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4 Useful Things You Can Do Without a Cell Phone Data Plan

These services can make your regular cell phone smarter -- for free

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Who says you need a smartphone to be productive while mobile? Many of the things mobile professionals may use a smartphone for -- searching for information, getting directions, taking notes, etc. -- can be done on regular cell phones (a.k.a. feature phones or "dumbphones") for free and without requiring a monthly cell phone data plan. Here are some productive ways to use your regular cell phone:

1. No Longer Available: Search Google with Google SMS

Updated on May 13, 2013: It seems Google has unfortunately shut down SMS Search. Search Google using SMS text messaging from your mobile phone (no data plan required, but messaging and data rates from your cellular provider may apply). In the US, you can send a text message to 466453 ("GOOGLE" on most phones) with a phrase like "Pizza 90210" to get local listings of pizza joints. To check the status of your airline flight, you can text message Google for "flight ua 311" and get gate information, arrival times, and customer service numbers. You can also get directions by SMS, but if the route is too long Google will send you a mobile web page link. Other search features include "weather [city]", "stock [symbol]", "translate [word] in [language]", "score [sports team]", and more.

  • To start using Google SMS, text the word "help" to 466453 or visit the Google Mobile SMS page to learn more (there's an interactive demo where you can test the service out).

2. Send Reminders to Email via Dial2Do

The free version of this Jott-like voice transcription service lets you call in from your cell phone to create reminders that will be emailed to you (up to 20 seconds recording time free). You can also call in to listen to the reminders you created. The paid version ($39.99/year or $3.99/month) includes more features like sending text messages or emails with your voice, accessing productivity apps like Google Calendar or Remember the Milk, Twittering from your cell phone, and more.
  • Visit Dial2Do to see how you can use your voice to text while driving.

3. Get Free Directory Assistance with 1-800-FREE411

Bypass the typical per-call charges -- over $3 from some providers! -- for 411 information services by dialing 1-800-FREE411 to find phone numbers and addresses. You can also ask for directions from 1-800-FREE411 to get turn-by-turn driving directtions via SMS text message. Note: the free service is ad-supported, so you may have to endure a brief advertisement before getting your information.
  • To use 1-800-FREE411, just dial that number from your mobile phone; the 1-800-FREE411 FAQ page can help answer additional questions.

4. Customize Your Voicemail and Manage Callers with YouMail

YouMail is a "digital secretary" or voicemail management for your mobile phone; in addition to using their smartphone apps, you can receive voice message by SMS or email, personalize your outgoing greetings, block unwanted callers, forward voicemail messages, and more. The free version lets you store up to 100 voicemail messages, each up to 2 minutes long, and the premium version adds even more features.YouMail was positively reviewed by About's Guide to Real Estate Business for offering a more personal cell voicemail experience.

5. Subscribe to Free Information Alerts with 4INFO

The largest provider of free text message alerts and information in the US, 4INFO sends you free text messages or alerts on the subjects you choose, such as MLB scores, weather alerts, or Craigslist listings. Another cool feature of 4INFO is you can use it to create personal reminder text alerts -- send your reminder by SMS and and you'll get a text message when you want the reminder delivered. Like Google SMS, you can also text 4INFO to search for information (send a text to 4INFO or 44636), such as "wifi in [zip code]" to find the nearest wi-fi locations near you. Note: The 4INFO service is free but messaging and data rates from your cellular provider may apply.

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