Texting is so dreadfully simple — Smash wants to liven it up

Well-known investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has led a $1.35 million first round of investment in Smash Technologies, a company that is creating newer, slicker ways to use text messaging.

So far, texting has remained dead simple. You get a message, and you respond. In some ways, the ease of use is the beauty of it. It requires no downloads, special phones or (usually) extra data plans. Users love it. And as a result, texting usage has skyrocketed, to the point where there’s an estimated 2 billion users of texting worldwide.

But texting could be so much more. And Smash, a new company, says its time to move forward and create new text applications that can run on top of texting and add sophistication. The company says it’s providing a technology platform that lets software developers do just that. See image at left for the sort of menus that can be created, for instance.

Let’s say you have a relationship with Amazon. With a text application, that company can create multiple options for how to respond to its offerings. Smash also allows things like multiple-touch interactions, reminders, “add to favorites” functionality, subscription to notifications, sharing of messages with friends/colleagues, lookups, scheduling and enabling of transactions.

Cuban says Smash has the same impact for texting that cookies had on the Web. Like a cookie, Smash tracks interaction, keeping a log of all communication.

Seed-stage group Innovation Works and inventor Dr. Ihor Lys also participated in the round, the company said.

The company, based in Pittsburgh, wants developers to build any application and deliver it by text message.

At its core is the SMaSh Application Server, which delivers the application functionality to a users’ phones when they are texting. It doesn’t require any downloads, extra fees or other upgrades. Several other companies have experimented with adding features to texting, such as text-in for voting (Mozes), coupon codes, or to receive an alert (4INFO). But Smash insists it can take things even further.

Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen.

Here are some specific uses Smash says it can enable through better text apps:

  • Transactions: Purchase tickets. Buy music.
  • Reservations: Book a table at a restaurant. Reserve seats for a show.
  • Lookups: Check wine ratings. Check product details. Check sports standings.
  • Locate: Find homes or rental properties. Locate businesses.
  • Schedules: Manage calendars. Manage to-do lists.
  • Socializing: Interact with social sites.
  • Finances: Manage your portfolio. Manage accounts and view billing info.
  • Gather Feedback: Send multi-question surveys. Hold contests.
  • Alerts and Reminders: Sign up for and customize alerts and subscriptions.

Smash offers modules that it calls widgets, each of which offers a specific functionality for mobile text apps. They include sharing, multi-user chat, posting to social networks, voting and invites.