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Sprint sounds off voice-activated e-mail

May 23, 2001

The expanded service, Sprint PCS Voice Command, was launched Wednesday throughout Sprint's markets in the United States.

The service is being powered by HeyAnita, one of several young companies that develops voice-activated services for the telephone and operates a "voice portal" that lets users dial a toll-free number and verbally request Web-type information.

The new Voice Command is the first telephone-based voice portal available through a major wireless carrier, and only the third major telephone-based service after HeyAnita and America Online's AOLbyPhone to provide voice-activated access to e-mail.

Next month, AT&T Wireless is planning to launch a similar service powered by Tellme Networks, though without the e-mail option. Another voice portal powered by BeVocal is offered by Qwest Wireless, a smaller regional carrier, also without an e-mail option.

The Sprint service offers far broader access to e-mail via phone than AOL's voice portal or the public version of HeyAnita.

AOLbyPhone is designed primarily to access AOL e-mail services, while HeyAnita's public portal has been limited to handling Yahoo e-mail. Sprint users will be able to access e-mail accounts from Yahoo, EarthLink, NetZero, Prodigy, Sprint Wireless Web, and AmExMail.

The most notable names missing from that list, of course, are AOL Mail and MSN Hotmail, both of which prevent other online services from gaining access to user accounts.

Until now, Sprint PCS Voice Command was primarily a voice-activated calling service. Instead of maintaining an address book on their mobile phones, users could store up to 2,500 contacts on Sprint's network via the Internet, and then dial any of those numbers on a mobile phone by punching two buttons and speaking a person's name.

Voice Command is officially priced at $10 per month, but a promotion for new subscribers offers the service free for three months and $5 a month thereafter. Existing subscribers to Voice Command can get the lower price by calling Sprint. The service is also free to Sprint PCS subscribers who are signed up for calling plans costing $49.99 per month with a one-year contract.

At last count, AT&T Wireless had nearly 16 million subscribers and Sprint PCS had nearly 12 million. Qwest serves about 1 million mobile phone users, mostly in the Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions.

Copyright © 2001 Associated Press.


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