Use the Internet on the go without a data plan. If this sounds impossible, you’ve forgotten about SMS.
Today Cool Websites and Apps outlines services that take advantage of SMS to give you access to web services without actually connecting to the Internet. Call it the offline web.
Whether you’re hoping to make your dumb phone smart or just save money on your phone bill by ditching mobile data entirely, these apps give you access to information without the need for Internet access – thanks to SMS.
SMSmart (Android): Access Maps, Twitter, and More Over SMS (USA, Canada, UK)
We start with an Android app that uses SMS to give you access to all sorts of information. It’s not as clumsy as it sounds: this app is so well designed it doesn’t even feel like you’re using SMS.
Think of it as “cheat codes” for your phone. You’ll get quick access to directions, Wikipedia excerpts, Yelp, and even Twitter. Don’t expect in-depth information – this app specializes in summaries and tidbits. It’s for when you need a single piece of information, quickly, while away from Internet access. Directions are probably the most useful use-case, but it’s surprising how much it can do. Give it a shot.
When you first use the app you’ll get a bunch of SMS messages from separate numbers in your inbox. Block those numbers from showing up in your SMS app and you’re good to go (or don’t, if you’re interested in how this app communicates).
Download: SMSmart for Android (Free)
TextEngine: Search Engine for SMS Users
Google shut down its SMS search feature back in 2013, and that made sense: the rise of the smartphone meant the user base wasn’t exactly what you’d like to target with an ad-based revenue model. Still, many people mourned the loss of this service – particularly those who can’t afford, or would rather not pay for, a data plan.
Text Engine is an attempt to bring back the spirit of Google’s SMS search, and it’s a fairly ambitious one at that.
You’ll need to sign up for the service, but it’s free once you do. Services include weather forecasts, sports scores, Wikipedia results and more. Because TextEngine doesn’t require an Android app in order to function, it’s perfect for feature phone users.
Smart SMS: Information and Games with a Text (India Only)
MakeUseOf has a bad habit of pointing out exciting apps that only work in the USA, so today I’m going to do our millions of Indian readers a favor and point out something that works in their country but not mine. Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, UAE, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Philippines and Thailand: you guys also benefit.
Anyway: Smart SMS is a service you can use just by texting particular hashtags to 55444. There are all kinds of supported uses, thanks to a developer platform that allows third parties to build “apps” for SMS.
I couldn’t test it here in the states, but co-founder Deepak Ravindran has some big ideas here. I found all kinds of unique uses, including playing a game of the text-based adventure game Zork entirely from SMS.
SMS Hunt: Top Product Hunt Links by SMS, Every Day
SMS Hunt is a simple service that does one thing: send you a link to the top rated site or app on Product Hunt, every day. It’s a simple way to learn about something cool every day, so give it a shot.
QKSMS (Android): Great Looking SMS App with Quick Reply
If you’re going to be using SMS for all of the above services and more, you should make sure the SMS program you use looks great. QKSMS is a great choice for this, with a minimal look and customizable color scheme.
A noteworthy feature is the quick reply box, which lets you respond to any message without closing your current app. Give it a shot: you might like it.
Which Are Your Favorite SMS Services?
A little tech knowledge can save you thousands every year, and ditching your mobile data plan is a great way to get started. The above apps aren’t going to replace such a plan entirely, but they do make going without data a little more feasible. Even better: they make the mobile Internet just a little more available to people who can’t afford a data plan.
I’m relatively new to the world of SMS apps, and I bet I could learn a lot more from you guys. So please: let me know your favorite SMS services in the comments below. I really look forward to hearing about them.