Many people credit email for bringing the Internet widespread popularity. Yes, the World Wide Web is indispensable for finding information, buying stuff, and so on. But it was email that revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. Email killed the fax machineor at least critically wounded it. Email killed the paper memo, the party invitation, and my penmanship skills (but at least I can type really fast now). And, of course, it brought us the dreaded spam message, or unsolicited junk email.
Email was the fastest way to send someone a note until text messaging came along.
Many experts are saying that text messaging on the phone will be the killer app of the mobile communications industry. And signs certainly do seem to be pointing that way. Looking at the staggering numbers already mentioned, it would seem texting has already become the killer app. If you think you've never received a text message, think againthe voicemail notification you receive on your mobile phone after missing a call is actually a text message. You can't escape it!
How messages get delivered
As with email, a text message will continue trying to deliver itself to its intended recipient, but if it can't, it comes back and tells you. That is, when you send an SMS message it actually continues to "live" in the carrier's network for up to seven days; if your recipient's phone is turned off or is out of range, the message will hang out and keep trying to deliver itself for up to a week. If it still can't find the intended recipient, it will send itself back to the sender with its tail between its legs to let you know that it failed. So what all of this really means is that when you send a text message, you can be sure that it will either get to its intended recipient or come back to you. If only we could have the same level of confidence in the postal service!
The easiest way to find out if you've got texting capability is to hop on over to your carrier's Web site or, better yet, give them a call. The representative can explain what kind of text plan you currently have (if any) and if you don't have one, can set you up with one on the spot. The rep can also tell you whether your phone is capable of sending and receiving text messages or not. If you already have texting capability, but aren't sure how to use it, check your user's manual.
Using the Web to send text messages
So, what are your options if you find that your current cell phone plan doesn't allow for sending or receiving text messages? Or if you're a textaholic and have run out of your allotted monthly messages, but you need to send a text message to someone's phone with some vital informationwhat to do? All is not lost because most, if not all, carriers maintain Web pages that allow you to send messages to their subscribers. All you need to know is the subscriber's phone number and carrier. Keep those carriers' pages bookmarked and use them to send text messages easily. Even if your phone is text-message capable, it pays to send messages from the Web, because by doing so you avoid messaging charges. See the end of this chapter for a list of some carriers that support Web-based texting.
Text-based information services
Here's another way that text messages are changing our world. In the UNIX world (calm down, it's not that scary), there are several commands that UNIX geeks use to check on the status of various servers or programs running on those servers. One such command is called ping, which sends a message to a server to see if a response gets returned. How does ping relate to the über-cool world of text messaging? With text messaging, the same thing can be accomplished by using one of dozens of services: You send out a request, and the service will return some information to you. For instance, suppose that I send a particular service a simple text -message containing a code and the letters AAPL. I am then sent a simple text message in reply, with the time and the current stock-trading price of Apple Computer's stock. Using this method, I can "ping" financial data, sports information, headlines, horoscopes, and much more.