So I was thinking the other day of how I could “survive” if I had to use a low end cell phone and had no smart phone data plan access. This got me to thinking about CHEAP or FREE alternatives of staying connected when mobile. These are just a few nifty ways I have thought of how I could, and these are also ways students and people who want some form of connectivity on a low end budget can get some kind of mobile connectivity.
I will cover accessing three services, Email, Twitter and Facebook. Email & Twitter will be accessible from ANY cell phone with SMS access, however Facebook requires a phone with at least a WAP browser, so Facebook access will be from the more second tier phones in the low end market.
***All the methods I describe here are done via the Digicel Jamaica network, however most other networks allow the methods I will outline, just in different ways.**
The first and my most used mobile service is email, my work and school life use email extensively. Every Digicel Jamaica subscriber has an email address that’s attached to their mobile number, this address is 1876XXXXXX@digitextjm.com (where the ‘X’ denotes your number) , you can receive email via this address and you can send. Sending email from your phone is simple, you write a text (SMS) message, on the first line, the email address of the person, give a space and then write the body of your email then send the text to 555.
Sending is never normally the biggest issue for me when mobile however, it is receiving email. My workaround for this is to setup your email service to forward a copy of your received mail to your Digicel mobile email address, most email services allow you to forward your mail to another address, so what I did was have a copy of all mail that arrive in my Gmail account forwarded to me at 1876XXXXXXX@digitextjm.com. Now, this will not be able to receive all the content of your email (SMS length limit and all), however you will be aware off all email that arrives and then you would be able to decide which ones are important enough to go and get a desktop connection and action, and if needs be, you can fire off a quick email from your Digitext address to sender as well.
NB. Digicel offers a portal called MyMail that allows you manage a number of popular email accounts from handsets that have access to Digicel Live web services. I refrain from listing it here for two reasons:
1. This service would not be available on extremely “bare bones” cell phones which have no data access capabilities and I wanted to be as inclusive as possible here.
2. This service would incur data charges and I am trying to keep this as thrifty as possible.
Twitter was originally a SMS based platform, hence the origin of the character limit (SMS protocol gives length of one SMS as 160 characters), therefore SMS access to twitter is one of its core features. You can turn on SMS access in your account settings and there are various options. You can select which of the people you follow you want SMS notifications of their updates by clicking the cell phone icon on their profiles, you can receive @ mentions, DMs etc.
You can also tweet from your phone by just writing your tweet in a SMS and send it to 176. You can @ mention people, DM etc. all with standard SMS. Some of the commands available are listed below, but remember you have to enable text access first from your Twitter profile settings.
This is the only service that require a bit more than standard SMS. Digicel and Facebook allows access to Facebook via a free portal, 0.facebook.com (zero and not the letter ‘O’ at the front). This is a text only version of Facebook however, so no media is displayed, if you click a link that takes you to a picture, then you are billed for that, which I strongly discourage, Digicel’s per MB data rates make JPS look like a charity organisation.
Once you have a WAP/WEB enabled phone with the WAP or web settings from Digicel, you can type 0.facebook.com in the browser and you will have access to this free portal.