Auction Software FAQ: Can I use eBay with my cell phone or PDA?
By Andy Geldman
In this column, I will answer some common questions about software for online auction users. Some of these questions are ones I have been frequently asked, while others address areas that are not well understood, or have myths to dispel. If you have a question you would like to see answered here please contact me at the email address below.
Today's question is "Can I use eBay with my cell phone or PDA?"
The simple answer is yes, you can, and your options range from SMS text message alerts to specialized software for mobile devices.
eBay SMS Text-Message Alerts
eBay has a free Wireless Email Alerts service to notify you when an auction ends or you've been outbid. To set this up go to My eBay > Preferences > Notification Preferences > Edit.
Click "add a notification service" at the top of the page and follow the prompts to enter your wireless email address.
Once that is set up return to the Notification Preferences page and you will see additional checkboxes under Outbid, Second Chance Offer, and Buyer Checkout emails labeled "Receive via wireless email". Check the boxes to turn these notifications on.
Auction alerts by SMS make use of the fact that most US carriers provide a free email-to-SMS address to their users, in the form firstname.lastname@example.org. For example, if your cell phone number is 123456789 and your carrier is AT&T, your wireless email will be email@example.com. Emails sent to these addresses are received in the form of an SMS text message. About.com has a page where you can find out your wireless email address if you don't know it (link below). Simply enter your cell phone number, choose the carrier, and your email-to-SMS address will be displayed.
A third-party service, BayToGo, also uses free email-to-SMS to send alerts when new bids are placed on an item for sale. The basic service is free and sends an alert on all bids, while the Plus service at $3.95/month is more customizable and has reporting features.
Other countries are not so lucky with free email-to-SMS addresses, but the UK does have a pay-for service called eBay Anywhere at the price of 25 pence per alert. The service also allows bids to be placed, using WAP on a compatible cell phone.
If you need a richer mobile experience, you can try two different versions of eBay's site via WAP (links below). Both offer simplified versions of the site, supporting the basic functions of searching, bidding and My eBay. The mmm.ebay.com version has a slightly richer interface and also supports browsing by category. Note that you can try out the wap.ebay.com site in an ordinary PC web browser, but mmm.ebay.com requires a cell phone to view it.
If the WAP versions of eBay fall short for you, there are third-party applications that serve up the site in a form that is more palatable to cell phones and PDAs. Vindigo's Away Auction and Bonfire Media's eBay Wireless (formerly known as Pocket Auctions) are for cell phones and offer alerting and browsing features that are more sophisticated than the WAP sites. Both services require a suitable carrier and phone rather than basic WAP support, so check their sites for compatibility.
Abidia Wireless 3.0 works on a wide range of PDAs, including Palm, Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry devices; phones with Symbian or Java can use the older version 2 of the software. Abidia Wireless supports eBay.com plus 12 international eBay sites, has a strong feature set, and can synchronize with eBay to allow offline browsing - an important feature for mobile devices where connections are slower and more expensive than at home. The price is $4.99 per month or a one-time payment of $39.99.
Abidia also has a mobile application for Overstock Auctions called O-Anywhere, for Palm and Pocket PC PDAs, with similar features to Abidia Wireless. O-Anywhere is priced at $3.99 per month or $29.99 one-off.
eBay Wireless Email Alerts
About.com: free email to SMS addresses
eBay via WAP
http://wap.ebay.com and http://mmm.ebay.com
About the author:
Andy Geldman is a freelance ecommerce and IT consultant, and webmaster of Web Retailer, a guide to eBay software and services Andy lives in London, England and can be emailed at andy.geldman @ salubritas.com
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