04. 10. 2007
GOOG-411 is free and fancy
Google has launched a service providing free directory assistance calls, and the features offered will spur some serious competition in the 411 market. Goog-411 is accessible via a phone call to, unsurprisingly, 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411 or 1-877-466-4411). The system currently only handles Yellow Pages style business lookups, and it's entirely automated. There are no operators standing by to assist, but the experimental voice prompts are working pretty well.
Besides being a free service that automatically makes the connection to the listing; the beauty of Goog-411 is the added features that the system offers. Call up and say "47591, Pizza" and the system will read off listings of pizza parlors in Vincennes, IN. Say "Detail" while hearing the listings and you'll get the address of a specific parlor, but say "Text Message" and you'll instantly receive a text message with the business name, address, and phone number! Read the Goog-411 FAQ to get all the commands from the cheat sheet.
Thanks to Google all the cellular providers will need to offer this great feature in the future to stay competitive. If you prefer your free 411 calls to be staffed by a live operator in case of problems there's always the ad supported 1-800-FREE-411 (800-373-3411). I've been using their service for the last year, and it comes in very handy. There's no excuse beyond profiteering for phone providers to charge us outrageous rates for directory assistance calls (anywhere from $1.00 to $3.00 each), but there are all kinds of new businesses rising up to provide free information access via phone call or SMS. Try out Zypsy, 411SMS, or GylleSMS. ;-)
Update: As a lark this morning I sent a message to the Zypsy mentioned above. "What's the average rainfall in the Amazon Basin?" and I just received this reply via SMS:
Average rainfall across the whole Amazon basin is approximately 2300 mm (or ~7.5') annually. In some areas the rainfall could be double this number. Information from (projectamazonas.com)
Those kids at Zypsy aren't kidding when they say that they'll do the searching for you. It may take a couple of hours for a reply, but I can't argue with their execution. Good job, guys!