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Five fantastic free phone tricks

Tricks to make your phone smarter

By Mike Elgan
December 28, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Editor's Note: You may not have seen this story during the holiday rush, but we felt it was too good for you to miss.

Sure, you bought a great cell phone, but is it reaching its full potential? If you're like most mobile phone users, the answer is no.

You can, however, make a New Year's resolution to turbocharge your phone with five new capabilities. The best part is that you don't have to spend a dime. It's all free.

Get blogs instantly

Surfing the Web on a cell phone can be slow, cumbersome and irritating -- so much so that many people who buy Internet-capable phones and sign up for cellular data plans eventually stop browsing because it's not much fun.

There's a better way. A free service called Plusmo lets you choose from a wide variety of blogs on the Plusmo site -- and you can add other blogs if you choose. The selected blogs show up on your phone automatically.

One way Plusmo speeds up the process is by pre-downloading pictures and graphics to your phone. That way, when you want to browse a blog or two, you don't have to wait for the download. The Plusmo user interface lets you rapidly zip through blog items fast.

The coolness of Plusmo is hard to describe with words, so take a look for yourself. Here's a demo of my personal blog, The Raw Feed, on Plusmo (all bloggers get a free demo link they can put on their sites). You can try the demo on a phone that is similar to yours by clicking on the round buttons on the demo page.

You can also use Plusmo "Gadgets," which are utilities like Starbucks Locator, My Traffic and Cheap Gas, as well as a long list of search engines and "Social Gadgets" for accessing MySpace and other social networking sites.

Get voice mail as e-mail

I don't know about you, but I tend to live in my Outlook in-box. I use it as my to-do list and as the central place where I organize important things. In contrast, I find voice mail cumbersome and annoying, because I feel like I'm navigating blind, without the ability to see the totality of what's there.

A few years ago, I worked at a company that delivered in-house voice mail as e-mail attachments -- sound files you listened to by double-clicking on the attachment. I really enjoyed that, but I don't work for that company anymore. Besides, I use my cell phone as my main business line.

A free service from CallWave Inc. called CallWave Mobile will send your cell phone voice mail to you as an e-mail attachment. (Full disclosure: I discovered this service through my brother-in-law, who works for the company.) Each voice-mail e-mail message appears as a graphical applet embedded in the message, with a giant "OPEN" link, which launches your browser and plays the message. These messages, of course, can be forwarded, saved or deleted just like any other e-mail.

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