Dial Directions Launches with Impressive Capabilities

I spoke yesterday with Amit Desai, co-founder and chief product officer of Dial Directions (347-328-4667), a new voice-based local mobile search service. It offers an impressive voice interface that allows users to identify where they are and a desired location and receive a text message back with turn-by-turn directions. You can also use the service to find the nearest location of a particular business (right now chains: e.g., Peet's Coffee or a specific address).

The demo I heard on the phone and in my subsequent several tests were impressive. The voice recognition and call flow was easy to use and accurate. The service is available now in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Underlying data are being provided by multiple sources and directions are from MapQuest. The service will quickly expand to other cities and add additional capabilities in the near future.

While this is being presented as a free way to receive directions the service is very clearly a local mobile search tool. As more data are added to the database it will be something that people use to find the "nearest (type of business)." Desai and I also spoke about social features that will be added to the product over time.

Beyond the quality of the speech recognition, the thing that makes this service relatively unique is that you can identify your currently location in an easy way (by intersection, address) and it effectively turns a conventional mobile phone into a GPS device.

The service is free and the business model will be advertising, but not audio adds like those on Free411 or AT&T's 800-Yellowpages. Rather they'll be text ads on the SMS messages that users receive in response to their queries. (A similar offering exists in the UK with Miva's PPText ads on the 118118 service.) Dial Directions wants to partner with existing sales channels and mobile ad networks rather than do direct sales.

Desai sees the service as a direct-to-consumer play but also a white label offering for carriers and others that want to add this functionality to enhanced directory assistance or their existing services

It's very clear that the increasing competition in voice-enabled local mobile search is going to accelerate the development of the products and feature sets being offered to consumers and that voice search on mobile devices will be the first mass-market local mobile search tool that gains broad user adoption.