Social Networks

Games Most Popular Apps on iPhone

When the iPhone and apps store first launched it was unlikely that the device and its sibling the iPod Touch would become such a hot mobile gaming platform. Consistently, however, the most downloaded apps are games, according to the "top lists" on the iTunes store and comScore, which put out some new data on the subject yesterday.

The following chart reflects comScore data on the top iPhone apps for February: 

top apps

Among the few non-games here, in order of popularity, are:

  1. Facebook
  2. MySpace Mobile
  3. Google Earth
  4. Pandora
  5. AIM
  6. Flashlight
  7. Zippo lighter
  8. Movies/Flixter 
  9. Remote

Here are today's top free and paid apps, according to Apple (note Skype at #2 and Yahoo! Mobile at #10):



comScore also offered the following observations about the apps audience:

  • They are 32 percent more likely than average to belong to households earning at least $100,000 per year. This income segment represented 35 percent of all app users.
  • More than half (54 percent) of app users are in households making at least $75,000 per year.
  • They were at least three times more likely than the average Internet user to visit several popular gaming sites, including, IGN Entertainment, GameStop, AddictingGames,, Blizzard Entertainment, SourceForge and
  • They were also at least three times more likely than average to visit several popular social/communication/entertainment sites, including: AOL Instant Messenger, Hulu,,, iMeem and

Mo-Soc Nets Brightkite and Limbo Merge

Two independent location-based mobile social networking providers BrightKite and Limbo have merged. The Brightkite brand will be the surviving one, but the company will be headquartered in Burlingame, CA (Limbo's offices). The companies also have access to the $9 funding round that Limbo recently received.

The two services combined will have several million reported users on a global basis. Both offer location based advertising and their merger is an attempt to gain more scale on the user side and to offer a stronger play for advertisers.


Mobile social networking is a segment ripe for consolidation, as the combination above suggests. It's a space that will be dominated (it already is) by established Internet brands such as Facebook and MySpace.

There will be a few independent companies that succeed but most will not. Loopt is probably the highest profile independent mobile-LBS company in the US, while Mocospace is on the pure social networking side. However the quality of ad inventory on Mocospace has been repeatedly criticized in private conversations I've had with people.

Recently Whrrl, a mobile-centric site like Yelp reinvented itself around the concept of storytelling (tied to place). As more and more people adopt the mobile Internet, the desktop brands have the advantage of a built-in user base. The audiences are thus theirs to lose. Independent, mobile-only companies must offer a user experience that is especially compelling and/or the PC-based companies moving into mobile must essentially botch the mobile user experience to create an opening for the independents.

Expect more such consolidation in the coming months. (As they used to say in the earlier days of blogging, hat tip to Perry Evans for alerting me to the merger via Twitter.)

Mobile to Make Twitter 'Ubiquitous'

Someone said to me last week that he thought Twitter was "primarily a desktop thing." If you listened to last week's Stephen Colbert interview of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, you'd have heard how mobile-centric Twitter actually is, from inception to its future ambition.

Much of the discussion of whether Twitter came from and where it's going focused on mobile phones. 

The inspiration behind Twitter is instant messaging "connected to mobile texting such that it was available everywhere -- totally ubiquitious," said Stone. 

Where do the 140 characters come from? SMS messaging according to Stone: "The limit on texts are 160 characters and we wanted to reserve a little bit of room for a username."  And he specifically cites mobile as part of the larger growth strategy for the company. "There are over four billion mobile phones," observed Stone. 

Though not asked, Stone impliedly rejects the notion of an acquisition: "We're going to become a strong, profitable independent company." 

Openwave: Social Network Demand High on Mobile Devices

Mobile platform and services provider Openwave presented a range of data in its "mobile Insiights" report for April. Some of those data are reflected in a press release put out today. The data are behavioral rather than survey based:

Social networking remains the number one area of interest to mobile internet users with Facebook and MySpace being the top two search terms on both Google and Yahoo! OneSearch. In terms of average hits per session, MySpace leads Facebook by nearly 46 percent, suggesting that MySpace could become the preferred choice of mobile communication for a particular segment of an operator subscriber base and displace some of the most frequently used email offerings. The social networking trend presents a unique opportunity for operators to partner with these leading social networking sites through co-branding efforts with a view to generating incremental revenues from messaging generated from the social networking sites. 

