Anyone who has used the Internet in the past several years has almost certainly used a search engine like Google or Yahoo! to find information. These powerful tools do a great job of giving users what they want in the blink of an eye. The one catch to these services is that they generally work best when accessed from a desktop computer.
With the explosion in wireless data devices, consumers are increasingly expecting to get the same level of functionality from their search engines while on the go. While services like Google SMS are trying to fill this need, it may be difficult for users to memorize Google SMS codes (like ?coffee 20006? to get a list of coffee shops in downtown Washington, DC). To address this, a new company called ChaCha recently began offering so-called ?guided search? where a live human reviews and responds to a query made in plain English via chat. Starting this week, ChaCha has launched a new service called 'textChaCha? which allows users to text their questions and receive answers via cell phone. Users simply text their questions to 242242 (?ChaCha? on a typical handset) and receive an answer.
When we tested the service out, we received a reply to our text in less than 3 minutes, though ChaCha's ?guide? could not answer our sample question (?Where can one buy cufflinks in the 20006 zip code??). Using the web-based version of ChaCha did work better, but didn't give us the perfect answer we were looking for. Still, for less unique requests (?Where can I find sushi near the White House??), ChaCha came through in both the web and text-based tests. Both the services are currently free on a trial basis. The only fee incurred will be any charges cell carriers charge for text messaging.
Source: Telecommunications Research and Action Center. http://www.trac.org