Stopping for Directions? I’d Rather Search.

The age old question of why won’t men stop to ask for directions may have a new answer. No, it has nothing to do with genetics, GPS units, or just plain stubbornness. It may have something to do with text messaging.

As a computer programmer, I definitely am a bit of an eclectic geek. Besides Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, ping pong, and the latest computer language, I have a bit of a taste for the study of theology. Not long ago I was on my way to a theological conference in Pittsburgh when I found myself vaguely remembering directions to where I was going from the year before. With more emphasis on vague than direction, I was in grave danger of having to stop to ask for directions. What was I to do? Enter Google SMS search. I text a message to GOOGL(46645), with name of place, and Pittsburgh, PA. I get a text message back with places, addresses, and phone numbers. Neurons fire, I start to remember things, and before long I found my way there, no stopping for directions required.

Many of the major search engines now have mobile SMS search. Included are Windows Live WLIVE(96843), Google GOOGL(46645), Yahoo (92466), and 4INFO (44636). You can search for various useful information including local listings, weather, sports scores, flight status, TV guide, jokes, and even pickup lines. “Giant polar bear! [What?] Just wanted to break the ice.” Each has some differences in the cellular networks they cover, with Google and 4INFO seeming to have the most carrier coverage.

There are some great advantages to SMS search over some of the other mobile search technologies. First of all, ever try to browse the Internet on a 2″ screen? With SMS search you send a simple short text message and get back a simple text message answer. Also if you’re cheap like me, free text messaging is a whole lot better than paying monthly fees for mobile Internet or dialing 411. Lastly, it is available just about anywhere you can get a cell phone signal. Besides avoiding having to stop and ask directions, I’ve also used it to find Chinese food, check on the weather, and find what’s playing at the movies. To me it’s easy enough to do, and I’ve always gotten useful information from my searches.

Is SMS search the wave of the future? I’d say since text messaging is the wave of today, it stands a good chance. Far from being the end all and be-all of search, it has great potential for those “on the go,” and for businesses to attract those “on the go” (think of a pizza place in Collegetown, USA). If nothing else, if its saves some other guy out there from having to ask directions, its a winner to me.