Mobile Search Frequency Numbers

Peggy Salz is reporting, based on several mobile search vendor interviews (in this case JumpTap), that average search numbers per month have increased -- at least in the case of one of JumpTap's customers -- from 7.3 per month in January of 2007 to 11 per month in May of 2008.

The numbers in terms of search volumes, however, are all over the map. Nielsen Mobile previously reported an average of 9 searches per month for Google mobile users and 6.7 for users of Yahoo oneSearch.

We've just pulled consumer data from the market that shows surprisingly frequent mobile search behavior (from a subset of a larger sample, not necessarily representative of the mobile market as a whole). In our survey the average number of searchers among mobile search engine users -- a subset of overall mobile subscribers -- was 11 per week (per week)! I'm cautious about generalizing, but it's likely a leading indicator of where the market is headed in the near term regarding frequency and volumes.

Voice search companies such as ChaCha and Tellme (Microsoft) are seeing higher than industry average search volumes as well based on their voice interfaces and the reduction in "friction" in those contexts. Tellme told me the other day that 70% of its search queries are via the voice interface vs. its text box. V-Enable has varying numbers comparing voice query volumes to keyboard entry, based on phone type.

One of the leading mobile portals told me informally months ago that among some power users the company was seeing as many as 9 searchers per day. And ChaCha reports more than 30 per month on average. So there are a range of variables and experiences here that make generalizing difficult. 

But what these various numbers indicate is that mobile search -- which comprises a range of utilities and applications (411, SMS, WAP, apps) -- are growing perhaps faster than expected.

Don't Call It a 'Store': Android Announces 'Content Market' for Developers

Google/Android quickly adopted the Apple Apps Store concept as a way to showcase and distribute content and applications developed for the Android platform. However Google is taking pains to distinguish its distribution efforts from Apple's iTunes Apps Store:

Developers will be able to make their content available on an open service hosted by Google that features a feedback and rating system similar to YouTube. We chose the term "market" rather than "store" because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available. Similar to YouTube, content can debut in the marketplace after only three simple steps: register as a merchant, upload and describe your content and publish it. We also intend to provide developers with a useful dashboard and analytics to help drive their business and ultimately improve their offerings.

Google is positioning itself as a much more open (read: friendly) environment for mobile developers accordingly. It's going to trust the user community to identify the good apps and weed out the mediocre ones, in contrast to Apple's more "top-down" approach.

TomTom 'Goes Live' with New Devices, Services to Stay Ahead of Smartphones

Personal navigation device (PND) maker TomTom (which recently completed its acquisition of TeleAtlas) introduced a new series of "GO Live" devices and services earlier this year. Those will become available in selected European markets (UK, Germany, France, Netherlands and Switzerland) shortly. TomTom is teamed up with Google to provide local search results on devices as part of that larger suite of services.

Before TomTom, Dash partnered with Yahoo to deliver local search results in car. One of its more innovative services, TomTom allows users on the road to correct maps and incorporates those changes and corrections into its network for all users.  

PND makers are transforming their once narrow navigation devices into much broader and more useful Internet-connected utilities in a bid to head off smartphones, which promise broader functionality and increasingly GPS-enabled maps and directions. Garmin, which also has a relationship with Google, has even developed a smartphone.

As PNDs become Internet access devices and more (selected TomTom devices double as audio book readers), they become much more interesting because of their larger screens. But they will need to continue to innovate and evolve to stay ahead of smartphones, which threaten to render them superfluous.

As I wrote in the preceding post, a new wave of non-phone, mobile Internet devices may emerge that also squeeze traditional PNDs and are tied into next-generation mobile broadband networks such as WiMax and LTE. 

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Maps and directions remain one of the "killer apps" for mobile. In May of this year comScore found the following in a survey of 2,000 US mobile users:

Picture 3

In addition, we just found in a survey (n=789) that "access to maps & directions" was somewhat or very important to 45% of mobile users, as one of the top mobile content categories.

Sprint's XOHM Readies for Baltimore Launch

Sprint has formally announced its XOHM (pronounced zoam) WiMAX mobile broadband service. It will launch in Baltimore, MD in September. WiMax faces a challenge from LTE, which AT&T and Verizon have adopted as their 4G network standard. But WiMax is out of the gate sooner. Consumers, of course, don't care about any of this. They just want access on the go. 

XOHM will eventually be incorporated into Clearwire, the mobile broadband provider majority owned by Sprint but also invested in by Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

XOHM

XOHM is an ISP replacement offering that allows people -- rather than using a network card -- to tap into Internet access wherever they are in the coverage area(s), which should eventually be national and even international. It renders hotspots obsolete for subscribers.

