FreeMobile411 to one-up Yahoo's voice search?

Waiting for Yahoo to integrate voice search into Yahoo Go for mobile phones? With this alternative, the lucky few can start talking sooner.

Thumbs up: The local listings app takes voice direction. Thumbs down: For the time being, you can only get it on eight Sprint cell phones. (Credit: V-Enable)

At CTIA 2008 in Las Vegas, Yahoo's executive vice president of Connected Life, Marco Boerries, demonstrated with great enthusiasm the newest feature to grace its mobile search tool: voice input. The technique, which asks users to press and hold a key while speaking their lookup request, is already active in Windows Live Search Mobile. Yahoo, however, hasn't released it beyond a preview. On Tuesday, one ankle-biting competitor jumped into the ring with its version of voice search.

FreeMobile411, which was itself just released in WAP form on April 11 (4/11--sigh), announced a Java version that adds the ability to search local listings by listening to your speech. While the overarching technology has been around for a while in the guise of carrier-branded solutions, it's the first time that parent company V-Enable is marketing it under the FreeMobile411 identity.

The upshot? FreeMobile411's beta Java application is ready for action, and like Yahoo's oneSearch 2.0, its predictive typing and favorites-saving features enhance a search experience that includes businesses and residential listings within the U.S. The down side? For the time being, FreeMobile411's Java app rollout is pitifully small--just eight Sprint cell phones. It's not nearly enough to challenge Yahoo head-on, but it will be interesting to compare these apps side-by-side when they're both easy to get. Windows Live Search Mobile, too, had better put up its dukes.

You'll be able to keep tabs on the FreeMobile411 app's status via the Web site, also launched Tuesday. In the meantime, anyone with an Internet-enabled phone can try the basic service using FreeMobile411's WAP site.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.