Tech Tips: Texting without a cell phone
August 4, 2014
I may be the only adult left in the country without a cell phone, but I don't have one, don't want one, and will not be getting one. On the other hand, there are times when I need to communicate with people who don't regularly check their email (like most young people), and I'd like to be able to send and receive text messages from my computer. Is there any way to do this?
This question applies both to the small portion of the population that doesn't have a cell phone, and to those who do but are too cheap to pay for texting. (Unless you get unlimited texting as part of your cellular plan, you're paying way too much for it.) One solution for sending texts (it doesn't help for receiving, however) is to send an email to a specially formatted email address, specific for each individual cell phone providers (for example, email@example.com, for AT&T Wireless customers; or firstname.lastname@example.org, for Verizon Wireless customers). The problems with this solution include the fact that you must know which carrier your recipient uses, and there's no simple way for the recipient to reply. Although this technique works, it's hardly optimal. (To use this solution, search the web for "Send email as text to <xxx>", where <xxx> is the name of the provider, like AT&T or Verizon.)
There is a better universal and free solution, of course: Google Voice. This is a free service that allows you to text to any phone number that can receive texts. When you use Google Voice to text someone, the response comes back to you as email. You can respond to the email response, and it goes back to the recipient as a text—in other words, you can carry on texting conversations with someone using a phone, and they really won't know that you don't also have a texting-capable phone.
Of course, the Google Voice service can do far more for you than provide a free email-to-text service, but given your needs to text without a phone, this functionality provides a great place to start with Google Voice. You'll need a Google account to set up Google Voice, and you'll need to select a telephone number to use as your Google Voice number. For more information, visit http://www.google.com/voice.
Recovering from Android Safe Mode
A really scary thing happened to me recently: I was using my Android phone, and all of a sudden, when I looked at the phone, I noticed that it was in some sort of Safe Mode. I saw the words "Safe Mode" at the bottom of my screen, and I have no idea what this means, or why it happened. Is something wrong? How do I get out of Safe Mode?
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You can boot a Windows computer or Mac in safe mode, and the computer will load a minimum of software it needs, just to get started. This is a great way to test what's going on when your computer behaves in an unusual fashion. The same concept applies to Android phones—when you boot an Android phone in Safe Mode, it loads only the minimum required software, and allows developers to test the behavior of the phone and its operating system without any extra software loaded. If you're experiencing crashes, freezes, or battery life issues, you can boot into Safe Mode and see if the issues still occur. From Safe Mode, you can uninstall misbehaving third-party apps.
To get into Safe Mode in Android 4.1 or later, long-press the power button until the power options menu appears. Long-press the power Off option and you'll be asked if you want to reboot your Android device into Safe Mode. Tap the OK button.
On older versions of Android, things get more complicated. On some devices, you can follow these steps to get into Safe Mode: When powering up, long-press the power button and then tap Power Off to turn off your device. Turn on the phone or tablet by long-pressing the power button again. Release the power button and, when you see a logo appear during boot-up, hold down both the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons. Continue holding the two buttons until the device boots up with a safe mode indicator at the bottom-left corner of its screen. If this doesn't work for your device, search the Web for information on getting your device into Safe Mode.
Applications that cause trouble can force a device into Safe Mode, as well—if you find that your device indicates that it's in Safe Mode and you didn't just take steps to get there, assume something is wrong. For more information, check out the discussion on this page: http://goo.gl/LCM8Yx.
How you accidently got into safe mode is still a mystery, but to answer the question: To get out of safe mode, power off your Android device, and while it's off, hold the Volume Up button and simultaneously turn on the power. If this doesn't work for your device, search the Web for more information on leaving Safe Mode for your particular Android device.
Hear Doug Behl and Ken Getz's tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to email@example.com.