GOOG-411I am a big fan of the Google 411 service (1-800-GOOG-411) since the number is easy to remember and because it doesn’t cost a thing. I’ve used it on multiple occasions, and especially for calling ahead to make a reservation for a restaurant. Both Ashley and I have been extremely impressed with the voice recognition capabilities even though we thought it had a small chance of being able to figure out some of the restaurant names we gave it.

Today it just got a little bit better as they announced the addition of maps to the GOOG-411 service. Actually there seems to be a misconception floating around some sites because the Google blog said:

Today, your GOOG-411 experience just got better: during your call to GOOG-411, just say "map it", and you’ll get a text message with the details of your search plus a link to a map of your results right on your mobile phone.

A few sites took that as they would send a map via text message straight to your phone, and that’s not the case at all. They simply send a link to a map that will open in a browser on your phone, so it requires that you have Internet access on your phone. I actually tried the "Map It" service twice to see how it handles the various situations:

  • Saying "Map It" while it is going through a list of matching entries will send you a link to a map that points out each location in the list.
  • Saying "Map It" while it is going through the details of a specific location (reading the phone number, address, etc…) will send you a text message with the phone number, address, and a link to a map with that location being pointed out. The weird thing is that it automatically calls the location after saying "Map It" so you might want to hang up fast.

To be honest this feature is a big disappointment. It took over 5-minutes for me to receive each text-message which almost defeats the usefulness of the service, and I was even forcing my phone to check for new messages so I’m pretty sure the problem was on Google’s end. Aside from that I would prefer an option to get directions by providing a place or address that I’m nearby…and I would like to have those read back to me over the phone instead of in a text message. After all, I don’t want to try to be reading a text message if I’m driving.

I think that GOOG-411 can still make some great improvements, and incorporating a directions feature would surely set themselves apart from any other 411 service.