Sunday, October 09, 2005

Free Text Searches Replace Directory Assistance

Some wireless phone carriers in the US charge for each call to Directory assistance, in this case the $1.50 for each call to 411.

If you know how to send a text message on your mobile phone then listings for a neighborhood services or even a weather forecast or stock quote are as close your mobile phone.

And it's pretty much free -- unless your phone plan charges text-messaging fees.

Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., as well as the smaller 4Info Inc., are now offering text-messaging search features that allow users to send a query to the search engines via text message and receive a reply within seconds.

The three work in a similar fashion: To use the service, a user sends a text message with the search request to the five-digit number for YAHOO (92466) or GOOGL (46645) or 4INFO (44636).

Searching by text is still a relatively new idea that is expected to gain in popularity as the big search-engine companies compete to attract users.

Seven Tips For Better SMS Searching

1. Follow the form. All search engines will accept a ticker symbol for quotes and "weather 90210" for forecasts, but each has its own code system. Check out,, and for guidelines.
2. Not all services are created equal. We recommend using Yahoo! SMS for stock quotes, 4Info for movie times and drink recipes and Google for settling trivia bets. All three handle weather decently, but who can ever really get it right?
3. Use your zip code rather than city name for the best results.
Only Yahoo! and 4Info let you reply for more listings. Use them instead of Google if what you're looking for needs refining.
4. Practice makes perfect. The more familiar you are, the better. You can even hone your search skills by using desktop demos on your PC.
4. Memorize letters, not numbers. Google's is GOOGL, or 46645. YAHOO and 4INFO are what they are.
5. When all else fails, dial 411. It's only 3 digits.

Forbes Wireless