Friday, August 07, 2009

So THAT'S a text message...

I had a rather momentous technology day on Wednesday. I sent and received the first text messages that were specifically to me at a number that belonged to me. It's like being in 2003!

Of course, since this is ME we're talking about, this new frontier was not crossed because I upgraded my cell phone to handle texts. No. That would be the normal and most simple way. In fact, the texts I sent have nothing to do with my cell phone.

Instead, they're originating from a number that was newly assigned to me through the Google Voice application. This number, while a traditional phone number in appearance, doesn't actually ring it's own phone. But it's not like Skype either, so it's not like my computer rings. When someone calls the Google number, every phone I have rings (or some phones, or none, based on parameters I can customize down to the individual caller).

Google Voice doesn't replace having some form of telephone: it only rings phones you already own. It also allows text messages to be sent and received for free. So when a friend was stranded at the DMV on Wednesday and already over her monthly allotment of minutes, I was able to communicate with her for free.

But that's exposed a problem with Google's system. Text messages are a way for mobile telephones to communicate without actually placing a call. There are numerous situations where a discreet text is a fast and easy way to communicate a simple piece of information. If someone asks, "What room is the meeting in?", it's easy to send a text saying "Room 211".

The problem arises because I can only receive and send text messages at my laptop, which must be connected to the Internet. So the on-the-go appeal of text messages is lost. I won't receive them until I sit at my computer and despite the smaller size of my netbook, I don't carry it around everywhere as I do my phone.

So this isn't the ideal situation. I'm reluctant to open the floodgates of friends texting to this number because it doesn't function like people expect it to function.

Looking down the pike, I'd like to have a so-called "smart phone" such as the Palm Pre or iPhone; these phones can handle internet data connections. When I contact my friend Dave (an iPhone user) by email, I know I'm reaching him WHEREVER he happens to be. He and I were able to coordinate (through a series of real-time emails) an emergency pickup at the KC airport with him being in some airport in Virginia.

And just to wrap this entry up on a bizarre note, here's a story of an Indian man who set the Guinness Record for text messages in a single month: 189,689. As the article points out, that works out to one every 14 seconds or so. Considering the man must have had to sleep, I can't imagine how many messages his family got that contained deep information like "g" or "6". His bill was over 1,400 pages long, but he had unlimited messages on his phone, preventing him from looking foolish. Hmm.


  1. You can get texts forwarded to your phone. Of course, this creates a problem when replying, because the reply would come from a different phone number than what they sent to.

  2. Unfortunately, my cell phone predates the modern SMS messaging standard. It cannot receive texts. There's only so far Google's attempts at usability can take me. :D