aqa_vs_118118_vs_Ansa_now

After recently hitting the jackpot by finding a Pay As You Go sim card topped up with £14 credit under a sock in my flat, I’ve decided test out premium rate SMS question and answer services.

The concept behind of these services is very simple, once you text in your question it gets routed to a researcher who will send you back an answer within one SMS. At the cost of around £1 per answer, it’s not cheap.

Most people are familiar with AQA (Answer Question Answered) who are undoubtedly the grandaddy of the whole SMS answering thing. They started out in 2004 and have answered over 20 million questions to date.

However competition is never far away from a good idea and since the AQA launch there have been dozens of identical services launched in the UK and abroad.

It’s really interesting that people are still willing to pay up to £1 to have their question answered when services such as Google and Yahoo Answers (plus dozens more) could potentially answer your questions for free on your mobile.

Even Twitter is a potential treasure chest of answers, just tweet your question out to your network and sit back. However you probably need more than the 54 followers I have to get the kind of knowledge range needed, I bet Ashton Kutcher never has a problem with a tweeted question.

Lets face it, there is nothing easier for a consumer than sending a text which is why they are paying £1 for the pleasure. You text a question then get an answer back. Simple.

But who is the best in the UK? Lets find out and move onto the main contestants for the UK showdown.

The Challengers

aqa_smallAQA: The Peoples Champion (http://www.aqa.63336.com)

The original SMS answering service, but are they still the best? Generally liked by most people and a recent BBC Watchdog experiment revealed they are the most accurate. Lets see about that. Cost per answer: £1

118118_small118 118: The Contender (http://www.text118118.com)

The quality of the service has been in question ever since they made the headlines last year by sending out racist jokes. The website has some nice touches such as the live question feed, plus decent exposure on TV and outdoor ads, but can they provide me answers without offending me? Cost per answer: £1

ansa_smallANSA: The Unknown (http://www.ansanow.com)

Started 2 years ago by Rok, ANSA is relatively unknown, to be honest I have no idea how I found them. The website is horrible so I’m not expecting much here. Cost per answer: £1

Scoring System

Nothing complex. The winner of each round will be decided on who has the correct or best answer. If answers are identical then both shall be awarded a win.

The Showdown

Ok so it’s question time and I’m going for an approach where by I get the most for my money. Now I could ask those sort of trivia quiz type of questions like ‘What is Homer Simpson’s middle name” or ‘Who was original scripted to play Beverly Hills Cop’, however these are a bit ZZzzz and can be found on Google within a few minutes.

I want to make them work for that £1 by asking questions that really do save my time, energy and money.

Round 1:

Can you tell me what the is the cheapest 4-star hotel with the best Tripadvisor ratings in Manhattan from 1st – 15th of December on Expedia.co.uk?

What a disgustingly time consuming question involving some serious hotel name cut and pasting into Expedia, I’d hate to be the researcher that got that one. Even though I’ve sneakily asked 2 questions within one sentence, by mentioning Expedia I narrow it down for them showing my compassionate side.

aqa_smallAQA: Hotel Chandler starts at £3,509 on Expedia & is 31st out of 418 hotels on Trip Advisor. Gild Hall starts at £3,659 & is 47th on Trip Advisor. Welcome to AQA. Please save 63336 in your phone for when you next need us. Sign up to see your Q&As at aqa.63336.com. Texts cost 98p.

NICE. AQA goes above and beyond the call of duty by providing two answers including their position on Tripadvisor. The message also goes into 2 text messages so they are really showing me the love. The welcome message and URL is a nice touch too. The message arrived 20 minutes after sending, just in time.

118118_small118118: It’s the Algonquin hotel. The total cost for the cheapest room from 1-15th Dec is £4,977.58. thx. You can also Text 118 for train and film times!

Woah. Not only does this answer potentially leave me out of pocket for around £1,300 but also contains an annoying ‘thx’ at the end. The Algonquin is 133rd out of 418 hotels on Tripadvisor! Did they even try? Text you for train and film times indeed, psssh. The message arrived after 10 minutes, however the answer wasn’t the best.

ansa_smallANSA: Sorry but we can’t find your address. Please reply with your house number, street, town and post code.

Hmmm… I definitely text the correct number on the website..

Verdict: AQA wins the round

Round 2:

Find me the cheapest direct flight to New York on the 1st – 15th December from London Gatwick or Heathrow. +/- 3 days.

Not a very hard question but it will be interesting to see if they save me any money. The cheapest I could find was using American Airlines flight for £313 using Kayak.co.uk .

aqa_smallAQA: The cheapest flight is £313, Heathrow-JFK with American Airlines at 6.30pm on 1 Dec. Delta fly at 9.05am on the same day for £342.

Again AQA provide two answers including the times of the flight. Sadly no cheaper than what I could find, but least I know the price I have probably won’t be found for much lower. The answer took 26 minutes which is a bit lengthy.

