Will Siri Change the Face of Local Search?

With Apple’s announcement of the release of the new iPhone 4s and iOS5 came the expected announcement of the tight hardware and software integration of their Siri natural speech technology. It appears to be integrated at the highest level of the user interface.

Mobile search on the iPhone has been broken. Google offers up voice search but it is by no means a hands free affair and takes way too much screen interaction to provide a result. Google’s product has been quirky and buggy on the iPhone and crashes frequently. Since the discontinuation of Goog-411, the 411 service on the iPhone has been only marginally functional due to a weak data sources for even the simple task of call completion.

Hopefully tight integration of voice with the phone will change all of that. The voice recognition system will read back texts, allow you to schedule an appointment AND do local search.

How does it do with local search? And where will it get its data?

The answer to the first question is that voice search on the existing Siri app is far better than Google’s voice product or the built in 411. That is a step in the right direction but passing the hurdle set by Google on the iPhone is not that difficult. It does a good job on the recognition side and it currently has an easy to use interface which will improve with integration and returns reasonable results.

Interestingly the current Siri app pulls data from a wide range of data sources to answer your questions. That is true with business listing data as well. Depending on the local search it might show results from Yelp, Yahoo, CityGrid, Localeze or BooRah. I presume that it uses even more sources than I have so far discovered and it appears to be agnostic as to where it gets its data. Siri also seems to mix and match sources when necessary.

Ultimately local will be almost 100% about mobile. That battle, at least for now, is Google vs. Apple. In local data that appears to mean Google vs. Everybody else (that Apple partners with). Does Siri solve the mobile search problem?

It is in the very early stages and users behaviors are not yet defined.┬áTesting and time will tell if it offers up enough substance to be fluidly integrated into every day phone activity and local search. Here’s hoping.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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9 thoughts on “Will Siri Change the Face of Local Search?”

  1. I don’t undrestand! i’ve been using google voice actions on android to do everything from calling numbers to searching for a good close restaurant. How is this revolutionary couple of years after google android?

  2. I’m with you Mike. Local search on the iPhone is broken. And the new Siri on iOS5 looks interesting from a local/mobile perspective.

    The most useful local app on my iPhone right now is the Explore mode in Foursquare. It’s actually pretty useful. I like it better than the Yelp app, and way better than the Google Places app.

  3. Good! The more competition, the better! Google needs somebody to push their Places product to the next level. I was surprised to discover the Google get 97% of mobile search according to the Congress hearing that just happened with Google’s Eric Schmidt. It also creates a better marketplace for us Local SEO gurus as it looks like they are pulling data from different web sources, according to the article. Mike, there has been a rumor that G is about to implement a big change…Any news?

  4. @MikeR
    Android does have a product and they have one on the iPhone. I don’t know how well it works on the Android nor how wide the adoption is.

    I am not yet positioning it as revolutionary. It will only be that if it works very well AND becomes the standard by which verbal interaction with a computer is judged. Time will tell on both fronts.

    I would be curious how wide the adoption of voice search is on Android. I am sure that it has to be more functional than the iPhone but I don’t hear much about it.

    I haven’t tried 4Square as there is not a critical mass for it around here. I will give it a try next time I am in the “big city”.

    The issue or rather the battle ground isn’t just local search but search in general. If Siri is good enough to encourage folks to use it and it becomes another layer between the user and search, it could shake a lot up.

  5. @Eric

    There have been a number of minor Maps updates and a few updates in the Dashboard but not sign yet of any major update. Problems though continue.

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