Does Your Phone Have A GOOG-411 Button?

While visiting family we noticed that their telephone had a dedicated GOOG-411 button. We’ve been using Google’s free 411 service for what seems like years but seeing this show up in the form of an auto-dial button is astonishing.

The question that pops to mind: how is this not an antitrust suit waiting to happen? Directory assistance is BIG MONEY that Google undercut when launching its free service. By shipping phones that have the number pre-programmed doesn’t that limit choice and competition in the same way that shipping Windows with Internet Explorer does? Perhaps the difference is that Microsoft has a near monopoly on the PC OS market while GE can’t say the same about cordless phones.

We’re not antitrust lawyers, and neither are you, but we’d still like to hear your opinions about this in the comments.

53 thoughts on “Does Your Phone Have A GOOG-411 Button?

  1. “Perhaps the difference is that Microsoft has a near monopoly on the PC OS market while GE can’t say the same about cordless phones.”
    Why does hackaday always pose obvious questions that they then answer? Does monologuing attract readers?

  2. Funny I never used it before. I wish I had a phone with this because I usually refuse to pay for shit that should be free – anything I can “google” for.

    Too bad search as we know it really sucks today. Back when I was a kid we could find anything on the internet as it felt smaller and not so much as an information toilet of the world.

  3. I think the bigger difference is IE was integrated into the OS and you had to install additional software in order to use an alternative- and ‘back in the day’, even that wouldn’t stop the OS from using IE as the default browser.

    In the case of the phone, you don’t need to ‘install’ anything to use another directory assistance service. You can still dial 411 on this phone just like any other phone.

    If it were a Microsoft product, they wouldn’t add a speed dial button, they’d just re-route all calls to 411 or 555-1212 to

  4. I don’t get this, it’s a button that serves no other purpose than to provide access to goog-411.

    How is this any different than, say, the “Windows” button on 99.99% of keyboards sold today?

    And in none of the cases is your choice being limited. Does the goog-411 button keep you from dialing other directory services?
    No, not really, it’s just a button.

  5. I agree with Insipid Melon, the rhetorical questions are getting out of hand.
    The phone is the product being sold (not google 411) and last I checked GE doesn’t have a monopoly on phones and is not owned by google.
    At least try to ask valid questions in your articles.

  6. @p.coke

    At least this button provides something. The only thing the windows key does is bring up the start menu (oh sorry we can’t call it that anymore can we)

    I personally haven’t used google’s service but it sounds good. I would get annoyed with the button, perhaps good if you are in a new area.


  7. does it still allow you to call other directory assistance services? does it launch it’s self should you say try to dial an invalid number? Does Google also make the phone?

    If all of the above are true, i’d say they may be doing something bad.

  8. The main incentive for google with GOOG411 is that they can constantly improve their voice recognition capabilities by increasing their database of examples (Thus, “calls recorded”). Why do you think voice recognition was so good on android right off the bat?

  9. This isn’t an antitrust issue because the market isn’t saturated with GE model phones. There are so many different models available (from different manufacturers) that operate off of standard protocols.
    If users had little choice but to buy GE’s handsets, it would be a big problem.
    And, these phones have been out for over a year… (I bought a set for my parents last Christmas.)

  10. The summary is right: Anti-trust only applies when you’re relying on an established monopoly to shove products from other markets on the user.

    Even if they don’t _prevent_ people from using other services, it will obviously shift the market to their products, based not on quality but on “being there”, which will then greatly reduce the competition and therefore reduce the products quality for everyone.

    We can see the effect from IE: it gained a massive market share based on coming with Windows, and it killed Netscape; then it ruined webpages due to their non-compliance with standards.

  11. As Samui_yo summarized, this is not an anti-trust issue. If Google decided to buy a large chunk of the home phone market and then started building this into the handsets, the FTC, FCC or Justice Department might be concerned.

    A couple better examples where the government is currently concerned:

    – Apple and AT&T’s rejection of certain phone applications for the iPhone which has a sizable portion of the American mobile market (i.e. Google is unhappy).

    – Simultaneously, and somewhat ironically, the government is also concerned about Google Voice and its implications. And AT&T and other phone companies are unhappy.

