Smartphones and Mobile Local Search

In the past, we’ve talked about the effect smartphone use has on mobile local search adoption. Many third-party mobile local search applications such as Earthcomber only work on smartphones. Similarly, designing a robust and compelling enough mobile search platform is much easier when the form factor involves a larger screen and keypad. But the mainstream usage of smartphones isn’t there yet (see the Advisory Targeting Users: Application Level Innovation in Mobile Local Search).

The San Jose Mercury News wrote earlier this week on rising smartphone adoption, just in time for the 3GSM show. It points to Gartner research that predicts sales of smartphones to nearly double this year to 122 million worldwide (there were 74 million in 2006). This will be partly due to falling prices (similar to the trend driving flat panel TV sales). There have also been a host of new products released lately with new price points including the RIM BlackBerry Pearl, Palm Treo 680, Cingular 3125 and Samsung BlackJack.

We expect higher smartphone adoption to have a trailing effect on mobile local search adoption as well as mobile entertainment consumption (which, while different, go hand in hand in terms of user adoption). Higher penetration of smartphones will also have a cultural effect on how people communicate, given that it will be easier to send text messages, e-mails, instant messages, etc. while on the go. This changing use case should in turn inspire new innovation and local search products that better suit our lives. And around and around we go in this never-ending chicken-and-egg game of product innovation.

Related to this phenomenon of culture driving technology and technology shaping culture, The Washington Post has an interesting article (apropos for Valentines Day), on how cellphone ubiquity and text messaging have ushered in a whole new cultural paradigm for how couples communicate. This includes breaking up; it seems kind of harsh to send a Dear John/Jane letter via text message, but apparently it’s happening.

Also related: ZDNet has a breakdown of market shares for mobile device makers; Lost Remote has a quick preview of emerging mobile social networks; and as Peter Krasilovsky pointed out Monday, Knowledge@Wharton has a good interview with Tellme CEO Mike McCue that similarly gets to some of these changing cultural dynamics and their role in shaping the next generation of mobile products and features.

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