Many of the items in the report make carrier centric recommendations. Among the findings, engagement is highest with MySpace, followed by Yahoo!, Facebook and Google.

Top search queries on Google mobile site (assume sanitized): 

  1. MySpace
  2. Facebook
  3. YouTube
  4. Movies
  5. Gmail
  6. Weather
  7. Craigslist
  8. ESPN
  9. EBay
  10. Weather

Top search queries on Yahooo! oneSearch: 

  1. MySpace
  2. Facebook
  3. Google
  4. YouTube
  5. Yahoo
  6. funformobile
  7. Myxer
  8. EBay
  9. ESPN
  10. Gmail

 Compare Opera data, which includes some of the sites above but others not mentioned by Openwave:


Both sets of data reflect high demand and usage of social networks in mobile. However, as a percentage of the overall mobile subscriber base the number of mobile social network users is 10% or less based on our survey data. The numbers we've found have grown since last year but not as dramatically as the rankings above suggest. 

Beyond this Openwave found that carrier portals still see much more traffic (monthly uniques) than the "off deck" mobile Internet. Here's the Openwave chart:

Openwave mobile traffic comparison
Source: Openwave (3/08), US mobile traffic

On smartphones, that distribution would be quite different. But the majority of phones in the market are not smartphones and so carriers still see quite a bit of traffic. Over time there will be erosion unless they figure out value-added services and incentives to retain users.

Openwave also published a comparison of response rates on different mobile ad networks:

CTRs OpenWave
Eventually we're likely to see mobile response rates (on the display side) more closely mirror online response, which brings me to a diatribe on clicks that I'll save for later.

comScore: UK iPhone Users 4X More Likely to Surf the Mobile Web

As it has done with US iPhone users, comScore has released data on iPhone users and their behavior in the UK. Here is the chart:

comScore UK iPhone usage

As with their US cohort, iPhone users outpace other smartphone users in all areas and by huge margins traditional mobile phone users. For example, almost 80% of iPhone owners access the mobile Internet vs. 19.8% of conventional mobile phone users. 

Demographics (per comScore): 75% are males, mostly between the ages of 18-44. Smartphone ownership also typically skews male in the UK, with males comprising 65 per cent of the audience.

Opera: Mobile Web Stats for February

Between the monthly AdMob and Opera reports we get great behavioral data on mobile Internet users across the globe. Today Opera put out its latest "State of the Mobile Web" report.

Here are the "top 10" site lists for the US and UK:


Yahoo!'s decline should be of concern to the company and should encourage Yahoo! to get its new Yahoo! Mobile app/site into the market as soon as possible. 


As with the AdMob data, this represents the Opera mobile/mini universe and is not necessarily identical to the "mobile Internet. However, directionally it's going to be accurate. 

Citysearch: Mobile Users More Likely to Write Reviews

I spoke to Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti yesterday about the Citysearch redesign and the mobile app. Among other things he expressed surprise about the volume and quality of reviews coming from the company's mobile app. The verbatim quote is “I’m blown away with the number of reviews" coming from mobile. 

The company also told me that "a user who comes to from a mobile device is 5x more likely to write a review than a user who comes to through the website."

Whrrl Reinvents Itself with '2.0' Launch

Mobile-social network Whrrl was essentially a reinvention of Yelp with location awareness on the mobile handset. There was a PC site as well but the company's focus was on mobile. On Friday Pelago (Whrrl's developer-parent) relaunched the site with a new look, new positioning and a new iPhone app. 

The map is no longer the central metaphor for the site, although location is still a central element of the experience. Finding things to do and places to go is no longer the site's reason for being. Instead the emphasis now is on telling stories: Twitter-like missives combined with images.

Whrrl PC

VentureBeat and CNET have largely positive reviews of the changes and the new app. But another view might be that Whrrl's shift and repositioning were compelled by necessity and the idea that as a mobile-social/LBS site there were too many competitors already and the company wasn't getting adoption. That's got to be partly the case. 

