The smartphone becomes a search phone

26. 01. 2010 | / | Comments [0]

While debates and headlines about smartphones in 2010 are likely to concentrate on supremacy among devices, manufacturers, and operating platforms1, the most important battle may fall outside of the radar screens of both analysts and the press—leadership in mobile search. Planning for the future

Despite mobile search’s modest projected revenues—US$1 to $2 billion2—in 2010, providers are expected to spend several times that amount to strategically position their companies to exploit future income streams. By year-end 2010, search is likely to be one of the five most-used smartphone applications. And smartphone shipments by 2012 could pass the half-billion mark3, with search expected to generate the bulk of the $7.2 billion mobile advertising market4.

Enthusiasm over mobile search is also likely to be driven by recent improvements and near-term potential. Some aspects of mobile search may be superior to search via PC by the end of 2010. This should mitigate concerns that mobile searches might simply substitute for searches from a fixed device. That is, good-enough mobile search on smartphones combined with the impulsive nature of many searches should cause aggregate searches to rise. Users with both fixed and mobile Internet devices are likely to perform 10 percent more searches than fixed-only Internet users.

Bottom line

Although the contest is unlikely to be settled in 2010, within three years or so, the gap between the leading players in search and those lower down may have become insurmountable. The central role of search to future mobile platforms implies that revenue sharing arrangements are likely to be key to successful business models5.
Going forward, subsidies on smartphones may be co-funded by operators and search engine platforms. Developers will need to offer various user interfaces for a variety of user environments and consider how best to adapt search to the unique characteristics of the mobile experience. A variety of technologies would need to be integrated, such as voice recognition6, for those driving vehicles. Mobile search should integrate with searches performed on other platforms, particularly PCs. Developers should also consider developing search engine platforms that work across multiple operating systems.

1Report: Microsoft, Linux to dominate smart phones by 2010, ZDNet Asia, 21 February 2006:,39044192,39311380,00.htmand Verizon Droid vs. iPhone 3GS Side-by-Side Camera Showdown, The iPhone Blog, 4 November 2009:; and What I Like and Dislike About the Verizon Droid, jk OnTheRun, 6 November 2009:

2US Mobile Search Ad Revenues to Reach $1.4B in 2012, Marketing Charts, 11 September 2007:

3Infonetics: Smartphone sales to overtake standard mobile phones by 2012, Telecom Engine, 6 November 2009:

4 Mobile Ad Network JumpTap Goes After Google, The Business Insider, 15 April 2009:

5 Microsoft Signs Mobile Ad Deal With Hyatt, mocoNews, 22 June 2009:

6Verbalize! Google Mobile Search gets Speech Recognition, OnlyGizmos, 3 November 2009:; and Voice recognition gets “cloudy,” but is it the “new touch”?, ars technical, 28 October 2009:

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