Communication over GPRS and other mobile data connections is quickly becoming a popular and cheap alternative to SMS and BlackBerry's push-email service. Two companies leading the way in the fight for cheaper text and email services are Hotxt and Emblaze.
Hotxt, a company managed by Doug Richard, a former member of the Dragon's Den, lets you send and receive text messages for less than 1p. All you have to do is download a Java application to your mobile phone and subscribe to the Hotxt service for £1 a month.
It works via the Internet, through GPRS or 3G, and you read and write your messages in the Hotxt Java app. The catch is, it's only considerably cheaper if both the sender and the receiver have Hotxt installed on their phones. Plus, instead of getting a normal text notification, you get a missed call, and then you have to access the Hotxt program to read your text. All in all a lot of work, so steer clear if you're not a text maniac.
As long as the person you're sending the message to also has a Hotxt account, then you only pay for the amount of data you send or receive, which according to Hotxt is much cheaper than a normal SMS. You can also send messages that are two and a half times larger than SMS messages -- so texting your housemates at 3 a.m. about why you forgot your keys can become much more creative. If the person you're messaging doesn't have a Hotxt account then you can buy credit and use Hotxt Out, which sends messages via the Hotxt service, but as an SMS, and which the company claims is still cheaper than a normal SMS.
If texting isn't your thing and you yearn for a more refined way of chatting to your buddies, then Embalze's Emoze may tickle your fancy. It's a similar concept to Hotxt, but instead of transferring text messages this program uses the Internet to push emails straight from your email server to your mobile phone.
The Emoze push-email software is free to download, but alas only works on Windows Mobile and Symbian Series 6.0 phones. Emblaze says that it's constantly updating the number of devices and platforms supported by Emoze, but we've had our hearts broken too many times. Check that your phone is supported before you get out your party hat. -AL