mobile phone services that make me happy


Over the past few weeks, I've found myself using two services a lot on my mobile phone, and when I talk about them at conferences people tend to "oooh" and "ahhh" I thought I'd post about them here, as well.

The first is one I thought most people knew about, but I'm finding that's not true. It's Google's "411" service for automated directory assistance. You call 800-GOOG-411, and are prompted for city, state, and business name or type. It then gives you a list of matches, and you tell it which item on the list is the one you want. Then they connect you. There's no charge for this at all, which makes it a whole lot better than the phone company's directory assistance. And the voice recognition quality is very good.

The second service I'm enamored with is also based on voice recognition. It's called Jott, and when you call their number it listens to your message and transcribes it for you. You can have it send the resulting text to you or a contact via email or SMS. You can even have it send the text to a web service like Twitter, Remember the Milk, or your blog. It's ideal for times when you say to yourself "I need to remember to..." but you don't have your computer or a notepad handy. The voice recognition is really amazing, and it will let you spell out words that it might not interpret correctly. This evening, for example, I called it and had this exchange:

Me: Dials Jott (voice dial on my phone, so this can all be done via headset)
Jott: Hi! Who would you like to Jott?
Me: Myself (I could say "Twitter" or a contact name here instead)
Jott: Go ahead!
Me: Remember to call Wolk W-O-L-K Manor M-A-N-O-R about dinner plans.
Jott: Got it. Want a reminder?
Me: Yes.
Jott: When?
Me: Tomorrow.
Jott: Thursday, May 29th. Got it. What time?
Me: 9
Jott: am or pm?
Me: am
Jott: Got it.

Then I hung up. A few minutes later, an email appeared in my inbox that had the text of my message, and the scheduled time for the reminder. Tomorrow morning I'll get both a text message and an email at 9am, reminding me that I need to call about dinner plans with my grandmother. Nice, huh?


Holy Crap.

Jott has to be the coolest thing ever. Thank you for posting about it :)

Cool! Thanks, Liz!

Yeah, the google service was nice but personally I'd recommend another one called 1-800-FREE-411. I've been using them for a while, and they offer residential as well as commercial listings, and can also text you driving directions. One stop shop and all that, especially since I don't have a smartphone and can't access GPS or the internet easily.

Jott ROCKS! I use it all the time to keep my tired brain from having to remember things.

However, I have to say I use 800-411-SAVE when I need free directory assistance. There are times that Google or Jingle won’t recognize what I am asking for, but the live agent always understands me. Besides, it sounds like they are based in the US.

When it comes to free directory assistance, you have LOTS of choices. They differ in some important ways, so try them all out and see which one(s) you prefer. You may end up with more than one in your directory...and you may want to try them all every so often just to see what's new! Grin!

I prefer the ones that have operators to help when the automation doesn't recognize me, that are fast and ACCURATE, and that also don't restrict me to only business searches - sometimes I need to find people, too!

1-800-YellowPages (800-935-5697)
1-800-2ChaCha (800-224-2242)
1-800-411-SAVE (800-411-7283)
1-800-555-Tell (800-555-8355)
1-800-Call-411 (800-225-5411)
1-800-Call-Dex (800-225-5339)
1-800-Free-411 (800-373-3411)
1-800-Goog-411 (800-466-4411)
1-800-Info-Fast (800-463-6327)
1-800-The-Info (800-843-4636)

I've tried 411-save before, but I think I preferred to use free-411 more. It was really the driving directions that sold me. I mean, a live operator is nice and all, but they're both just reading information from a page. If a computer can do that and keep the service cheaper, I'm all for it.

Liz, Jott sounds great. As I move into what I am sure will be a very demanding contact/task management environment, I'm curious what you're using at the network/client end for your tasks and appointments.

For contacts and appointments, I am completely dependent on our Exchange server at work. I love that it automatically synchronizes all my devices.

I don't really use task management tools, though I know that I should :(

Regarding those two features you mention Liz.
[1] Just last month I made some notes to myself. I was thinking about writing an article on digital phone services based largely on the observation many services we've come to expect have no analog in this bold new digital frontier. Google's 411 service is OK, but I have noticed two big stumbling blocks... increasingly people are moving to mobile phones and they are not typically entered in directory services, and although you used to be able to search phone numbers in Google increasingly all you end up with are links to fee-based Reverse Directory services.
[2] I switched to Vonage for my home service provider, oh... five or six years ago. The basic feature set is pretty awesome and reliability of service is approaching 100%. What used to cost me around $120 a month with SBC (on unlimited long-distance too) costs $24.99 a month and includes twenty-some features (like caller ID) the BOCs used to charge by line item and there are some capabilities the BOCs could never have provided, like the ability to forward your calls to any other number OR the ability to carry your dongle with you and have your number ring wherever your broadband connection is at the time (like Thailand, Japan, etc.). One of the add-on features you can get is a voice-recognition system for an additional $5 a month or so which will transcribe and e-mail your messages to you. I've considered signing up for that (see below).
There are a few oddities of which you have to be aware. [a] The web interface is ubiquitous, but it is actually a lot faster to retrieve messages by dialing your own number and using the system menu (especially with a full mailbox). [b] You must sign-up for 911 service by registering your home address so the regional Vonage operator knows which municipality to contact. [c] If your power goes out, your router and broadband is dead -- there is no dial tone. [d] If you happen to live in Idaho, parts of Montana or northern Nevada you can not get a number in your own area code -- which is a big inconvenience to people in your local community who may not have long-distance (like my mom and dad since they retired). In the case of Reno, it is because the city council in its infinite and collective digital illiteracy decided to re-up the exclusive Charter monopoly. I'm sure it is the same in the other PW areas I mentioned. Charter began offered digital service in the area about three years after Vonage did, so I have a number in the Las Vegas area code even though I wouldn't use a public toliet there much less live there. -Craig-

Brett from Dial Directions here. I wanted to throw in another service targeted at mobile phones for getting driving directions. Just call 1-DIR-ECT-IONS (1-347-328-4667) from any cell phone, speak your start and destination address or intersection, and receive by text message turn-by-turn driving directions. Super easy, and the service is free. Only your carrier charges for talk and SMS may apply.

Purchasing a mobile phones is not an easy task. There are various varieties of Mobile Phones in market.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on May 28, 2008 9:24 PM.

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