Yahoo COO, Dan Rosensweig, announced Yahoo's expanded mobile search for mobile handsets during his keynote at the CTIA show in San Francisco last week. Yahoo's mobile search follows Google's launch of a beta SMS search service in early October. I decided to check out Yahoo's Mobile Search using a Sanyo color-screen handset and a Treo 600 to get the feel for searching Yahoo on both WAP and HTML browsers.
The search begins for all web-enabled handsets on the Yahoo! Home Page accessible through your carrier's browser. All WAP-enabled handsets can use "Local" and "Image" searches. However, only Cingular, AT&T Wireless, or Sprint customers can access the "Web" search. Once on the Yahoo! Search page, Scroll down to Search and enter the search term in the entry box and select the Local button and enter a street address, zip, or city. Within a few seconds you get a listing of local results for that location.
Now, if you do the same search for "Images" you won't get local listings. You get the entire Yahoo database listings for that search item which could number in the hundreds of thousands. As with any Internet search, the more specific the search entry, the better results you will get, so avoid being too general. When I narrowed the search and entered "hotel San Francisco, California," only the local hotel listings appeared. You get the first three images and an accompanying email address to click on for further information. Under the first three images is the option to view the next three by clicking on "More Images Results."
The Web search was also not localized, but it is easy to make it local. It is the same general Web search available on PCs. To search you key in your search term and click Web. I searched on "how to make bread" and got 1-5 results of 6,930,000 within a few seconds. It was really similar to a normal Web search on my PC.
Yahoo has also included Search Shortcuts in their mobile web search including movies, definitions, stock quotes, sports scores, weather, and a calculator. Any shortcut for inputing text on a mobile handset is great, and these shortcuts are really helpful. For example, to find a movie just add your zip code after the word movies or enter a ticker symbol to get a current stock price. Enter weather and a city name and you've got a current forecast.
Under the Local listings are Weather, Movies and Driving Directions. Weather appeared quickly with all current stats and a five-day forecast. Movies can be accessed through MyMovies or by city or zip code. Driving directions are entered by identifying From and To and then clicking on Get Directions. Within 10-15 seconds, a list of step-by-step instructions appears for getting you from start to finish as well as the total miles and the length of time required to drive the entire distance.
Overall, the search engine works great. Once you learn the ins and outs it flows pretty easily. For mobile users needing access to local resources, just enter your search term including location and then hit local and you get a list of options and the ability to click on the phone number or click on driving directions for a color map. Yahoo is developing a connection between search and accessibility that transfers easily from the desktop experience.
There is some noise about Yahoo looking at testing GPS and voice commands to add to their mobile search capability. Seems as though they are on the right track.
Overall I found Yahoo! Mobile Search very user friendly and the more I used it the friendlier it became.
Remember carriers may charge airtime, other fees and taxes for the service on your wireless bill. You need to check your wireless plan for details.