Mobile Search on the Rise

The M:Metrics unit of comScore reported yesterday that mobile search was growing in the US and Western Europe. The measurement firm found that mobile search penetration in the UK and US markets was greatest, at 9.5% and 9.2%  of mobile users respectively. However, in terms of real numbers, the US has a much larger number of mobile search users as the UK -- simply because of the population of mobile subscribers (74 million vs. 250 million).

It's not clear whether SMS-based search is included in the figures below (don't believe so). Let's assume this is all measured through a browser search box. Here are the comScore figures:

Mobile search usage

 Mobile search market share

There are other numbers in the market (we have some), which I've gone into a bit in a post at Search Engine Land discussing these comScore data. Not part of the release yesterday, here are comScore US data showing sought after content categories in SMS activity:

comScore US SMS activity
I'm always mystified that weather is such a big category in these data.

Android's Rubin: We Don't Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

Google's first Android OS-based phone is expected to be formally announced next week -- an HTC phone (Dream) on T-Mobile's network. Google's Andy Rubin, one of Android's co-creators, is feeling opening-day jitters. Reuters interviews Rubin:

"We're in the final stages and having lots of sleepless nights," he said in an interview. "We're very happy with the results," said Rubin, who worked previously at Apple and a number of Silicon Valley start-ups . . .

After two years of speculation, Google is under pressure to deliver a product sufficiently different from Apple's iPhone and the myriad copycats that have appeared since it was introduced last year . . . Rubin said Google chose to "put our blinders on" and make sure the first phones impress consumers.

"If we come out with a dud, people will go, 'Well, that was a waste of time," said Rubin. . . Google has worked almost exclusively with Taiwan's High Tech Computer Corp (HTC) and T-Mobile for the first Android phone, he said.

I'm not sure that Google gets only one shot to make a first impression. Apple's iPhone 1.0 was great but had weaknesses. That device has been improved several times with hardware and software upgrades. However, the press and mobile analysts will certainly pronouce judgment on the first Android device, which is probably impressive but will likely leave room for improvement.

BlackBerry is the dominant smartphone in the US market and is rapidly improving, under pressure from Apple. But Apple's decision to go with an exclusive carrier relationship has probably limited its market potential. Those unwilling to switch to AT&T (and not on BlackBerry, which has limited consumer appeal) would probably welcome a new, consumer-friendly device with capabilities and software comparable to the iPhone.

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Here's more from the Wall Street Journal, which says the phone will actually go on sale in October. 

Dial Directions, Tellme Offer Voice for Dash

This past week both Dial Directions and Tellme announced speech for Dash mobile devices. Here's how it works: Users register their cellphones and then the system recognizes that they have a Dash device when they call. Dial Directions users call 1-DIRECTIONS (1-347-328-4667) and identify an address or intersection they're going to. The spoken destination is sent from the cellphone instantaneously to the Dash Express and consumers can use the device's routing. Here's a video demo.

In a similar scenario, Tellme also allows users to call its phone number (1-800-555-Tell) and ask for a specific business listing or conduct a category search (e.g., sushi, San Francisco). Once the desired result is obtained it similarly goes automatically to the Dash device for routing, etc. The search results in this case come Microsoft Live Search. 

While the Tellme capabilities extend beyond directions to business search, both integrations illustrate a fascinating trend toward connected devices. The idea here is that the phone is tied to the PND, which may in turn be tied to the PC (as in Send2Dash). This is part of the broader movement toward "the cloud."

Users increasingly want access to "their content" wherever that may be -- on the desktop, on their phones and in the car. Rather than seeing these services as independent silos, they become just input and output locations or modalities depending on where the user is and the circumstances (driving, walking, etc.). This is a vision that Tellme has been nurturing for some time. 

Teens: I'd Die without My Cell Phone

CTIA and Harris Interactive released findings last week, in connection with the San Francisco CTIA event, about US teens' attitudes toward cellphones and their mobile lifestyles: "Teenagers: A Generation Unplugged." The online survey sample consisted of 2,089 teenagers across the US who have cell phones. Respondents were between the ages of 13 and 19. The press materials point out that "this is the first generation to grow up in a mobile world since the first commercial cell phone service was activated on October 13th, 1983."

