Comscore’s numbers on mobile search

There is a fair bit of optimism that mobile (see Get Ready for a Surge in Mobile Search) is going to dominate local search in the very short term. The numbers are mouth watering to venture capital: 200 million cell phones in the US alone and research that 30% will use local search on their current or next cell phone. I am sure that it will happen…. someday

Research on actual current users tells a different story. Here is the data from Comscore’s recent research:

Wireless Users’ Internet Accessibility (via Phone) October 25, 2006 ­ November 1, 2006
sample size = 1,708

Source: comScore Networks Wireless Report Percent of Users
Don’t have Internet option/unsure 37%
Have Internet option/don’t subscribe 34%
Currently subscribe to the Internet 17%
Previously subscribed to Internet option 12%

Top Reasons for Accessing the Internetfrom a Wireless Phone

(Among those who subscribe to Wireless Internet Option)

Feature Percent of Users
E-mail 44%
Ring Tone Downloads 35%
Weather 34%
News 29%
Sports 25%
Local Search (i.e. YP) 24%
Game Downloads 21%
Travel Information 19%
Wallpaper Downloads 16%
Directory Assistance 15%
Financial Information 10%
Pay Bills 10%
Shopping 6%

Let’s do the math: 200 Million cell users of whom 17% have & use internet access and of those only 24% (lets be generous and assume some more unique users from the other categories and say 33%) do some sort of local search. Total audience:11 Million. Nothing to sniff but not yet a huge market

However, I would venture to guess that 10.99 million of those users are like me, they use e-mail because it works, use local search of one form or another occasionally and think that the process of mobile local search totally sucks. That leaves as the real market (by my calculations) slightly more than 10 people.

I do not know the timeframe for the hardware replacement in the phone market. One assumes that the announced crop of new high end phones might solve the problem. But it will be quite some time for the hardware that satisfies the average user to be acceptable (in price AND performance) for the task. The current in-use inventory of phones probably will need to turn over 2 or even 3 times before mobile search is ready for prime time for most of those 200 million users.

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Comscore's numbers on mobile search by

4 thoughts on “Comscore’s numbers on mobile search”

  1. Phil-

    The numbers are staggering but I am a skeptic about the current reality.

    If you are asking on how to capitalize on the current craze…it depends on what aspect of it:

    Firstly, the technology of mobile search (usability, hardware & interface) is 5 years away from broad based adoption. So don’t rush.

    Secondly, these folks drooling are thinking that they can deliver ads to all these folks. If I am paying $100 for a monthly service (as I am currently) the arrangement of the quid pro quo for me to receive ads is still not clear. I as a user am not prepared to give up one square cm of space without something in return. I even get mad when the phone company texts me or voice messages a promotion…So they guys better deliver something more compelling.

    So it isn’t clear that you can capitalize on this aspect with any reasonable hedge against the huge risk…

    But as a search specialist, you can position yourself for this market by understanding how to optimize for local as it is the local data set that is currently being used on mobile and likely to be used.

    I personally think that Google or Yahoo data sets are the likely victors in this but it could be some other party…too early to tell…

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