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Worst of the Week: The greatest wireless application in the history of the world

And welcome to our Thursday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!
And without further ado:
I like to think I’ve become hardened to the hype in the wireless industry. I don’t fawn over glitzy new phones, and I try to evaluate new products and services with a cynical, calculating eye. And this is why I’m somewhat embarrassed to report that I recently stumbled across an application that I think is the most amazing, most advanced and most useful wireless application in the history of the cellphone industry.
Now, I don’t want to exaggerate the importance of this new application, but I’m pretty sure it’s the single greatest invention since the toaster oven. The simplicity of this new application is mind-blowing, its elegance is stunning, and its usefulness uncontested.
Again, I’m trying not to exaggerate here.
(Side note: If you don’t have a toaster oven, do yourself a favor and go get one. They are awesome.)
So what is this marvelous, magnificent wireless application?
It’s called “Text Me,” and it was announced this week by Mac-Gray Corp.’s Campus Solutions division. Essentially, the application allows college students to communicate with washing machines using their cellphone. Using “Text Me,” college students can be notified via SMS when their laundry is done.
“‘Text Me’ is the only laundry notification system of its kind,” according to Mac-Gray Corp.’s Campus Solutions division. “It requires no pre-registration and does not store any personal student information. Students use their cellphones to activate the text message notification method for the washers or dryers they use. . Upon completion of the laundry cycle, the system immediately sends a text message back to the student’s cellphone with an alert that their laundry is ready.”
The application builds on the company’s “LaundryView” product, which allows college students to see which washers and dryers are available via a desktop computer.
According to Mac-Gray Corp.’s Campus Solutions division, “Text Me” rolled out this summer in nearly 2,100 laundry rooms on 170 college and university campuses.
Now, I know “Text Me” has nothing to do with a touchscreen, it doesn’t use GPS and it doesn’t rely on software from Google. It doesn’t enjoy a multi-million dollar marketing campaign and it doesn’t include fancy acronyms like LTE or NAD. But if you’ve ever washed your clothes in a busy, public laundry, you’ll instantly know why “Text Me” is the greatest thing since the toaster oven.
Personal reminiscence digression: I worked for a season in Yosemite National Park, and I shared exactly six washers and six dryers with, by my count, 100,000 other seasonal employees, many of whom did not know how to work a washing or drying machine. Further, it seemed that a good number of my co-workers were so desperate to wash their clothes they would wait next to a washer in use and then, the second it was done, they would remove the clothes inside that washer and place them with great care into a pool of mud on the laundry room floor. This happened to my clothes more than once, such that I started doing my laundry at 5 a.m., when only half of the machines were being used, and would typically bring a flare gun and folding chair to wait in front of the machines I was using in order to dissuade potential laundry thieves and dirty-ers.
So what’s the point? The point is that Mac-Gray Corp.’s Campus Solutions division’s “Text Me” sums up the best parts of wireless: It’s cheap and saves users time and money. And I would argue that the wireless industry should spend more effort developing applications like “Text Me” and less time on lame stuff like presence-enabled contact lists, push-to-everything and video calling.
For example, I would love to be able to warm up my car during the winter via SMS, or get an alert when I’m next in line at the DMV, or check and see what’s inside the fridge while driving home. Stuff like downloading clips from “Desperate Housewives” or buying Britney Spears’ latest song over the air are kinda neat in a gimmicky sort of way, but it’s the stuff that’s actually useful and easy to use that is important.
And so now I’m going to close with what might be the second-best example of wireless applications that are both useful and easy to use (“Text Me” being the first). It’s has to do with Africa, elephants and text messaging, and it is awesome. Click here for the full story.
OK! Enough of that.
Thanks for checking out this Worst of the Week column. And now, some extras:
–There is a company called Datasquirt. Nothing more need be said about this.
–There is a new service called Wildtones that allows birdwatchers, for $3 per month, to access bird calls from their iPhone. Again, I think nothing more need be said about this.
–And finally, Hop-on (my favorite wireless company in the whole world) announced its “anti-iPhone” phone. It’s the HOP1811 and it sells for $13.99 with a Graffiti Wireless Airtime Plan in the United States. According to Hop-on CEO Peter Michaels: “I use a 3G iPhone, it is a complicated, expensive device. Our phone is an 850/1900 MHz with AMR. You are not going to drop calls in similar areas as our competitor’s device. I challenge anyone to make a call faster than on the HOP1811.” Great stuff.
I welcome your comments. Please send me an e-mail at [email protected] Or, if you prefer, leave a comment in the space below.


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