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Useful Free Services Via Your Cell Phone

Mon Dec 18, 2006 2:00 am

If you're like me, you're never caught without a cell phone -- and sometimes more than one!

Just the other day, I was talking with two different people using two different cell phones as I was driving along the 101. Needless to say, the speakerphone feature on each of these phones came in quite handy.

One thing that's always bothered me, however, is that when I look up a number, there's a charge for calling 411. (I get around this by doing an Internet search on using my cell phone.)

According to a November 23, 2006 article in The New York Times, however, now you don't need to text an Internet inquiry in order to receive free directory information. The article provides helpful tips on free features you can use with your cell phone -- services that could save you hundreds of dollars a year!

(Fair use excerpt)

FREE DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE By this time, it’s quite clear that nobody with a “$50 a month” calling plan actually pays only $50 a month. The cellphone companies will do anything to puff up your bill — like charging you $1.50 or $2 every time you dial 411 to find a phone number.

Try 800-FREE-411 (800-373-3411) instead. A computer or human being looks up a number for you at no charge, once you’ve listened to a 20-second ad. It’s a classic time-for-money swap.


FREE ANSWERS Google’s 46645 text-messaging service can fetch much more than phone numbers. It can also send you the weather report (in the body, type, for example, “weather sacramento”), stock quotes (“amzn”), where a movie is showing nearby (type “flushed away 44120”), what a word means (“define schadenfreude”), driving directions (“miami fl to 60609”), unit conversions (“liters in 5 gallons”), currency conversions (“25 usd in euros”), and so on.

Every cell carrier charges for text messages — about 10 cents each, unless you have a plan that includes them. But Google itself doesn’t charge for any of this. It’s not only ad-free, it’s free free.

If you prefer conducting your research missions by voice, call 800-555-TELL (800-555-8355). A cheerful recorded voice invites you to say “Travel,” “Traffic,” “News Center,” “Stock Quotes,” and so on. The system is smart enough to know your location, which pays off when you say “Movies,” “Restaurants,” “Driving directions” or “Taxi.” (This service, run by Tellme Networks as a showcase for its corporate voice-recognition technology, also lets you say “Time” when you’re setting your watch — a blast from phone companies past.)

FREE INTERNATIONAL CALLS You can now call any of 50 countries from the United States, free. Talk as long as you like. You pay only for a call to the access number in Iowa, which is 712-858-8883; if you use your cellphone on nights or weekends, even that’s a free call.


For more information, please access The New York Times' Website (subscription required) and execute an appropriate search.

Disclaimer: I have not tried these services, but am bringing them to the attention of the readership as a public service and for the purposes of discussion. Use them at your own risk.

[Edited 2006-12-17 18:15:48]
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