The mobile web still has a long way to go before it can become a mainstay of search marketing. According to the latest report by Nielsen Mobile, the number of users of mobile search has increased to 46.1 million in the last quarter of 2007.
However most of these users (18.1 million) still use only 411 services or text messages (14.1 million) for their requirements. Only an estimated 9 million users carried out WAP-based searches from their mobile devices, which makes this a smaller group than even the numbers using carrier search boxes (9.4 million) and searches on the carrier portal (12.4 million).
When comparing usage by frequency, SMS-based searches seem to be most frequently used (12.1 per month), followed by WAP (7.8), carrier portal (6.9), carrier search box (6.5) and 411 calls seem to be least frequent, with just 3 instance on average per month. This could be explained by a greater awareness of 411 services among mobile users.
Data about mobile users in this report shows that roughly 61 percent of 411 users are female, while about 60 percent of WAP users are male. SMS searches are used mainly by those under 25 years of age, probably due to the normal proclivity of this age group to use SMS to communicate.
Local listings are still the leading category (27.1 million) searched for. According to the report, only about 14.8 million people looked for details about sports, weather, news etc. whereas about a quarter of them searched for mobile content.
Can Nielsen’s Numbers Be Trusted?
The figures quoted above were built up based on a survey of 5,793 users. The responses on the survey were then extrapolated to build up estimated total numbers. This works in many cases, but for this particular survey, Nielsen’s sample user base must have been skewed, because the numbers paint a rather improbable picture.
Google Mobile Search accounts for approximately 51 percent of all searches on mobile devices. On their portal, only 4 percent of queries are classified as local.
According to the Nielsen Mobile’s survey results, 27.1 million out of the total 46.1 million users, that is over 50 percent of mobile users carried out local search queries.
Therefore, in order for Nielsen’s extrapolation to be true, the number of local queries on non-Google mobile searches would need to be extraordinarily high – over 80 percent of searches – which is absolutely unlikely.
iPhone Influences Mobile Search
Only about 45 million of the U.S.’s 208 million wireless users accessed the major search engines, Google or Yahoo! for their information needs. Even the hype and excitement created by Apple’s iPhone and its descendants had enticed only 16 percent of mobile users to access the Internet through their handsets, upto November 2007.
However, the New York Times reported that the number of searches on Google originating from iPhones in December rose significantly, to make it the most popular mobile phone accessing their site. If nothing else, the iPhone could herald a change in mobile Internet usage.