Local Links of Interest

Usability test: Does iPhone match the hype? -Users try out the iPhone, HTC Touch and the Nokia N95

It’s also important to remember that the tests focused on how easy it was to pick up the device and use it right out of the box.
“People can eventually learn to use any device,” Ballew said. “But that’s not true usability. We wanted to see how long it took to figure out how to use the phones. That’s the difference between learnability and usability.”

The results:
Let’s cut to the bottom line: In terms of usability, iPhone blew away its two competitors. Its overall score in the usability tests was 4.6 out of 5. The HTC Touch was a distant second at 3.4, and the Nokia N95 scored 3.2.
“Testers were [typically] about twice as fast doing specific tasks on the iPhone, which is pretty remarkable,” Thornton said.

Ultimately, it is this usability that will drive Local traffic and the broad adoption of mobile search.

Retailer’s Shortcut From Desktop to Store (NY Times Free Reg. req’d) – Offline retailers are increasingly offering a way for consumers to shop online but pick up the goods in stores.

Getting Free Cellphone Calls for Ads (NY Times Free Reg. req’d) British cellphone users will get their first look at a new mobile service called Blyk, which will offer subscribers some free calls and text messages in return for their agreeing to accept advertising on their phones.

Want to get there fast? Use Yahoo Maps! A comparison of the same route on the different mapping services from SearchEngineTigers.com.

Japan’s Mobile Phone Web Use= PC Internet Use (sort of)

Mobile Phone Web Users Nearly Equal PC Based Internet Users in Japan

53.6 Million Japanese Use Mobile Phones to Access the Internet – Email is the Most Popular Mobile Web Activity

Other tidbits:

•Interstingly 51% do Search/Navigation.
•Time spent web browsing on mobile phones is still much lower than that spent on desktop PC’s. Internet usage on mobile phones averages 8.1 hours per month versus 18.9 hours by PC -Adoption of web usage on mobile phones skews young. People under 34 years old account for 64 percent of mobile phone web users versus 45 percent of PC web users.
•Despite these significant usage figures, consumer satisfaction remains low. Only 12.6 percent of respondents accessing the Internet via a mobile device stated that they were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”, with 52.1 percent stating that they were either “very dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied”.

It is this last point that creates the opening for iPhone like devices. In yesterday’s WSJ an analyst noted that the iPhone faced considerably more competition in Europe than in the U.S. and thus might not do as well there. He noted that a phone with similar features was “free” with a contract. Certainly, Europe and Japan are ahead of the U.S. in the level of mobile web use, mobile technologies and speed of access. Europe will be a good test of whether those attributes trump usability. Given the stats in Japan and my personal experience (I fall in the “very dissatisfied” catergory), I would think not. “Free” is never a compelling value if it doesn’t work well.

Marissa Meyers, the iPhone and Google Maps

At SES and again at the Tech40Crunch conference Marissa Meyers was quoted as saying that the iPhone has led to a continued surge in Google Maps usage. One could obviously infer from this that (no duh!) a well designed piece of mobile hardware, that is easy to use and has well integrated, pre-installed access to local search software would have an impact on increasing mobile local search. I have written before on the need for an iPhone like device to penetrate the market for the market to go anywhere.

But there be other possible take aways from these comments. One, it doesn’t take much to move Google Map’s relatively low usage higher. Apple has sold 1 million phones. Their goal is 10 million or 1% of the phone market. Thus with 1/10 of 1% of the market “the recent iPhone release brought numerous new consumers for the Google mobile solutions as its traffic was increased from 40 percent to 50 percent when it comes to Google Maps”. Thus somewhere under a million users led to a 50% increase in usage….hmmm

The other is that WAP, .mobi etc. have not had a similar impact despite plenty of opportunity. It seems to me that these technologies are at best stop gap measures until the real “mobile” web ala the iPhone/Google Mobile is more broadly deployed.

Goog-411 rolls out bill boards in the hinterlands?

I drive 8 miles to work along NYS Route 16, down the hill known as Rock City, and past some incrediblly picturesque scenes as I head to my office in downtown Olean. The drive is rural and while Olean is called a city, it is a small (and getting smaller) rustbelt town of 15,000. It is 70 miles south of Buffalo, NY, 150 miles east of Cleveland and 150 miles north of Pittsburgh…it really is miles from nowhere (see this map), a market that most everyone forgets.

Everyone but Google it seems. Google has recently started placing billboards on our “main” north south road in their campaign for Goog-411, their free voice activated directory assistance service. Google has placed the billboard just south of town right after you pass the cemetery and just before you get to the breakfast hangout, The Robbin’s Nest. The road is not heavily traveled with a traffic count of perhaps 10,000 vehicles a day.

I recognize that they are in a pitched battle with the network operators, they were partially boxed out by the telcos on the spectrum auction, they are having trouble penetrating the walled garden of the cell world…but there is more than a little irony in a billboard campaign in Olean, no? That being said, it makes sense.

