Apple iPhone and Mobile Local Search

Steve Jobs’ Macworld Keynotes are among the most awaited tech events of the year, as some of the products historically announced (iPod, for example) have represented inflection points in consumer technology.

Today at Macworld, Jobs introduced the long awaited iPhone. Speculation of such a product has been swirling for over a year, and rumors really kicked in over the past 24 hours. The Wall Street Journal (reg. req’d) yesterday reported accounts of those close to the company that had leaked information on the new device (summary available from paidContent).

The phone itself has a fairly impressive design and set of features  something proven to represent a difficult balancing act with mobile devices. Part iPod, part phone and part Internet access device, it runs Mac OS X, is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled, and has a 2 megapixel camera and an 8 gig hard drive.

It also runs a new touch screen technology the company is calling “multi-touch.” I’m curious about what this entails and will look forward to testing and reporting back on this. The device also interestingly comes partly in partnership with Google and has built in Google search and Maps functionality. Yahoo! search, Yahoo! Go and e-mail are also built in.

Adoption of mobile local search to some degree has been held back by the inferior user experiences of most mobile devices  which come back to a lot of these design challenges.

Apple’s cache with consumers from the iPod and iTunes should ensure a healthy demand for this phone. Time will tell how well they embrace it, and if it does anything to push forward mobile local search in general. Like the iPod, a flood of third-party applications and devices will likely emerge for the iPhone, and mobile local search could find its tipping point somewhere in this device (Search Engine Watch has a nice roundup of recent mobile search news).

This is also a boon for Cingular  already the largest wireless carrier in the U.S. – which has scored a multiyear agreement to be the exclusive wireless provider. The device will cost US$499 for the 4 gig model and US$599 for the 8 gig model. These prices come with a two-year Cingular service agreement and it will sell in both Apple and Cingular stores starting in April (FCC approval is still required).

More coverage of the device (including images), and of Macworld, can be found at GigaOm, ABC.com, TechCrunch and CNET. And we’ll provide more commentary soon on other Macworld announcements, such as the official launch of iTV (now called Apple TV).

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