Making the Most of Your Dumbphone

The following is a guest post by our (nerdy yet totally helpful) friends at Hack College. Check ‘em out for all your techy needs. They’re like the nerdy boyfriend you never had but always needed.

Not everyone has a smartphone.

It’s true! Though they are excellent devices, and can even be productivity-boosters for the savvy student, they are expensive–and parents are unlikely to see the need for a smartphone to be as urgent as you see it.

Those of us who have yet to join the ranks of Androids and the iGeneration are not totally without hope, though. Even the dumbest of phones, so long as it can text, can be used as more than a pricey doorstop:

Google Calendar – Though most readers are probably aware that you can both create and be informed of GCal events via text message, dumbphone users have an added advantage: since there’s not a constant barrage of incoming messages from installed apps, the 15-minute warning the Google Gods text you about an upcoming meeting is much more likely to be seen.

GOOG-411 – Google’s directory service will give you location-specific business listings, connect you to them, and give you their address. Very helpful if you’re stuck somewhere and need to find the closest taxi service in a hurry–just be patient with the sometimes-confused voice recognition software.

Cha Cha – Cha Cha, much like its competitor KGB, is an SMS-based answer service. However, Cha Cha has a leg up in that it’s free in exchange for ads at the end of their answers. Because it’s a free service, the answer quality isn’t always the greatest, but if you’re lost and need to know the address and phone number of the restaurant you’re looking for, it will spit it out for you in phone-friendly SMS format. (And, unlike GOOG-411, it doesn’t require you  to wade through an automated phone menu to get the info in text form.)

Tumblr – Unlike Livejournal (which requires a paid/plus account) or WordPress (which requires a third-party work-around), Tumblr allows users to easily create voice posts just by calling them and talking. Useful for keeping people abreast of travel experiences when you’re somewhere without easy free internet access/a computer.

Everything else – And of course, there’s always Google SMS (to check the weather), Twitter (to inform the world what you’re doing), Fourquare (to inform the world where you’re doing it), and Facebook (for everything else).

These hacks can extend the lifespan of an aging phone without a data plan–and getting more life out of one’s tools is never a bad thing. And besides: nothing beats the smug satisfaction of knowing your phone works no matter how you hold it–even if you have clammy soft developer hands.

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