118118_small118118: Cheapest flight: £1,431 (depart between 21 Oct – 31 Dec 2009). Ring Dial A Flight on 08448114444 for info. thx. You can also Text 118 for train and film times!

Another crap answer from the 118 who give me the bloody number for Dial A Flight where the prices never seem to exist once you call up. Their answer took only 6 minutes but is around £1,100 more expensive! Weak.

ansa_smallANSA: Sorry but we can’t find your address. Please reply with your house number, street, town and post code.

Erm Ok I sense a scam here…

Verdict: AQA wins the round

Round 3:

How many picture messages (MMS) were sent in the UK last year? Please provide your source.

I couldn’t find the answer after about 10 minutes of looking on Google, so what better way to spend £1. The source of the information is important for me as I’m using it to back up some ideas.

aqa_smallAQA: Around 500 million MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) messages were sent in the UK last year. AQA policy prohibits revealing it’s sources.

Not good. Even though I got the answer it doesn’t mean anything to me without the URL or company where they information came from. I’m sure AQA didn’t get the information from a man wearing a long coat in a parking lot somewhere so they don’t exactly need to protect anyone. I can’t see why they can’t give me the link. The answer only took 4 minutes tho! Oh well….

118118_small118118: Accdg to Mobile Data Association, the total number of picture messages (MMS) sent in 2008 is 553 million. thx. You can also Text 118 for train and film times!

Great answer from 118118 here. They provide the source of the information and a far more accurate number than AQA. The ‘thx’ almost doesn’t seem annoying. Almost. Came in after 6 minutes.

ansa_smallANSA: Sorry but we can’t find your address. Please reply with your house number, street, town and post code.

Clearly the owner of Ansa is sat on a beach in Panama while my £1 goes into their offshore account. Ansa are disqualified.

Verdict: 118118 wins the round

Round 4:

How many goals did M Mutlu score in the West Fulham Football League in 2007-2008 season?

This information is available on the Football Mitoo website and going through the fixtures and results page for the season. The answer is 2 (my excuse is that I played right-back all season and wasn’t allowed past the halfway line)

aqa_smallAQA: Sorry AQA can’t find any details on M Mutlu. A M Mutlin scored 2 goals in the West Fulham Football league for Jolly Gardeners.

Great work from AQA. Even though my name is spelt wrong for one of the goals on the Football Mitoo site they still managed to find it. The answer came in a whopping 2 hours 40 minutes after I sent it in!

118118_small118118: If you mean Mutlu Dervisoglu, he scored amazing 28 goals in 32 games in TFF Third League. thx. You can also Text 118 for train and film times.

No clearly I didn’t mean Mutlu Dervisoglu or the TFF Third League as I didn’t mention either in my text. A big fat £1 failure. The answer came in after 6 minutes.

Verdict: AQA wins the round

Round 5:

Where can I buy the cheapest Samsung LE32B450 TV online?

Another price hunt question. The cheapest I could manage to find was £298 on the Dell website.

aqa_smallAQA: The best price for the Samsung LE32B450 HDTV is £318.46 from Amazon UK. It’s currently in stock. It has received excellent reviews.

A lovely little answer, they tell me it’s in stock and even commented on the reviews.The answer arrived after 7 minutes.

118118_small118118: Try to visit www.myvouchercodes.co.uk. They’re selling it for 315 GBP. thx. You can also text 118 for train and film times!

Beats AQA by £3.46! I checked the vouchercodes.co.uk website and actually its even cheaper at £313.98. Nice! Only took 3 minutes too.

Verdict: 118118 wins the round

The Results

It’s all over! My credit has vanished and the scores are in:

AQA: 3
118118: 2
ANSA:0

AQA Wins! Even though it might have seemed like a close race between AQA and 118118, if you read the answers, it’s clear that when 118118 get it wrong, they get it really wrong.

Tips for AQA:

Keep up the good work. Provide the source for questions if asked as it validates the answers you give.

Also the thousands of questions you get every day are inherently interesting to the world, so a live feed, either via RSS or Twitter would be great to subscribe too. Maybe even a live feed screensaver like Digg Bigspy would be a cool feature.

Tips for 118118:

Take some more time with the answers to questions, do some more research. Although AQA take much longer at least their answers are correct or the most useful such as the hotel/flight responses.

If you can’t give a correct answer like in Round 2, automatically refund the customer, there is absolutely no way I should still pay for question if you are guessing at answers.

Would I still rather get any answer rather than no answer at all for the cost of £1? Hell no, give me back my money and send me a text saying that you had trouble finding the correct answer. AQA take note of that too.

You need to stop using ‘thx’ at the end of each text, it’s annoying especially when the answers are wrong.

Tips for ANSA:

Stop conning people and take the website down.