Saturday, September 1, 2007

Mobile email for tightwads


By G. Denise Lance

For those of us who do only travel occasionally, justifying a BlackBerry or other device to check email is a stretch. I have a Web-enabled phone (the LG V9800 "the V" with Verizon service) on which I could access my email, but setting it up and navigating on its tiny screen seems more trouble than benefit. This article discusses a few ways you can have your email, but save some money at the same time.

When I am away, I want a simple way to receive just the most vital messages, not all the posts from listservs, casual messages, sales announcements from online merchants, and spam that comes to my inbox each day. I have found a quick and painless option for keeping up with my e-world without shelling out big bucks on a BlackBerry and a full data plan.

Teleflip offers a service which allows you to specify certain emails from which you want to receive messages and sends those to your phone as text messages. Not having a vacation soon, I tried Teleflip by having it forward email from one person who only sends me important messages, and it worked well. Although the service is free, if you have a plan that charges for incoming messages, you'll pay for each message.

Specifying the people from whom email is important works in most instances, but there are also a few cases in which I cannot anticipate all the addresses that may deliver vital information. For example, I teach an online class and have a new group of students approximately every six weeks. Entering 30 new emails each time a class begins and deleting the previous 30 would be a pain.

Also, students sometimes email me from different addresses than I have on file. So I may miss a question from a student if I only get email from those I know. The option to specify keywords for messages that I wished to be forwarded to my phone would make the service all the more useful.

TeleFlip divides messages into 120 character segments called fliplettes. So long emails come in sections. I can specify how many fliplettes I receive from each email. This way, I can survey messages, and perhaps find a way to access full email if a message looks like something I should read right away.

If you will be away more than a couple of days and expect to receive more than 20 messages (that'd be $3 for me, as Verizon charges 15 cents per message) and if you anticipate replying to people through texting, adding a text package to your plan might be wise. With my plan, 250 text messages would cost $5, still cheaper than a data plan and a BlackBerry.

The LG V9800 has a full keyboard which is great for typing short text messages, but replying to a full email would be a bit cumbersome. Of course, I could use voice minutes and call the person back. However, if its 2pm in Hawaii and 2am at home, the recipient might not appreciate my prompt reply!