SMS apps, organized!

Recently there have been a number of services launched that primarily use an SMS interface.  I personally love checking these things out because they are typically easy to set up, and the text-only interface is very low overhead.  Product Hunt hosts a couple of decent collections of the more up-and-coming text-based apps.

I started using one of my Burner numbers to sign up for these services because I didn't really want to give my personal number out, but I found that by having my Burner linked, there was a cool side effect: all the new apps were put in one place, clearly separated from my increasingly messy Messages app.

Here are a couple of the services I've been using with my SMS Apps Burner:

Digit.  Digit is kinda this financial service thing that will automatically take money from a linked checking account and save it in a Digit account.  The idea here is to use a non-human thing (algorithm) to track how much you've been spending and earning, and dynamically transfer a sensible amount of cash into your human savings account so you can spend it later on something like a pair of skis, or your debilitating student loans.  Digit sends me a text message every day to my Burner number with my current checking balance and how much it's transferring to my savings.  Easy!  I can send the service commands like "Recent" to see recent transactions on my checking account, or "Withdraw" to transfer money back from my savings to checking.  Yes!

Sensay.  This is a new Los Angeles (!!!) based service that just recently launched.  It works a lot like the old Instant Messaging bot Aardvark.  In fact, it's exactly the same, but uses SMS instead of AOL or whatever.  I text Sensay with a question using my Burner, then the service sends the question out to another member of the Sensay community for a quick answer.  The answer comes back to Burner in a separate thread, so I can talk to the complete stranger on the other end with follow up questions or what they think of the Dodgers' pitching rotation.  That kind of thing.

GoButler.  Similar to Magic.  Much of the time I’m looking to buy craft beer, because I live in a hipster-friendly neighborhood of Los Angeles and I’m playing to type.  Even though I already know what the best beer store is (tie between Cap’n Cork Jr. Market and Bill’s), I wanted to test this service out by asking, via sms, what the best place to buy beer in LA was.  GoButler responded within a few seconds with a place called Remedy Liquor.  Being untrusting of Algorithms in general, I did some research into GoButler’s recommendation, and it seems totally wrong but hey, B+ for effort.  The GoButler bot Lisa seems like a nice person, but I’m happy to have the ability to sever ties completely if things start getting weird.

With so many texting-based apps out there, having the ability to partition these services in Burner is a pretty cool hack.  Most of the apps mask the phone number you are texting from, so from a privacy perspective, Burner isn’t the key value-add here (unless you believe these services are collecting the information, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt).  However, the ability to manage a Sensay thread outside of my messages app, for instance, is rad.  I’m increasingly wanting to keep my personal stuff in a tidy little place, protected from all the outside noise, and it’s a lot more fun to manage a conversation with a complete stranger in a separate place.  There’s also something cool about rolling these services up in one place and creating a little wrapper around each that makes them more compelling than they might be on their own.