Whrrl iphone

But here's what CEO Jeff Holden said on the company's blog about the changes:

Whrrl was a very worthy experiment, but we learned a couple of important things that led us to conclude we should build a different product.

First, people don’t really like writing reviews very much. Only a very small percentage of users actually wanted to take the time to write a review. When we talked to our users, they told us that reviews are too impersonal and they’re just not very engaging. They told us that what they really wanted to share was their stories. The second big learning was that gratification in Whrrl came too slowly — before a new user would start seeing social discovery benefit, they had to contribute quite a bit. This really had its root in the first point: since sharing reviews wasn’t very motivating for people, they needed a greater reward to do it. And truly getting to the discovery benefit was a bridge too far.

I'm sure Holden is accurately representing what Whrrl's users said. Yet, while it's true that only a small percentage (<10%) of people write reviews, more established sites like Yelp contradict Holden's generalization. GoodRec, a mobile-centric ratings site, also said that it's seeing 50% of its reviews coming from mobile (mostly the iPhone). It's likely that Whrrl as it was constituted before the change didn't give users enough of a reason to use the site (vs. more established competitors). 

The redesign and repositioning may turn out to be a great move and help the site really take off. But that remains to be seen.

The new site effectively abandons the idea that it's creating an independent network and seeks to leverage Facebook and Twitter directly, although that has been true for a few months. It also seeks to leverage the "culture of updates" that Twitter created and that Facebook is also seeking to capitalize on.

The new site is no longer like Yelp or Citysearch or other local review sites. But now that Whrrl has become more like Twitter, the question is: is there enough here that's different to motivate people to use it?

Facebook Launches Connect for the iPhone

Yesterday (Saturday) at the SXSW event in Austin Facebook formally launched Facebook Connect for the iPhone. For those unfamiliar with Connect, which competes with OpenID, it allows you to use Facebook's sign-in credentials rather than those of the particular site. It also integrates your activities on the third party site into your newsfeed. And your Facebook network may be integrated into the app to varying degrees. 

The company said that the following apps/developers were participating at launch:

  • Agency Wars
  • Binary Game
  • iBowl
  • Live Poker
  • Tap Tap Revenge 2
  • Urbanspoon
  • Who Has the Biggest Brain?
  • Whrrl 

Taking Urbanspoon as an example . . . when you launch the app, you're offered the opportunity to "invite friends" and share opinions. This "invite friends" functionality has been there for some time. But it's tedious and "manual." You add email contacts individually. Now, however, you can "connect with Facebook," which taps you and Urbanspoon into Facebook.

You then sign in with your Facebook credentials and can send reviews/ratings of restaurants back to your Facebook news feed (being renamed "activity stream" to emulate Twitter). Once signed in you will be able to see your Facebook friends' reviews on Urbanspoon.

Facebook Connect for the iPhone is a significant development because it extends the reach of Facebook Connect into the iPhone (an increasingly important platform) but it also adds an immediate social layer to participating iPhone apps. As with Urbanspoon, some iPhone apps/publishers have been trying to build their own user networks -- with limited success in most cases. 

Participating apps will also get exposure through Facebook that they wouldn't otherwise have had. Thus a new app could gain adoption in a more accelerated way or a successful app could see success further extended through Facebook.  Indeed, Facebook might help extend the life of apps that would otherwise be abandoned.

While the move is consistent with Facebook's strategy around making Connect an extension of the social network as "platform," think of this new implementation as not unlike what AdMob did in building an iPhone specific offering, which was enormously successful and helped boost the company's visibility in the market. Facebook certainly doesn't need more visibility but it's striving to become the dominant "mobile social network." Success on the iPhone, among other mobile platforms, could establish Facebook's dominance in mobile. 

If the OpenID coalition fails to match Facebook on the iPhone, it may also tip the overall balance toward Facebook in its "battle" with OpenID.

Mobile Social Networking Builds on PC Usage

When we did our mobile social networking research early last year, we found that the dominant brands online were also dominant in mobile -- despite the relatively small audience. We surmized and have repeated since then that mobile-only networks would be severly tested by bigger and better known PC-based brands as mobile social networking becomes more mainstream.

