I've seen a few demos of comparison shopping on cell phones. The idea is that you are out and about shopping, you find something you want to buy, and then you use your cell phone to ensure that you are getting the best price. AOL has a service like this (WAP) as do a few others. In the past, I found the scenario hard to imagine. Not any more.

I was in the post office yesterday. It's the one at Geary/Parker in San Francisco. Anyone who has been there knows that it is a nightmare at many levels – not all of which are the fault of the USPS. I show up with my big box – one large enough that I can't use the self-service machine. There are 15 people in front of me. In the five minutes that I wait, they serve one person.

I turn to my cell phone … and think … there must be another way. I think, "Where is the nearest UPS store?" In less than one minute, I have typed UPS into Google SMS and received an answer. I call. The nearest shop is 50 feet away, and there is no line. I'm back in my car headed home in less than 10 minutes. There are still 13 people in line at USPS.

Now that I've used the service and have context, I can imagine many more scenarios where I would want to look for an alternative or see if I am getting the best price. The cell phone really is morphing into a Swiss Army Knife. My other alternatives would have been to kill time by calling friends, watching TV, listening to music, or playing a game. Best one though was to find a competing – and better service.