Here are some of the data from the survey (all charts, except where stated, are from the executive summary prepared by CTIA):

Things teens like about text messaging (top 3):

Picture 5 

Mobile Internet content types accessed via cellphone:

Picture 8
The 28% figure above is consistent with the relatively high 29% mobile Internet access figure we found in our consumer research on US adult mobile subscribers.

Frequency of mobile social networking visits:
Picture 9

In an earlier Opus survey (n=1022), we found that only 6% of adults had accessed a social networking site on their mobile phones. It makes sense that a higher number of teens are visiting social networking sites on their mobile devices, given that social networks are heavily populated with younger users. Still, 81% had not in the Harris-CTIA Survey. We anticipate that social networking will become a significant category for mobile users -- over time. 

Teen receptiveness to mobile advertising and areas of interest:

Picture 10

In our most recent LMS survey of mobile consumers we found surpsingly strong receptiveness to mobile ads, when controls and choice we're put around the proposition:

Mobile ad interest

Back to the Harris-CTIA survey data . . .

Giving up privacy for ads/offers:
Picture 11

Consistently teens appear willing to give up privacy and personal information more than other age groups.  It remains to be seen in future years whether this is a cultural shift or simply a function of age.

Google Integrates 'My Location' into Mobile Search

Last November, Google Maps for Mobile (a downloadable client) began to offer My Location, which uses cell-tower triangulation to locate the phone within approximately 200 meters. (Google recently added voice search capability to the BlackBerry version of the Maps client.)

Yesterday Google integrated that same cell-tower triangulation capability into Search for Mobile on Windows Mobile phones. Users must download a mobile version of Google Gears before they can use Search with My Location, but once they do, location is always on -- so to speak. It eliminates the need to enter a geographic modifier in the search query to get a local result.

Here's what the browser homepage looks like with My Location enabled:

Search with my location

 Here's what a search result for Sushi looks like (a kind of mobile "Universal Search" result):

My Location 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pull-down menu allows users to change and manage location.Alternatively one can see only local results by clicking the Local links. 

Search with My Location does one of two things:

  1. It makes My Location potentially available to a much larger audience
  2. It sets up better search ad targeting on mobile devices

The only thing Search with My Location doesn't do that Google Maps for Mobile with My Location does is locate you on a map.

I've got a somewhat longer post on it at Search Engine Land.

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Related: Google also introduced an improved search for BlackBerry.

Yahoo! Launches oneConnect and Blueprint for the iPhone

Yahoo's head of connected life Marco Boerries keynoted the CTIA conference in San Francisco this morning. He announced the launch of two products: oneConnect and Blueprint for the iPhone. Both had been previously discussed elsewhere. But this is the formal launch of oneConnect, which is both part of the larger Go suite and a stand alone application available from the iPhone Apps Store (later today).

The oneConnect application is something like a smart address book and communications management tool -- allowing users to see IM, SMS and emails in one mobile environment. It also allows users to integrate social networking apps along the same lines.

Blueprint is a mobile development platform and rendering engine that is supposed to be much easier to use and write for than other tools. Publishers, developers and advertisers can use it to build mobile sites and landing pages. Blueprint is an open platform but not open source according to Boerries. Developers who use Blueprint can tap into Yahoo! mobile ad inventory or use their own or other third party ads. Yahoo! offers a mobile ad server.

Promising "write once publish everywhere," Blueprint works across hundreds of devices. Yahoo! used Blueprint to develop oneConnect for the iPhone as well as Yahoo!'s other iPhone applications. The company is also talking with Apple about making Blueprint generally available to third party publishers for iPhone applications development. Several Yahoo! representatives indicated that they believed it would make iPhone apps development much faster and easier than it already is.

One got the sense listening to Boerries that Blueprint is a kind of answer to Android. It's not an OS but it is intended to help facilitate mobile development and the growth of the larger ecosystem. It also helps Yahoo build a direct path to mobile advertising distribution for those publishers that choose to avail themselves of Yahoo! display and mobile search advertising through Blueprint.

Ad giant Publicis is using Blueprint to develop mobile campaigns for clients.

U.S. Smartphone Sales Up; RIM Widens Lead

According to an NPD survey, 9 million smartphones were sold in the U.S. between January and July of this year, representing an 84% increase from the same period a year ago. Smartphone revenue increased 71% to nearly $1.7 billion.