Data from Nielsen from Q4 2008 confirm the pattern:

The most popular social networks via PCs/laptops tend to be the most popular via mobile too. Facebook is the most popular in five of the six countries where Nielsen measures mobile activity – only Xing in Germany bucks this trend. Mobile applications for handsets such as Apple’s iPhone are playing a substantial role in the expanded mobile use of these networks. Soon after the launch of the 3G iPhone, Facebook, with one of the most popular iPhone applications available, surpassed MySpace in mobile usage in the U.S. visited a social network through their mobile phone in Q4 08

The headline from this broad social-networking survey is that social network activity (broadly defined) now has greater reach than e-mail by two percentage points. That's quite significant -- as is the fact that there's still considerable indifference to ads on these sites among the core "Gen Y" audience -- but the mobile angle here is what we're obviously focused on. 

The following shows the number of mobile Internet users who visited a social network on their phones:

Nielsen Mobile social network access

The data above don't show market share but it's the established brands that are leading: Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc. In fact, as mentioned in the report excerpt above, Facebook's iPhone app and its aggressiveness in mobile generally have drive additional momentum and growth vs. MySpace.


This broad, general pattern where the leading brands online take the lead in mobile is mirrored in the search market, where Google leads Yahoo!, which leads Microsoft by roughly the same percentages as online.

Mitigating variables can be a better or poorer user experience in mobile (re the online brand) or an exceptional mobile competitor. 

Google Passes on Twitter? & Android TV

TechCrunch posts the transcript of a Charlie Rose interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. In it, among other things, Schmidt talks about rumors regarding Google's potential interest in acquring Twitter and about mobile TV.

Here's what Schmidt said about Twitter:

Charlie Rose:
You also bought YouTube. You have Google news. We’re in a time now, and we’re going to talk a lot about the economy in this conversation because of the roles you have. Acquisitions come up. People are excited these days, the lost several months about Twitter. Does Google want to buy Twitter.

Eric Schmidt:
I shouldn’t talk about specific acquisitions. We’re unlikely to buy anything in the short term partly because I think prices are still high. And it’s unfortunate I think we’re in the middle of a cycle. Google is generating a lot of cash. And so we keep that cash in extremely secure banks.

Schmidt is also quite bullish on the outlook for "mobile TV":

Eric Schmidt: Well, in our case we’re building the platform that will allow the content people to do more targeted content. So you can imagine the mobile device will say, well, Eric, you watched this episode of this television show, we’ll offer you this other one. Or didn’t you forget that you already watched that episode of Charlie Rose? You should watch this other one because it’s related to the one you liked. This personal viewing experience is a fundamental thing that the Internet can do, and companies like Google can do.

People are watching more and more mobile video; whether the concept of "personalized TV" comes to fruition on mobile devices is another matter. 

When Schmidt talks about the future it's typically conceptual. He won't talk about Google's intended actions or products. He speaks generally about whether Google is seeing certain kinds of activity, etc. 

He's of course right when he speaks about the potential of mobile devices to offer customized or personalized content and programming. The context of the TV-related quote above is a discussion of the Kindle, which is itself a fascinating device and points the way to an Internet tablet distinct from current mobile smartphones. 

Schmidt's remarks about Twitter suggest that the company has considered the acquisition carefully and is evaluating how much it would take to successfully acquire it. It may not be placing as much of a value on Twitter as its investors are. Google bought two Twitter-like services (Jaiku, Zingku) and failed to develop them successfully.

Twitter is now a bona fide cultural phenomenon, however, and Google could quickly monetize its "searches" and page views. It would also preempt something that may be emerging (in the mobile context) as a partial threat to search. So we shouldn't see Schmidt's statement above as anything necessarily definitive about Google's intentions regarding Twitter. 


Related: Analytis company Ominuture is offering monitoring of "brand activity" on Twitter. I suspect it charts mentions of brands and products on Twitter and shows up or down trends.

BlackBerry Apps Store Launches (See Correction)

There's no question that BlackBerry's new apps store, "Built for BlackBerry" is critical to the longer term success of the platform. However, right now it's critical for defensive reasons mostly.