There are lots of interesting mobile implications for non-phone mobile Internet access products such as Apple's iPod Touch and Nokia's Internet Tablet(s) and so on. Such products can also potentially become cell-phone substitutes with mobile VoIP products (Skype, Fring, Jaxtr, iCall, etc). Once national coverage is established we should see development of a range of interesting mobile Internet access devices that are not cellphones.

XOHM has also done something interesting for its homescreen or start page. It's formed relationships with a host of local content and infrastructure providers:

  • uLocate Communications (which operates the mobile Where portal)
  • Yelp 
  • Eventful 
  • Topix 
  • NAVTEQ 
  • AccuWeather
  • Openwave Systems 
  • Autodesk Inc.

These companies will provide content to XOHM users that will automatically change based on location (in coverage areas). It will thus eliminate the need to input location in most cases, unless you're looking for a business, event or restaurant somewhere else. There are also significant implications for greater location precision with ad targeting on the Internet for subscribers.

All of these scenarios of course depend on consumer adoption and continued rollouts by Sprint/Clearwire of the service. But the benefits to consumers, assuming affordability, are significant: perpetual access across devices (laptop, mobile) for a single price. 

US Now Global Mobile Web Leader

Conventional wisdom has always seen the US as a laggard in mobile Internet and general wireless usage. But that perception is now out of step with multiple findings. Yesterday Bango Wireless put out a press release that said US mobile Internet usage, on a percentage basis, will surpass the UK this month.

Here are Bango's mobile Internet access figures in the top five countries:

  • UK at 19.35%
  • US at 18.88%
  • India at 10.82%
  • South Africa at 8.82%
  • Indonesia at 4.08%

Previously Nielsen Mobile ranked the US as the top mobile Internet country with 15.6% mobile Internet penetration.

Nielsen mobile penetration numbers Q1 2008 

Source: Nielsen Mobile, Q1 2008 

A recently completed survey we did with Multiplied Media (n=789) on a range of mobile topics indicated higher levels of US mobile Internet access than either the Nielsen or the Bango data above.

Evite Mobile Adds Directions with Dial Directions

Evite offers send to phone event details that result in a text message. Now that message will include a telephone number for speech-enabled turn-by-turn directions. The user calls (or clicks to call) the number, offers a start address and then receives directions via text. The destination is already identified by the system so the user doesn't have to repeat or specify it.

Here's the sequence:

Desktop send to phone
send to phone
DD number in evite

 It's a very useful extension of the Evite send to phone service. Dial Directions provides a similar "voice-activated directions" capability for IAC sister company Ask.com's mobile search.

Here's the Dial Directions' release and a demo video.


UK Smartphone Users Broadly Explore Mobile Internet

British Telecom recently conducted a study of some of its BT ToGo smartphone (an HTC Windows Mobile phone) user behaviors and attitudes. The sample size and other respondent information wasn't disclosed.

Here are some of the top-level findings:

  • 45% have browsed the mobile Internet for goods or services
  • 33% have checked prices "online" while in stores
  • 33% said that their mobile devices "have helped them to make well-informed buying decisions"
  • 20% have made an e-commerce purchase using their mobile phones in the past three months

Other findings:

  • 20% of respondents said they now spend less time surfing the Internet at work because they use their mobile phones
  • Respondents on average spend 2.5 hours each week on the mobile Internet

Compare "time spent" data from comScore's M:Metrics (May, 08) for US and UK users:

Time spent mobile Internet

Source: comScore (May, 2008)

Back to the BT survey data. Here are the major categories of websites visited by respondents:

  • Search sites: 71%
  • News: 66%
  • Travel and transport: 45%
  • Entertainment: 42%
  • Sport: 37%
  • Price comparison sites: 22%

In addition, 34% of survey respondents said that "their mobile device has improved their social life because it makes it easier to stay in touch."

T-Mobile's Coming 'gPhone'

The Android Guys blog shows the apparently forthcoming G1 handset from T-Mobile, which will be an HTC built Android phone. Here's the diagram:

G1 Diagram

Google back
Image Credits: Android Guys

What's most interesting, from my point of view, is the Google logo on the back of the phone -- effectively making it a "gPhone." If the Google brand is successful selling the phone (when it finally appears) others handsets running Android will likely feature "Google" in some prominent way as well.

It all remains speculation at this point, however. 

Google and Verizon Wireless: Mobile Search for the Rest of Us?

