AIM expands mobile options with texting

NEW YORK (AP) – Now you can access AOL’s popular instant-messaging service using cell phone text messaging.

Mobile versions of AIM and rival IM services from Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are already available, but availability varies depending on your wireless provider, cell phone and service level.

The new offering from AOL provides yet another option – at least for customers of Alltel Corp. and Verizon Wireless – a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC.

Users can simply send a blank text message to “AIMAIM” to activate. A user can send messages with commands to sign on, view buddy lists or change an “away” greeting.

Be sure you have a good text messaging plan, though, or charges can rack up quickly. And remember to sign off from the mobile version when you are back at a desktop computer – otherwise you might find streams of text messages from buddies known to shoot five or six IMs within seconds.

AOL, a unit of Time Warner Inc., also unveiled this week an “AIM Buddy Finder” tool for cell phones with global-positioning capabilities. Users can let friends see their location on MapQuest, another AOL service. The traveler must periodically refresh the location, though, as it isn’t updated continuously.

The tool requires the $3-a-month Where service from uLocate Communications Inc., available through Alltel and Sprint Nextel Corp.’s Sprint and Boost Mobile brands.

The AIM offerings are among the mobile services AOL announced this week at a wireless industry conference in San Francisco.

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