The store has launched with roughly 75 apps, about 5-7 of which (by my count) are local or about place. The apps are organized into the following categories:

  • Home
  • News & Weather
  • Sports
  • Travel & Mapping
  • Games & Entertainment
  • Music & Media
  • Lifestyle
  • Finance & Banking

BlackBerry Apps Store

The arrival of the apps store should be a boost to several of the apps providers, including Poynt, one of the few local search apps currently. Yelp competitor and mobile social site Whrrl is also there. Interestingly Poynt is under Travel & Mapping, while Whrrl is classified under lifestyle. Apparently business listings are for travel but recommendations and friend finding are for "fun."

It's quite unlikely that BlackBerry will win many new users with its apps. Rather it will help retain users and may slightly broaden its consumer appeal. 

From everything that I've seen and from individuals whom I spoken with, the Storm is largely a bust while the Bold is a big hit. The Storm was in some respects an attempt to "answer" the iPhone and appeal to sophisticated users who are not in the BlackBerry camp. But for BlackBerry to truly gain consumer adoption it will need to build other new devices that move beyond its familiar enterprise comfort zone.


Related: The iPhone apps store has apparently now crossed the 25K apps threshold

The placeholder for the Windows Mobile apps store is here

Correction: I stand corrected. I'm not a BlackBerry user so I was unaware of the site above, which I'm told has existed for some time. I'm told the true BlackBerry apps store has not in fact launched yet.

Schmidt Calls Twitter 'Poor Man's Email,' Says Mobile Will Eclipse PC Search

It's been widely reported now that Google CEO Eric Schmidt characterized Twitter -- now frequently discussed as a "threat to Google" -- as a "poor man's email" system. He made those remarks apparently during the recent Morgan Stanley technology conference. Juicy as that sound bite is, as supposed psychological evidence of the legitimacy of the threat, Schmidt's comments are unfairly being taken out of context.

Silicion Alley Insider (now Business Insider) has more context for Schmidt's remarks:

"In other words, they have aspects of an email system, but they don't have a full offering. To me, the question about companies like Twitter is: Do they fundamentally evolve as sort of a note phenomenon, or do they fundamentally evolve to have storage, revocation, identity, and all the other aspects that traditional email systems have? Or do email systems themselves broaden what they do to take on some of that characteristic?

Google initially didn't "get" the rise of social networking, reportedly passing on MySpace for $280 million before News Corp. spent twice that much. Maybe Schmidt is speaking (and thinking) about Twitter too technically and isn't focused on Twitter's value to people: it's immediacy.

Another juicy Schmidt quote, from our point of view, coming out of that same Morgan Stanley speech is the prediction that mobile search volumes will eclipse PC-based search in years, "not decades." Indeed, we agree.

Our research has reflected growing search volumes and levels of engagement that are far in excess of the 9-10 average mobile searches per month figure that's been attributed to the MMA and that Nielsen reported six or so months ago. 

In developing countries that day will come much sooner. In the US, UK and other parts of Europe it may take 7-10 years but it is inevitable. 

Interesting comScore Online-Mobile 'Cross Platform' User Study

In a study conducted by comScore this past October the firm sought to understand the relationship between online and mobile user behavior. The firm found something interesting: heavy PC users tended to use mobile less than light PC users. From the release out yesterday:

Twenty percent of PC Internet users in the cross-media panel were classified as heavy users, and accounted for 43 percent of overall page views, while 50 percent were light users and accounted for 18 percent of page views. The balance was classified as medium users.

The study also found that mobile Internet users are more likely to be male (58 percent) and to be 18 to 44 years of age. Possibly reflecting this demographic skew, heavy mobile Internet users show a high engagement with Web sites that provide information that is appealing to people with more active lifestyles:

  • Regional / local content
  • Entertainment
  • Sports information

In contrast, light mobile Internet users are heavier users of the PC to access Internet content and are heavily engaged with the following types of Internet content:

  • Education
  • Conversational Media
  • Travel
  • Business / Finance
  • Retail

One of the conclusions is that mobile increases ad reach or may reach new or complementary audiences. That was already generally established by a prior Nielsen study.

This is an interesting result and I'm not sure what to make of the "heavy PC" and "light PC" inverse-relationship-to-mobile finding. I think over time there will be less of a discrepancy and more movement toward mobile. There will also be less of a distinction between the genders, preferred online vs. mobile content and, in general, less of a mobile-PC divide. Offers Improved Caller ID for Android

We had a very interesting wide-ranging conversation and update yesterday with's Kevin Nakao. We discussed the success of the company's iPhone app and the movement of the business toward the previously announced "connectory" conceptual model.

