Stupid Cell Phone Tricks

Even the most basic cell phone is a marvel of technology, when you stop to think about it. You can go basically anywhere in the United States and call anybody else in the country. It’s pretty impressive. Of course, we’ve demanded far more from our cell phones now that this technology has become commonplace, but you can actually squeeze a bit more power out of almost any phone with some of these tricks.

PC Magazine (which recently went to an all-digital format after years of being in print) has a list of cool tricks to use with your cell phone or to message other people’s cell phones.

The highlight of that article is the description of how to send SMS (Short Message Service) text messages to subscribers of almost all the major US cell carriers through e-mail. As regular readers to the blog know, I’m not a huge fan of SMS messaging, but sometimes social protocol requires you to use them. In this way, you can avoid the huge text messaging surcharge, especially if your phone has a built-in data plan. The only problem with this plan is you have to know what carrier the other person has, or you could just send a message to each one and have the incorrect addresses bounce back. Be careful that you don’t do this too often or you might look like a spammer.

Lifehacker also has a great tip in a list of 10 potentially useful tips that will actually work for landlines as well. At the start of your voicemail you can use the US Special Information Tone, (that’s the one you hear before the operator says “Sorry, but your call cannot be completed as dialed…”) this will cause telemarketers to hang up and not call you back again since this signals a “vacant circuit” to an automated dialer. You should be careful with this trick because regular people are used to getting that tone when they get the wrong number, so they may never leave you a message…but you probably didn’t want to hear from them anyway.

The last thing I’ll talk about is something a friend of mine has been trying to get me to use for a while and that is 1-800-GOOG-411. This is a free directory assistance tool that you can use from your any phone. The basic idea is that you can looking for the street address or phone number of a business. Google uses their voice-recognition software, which I understand is very good, and then connect you with the business when they find it for you. With your cell phone you can get a text message, or with a more advanced phone, they can send a map to you of the surrounding area. I still haven’t had a real-world need to try this yet, but my test searches have worked pretty well.

Feel free to give any of these tips a try and let me know what you think in the comments.

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