Similar to the Starbuck's SMS search tool that we wrote about a few weeks ago, Yellowpages.com today announced text-based local search tool for mobile devices. Any cell phone user can now send a business name or category in a text message to YP411 (97411) to receive the three top listings for that term.
Brands that have tried to launch SMS search tools have received limited traction because of the relatively low adoption of mobile search so far. Starbucks might be able to get away with it because of the power of it's brand (and the addictiveness of its product).
Instead, success with SMS search products will only come from trusted brands that aggregate local search results. Current offerings in this space include GoogleSMS, Yahoo! Local, Superpages On the Go, and now Yellowpages.com (among a few others).
Though this supply outweighs current demand, this is a smart move for Yellowpages.com to get its feet wet with mobile search using by its most user friendly and prevalent form (SMS). This will also tie together nicely with other mobile services Yellowpages.com has rolled out recently, including a send-to-mobile feature that lets business listings be texted to any cellphone number a user specifies. The company also recently developed a version of its Web site that is optimized for mobile screens and WAP browsers.
It also has an enhanced DA product in certain markets, 1-800-YellowPages, which could be the foundation for a wireless voice search product. Together with the SMS product, this could come together as a nice multi-modal mobile search product. By casting all of these lines, AT&T is getting users accustomed to various forms of mobile search while meanwhile buying itself an education in the mobile marketplace.
It is also a nice point of differentiation as an IYP looking to get into the mobile space. All of the aforementioned products represent ways AT&T is trying to find its way around in mobile search by coming at it from many angles. A singular (as opposed to Cingular) product could emerge eventually that is planted on the home screen of AT&T wireless devices. This could be brought to you by Yellowpages.com or perhaps by Yahoo! which has online content partnerships with AT&T.
The development and strategy behind this could be one reason why AT&T wireless (formerly Cingular) like other wireless carriers, has been such a hard nut to crack in terms of allowing innovative third party mobile local search applications onto their devices and networks (this is the one place where they have non- net nutrality).
Still, it's important at this stage to have a SMS based mobile local search product for for non AT&T wireless users (anyone with a text enabled phone). We'll see how it does, and what AT&T really has up it's giant sleeves for mobile search.
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