Today the company introduced version 2 of its Android app. blogs about the improvements and benefits:

  • More names to ID more calls, including mobile numbers! (This was our #1 request from users.) This means a better match rate.
  • Telemarketing alerts will flash during calls from known telemarketers. You’ll never have to take a research survey during dinnertime again!
  • Look up numbers on demand with the Reverse Phone feature. I use this all the time when people text me and I don’t recognize the phone number. And it’s great when you miss calls or want to update names and addresses on your phone without typing in a bunch of information.
  • Better connection handling and performance means faster Caller ID results.
  • A great new look and layout, including our new WhitePages branding and colors. You’ll be seeing more of this soon!

Here's a video that shows a demo of how it works.

There are free and paid versions of the apps (the improved version is paid). The paid app has many more numbers, among several other differences indicated above.

AOL Launches "My Places" on MapQuest for Mobile

Today AOL/MapQuest launched "My Places" for MapQuest4Mobile. My Places launched online last year as "My MapQuest," offering personalization to PC users of the MapQuest site. It allows users to save maps and directions online and, now, access that content in mobile. It offers a much richer experience than standard "send to mobile" online maps functionality.

The renaming of the product captures its intent in a more intuitive way according to Christian Dwyer, Senior Vice President and General Manager, MapQuest. Dwyer and I spoke about a range of things associated with the mobile launch and evolution of the MapQuest site online.

There are two primary mobile products from MapQuest:

  • MapQuest4Mobile
  • MapQuest Navigator (a paid turn-by-turn GPS application at $7.99 per mo.) 

MapQuest4Mobile is a free application basically is available for BlackBerry devices today. It launched in September and Dwyer said that on a limited number of handsets he's seen 15% month over month growth. He added that MapQuest4Mobile would quickly expanding rapidly to other devices, including the iPhone and Android by Q2. Today MapQuest offers a special iPhone-optimized version of the site, accessible through mobile Safari.

Dwyer said that his team sees convergence going forward and that they're striving for a uniform experience whether on the PC or in mobile. 

Dwyer and I also spoke about some of the developments at Bebo and what's now being called the AOL People network, which includes the AIM property. There are some pretty interesting scenarios -- provided they can be executed -- involving mobile, location and sharing/social. 

After a long period of inertia, MapQuest is moving to upgrade and improve the user experience. My Places on MapQuest4Mobile is just one of a string of recent announcements that involves a new MapQuest PC homepage and MapQuest Local online, which is a compelling product that will probably make its way into mobile in the future. 

Another development today, MapQuest Local launched a concert tracker widget that pushes local concert information to users based on default location. 


Google: A Million Users for Latitude in Week One

According to an item published in FierceMobileContent, "more than a million wireless subscribers signed up for Google's new mobile friend finder Latitude in its first week according to Vic Gundotra, the web services giant's vice president of engineering." Gundotra was speaking on a panel at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.

That's an amazing number and reflective of Google's immense reach. And it predates release of the iPhone version. 

Here's our previous post on Latitude when it launched. We've also written a client-only report on it.

Ultimately, "mobile social networking" will be dominated by several sites with an established online presence and audience critical mass. A "social layer," however, will be present on most mobile applications and smaller mobile networks may be able to survive or even thrive with focused and unique services or functionality. 

Those existing smaller players that simply duplicate or seek to recreate the offerings of larger or established entities will have difficulty gaining mainstream adoption given the push of Facebook, MySpace and players like Google into the segment. 

MySpace Putting New Emphasis on Mobile

MySpace, now the number two social network on a global basis, is saying that it expects 50% of its traffic "in a few years" to come from mobile devices. In that spirit the company announced a new mobile site as well as deals this week with Nokia and Palm. It's trying to integrate with all major smartphone platforms.

Currently, according to reports, 15% of MySpace's traffic comes from mobile devices. 

Facebook has said it has four million active daily users via mobile devices and 25 million mobile users overall.