This post is further comment on Greg Sterling's previous note:

Last week, Wall Street Journal reporter Amol Sharma reported that search giant Google was in serious talks with Verizon Wireless to establish a relationship "which would make Google the default search provider on Verizon devices and give it a share of ad revenue". According to Sharma, based on talks with an executive close to the deal, the arrangement "is aimed at dramatically simplifying what is now a confusing set of search options for cellphone users." In other words, establishing a deeper relationship with Google is part of Verizon Wireless' competitive response to AT&T Mobility's iPhone-based offerings in association with Apple. According to the story, this represents Verizon's rejection of a role for Microsoft and its advertising platform as the default search on Verizon's devices. It should also be a boon for Medio Systems, which will continue to operate an "all-in-one" aggregater presenter of mobile content from a multiplicity of Web service providers.

In a slew of other coverage, discussion surrounded the thaw in a chilly relationship between Google, playing its role as chief proponent of open networks for wireless application and service providers and Verizon as adherent to the transformative model for licensees of wireless spectrum. Frankly, this appears to be more ado about a marketing agreement than is warranted. If Verizon is looking for Google "exclusive" as a source of product differentiation, that's not happening. Steve Jobs and Apple were smart enough to roll out the iPhone with access to the most popular web applications "on the glass". That included YouTube, Maps (based on Google Maps), iTunes, Weather, and its own AppsStore. Google was also embedded as the default search engine in the iPhone's rendition of the Safari Web browser. I'm not privy to what the considerations are in terms of division of advertising revenues (among Apple, AT&T Mobility and Google) for such preferential treatment of Google in the iPhone click-stream, but it's already working for all parties involved.

As for the implications for Local Mobile Search, we've already catalogued a few dozen iPhone apps  that take advantage of geo-location, social networking, reviews and the like. For the most useful, it is the creative marriage of geopositioning, the gravitometer and (thankfully) access to the faster Wi-Fi links by the approved third-party application vendors that make for the best user experience. A Verzon Wireless/Google joint offering doesn't get you there, yet.

Nothing New about Potential Verizon-Google Deal

Since last week people have been buzzing about a potential mobile deal between Verizon and Google. There's nothing new about the deal in terms of a carrier-search engine relationship. Google and Microsoft have such relationships with Sprint, and AT&T and Yahoo also have an advertising relationship. There are similar carrier-search partnerships outside the US (Google-Vodafone, Yahoo-multiple carriers). What's remarkable or noteworthy about the rumored deal is that it comes after some fairly harsh public rhetoric between the two companies.

For those who didn't already read about it, here are the broad strokes of the potential deal, from the Wall Street Journal:

Verizon Communications Inc. is nearing an agreement with Google Inc. on a wide-ranging partnership, according to people familiar with the situation, in what could be a much-needed jolt for the anemic mobile search business.

It's the latest sign that telecom companies are finally conceding that their homegrown search services have stalled -- and that they need help from the Internet's big guns. Carriers have been reluctant to team up with established Internet players, not wanting to hand over a potentially lucrative stream of advertising revenue.

The deal under discussion, which would make Google the default search provider on Verizon devices and give it a share of ad revenue, is aimed at dramatically simplifying what is now a confusing set of search options for cellphone users. Today, users have to go to different places to look up services such as ringtones, restaurants and Web pages. Verizon wants to create a new search platform that would be a one-stop shop.

The trend toward operator-search engine deals is problematic for the range of "white label" search vendors whose central value proposition is to help carriers defend against search engines. But the trend also reflects a sober recognition on the part of the carriers that (at least) smartphone users are typically going to blow past carrier search to get to their preferred search provider. Indeed, these carrier-search partnerships are part of a larger movement to "open up" the carrier deck, which is both smart and inevitable in the wake of the iPhone. Such moves in the US include SprintWeb and T-Mobile's statements about building an iPhone-like apps store. Verizon has similar ambitions to build a developer community.

Previously, Verizon announced that it would support Android, even as it joined the rival LiMo Foundation. Google has likely offered a sweet rev share or other terms to Verizon that have produced something of a change of heart for the carrier. But Google is pursuing its long-term interests; it needs the largest US carrier (with the Alltel acquisition) to support Android. 

As presented previously in our report, Will Google Dominate the Mobile Web?, the company already has a significant lead in the US mobile search market: 


Nielsen

Source: Nielsen (6/08), n=undisclosed 


LMS 1

 Source: LMS (12/07), caution small sample


LMS 2

 Source: LMS/Multiplied Media (8/08), caution small sample

A deal that would incorporate Google prominently into Verizon's "deck" or otherwise promote Google mobile search and services to Verizon mobile subscribers would likely further advance Google's position in the US market.