Monday, August 25, 2008

The 411 on Free 411

Does anyone remember when calling directory assistance was free? I'm not old enough to, but I'm guessing someone does. Of course, nothing good lasts forever, and that's especially true of anything involving the phone company. In fact, if you happen to own a cell phone, you know that directory assistance calls are so expensive that you have to have your credit checked before you can make one.

But don't despair folks, for there is hope. If you're still calling 411 for directory assistance, you're either not aware of the free services out there, or you have money to burn. And if you fall into the latter category, I'll be happy to take some of it off your hands. But for those who need the 411 on free 411, here are some services that will ease the pain in your wallet.
  • 1-800-Free411: The first free 411 service, it offers both residential and business listings. 1-800-373-3411
  • 1-800-YellowPages: This service, owned by AT&T, offers both residential and business listings. 1-800-935-5697
  • GOOG-411: Brought to you by the fine folks at Google, GOOG-411 only offers business listings. 1-800-466-4411
  • Live Search 411: This is Microsoft's foray into the free directory assistance market. It offers residential listings, business listings, and several other services, including one to locate the cheapest gasoline in an area. 1-800-225-5411
And then there are the "multi-purpose information services", for lack of a better term. These services offer all sorts of information, from news headlines to sports scores, movie listings, weather forecasts, and traffic reports.
  • TellMe: Anyone can use TellMe, although there is a time limit per call. Still, quite useful. 1-800-555-8355
  • VoiceInfo: Almost the same as TellMe, with the addition of Wakeup Calls and no per-call time limit. For customers of AT&T's wireless service only. *8 from your wireless handset
  • Google SMS. This one is a little different, since you don't call it but instead use text messages to interact with it. You send your search in a text to 466453, and the service texts the results back to you. You might want to view their demo to get the hang of it.
All the services in this post are free, making their money off advertising, and all of them, with the exception of VoiceInfo and Google SMS, can be called from any landline or cell phone. When calling from a cell, remember that airtime will be used, and if you request the service send you a text with the information you searched for, normal text charges for your calling plan will apply.

1 comment:

Barry K. Nathan said...

I was googling for something -- unfortunately I don't remember what -- and I happened upon this thread at HowardForums that has some info on free 411 and information services. Here's some information I found on that thread (and maybe elsewhere as well):

VoiceInfo is accessible through *8 and #121 on AT&T wireless phones (you mentioned *8 in your post), and also through 866-895-3124 from any provider. AT&T's VoiceInfo page mentions that you need to dial *08, not *8, on some AT&T phones.

TellMe also has a non-toll-free number, 408-678-0035. On the HowardForums thread, it is claimed that the non-toll-free number has no time limit, but I have not tested this (I don't run into the TellMe time limit often anyway).

I think Microsoft's new name for Live Search 411 is Bing 411, with a new phone number (1-800-BING-411, or 1-800-246-4411). However, the old number (which spells 1-800-CALL-411 by the way) still works. Oh, also, Microsoft purchased TellMe shortly before starting up Live Search 411, and Live Search 411/Bing 411 is based on TellMe, so the only "multi-purpose information service" (among those mentioned in your post or my comment) that isn't a TellMe variant of some kind is Google SMS.