iPhone Changes The Mobile Search Conversation

Two recent related stories point to the continued flux in the mobile search market:

1. To the surprise of no one who has paid the least attention to the hype, the iPhone has increased its share of the US smartphone market quite rapidly for such a new entrant into the market. It is now the number 2 smartphone in the US, with a market share of 28% (compared to market leader RIMM/Blackberry with 41%). It also has a reasonably strong share of the global market; it comes in #3 with 6.5% (market leader Nokia has 53%). The iPhone is popular and its popularity is increasing; more importantly, the clamor over its user-friendly interface is having a big effect on overall smartphone design. And that brings us to:

2. Google has revealed that it gets 50 times the searches from the iPhone as from any other mobile device. That’s right, the iPhone represents a 98% share of Google’s mobile traffic. And since Google gets about twice as many mobile searches as Yahoo (according to an iCrossing report from May ’07), that means that the iPhone is pretty much dominating mobile search. This is no surprise to anyone who has ever tried a search on an iPhone and on another smartphone; the iPhone’s intuitive interface makes searching easy, while with other phones you’ve got to really want that info.

Why are these two stories so important for influencing thought on mobile search? Because with the iPhone interface mobile search is really not separate from computer-based search. The search page you come to when you search Google on your iPhone looks like the same page you get on your computer; the ads are the same as well. There is no need to create special ads and landing pages, as there is with other interfaces. To me it appears the writing is on the wall in terms of the direction mobile search is going, and it is away from the separate ecosystem of mobile-only ads and landing pages. This very fact will only increase the iPhone’s dominance as sites stop investing in mobile-only design.

For marketers, this means that if you’ve been feeling vaguely panicked because you aren’t in mobile yet, you can relax– for once waiting was the right move. The market is coming to you.

As a P.S., Google’s own press release about the dominance of the iPhone in mobile search makes last week’s announcement about their new partnership with Nokia (a distant fourth in the US smartphone market) seem a little odd, to say the least.