411 Directory Assistance can cost a bundle!
You might not realize it unless you’re in the habit of closely examining your cell phone bill, but cellular service providers charge a lot for “411” calls (calls you make to local — or national — directory assistance by dialing 411).
Here are the fees that some of the top carriers charge for each call to 411:
- Boost Mobile’s Boost 411: $1.29 plus airtime (compare Boost Mobile SMS costs)
- Cingular 411: $1.50 plus airtime (compare Cingular SMS costs)
- Nextel Directory Assistance: $1.25 plus airtime (compare Nextel SMS costs)
- Sprint 411: $1.40 plus airtime (compare Sprint SMS costs)
- T-Mobile 411: $1.49 plus airtime (Compare T-Mobile SMS costs)
- Verizon Wireless 411 Connect: $1.49 plus airtime (compare Verizon SMS costs)
- Virgin Mobile 411: $1.75 plus airtime (compare Virgin Mobile SMS costs)
Note that you are using your minutes (“airtime”) each time you call 411 — so if you call from a roaming area, you could be charged 40 cents or 60 cents or more for each minute you’re on the phone with 411 — in addition to the above charges. Ouch!
At these rates, it makes a lot of sense to use an SMS-based search service like Google SMS instead of dialing 411. SMS-based 411 inquiries are free, except for the SMS charges, so you can save a dollar or more for each lookup you do via text instead of calling directory assistance.
For example, suppose you want to find a local flower shop. A call to Cingular 411 costs $1.50 plus airtime — and the operator might not give you the number and address of a shop unless you know its name first.
But if you send an SMS to Google saying “florist 90210” you might get 3 messages back from Google, each of which has the name, address, and phone number of a different florist. For a total of 4 SMS messages (the one you sent plus the 3 you receive) Cingular will charge you 40 cents.
That’s a savings of $1.10 — plus you’re not using any airtime — and you get three times as much information. Now that’s a strong argument for using SMS!