The survey showed 19% of all handset purchases were smartphones compared to just 9% for the same period last year. RIM’s Blackberry led the way followed by Apple, Palm, Samsung, and Motorola. Market share for specific manufacturers was not tallied and the survey did not include sales of corporate mobile phones.

Meanwhile, IDC says that RIM accounted for more than half of the smartphones sold in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, as iPhone and Palm both lost market share.

The IDC numbers show that RIM, maker of the wildly popular BlackBerry wireless device, held 53.6 percent of the U.S. market for smartphones in the second quarter, up from 44.5 percent in the first quarter. IDC's numbers show that Apple's share of the U.S. smartphone market tumble to 7.4 percent in the second quarter, from 19.2 percent in the first quarter. Palm saw its market share fall to 10.8 percent in the second quarter, from 13.4 percent in the first quarter.

Competition between the BlackBerry and iPhone has been heating up as RIM attempts to add features and functionality that appeals to consumers.

AdMob Expanding iPhone-Specific Ad Network

As the iPhone has seen its fortunes rise, so has mobile ad network AdMob. The company developed a range of specialized ad units for the iPhone and an iPhone marketplace. The company is even giving money to iPhone developers.

This morning AdMob is announcing deals with a number of high-profile iPhone apps, including

  • Loopt
  • Tap Tap Revenge
  • SportsTap 
  • BubbleWrap 

Not unlike the Quattro-Where deal, it involves brand advertisers seeking exposure to engaged iPhone users via these applications. Ads are both performance-based and CPM based. Some of the participating advertisers include "EA Mobile, Herbal Essences, Universal Studios' The Mummy 3, Land Rover, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Fox Searchlights' Choke, MGMs' College, Summit Films' Sex Drive, Toshiba, CBS News, Luxor Hotel, and DirecTV."

According the press release, AdMob says:

The explosive growth in both mobile Web usage on and application downloads for the iPhone has fueled the growth of this marketplace. More than 1,000 sites, including AccuWeather, CBS News, MovieTickets.com, and CNET, and applications, including TapTap Revenge, SportsTap, PegJump, and BubbleWrap, have joined AdMob's iPhone advertising network and run ads since it launched just over a month ago.

The iPhone audience is the most engaged mobile audience out there. We found last month in a consumer survey (n=789) that the more engaged users are with the mobile Internet, the more likely they are to be receptive to mobile advertising.

The following is a screenshot reflecting the ad placements, provided by AdMob (banner ad at the bottom): 

AccuWeather

Quattro in Ads Deal with uLocate for Location-Targeted Ads on iPhone

Mobile ad network Quattro Wireless announced a new ads deal with uLocate's Where iPhone application. According to the press release out this morning:

WHERE, one of the most popular location-based applications in Apple's iPhone App Store, will utilize Quattro's dynamic ad serving platform to enable highly targeted in-application ads to be served to iPhone users based on contextual, demographic, behavioral and location information. WHERE's location-based service will be added to Quattro's industry leading Video, Call, In-Application, iTunes and Popover iPhone ad units. Under the deal, ad inventory for the WHERE application on the iPhone is available exclusively through the Quattro In-App Network and for Quattro's flagship advertisers such as Toyota, Herbal Essences, Sony, Comcast and LionsGate.

While uLocate/Where has some of its own brand advertiser relationships, it appears that Quattro will be "repping" all the Where.com ad inventory on the iPhone. It also appears that this is a brand LBS play. As with the Internet, most small business advertisers will gain mobile distribution through existing "aggregator" relationships  (e.g., yellow pages).

ClickZ offers some additional detail in a piece out today

Dial Directions First to Launch Voice for the iPhone

Beating out a host of other, larger companies working on speech for the iPhone, startup Dial Directions has introduced "Say Where," a speech application for local business search, reviews and maps & directions. Using the Safari browser it can tap into sites like MapQuest, Google Maps, YellowPages.com, Yelp and so on.

Arguably the greatest weakness of the iPhone is the keyboard, which takes considerable "getting used to." Say Where by-passes the keyboard entirely. Here's a video demo of the application in action.

Dial Directions began as a way to speak locations into any handset and get SMS based directions back. However what the company has really built is an impressive speech platform that transcends maps & directions. That's what the new Say Where application showcases -- the broader speech capability of the company's platform. 

The application officially launches today at the DEMO conference in San Diego, California.