Rumour has it that text messaging on mobile phones was a bit of an unexpected success story for the supplier networks. A forgotten function on some mobiles, added by the engineers. Sending a short message (the limit is only 120 characters after all) was thought to be of little use so was often given away, free of charge.
Of course, once it took off with customers, it didn't take long for them to realise their mistake and plenty of money has been made out of the billions of text messages flying round the world every day.
Initially, the cost of sending a text message was quite high. A whole new language evolved, text speak, in order to fit as much information as possible into the tight 120 character limit.
In the UK, as in many countries, these days competition has driven the price of individual text messages down to the point where people can spend the day 'Texting' their friends and colleagues without having to worry too much about the bill.
I myself have a few very good friends that texting has enabled me to keep in touch with in between meeting up and can I easily send 50 to 100 messages in a conversation and I no longer use text speak, preferring to go back to 'proper' spelling.
Whilst this is great and I've learned to get pretty quick with my smartphone's touchscreen, there is nothing like being able to type on a proper keyboard and I got to wondering whether it would be possible to manage my phone's texts, ie send and receive them, using my Windows laptop instead?
If you've been wondering the same thing as me, then I have good news for you, at least so long as you have a smartphone running the 'Android' operating system. An app called AirDroid can do this and more.
Available as a free download from Google Play (formerly the Android Market), AirDroid lets you manage your phone directly via a computer web browser (for example Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari). You need to be within range of a WIFI network (for example your home wireless internet connection) and both the phone and your computer must be connected to that network.
Once connected to the network, starting AirDroid on your phone presents you with the address you need to go to on your computer's browser to see the AirDroid page and also the password (the password will be different every time you use it for security). Simply type the address (usually starting http://192.168 etc) into Internet Explorer, or your chosen web browser where you'd normally type a website address (EG www.yahoo.com). When you press enter, you'll connect to the AirDroid page, which is being served up by your mobile. Pretty cool huh? No need to install anything on your computer. Now enter the password from the phone's screen and you're connected! Your phone may even chirp in approval!
Once connected, AirDroid is immediately impressive running on the big computer screen. On the right hand side of the screen, a widget is telling me how much memory is available on my phone using a nice clear bar. Clicking on the 'Detail' button presents me with an attractive table showing how the memory usage breaks down. For example I can see that I have 995 text messages on the phone, 423 contacts and 253 apps. At the bottom right of the screen, I can see my phone's signal strength and how much juice is left in the battery.
The left hand side of the screen displays a list of 'apps' that let me manage my phone with ease. I can do a lot more than simply send and receive my text messages on my computer here. I can also copy music back and forth, set up ringtones, manage my contacts and copy off the photos I've taken.
It's all as easy as using my mobile, easier in some cases, except instead of a small touchscreen, I've now got a nice big computer screen with the convenience of a mouse and keyboard to work with. My phone can stay in my pocket!
Keeping the focus on text messaging then, I click on the green 'Messages' icon and a window opens showing me my list of conversations. I can start a new message, or open up an existing conversation, maybe read a few back and continue from where things left off.
Helpfully, if I start a brand new message, I can start typing my friend's name into the 'To' field and AirDroid will give me a list of contacts it thinks I'm referring to and once narrowed down, I can simply click on the one I want and write my message. No need to remember numbers just because I'm not physically typing on the phone.
AirDroid really is simplicity itself. I don't even need to take my phone out of my pocket if a new message comes in. AirDroid will alert me via the webpage and a little '1' has popped up over the 'Messages' icon to show me I have one unread message waiting for me. Messages are sent within seconds of hitting the 'Enter' key on my computer, so it really is a practical way to use the phone when I'm at my desk. I can also imagine this being of benefit to people who are part-sighted (where a big or high contrast monitor is a necessity), or have trouble using fiddly phones as part of a medical condition (for example Arthritis), since after starting AirDroid, you can put the phone away.
AirDroid is not only an excellent solution for sending and receiving text messages using my computer keyboard, it's also a very user friendly way of managing the phone. Many people may not know how to easily copy photos and music to and from their mobile and this makes it easy. Given the price, I strongly recommend this app to all owners of Android based smartphones.
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