Local Links of Interest

Google announces AdSense for MobileAs part of our ongoing efforts to develop new ways for users to find the information they need anytime and anywhere, Google announced today the availability of AdSenseâ„¢ for Mobile, a program that contextually targets ads to mobile website content. AdSense for Mobile also allows AdSense publishing partners the ability to earn revenue from their mobile websites through the targeted placement of mobile text ads. With this program, advertisers can connect with the growing number of mobile publishers, ultimately providing users with an enhanced mobile experience that helps them find what they are looking for more quickly and efficiently on the go.

AdSense for Mobile is intended for AdSense partners who have created websites specifically for mobile browsers, and who want to monetize their mobile content via contextual advertising. Like Google’s other AdSense products, mobile text ads run on an auction model. The system automatically reviews the content of publishers’ mobile websites and delivers text ads that are relevant to the websites’ audience and content. Publishers earn money whenever mobile users click on the ads.

With this new program, the unmatched reach of the Google content network is extended to the mobile platform. AdSense for Mobile provides a valuable way to connect mobile users with the right ad at the right time as they seek information on the go. AdSense for Mobile is now available to all mobile publishers in 13 countries worldwide.

Interview with Chris Sherman of Third Door Media

Yahoo buys Zimbra It automatically turns street addresses into a link to the appropriate Yahoo Maps page, and can dial phone numbers inside a message with a single click.

Nokia Adds Local Search Capability to Phones

Nokia to acquire Enpocket to create a global mobile advertising leader

iPhone continues to drive Google Maps Usage(Marissa Mayer) said that Google Maps usage shot up sharply after the release of Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone back in July. “Maps usage hasn’t stopped rising,” she said during our conversation.. according to Om Malik at the techcrunch 40 conference.

Where Am I? The Challenge of Geo-Targeting from LocalPoint

Google Coupons On The Way? from Search Engine Journal

Local Links of Interest

GPhone Update: “Not in the Works” From Local Mobile Search: Like the rest of us, Google knows that the biggest opportunities for e-commerce and Web 2.0 lie in mobile computing and mobile applications. Overcoming the shortcomings of low-end wireless phones, less than optimal wireless data speeds and strictures applied by a community mobile network operators who are reticent to innovate and share the wealth are its challenge.

Verizon Takes on FCC Auction Rules in Court a good summary from Local Mibile Search of the battle between BIG SEARCH AND CONTENT companies and BIG CARRIERS. There’s more bluster than legal basis in Verizon’s petition.

Google’s plan for world domination by Robert Cringely has some iintersting speculation about Google, the coming federal bandwidth auction, the coming battle of titans over the local space. For those who can’t think past search, imagine this also as Google’s key to dominating local- and location-based search.

Real World Trumps Online in Local Search, Search Engine Watch

Google Maps expands coverage

The many posters from around the world at the Google Maps for Business Group will have reason to rejoice today as Google has announced at the Google Lat-Long blog that Google Maps has dramatically increased world wide coverage. You can now see where McDonald’s are in Costa Rica.

From the Google Lat-Long blog:
Today we added 54 new countries to Google Maps! We’ve more than doubled our coverage of Latin America and are now mapping three times as many countries in Asia as before….

Here’s the full list of new countries:
Afghanistan, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Bermuda, Brunei Darussalam, Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Mongolia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Timor-Leste, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen

We have better detail for some countries than others, but this is just the beginning. In coming months, we’ll be working tirelessly to add more detail to the existing countries in Google Maps, and we’ll also be adding new countries to the list.

Google SMS Adds Location-Based Personalization Automatically

In a recent post, The Google Operating System Blog points out that Google SMS Adds Location-Based Personalization to your text queries of its local business database by sending a SMS to Google that contains the command:
set location [city, zip code, address]

In recent trip to NYC with my family over labor day weekend I discovered that Google will automatically (no command required) set your default location in an SMS query after three queries as well. By setting the location automatically after a limited number of queries, Google cuts key entry time in half on all subsequent queries for users like me that are too lazy to explore the help file or send a command.
I experimented with Goog-411, Google Maps & Google SMS as local tools during this tourist visit and found that when walking down the street or perusing a shop or museum, Google SMS was an incredibly valuable alternative to find a known store’s location and phone number. In many ways it was preferable to Directory Assistance as it was silent and unobtrusive. Once received as a text message it was then a simple task to tell my Nokia to find the number and dial it if need be or add it to my contacts.

Local Links of Interest

Ask removes search box from default mobile search

From the post:What Ask found in their user testing is that users would immediately go to the search box and start trying to use it. While this sounds like it offers what the user wants, the fact is that accomplishing simple things like finding our the weather in San Francisco can take 70 keystrokes if you are on a mobile device without a QWERTY keyboard (for example entering the letter C requires you to hit the 2 button 3 times) 

All I can say is AMEN to that. If you have never tried searching using via a WAP browser on a cell phone you should give it a try to understand why you never want to do it.

Google aims to patent payment by SMS at Electronista – Gadgets for Geeks.

Himmelstein on G’s Local Biz Referral Program – Guest columnist Marty Himmelstein at Greg Sterling’s blog has great overview of trends in local search and Google’s take on them.

Discussion of New Kelsey Mobile Numbers by Greg Sterling at Localmobilesearch.net. And I thought it was me that couldn’t figure out the numbers…

Developing Knowledge about Local Search