Google's new SMS service is pretty interesting - check out the how-to guide to see all the fun things you can do with it. Sending an SMS to 46645 will return "snippets" of local search for businesses and residential addresses, Froogle searches, definitions, calculation results as well as area code and zip code lookups. (The last two are pretty useless, but it's nice to see they're trying to think of neat stuff.) If you forget how to use the service, send the word 'help' to get instructions or go to Sorry non-Americans, the service only works with American operators.

So... what do I think? Interesting, but essentially pretty useless. On one hand it's great that Google is coming back around to mobile services (they've had a WML and XHTML interface for years). But in terms of actually using this service? Why? On my smart phone, I click the "9" key in my Opera browser and I get a text-box that I can fill in with a query and get full Google results. Why would I use SMS for this sort of thing? Though SMS is ubiquitous and not to be downplayed as a great *communication* medium, using it as a way to retrieve web information isn't particularly compelling, rememberable, nor innovative. It's like we're back in 2000 again when WML was all the rage and you paid connection charges in 10 second increments. Bleh. We have better options now.

If you ever use the service "in anger" please tell me. I think you won't because you'll never remember until afterwards, and the first time you do try, you'll be so dissapointed in the limited results you won't try again. This is what XHTML-MP is for. I'm sure Google is improving their WAP and XHTML gateways as we speak, but right now the SMS service seems only good to distribute some of Google's IPO profits to the American mobile carriers and not much else.

By the way, I've read a couple times that some people see this as some sort of ingenious service because mobile phones need to be treated "differently" than the web. This is true, but only in the positive sense, which they never mean. They mean "dumb down your app and make it somewhat if not totally unusable because phones suck anyways," which is obviously something I take exception to. Don't listen to these morons or accept their cynical viewpoint - they don't get it.

So, in summary, this is a great announcement. I find it interesting that this happened a day after I made the comparision between Google and SMS, no? I wonder why they didn't announce it at Web 2.0? Anyways, the coolest thing about this is that it's a service that works everywhere and shows that one of the giants in the web industry is starting to take on the challenge of mobile services. But I hope this is just step one, and that soon we'll be seeing even cooler stuff coming out of the labs. Where's the boundary-pushing application like GMail, but for mobile phones? That's what I'm waiting for.


< Previous         Next >