Stop fiddling around with your phone's keypad and use a PowerBook for text messaging.
Short Message Service (SMS) is better known as text messaging for mobile devices. It has proven to be surprisingly popular in many parts of the world (particularly Japan, the Philippines, and much of Europe), but for one reason or another has been less than enthusiastically received in the United States. Part of the barrier to entry for many people is the sometimes painful text entry interface on most mobile phones.
The demand for tiny phones has squeezed out virtually all hope of a usable integrated keyboard. While predictive text technologies such as T9 have helped make typing require fewer keystrokes, the interface is still far from intuitive. Many people find themselves obsessively hitting number keys in a feeble effort to express themselves, most times mistyping one or two letters along the way. And entering punctuation marks and symbols is so inconvenient that most people don't bother.
If you have a Bluetooth-enabled phone, there is a better way. Mac OS X provides some good integration with these devices and SMS.
To get started, be sure that Bluetooth is enabled and that your phone is paired with your laptop. When you launch Address Book with Bluetooth enabled, you will notice an extra Bluetooth button at the top-left corner of the window, as shown in Figure 1-19. Click this button to enable Bluetooth integration in Address Book.
Figure 1-19. Bluetooth integration in Address Book
Having Bluetooth enabled turns on a number of useful features. In addition to being able to simply dial the number directly from an Address Book entry, you can also send an SMS message. Click the label to the left of the number you want to message (Figure 1-20) and select SMS Message. This opens a small textbox for you to type in your message. Lo and behold, you can use your standard keyboard to enter SMS messages!
Figure 1-20. Sending SMS
Address Book also gives you possibly the most useful Caller ID implementation there is. When your phone rings, Address Book will pop up a window with the name and phone number of the person calling, shown in Figure 1-21. You can choose whether to answer the call, send the caller straight to voice mail, or send back an SMS message.
Clicking SMS Reply sends the call to voice mail, but it also opens a window that allows you to enter an SMS message. As long as Address Book is open, incoming SMS messages will be displayed automatically and will allow you to reply via SMS as well. While not nearly as portable as SMS on a mobile phone, using a regular keyboard with SMS can help you be more expressive much more quickly.
Figure 1-21. Caller ID from your phone
Incidentally, one good application for SMS messaging is in situations where mobile phone coverage is flaky on one side (or both sides) of the conversation. In areas where mobile voice calls drop out frequently or aren't even possible, SMS messages will automatically be retried until they get through. This can be ideal for squeezing in a quick message to a friend when you can't otherwise establish a phone call. A low bandwidth message that gets through no matter what can be infinitely more useful than a high bandwidth message that just never gets there.
Windows users who would like to have similar SMS functionality with their Bluetooth phones should check out [Hack #14] for an application that lets you do that and much more.
Bluetooth, Mobile Phones, and GPS
Network Discovery and Monitoring
Wireless Network Design
Appendix A. Wireless Standards
Appendix B. Wireless Hardware Guide