Of Phones, Local and Mo-Soc-Nets

There were a couple of things I neglected to post about last week that I wanted to cover. First, Yahoo! launched a phone with Cisco-owned Linksys for VoIP calling through Yahoo! Messenger (there’s one like this for Skype). Both phones allow users let people know if they are away, busy or online. Similarly callers can see the status of their Messenger buddy list as well.

The phone can use either a landline connection or Messenger with Voice. But the phone also provides access to Yahoo! content, such as weather and Yahoo! Local.

Meanwhile “don’t call it a phone” company Helio, which is a joint venture of EarthLink Inc. and Korean SK Telecom, has teamed up with Google and others to offer local and social networking services. According to this Reuters piece:

Wireless provider Helio said its customers would be able to find out their current location and look up traffic conditions or directions to specific addresses by using Google maps and satellite positioning technology in Samsung’s Drift phone.

The phone, which sells for $255, also gives users the option to look up the location of nearby friends, or to have their own location show up on their friends’ cell phones.

The article goes on to say that Sprint’s youth brand Boost Mobile will announce similar services next week. Boost already has a deal with mobile-social application Loopt (formerly Flipt). Previously Helio announced a deal with MySpace, where it acts as the MVNO (using the Sprint Network). Yahoo! and all its services, including Local and IM, are already available through Helio.

This raises the issue of “mobile social networking.” Previously I argued that it was potentially disruptive (ring the bell!) of directory assistance and even, potentially, nascent mobile local search for younger users.

SMS is really the only data service (putting aside ringtones) that has taken off to date. Keying in search queries is slow and annoying (let’s see how quickly voice kicks in). And so is sifting or scrolling through lists of undifferentiated results (Ask’s mobile service is the only one of the majors that allows users to sort by rating).

In one version of the future, it’s much easier for me as, say, a 25 year old to send a one-to-many text my friends and ask them where the best Croatian restaurant is in a particular area. Also the quasi “flash mobs” dimension of mobile presence – “let’s all meet there in 20 minutes – is going to be very interesting, both from a user experience and advertising perspective. (There’s no “search” per se here, just communication among users and so it’s hard for a marketer to get in the middle of that. Although Google-owned mobile social application Dodgeball and Absolut Vodka did an interesting mobile promotion in 2004.)

Older users like me are going to be more inclined to use mobile versions of online services than mobile social networking to find locations and recommendations. But no one should underestimate the forthcoming rise of mobile-social activity: presence + one-to-many text messaging + other content features (e.g., Local + offers?)

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2 Responses to “Of Phones, Local and Mo-Soc-Nets”

  1. Mobile: It’s All About Local « Screenwerk Says:

    […] Let’s be clear: Mobile is almost entirely about local (except for video and music). Admittedly video and music are large categories but in terms of information, local will dominate mobile (where I am, where I’m going). Mobile social networking will also be a significant force (and something of an “X factor”) in the way mobile local search develops. […]

  2. One to Many SMS: Zemble « Screenwerk Says:

    […] TechCrunch posts about another social-mobile startup with one-to-many texting capabilities, Zemble. I’ve got to run to a meeting, but mobile-social networks are a local search alternative. […]

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