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iPhone apps are Google’s biggest threat in mobile search May 25, 2009

Posted by hruf in Mobile & Gadgets.
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Google created the Android mobile OS because it wants its search engine to remain relevant as the world migrates more toward mobile computing. But Google’s biggest challenge in mobile search is not other search engines or platforms, it’s apps — particularly iPhone apps.

When I filled up the iPhone with mobile apps as part of my recent experiment, one of the first apps that I downloaded and put on the iPhone home screen was the Google app. Since Google is the home page on all the PCs and laptops that I work on, I assumed my behavior on the iPhone would be similar to the computer. I was wrong.

Once I downloaded a fleet of useful iPhone apps, I quickly discovered that I used Google far less on the iPhone than I do on a computer – even over Wi-Fi, and even when doing many of the same activities. That is partly due to the fact that mobile search needs to improve, but it is also do to the nature of the smartphone itself.

When I’m sitting at a computer, I typically use Google at least 2-3 times per hour. It’s usually the first place I go to get information. Google is not as much of a sleuth as it is a concierge. For example, when I’m pulling up a site, I often don’t use a bookmark or type the URL into the address bar. It’s just quicker to open my home page (Google) and type in the company name. This behavior is a bit lazy, but it’s effective because it’s the path of least resistance.

However, the opposite is true on smartphones — especially the iPhone with so many specialized apps and no qwerty keyboard. In my tests with the iPhone, I discovered that Google is usually my last resort for finding information. In fact, I typically only use Google search 2-3 times per day from the iPhone.

Typing is just not as fast on a smartphone (even with the full qwerty keyboard on BlackBerry). Pointing, scrolling, and selecting are all much easier and quicker. As a result, many of the things that I would usually do with a Google search from my computer, I do through an app on the iPhone. For example:

  • Instead of looking up a business address on Google, I use the universal White Pages app on the iPhone
  • Instead of looking up a local business category (e.g. “Computer recycling”) in Google, I use the Yellow Pages app, which will even automatically calculate my location via GPS, if I allow it
  • Instead of looking up a local taxi company when I’m traveling, I can use the Taxi Magic app on the iPhone (again, it will automatically get my location from GPS if I allow it)
  • Instead of looking up local restaurants in Google, I can use the Yelp iPhone app
  • Instead of searching for the professional credentials of a business associate on Google and being unsure if the results will have pages that might not work well on a smartphone, I can use the Linkedin or Facebook iPhone apps to do a quick people search.
  • Instead of using news aggregators like Google News and Techmeme – which I tend to use on my PC – on the iPhone I usually go straight to news sites with strong iPhone apps or pages, such as AP News, Reuters, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and MoneyWatch (a CBS sister site to TechRepublic).

The last example points to one of the reasons why mobile apps trump mobile search. With mobile search you don’t always know whether the stuff you click on in the search results will be viewable or functional on your smartphone. But if you have a mobile app or site that’s designed for that smartphone then you can be relatively confident that a search using that app will quickly return results (and links) that are optimized for a smartphone.

Read more on the following page. It is a quite interesting article about usage of apps on phones.

via iPhone apps are Google’s biggest threat in mobile search | Tech Sanity Check | TechRepublic.com.

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