In a fast-paced world that continues to be transformed by technology, not only do we continuously want to be connected to the Web, but in most cases, our lives demand that we be.
Google is a company that caters to that need for connectivity – possibly because it created the dependency in the first place, or perhaps because they understand that not all of us can own an iPhone.
There are a few hidden gems of the Google empire that few know about. Because Google doesn’t make it a priority to publicize all its goodies, most people I talk to haven’t taken advantage of these services.
Free and easy to use, there are ways to find out what you need to know, even when away from your computer. All you need is a standard cell phone and the ability to text message.
When you’re on the road and need a number, there is an alternative to using the standard “411” telephone directory assistance number. Just dial 1-800-4664-411 (Goog 411). The best part? It’s free. Standard 411 calls can cost anywhere from $1.25 (for local connections) to $1.99 (for long-distance connections).
It’s a fairly simple service. Just dial the number, say your city and state (or if you’re not driving, simply type in the ZIP code), and give a business name.
If you don’t want to be connected immediately, you can say the words “text message” and Google will send you a text message that includes the name of the business, phone number and complete address.
The downside to the service: the listings are only commercial. If you want to connect to a residential listing, you’ll have to spend the $1.25 on a regular 411 call.
You know the standard procedure when calling a movie theater: before you can even get to the times, you have to listen to every special offer, movie rating, box office hours, ticket prices and so on.
If your phone has text messaging capabilities you can skip the entire process. Text “movie times” and your ZIP code to “Google” (4-6-6-4-5-3) and immediately, you’ll receive a numbered list of movies. Reply with the number that corresponds to the movie you want and again, immediately you’ll get a list of times.
The downside: It’s not entirely free unless your phone plan includes free text messaging. Although Google doesn’t charge you for the service, your standard phone plan fees apply. Also, if the movie you want isn’t included in the first text message you receive, you have to reply with the word “next” to get more options.
When your favorite sport is in season and you’re missing the game because of a final, worry not. Text the name of your sports team to Google, and you’ll get an update with who your team is playing, the score, what quarter they’re in and how much time is left. Google will also tell you results of the prior game.
The downside: I’m not sure how entirely accurate and up-to-the minute this service is, so you’ll have to experiment with it for yourself.
We can’t all own a GPS system. So when you don’t know how to get where you’re going, driving directions are just a text message (or six) away. Enter your start location and ending location joined by the word “to.” Example: “90001 to 93405” texted to 4-6-6-4-5-3, and you will get directions from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo.
The downside to this service: Depending on how long the distance, it may take Google up to 10 text messages to get the full directions to you. And unlike a GPS, if you miss a turn or an exit, you won’t be immediately notified. So although it shouldn’t be used as a primary source of finding directions, it’s a great last-minute resource.
These are just a few of the mobile treats I’ve found to be most useful. You can also check the weather, stocks, flight information, word definitions and more. Just play around with it and you’ll be shocked at what you find.
So next time you’re on the road, at the mall, or your Internet is simply not working, remember you’re not at a complete loss. Pick up the phone and Google it.