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CES: Useful cellphone tricks?

Maybe these aren't as sexy as a screen that covers a city block and offers oversized Oompa Loompas in color so sharp it could cut glass. But in the shadow of looming LCDs, I managed to see a couple of cellphone items that looked potentially interesting.

Simulsays

Make your BlackBerry into a peach.

Sometimes getting a call isn't convenient, but tapping away incessantly on this addictive contraption is socially accepted -- or at least tolerated.

SimulScribe converts your voicemail into a transcript and emails it to your device, with a WAV audio file. The company says it works with all wireless and land-line providers. You get unlimited storage and can manage your voicemail online -- which can be a blessing and a curse, if you have gabby friends.

Now, the company claims 95% transcription accuracy, but they haven't heard my Trinidadian colleague or Jamaican relatives. (My flesh-and-blood friends have a hard enough time understanding!)

On the "lite" end, theres a pay-per-message plan costing 35 cents a pop. Or you can get 40 transcribed voicemail messages for $9.95 a month and 25 cents for every message over that. Then there's the supersized plan: unlimited messages for $29.95.

Plus, SimulScribe is offering to turn your BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device into an iPhone-plus with SimulSays. The company says it's the first visual voicemail app -- one that offers a transcript -- again, a possible benefit if you're trying to dodge long talkers on vmail.



AAA + NIM = nav

AAA has paired up with Networks in Motion (NIM) to give you nav in your cell. Ever break down on I-5 somewhere between, oh, Gilroy and "civilization," too far from a milepost to know exactly where you are? (That's never happened, right?)

Well, with this product, AAA says, it can find you with the press of a button by accessing the GPS function inside many cellphones. In addition to audible turn-by-turn directions, the service will offer you AAA TourBook info for nearby AAA-rated and -approved points of interest. The reps at the booth also mentioned some possibility of searching for member discounts in your vicinity.

The cost for AAA Mobile is about $10 a month. It's available on Sprint, Verizon and Alltel, with hopes of expanding to AT&T, the one big carrier missing in the bunch.

What might have been useful is for AAA to offer this as part of their AAA Plus membership.

-- Michelle Maltais

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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