the vtext service at Verizon. The staff at the firm knows to send the details of phone messages to my firm e-mail address, with a copy to my vtext address, whenever I am out of the office. It works wonderfully.

Great tip!

Posted by: J. Matthew Buchanan at April 5, 2005 03:25 PM