The recent slew of milestone deals pushes mobile search (and more importantly, monetization models such as pay-per-call) to the fore, but also clouds the key issue of usability. Put simply, the industry must vastly improve the end-user experience and make mobile search the de facto interface to information in the wireless Web that it is in the Internet. There?s some progress to report? but we?ve got a long way to go, and recent figures from M:Metrics, which tracks mobile search usage in the US on a monthly basis, illustrate that mobile search is growing in every market measured, except Germany. According to the firm?s August survey, the percentage of mobile subscribers who accessed search in the month were:
US: 5.1%UK: 8%Spain: 4.4%France: 4.4%Germany: 2.3%
By comparison, the June mobile search stats were: US 4.6%, UK 7.8%, Spain 3.9%, France 3.9% and Germany 2.2%.
The biggest barrier to mobile search could be the mobile device itself ? or more specifically screen size and small, tedious keypads. To tackle this, some players are lining up to harness the number one no-brainer input method: human voice. Verizon Wireless recently teamed up with Medio Systems, a white-label search provider, for a mobile search scheme that - among other things ? allows consumers to use voice to find and purchase content on the operator portal. The New York Times reports Cingular Wireless and Tellme Networks, a provider of automated directory services, have joined to plan a 411 information service beginning in 2007 that will use Tellme?s voice recognition technology to enhance mobile search. The new Cingular service will make it possible for users to find movie times and locations and to purchase tickets and obtain driving directions. Information can be delivered as text-to-speech or as a simple text message delivered to the phone.
So, will the spoken word become the standard way to search for information on-the-go? The Kelsey Group thinks so. Its latest report argues the voice search market is ?poised for a major explosion in growth initiated by emerging free directory assistance (DA) players and catalyzed by the inevitable entry of at least one search portal by 2007.? It forecasts portal-backed voice search will reach 1.45 billion queries in 2010, representing 18% of total DA call volume in the US.