How Mobile Search Will Finally Live Up to the Hype

By Tad Miller | Sep 10, 2009
More Articles by Tad

Back in June I wrote, “When it Comes to Mobile PPC Advertising Just Think Adwords & iPhone.”  The premise of which was smart phones like the iPhone or other mobile devices with full Internet browsers and Google Adwords were pretty much dominating the mobile Pay Per Click Advertising Space.  Not much has happened to change that in the last few months, in fact the iPhone just keeps getting more dominant as the mobile search device of choice:

  • Apple’s share of US smartphone traffic has surged to 69% of all US smartphone traffic (June 2009) &
  • Apples’s Global share of smartphone traffic is now at 47%.
  • Global sales of smartphones climbed to 40 million units in the second quarter of 2009, according to Gartner Research. That is a 27-per-cent increase over the second quarter of 2008
  • Apple said this week that ‘The fastest growing product in the [iPod] line is the iPod Touch, we’ve sold 20 million Touches. Couple that with 30 million iPhones.’  The iPod touch uses the same mobile internet browser as the iPhone…

Even with those staggering numbers, worldwide smartphones only make up about 15% of the handset market – there is tons of room to grow.  But the sad reality is that “industry experts” have been saying for years that “this is going to be the year mobile search breaks loose!”, and it just never happens.

I think the key to mobile search becoming an everyday household activity lies with the iPhone.  It’s growth is impressive, but the problem lies with Apple’s Exclusive Handset Deals with mobile carriers like AT&T in the US.

Both Congress and the FCC are investigating just what the public benefits of mobile carrier exclusive deals with handset manufacturers really are, and it’s quite possible that their could be legislation in the next year outlawing these exclusivity deals.  Senator John Kerry has even written:

“In fact, nine of the most popular ten phones are locked in a deal with one of these big wireless carriers, and are only available through one network.”

But Apple may actually beat Congress to the punch with ending iPhone exclusive deals.  They have already ended exclusive carrier deals in France and China and there has been speculation that they will end exclusivity with AT&T at the end of their contract.

If Apple ends its exclusive handset deal with AT&T the question is where else can they go?  The answer is a technical one.  The iPhone currently works on a GSM Technology Platform (Global System for Mobile communications).  But in the US there are only 2 GSM networks: AT&T and T-mobile.  Apple would have to make a new iPhone to work on the Verizon or Sprint CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks.  Which is very possible, there have already been rumors of an Apple iTablet Mediapad computer to run on Verizon’s network.

The impact:  Consumers can finally get an iPhone without switching carriers to AT&T and iPhone sales will skyrocket even more.  This will in turn drive exponentially more mobile search traffic which will boost Google mobile PPC Advertising revenues – Google currently has a 97.5% share of US smartphone search traffic.

Will it happen in the next year?  We’ll let you know.

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