  12. Ubuntu calls my windows key the SUPER-L.
    i use it instead of left control to talk on mangler (linux ventrilo) and if i press it and scroll the mouse wheel, its a badass magnifier that pwns windows magnifier.

  13. Interesting. These have been out for some time now, and far as I know, the button only dials the Google 411. I work for a major phone company as a DA/411 operator, and I do hear customers mentioning it from time to time. Although I do agree, why pay for something you can get for free, we do offer a bit more than Google does. We have residential info, reverse search, and address search. However, our main draw is that we are a live operator. I hear more complaints about automation than anything else.

  14. I have been coming here for a few years and I am still surprised by the bitchin’ about site content. vote with your mouse. Or do you only have the small local internet in your solitaire box? I haven’t used a land-line in years, so I was interested in this article. Although I must admit, I thought someone had hacked a google button onto their handset at first too.

  15. IANAL, but from what I’ve learned from various people who are, I can say this:
    There are two potential issues here, both which are really non-issues.
    First, there is nothing illegal about offering something for free that others sell *AS LONG* as you’re not just doing it to kill the competition so you can then start charging when you’re the only one left… That’s called dumping, but doesn’t apply in this case since its unlikely google would ever charge for the service…

    The second is the question of why they are allowed to sell a phone that has this on it but not other companies. Well, my very non-legalspeak answer is that its just a “partnership” of sorts and those aren’t illegal. I’m allowed to use service A with my device B and that isn’t specifically illegal.

    In conclusion, it’s just an f’ing phone.

  16. Taylor- You are not allowed to use an iphone with t-mobile even though they run the same network as AT&T.The DMCA provides that little snafu.So your service a with device b doesn’t fly. Now the button being dedicated to a single service would seem a trouble spot but then again it’s just an f’ing phone.

  17. It’s as much of an anti-trust issue as IE was- none. Windows NEVER stopped you from installing another browser and all you had to do was UNcheck the default browser box. Maybe “Ma bell” could learn a thing from GOOG and not farm out work to Pakistan and just let a robot handle it- and better than those worthless jerks. And for those keeping score ‘ahem’ Apple has always been 1000 more times locked down and non-cooperative and antitrust than MS has ever been. We are only now getting Hackintoshes. Good for stability not good for flexibility. Heck I can get XP to run on machines that Linux is too fat in the pants for now. White guilt on the part of MS users needs to end. And for anyone else wanting a GOOG411 button on their phone: Hotkey it as a speed dial on your phone. Sheesh. Maybe if the button hadn’t been labeled we wouldn’t even be here debating it.

  18. I have that exact phone. Dual-handset and you can add more on too. Loooove that button. Blocking stuff like this is like blocking the number from being added to speed dial. If it was a shitty button people would spew antitrust bs because it sucks. goog-411 works great, and they get to train their speech recognition algorithms.

  19. Well, if majority of future users of those phones sees a point in having such a button in a first place, than, why not giving a user the oportunity to select among predefined list of available assistance numbers.

  20. A bunch of *VERY* constructive dialog has been shared. The overarching reality is still a bleeding edge alpha test of many cross impacts. WE are a major part of how it gets from Alpha tests to things that just plain work. Let’s all keep it working :)

    Hackerdom has been at the forefront of tech advances with our role often being as fault finders- the 2600 Hz tone’s role in getting us to SS7 may be debated but not denied.

  21. What a fucking worthless entry.

    Sorry, should I be crying crocodile tears for the phone company who wants to charge me $2 every time I use their own built in 411 service? Mind you, this was a $2 fee BEFORE GOOGLE EVEN EXISTED.

  22. @Brian Recchia: Google gets a whole lot of voice analysis research from Goog-411. Also, nobody wants to advertise with someone who doesn’t have all the users, which is another thing goog-411 brings Google.

  23. 1. Google did not make that phone.
    2. Integrating a feature into a phone does not constitute anti-trust. Maybe if (a.)#1 wasn’t true, and (b.)all other 411 calls were forwarded to goog-411 AND (c.)this was the only phone available on the market then maybe you’d have a case.
    3. Who uses land lines?

  24. LOVE the GOOG button! Just one touch… No annoying messages, delays or worthless ads, A pleasant robo-voice finds it, dials it for you, and it’s FREE. All you whiners complainers should just acknowldege and move on!

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