Mobile social networking (or more precisely mobile access to social networks) is still relatively novel but gaining in popularity. Established online networks such as Facebook and MySpace are likely to dominate the field though a small number of mobile-only networks may breakout and succeed -- or may be acquired for their platforms. 


Related: MySpace's $900 million contract with Google ends next year, with MySpace revenues to suffer as a result in all likelihood. If MySpace suddenly offers a ton of mobile page impressions that it seeks to monetize it may contribute to a potential mobile ad inventory glut, similar to online display advertising -- driving prices down.  

Yahoo! Upgrades Mobile Experience with New 'Yahoo! Mobile' Application

Yahoo! made what it says is a major announcement in Barcelona: Yahoo! content and services are being organized into a new "Yahoo! Mobile" offering. It will apparently present a more consistent look & feel and user experience across platforms than has been true with Yahoo!'s several mobile applications and Internet offerings to date.

According to the announcement:

With a rich design and interactivity that leverages the capabilities of today's mobile devices, Yahoo! Mobile will offer an open environment within which consumers can bring together their favorite content and services from across the Internet. Consumers will be able to:

  • Discover: via results from Yahoo!'s award-winning mobile search, editor-selected content, and new maps tools.
  • Stay Connected: through access to their email and social network accounts from the most popular Web providers, as well as instant messaging, address book and calendar tools.
  • Stay Informed: by bringing together favorite content - websites, sports teams, news sources, RSS feeds, weather, stocks, horoscopes and more - into a single location.

All this is consistent with Yahoo!'s Open Strategy online and thematically consistent with what Yahoo! has been trying to do in mobile up to this point. It's not quite clear but Yahoo! Go, it's mobile client appears to be a casualty of the changes or at least marginalized by the changes. I'll explore this further when I speak to Yahoo!

I wrote early today at Search Engine Land that this announcement appeared to be a reorganization and rebranding of existing Yahoo! mobile applications and assets. I was assured subsequently by a spokesperson for the company that my characterization or perception was incorrect, and that this is a major upgrade.

Yahoo! Mobile will offer a relatively constitent user experience across three categories: the mobile Internet, iPhone and other smartphones. The release doesn't mention it but apparently that latter category also includes Android. 

In addition, Yahoo! is bundling in the Opera Mini browser is its "smartphones" version of the new Yahoo! Mobile client. In addition it's emphasizing its widget development platform, which will make for an iPhone-like apps environment within the Yahoo! application itself. 

Personalization, which was possible before, also takes center stage in the announcement. The mobile Web and iPhone versions will be available next month in the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, with other markets rolling out later. The general smartphone version will come out in May reportedly. 

Page views and content will be monetized by Yahoo! display advertising.


Update: Here's a video demostrating the iPhone version of the new Yahoo! Mobile. 

NY Times on Maps, 'Augmented Reality' and LBS in Mobile

John Markoff, a terrifically thoughtful writer on technology for the NY Times, has written a sweeping piece on mobile mapping, navigation, LBS and augmented reality. It touches on most of the issues and possibilities for "local mobile search" as a metaphor for finding things locally on a mobile device. 

Most fascinating to me is the notion of "augmented reality," which exists already to varying degrees in Japan and somewhat on the Android compass function. This is a very strong future direction for mobile mapping and LBS. Imagine holding up your camera at a restaurant from the outside and seeing all the reviews for that restaurant. That's a very mundane example. Imagine doing that at a store and seeing what brands were on sale on the inside, etc.

Something along these lines is the reconciliation of the realities of privacy and user behavior with the long-held LBS "Starbucks coupon" fantasy. Regardless, such use cases exist or are not far away.

I've long been fascinated by the "point and search" functionality that already exists from GeoVector, NeoMedia, SnapTell, Mobot and others. There's keyboard/keypad as a query entry mechanism and more recently voice search (e.g., Vlingo, Tellme, Google, Nuance, etc.). But the camera on a smartphone represents another input system that may prove equally if not more powerful. ShopSavvy on Android, as well as other bar code and QR code readers, are starting to gain attention and some adoption in the US.

I could be mistaken about the emergence of augmented reality and/or camera-phone based search functionality in the US but I don't think I am. It's really just a question of time.