When it comes to new cellphones, there haven't been any blockbusters announced in recent weeks. Instead, a wave of new and interesting things to do with your current handset has taken center stage. Most involve voice, which seems obvious on a cellphone. But in this case, it's voice recognition—freeing your hands for other things, like the steering wheel. Here are five favorites among new services for wireless handsets:
• Yahoo! oneSearch: The portal is making a major push to capture the mobile search market with a new upgrade that includes voice-activated queries. Just tell your phone what you want to find, and the reply comes back from the Web. In theory. In practice, it works sometimes and doesn't other times. That shouldn't be surprising, as it combines voice-recognition software, which can be squirrelly, and the imperfection of Web searches. So far, it's available only for recent BlackBerry handsets, but Yahoo promises to add other models soon.
• ChaCha: Another voice-recognition search service. But this one is available to any handset that can receive text messages. Just dial 1-800-2CHACHA (1-800-224-2242), speak your information request, and the answer comes back in a text message in five or 10 minutes. A few tests yielded results that were mixed but more consistent than oneSearch. That may be because of a "human guide" at ChaCha's end who reads the request, maybe sorting out some of the mistakes in computerized voice recognition. The service is free. The company hopes to make money from ads or deals with carriers.
• Nokia N-Gage: The Finnish handset maker now will sell games directly to its handsets, including Tiger Woods PGA Tour and a solitaire 12-pack. In a nifty twist, users can download the games to a PC and move them via Bluetooth or USB to their phones, bypassing carrier data charges. The service so far works only with N95 and N81 phones, but Nokia promises it soon for other handsets. Games cost between $9 and $16.
• AT&T Navigator: The communications giant is finally getting into the directions business with a service that will guide you, turn by turn, to your destination. Unlike others from Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, AT&T's adds voice recognition, which allows you to press a button and speak the address, restaurant, or other destination. The service then comes back to announce the directions over its speaker and puts them on the phone's screen as well. Works on about a half dozen of AT&T's handsets and costs $10 a month or $3 a day.
• Jott for BlackBerry: The Jott service is handy for anyone who wants to dictate a reminder or E-mail. But that has required calling the Jott service at 1-866-JOTT-123 (1-866-568-8123). Owners of newer BlackBerry devices can now download a piece of software from Jott that allows them to dictate a reply to an E-mail by speaking directly into their handset. Jott converts the message to text that's ready to send. It's free while in beta testing but will come with an undisclosed charge afterward. Jott also isn't saying if it will expand the service to other handsets.