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I’ve been called a computer addict before. More than once. I have an unending need to be online doing something, regardless of how inane and pointless it may be. With Google, Wikipedia and the like, finding information has never been easier. With YouTube, StumbleUpon and others, having fun is a click away. Only problem is, I’m not always in front of my computer. It’s a frightening prospect.

Thankfully, though, there are a ton of ways to find to do computer-like things when you’re not at your computer. Different places are creeping up that will help you read emails, make plans, win bets, find pointless information, and generally do things you’d do on the computer, without it.

I’m going to assume that you have your cell phone with you when you’re away from your computer. With just your cell, and for most of these, any cell will do, you can do many of the things you always do on the computer.

Here are 9 of the many ways you can use a computer with just a cell phone, beyond just accessing mobile sites (which most sites have by now):

Disclaimer: with these products, you will start texting – A LOT. If you don’t have an unlimited texting plan, prepare to see your bills go up more than slightly!

1. Texting, Google-style with Google SMS

You name it, Google SMS can do it with a text message. By sending a text message to GOOGLE (466453) you can find information like restaurant listings, weather, sports scores, calculator, conversions, and the like. Here’s the full listing, from Google, of all the things they can do with your text message.


But of course there are some risks to using Google SMS…..


2. Ask, and You Shall Be Answered

Got questions? Text them to ChaCha (242242). A real-live human being will answer your question in 160 characters, and send you the answer.

ChaCha is great because it’s a real person on the other end, which means you can ask a real question instead of trying to nail down search terms. If you don’t want to send a text message, call 1 (800) 224-2242 (2ChaCha). ChaCha can also send you a random joke or weather information, but the question and answer service is their bread-and-butter. It’s a great way to settle bets, or find answers to the irritating questions you just can’t seem to figure out.

3. Get your Wikipedia On

Wikipedia, in the words of The Office’s Michael Scott, “is the best thing ever.” Trouble is, for anyone who’s tried to use it from a cell phone browser, it’s tough to read. The formatting is bad for a cell phone, and using Wikipedia is much harder. Wapedia fixes that by taking Wikipedia and formatting it in a way that’s much easier to read on your cell phone. It strips away all the unnecessary stuff like the sidebar links, and puts everything into a one-column view that’s much easier to read on your cell phone. For an information-phile like me, Wapedia’s a great way to keep an easy-to-use Wikipedia in your pocket.

4. Go to the Movies

Want to go to the movies? Despite their terribly annoying ads, Fandango‘s still the best place to buy movie tickets. In addition to their mobile site, you can use their relatively new SMS service to make buying tickets from your cell phone even easier. Send your zip code and a movie title to FNDGO (36436), and Fandango finds all the results for you. With an increasing number of carriers, you can even buy tickets with a text. Spur-of-the-moment movie craving? You’re all set.

5. Find a Starbucks and some Wi-Fi

I love Starbucks. There’s one on the ground floor of the building where I live, and I may personally be keeping it in business. Odds are, wherever you are, you’ll be able to find a Starbucks just by turning around. If not though, text your zip code to MYSBUX (697289) and Starbucks will show you their three nearest locations. Plus, with more and more Starbucks offering Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to get back on your computer.

Don’t want to go to Starbucks? Send “wifi” and your location to US411(87411), and you’ll get a whole list of free Wi-Fi hotspots nearby. That way, you won’t have to miss your computer any longer.

6. “Hello, Operator?”

Google search, for your voice and phone. Most 411 services are ridiculously expensive, but Goog-411 isn’t. You search Google with your voice, for a business or personal listing, and it connects you for free. You can even request a text message with all the contact info, for free.  Just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-6446411). For more, check out Karl’s post Get FREE 411 Directory Assistance With GOOG411 Get FREE 411 Directory Assistance With GOOG411 Read More .

7. Never Miss a Thing

Let’s say you’re looking to buy something on Craigslist. A boat, say. If you want to know when a boat comes onto Craigslist that’s in your price range, check out Set up notifications for everything from your friends’ Twitter statuses to breaking news stories, and sends you an alert every time something matches.

They can be sent to your IM, email, desktop client, or cell phone via SMS. This one’s the one that will kill your texting bill, but if you’re sitting at your computer waiting for something, or just don’t want to be behind, is a really useful tool.

8. Never Miss the Important Stuff

So, you’re kind of a big deal. People know you. Sometimes you get important email, even when you’re away from your desk. With AwayFind, you don’t need to worry about missing crucial email when you’re not at your computer. Using AwayFind, you can set up an “Out Of Office” email to auto-respond every time you get email, and include a link to your AwayFind page.

If someone needs to get in touch with you, they can fill out the AwayFind form, and their email comes through to you on your phone. It gets trimmed to one message, and helps you rest easy that if someone really needed to get through to you while you’re on vacation, they could. Plus, it gives you something to check as habitually as you do your email.

9. Buy, Buy, Buy

Let’s be honest: half the fun of the Web is the random, unneeded impulse buys. If you’re away from your computer and decided you’ve just got to have that cool thing you saw this morning, never fear, Amazon is here!

Using their “TextBuyIt” service, you can send a text message with a product name to AMAZON (262966). You’ll get two results from Amazon, with more coming if you reply with a text saying “m”. If you decide to buy something, reply with the result number, and you’ll get a call from Amazon to create and confirm your order. It’s so simple, it’s a little scary.

Who says you need to be at a computer all the time? Just by using your cell phone, you can free yourself from its grip.

Which cellphone numbers or mobile services do you use to grab information off the internet?

  1. natottadvew
    November 13, 2009 at 4:33 pm

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  2. Øyvind
    March 22, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I must admitt I am really surprised to see no browser on the list. If you first want to access web content, why not use a web browser? Opera Mini is by far the best one out there for normal day to day browsing. It uses a proxy to compress the pages, so they take both less time, and will cost you less money if you are not on an unlimited plan. It will work on any phone with java. So if your phone is less than..lets say 10 years old, you should be pretty safe.

    It's so much easier to use a browser than all those apps listed here to read your mail, check the bus schedule, order tickets and what else you might use the web for.

    And as a bonus, it also have an RSS reader for those using that, as well as you can sync your bookmarks and notes if you also use Opera on one or more desktop computers.

  3. Vero
    November 18, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Interesting review! It's a shame some of the services you reviewed aren't as available outside of the US, but if they turn out to be popular enough, they'll hopefully be rolled out to the rest of us.

    Thought I'd mention, Wapedia has an iPhone application as well. Go to the iTunes store and search for Wapedia and it'll be the first result. It's handy as a quicklaunch on your desktop, and it's really nicely formatted.

    [Disclaimer: By the way, I'm community gal for Taptu, who own Wapedia, but I really do mean it when I say I enjoy using it :) ]

  4. ThomasP
    November 18, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Great list, thank you. This is a new topic for me since I've got a useful phone since about a month. Great job!

  5. Brian
    November 18, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I, too, use and I love it! Free stock alerts and hurrican alerts. Plus, I subscribe to blog alerts for a few blogs I follow closely. Great stuff.

  6. JayFromFree411
    November 17, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    There's also 1-800-FREE411. It's the same thing as Google's directory assistance number, but it has more listings (business, gov't, residential), and it's free since a couple 10-second ads pay for the cost of the call.

    You can also get Mapquest driving directions texted to your cell via 1-800-FREE411. Still free.

  7. Eric
    November 17, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I am using a service to get free text alerts
    called The service is completely free and sends you text
    alerts for sports scores, stock alerts, daily joks, weather, daily scripture
    and more. The alerts that I listed are the only ones that I am currently signed
    up for, but there are a ton more.

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