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Data on mobile search - analysis by two Googlers
search and cell phone mobile statistics

 10:37 pm on Oct 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well almost two Googlers - one is senior staff research scientist at Google and another is third year PhD student doing research remotely at Google.

You can find document at PhD student's site at [maryamkamvar.com...]

Document is titled "Deciphering Trends In Mobile Search" - it's a PDF document. Be mindful of Zero Day PDF Security Hole [webmasterworld.com]. I opened it at nothing bad, that I can see, is happening but YMMV...

We analyzed data from more than 1 million page-view
requests randomly sampled from Google logs during a
one-month period earlier this year. The requests were
anonymous; we maintained no identifying information
that could associate searches with users. To eliminate
confounding factors between different carriers, we
restricted our examination to a single US carrier. To differentiate
among computers, PDAs, and cell phones,
we looked at the browser’s user agent sent in the HTTP
request. Unless otherwise noted, the mobile statistics we
present pertain to cell phones.


Robert Charlton

 2:38 am on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Tastatura - Thanks for posting and for checking with us about whether it was OK to do so.

I should add that the paper you mention is not the only resource on the publications page that pertains to mobile search. From the title, "The Role of Context in Query Input: Using contexual signals to complete queries on mobile devices" also looks interesting, as in fact all the papers do.


 4:23 am on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

There are some surprises in this research for me - in fact, some of it has me scratching my head in bewilderment. I've always assumed that mobile search would be HEAVILY about Local Search. While this study did place Local in the top 5 categories, it still took only 4%.

Adult >25%
Entertainment >10%
Internet/telecommunications >4%
Lifestyles/online communities >4%
Local >4%
Other >45%

What's up with that? My guess is that local data is still too ragged for the mobile user to depend on it. Either that, or "local" was defined in a tightly restrictive way for this study.

[edited by: tedster at 3:39 pm (utc) on Oct. 7, 2007]


 9:00 am on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Also interesting is that on average only two search terms are entered by users looking for something on the net.

[edited by: JS_Harris at 9:04 am (utc) on Oct. 7, 2007]


 1:24 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

How did they determine what was a mobile page view and what was a desktop based browser view? According to the report - they looked at agent strings.

As it stands today (just checked) they are not properly detecting several browsers and a mobile browser variations on google.com. This was one of the main topics I talked about down at the mobile conference in Orlando last week. The fact that Google misidentifies Opera, Netfront, BlackBerry/RIM, and Thunderhawk. Google thinks they are desktop browsers and refuses to display mobile search boxes. The only two that I know of that they get right are Plam and PocketIE. So the data that the study is based on is all skewed towards generic off-the-shelf mobile phones. They ignore a major portion of their own users. The tech sector of power users that use phones 10x as much as the general public. Those early adopters are far more prolific users than the general public. The top three alternatives to Pocket IE have sold more than a million copies - so someone is using them in large quantities.

The percentage of requests from PDAs in the search logs used to account for about 25 percent of the number of requests from cell phones (for the carrier studied). Today, the number of queries from the same carrier originating from PDA devices is about the same as the
number of queries from cell phones.

They claim to be able to determine what is a cell phone and what is a smart phone!? I would like to know how they can even remotely make that claim.


 1:43 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well I found it interesting that on my new cellphone / smartphone, a nokia n95 that when I went to gmail it said "Download gmail on your N95 phone!"

So somehow it can tell what the phone is. And if you track that against a database of phones and smart phones, I could see how they figure it out. How accurate it is, I'm not sure.


 7:17 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

--What's up with that? My guess is that local data is still too ragged for the mobile user to depend on it. Either that, or "local" was defined in a tightly restrictive way for this study.--

I think the future of local data on phones is through built-in maps and GPS systems. Many phones come with these maps pre-installed, so the searches never show up on any log because they're done entirely offline.

In fact many people deliberately load the maps onto their phones from a PC at home so they don't have to download data on the move. On-board maps work even if the phone is out of network coverage, they don't require download times, and they don't incur download costs either.

--They claim to be able to determine what is a cell phone and what is a smart phone!? I would like to know how they can even remotely make that claim. --

Well, you can often tell from a connection which model of phone someone is using. I've run sites which have mobile visitors and the logs sometimes contain terms like "nokia whatever" or "motorola whatever".

But the words smartphone and cellphone are becoming interchangeable though. In strict technical terms, a smartphone is a phone that contains a multi-tasking computer which can accept user-installed native applications. A smartphone is a PC in your pocket, effectively.

In practice, most people just use phones and smartphones for the same things, but smartphones allow them to do many things at once as they're multitasking. The better computing power of smartphones also allows certain extra things like advanced game graphics, PC-level web browsing etc.

Most smartphones sold today look and work exactly like normal phones, and most smartphones aren't even called smartphones in their marketing.

The Symbian platform is by far the most popular smartphone platform in the world, its market share is twice as big as all its rivals put together, but no one has ever heard of the name because no Symbian smartphones are ever sold under that brand. They're mostly just marketed by the manufacturesrs as if they were normal phone models.

In fact, most smartphone owners don't even know they do own a smartphone.

The poster above mentioned the Nokia N95, but are they aware that the same computing platform (minus the expensive camera and GPS) is also sold as the Nokia 6120 for about one third the price?


 9:38 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

The UA sniffing and phone identification is criticle for mobile browsing. Most if not all carriers have their own mobile web presence where they provide downloads, music, games etc. The key is to only display compatible content. The mobile providers seam have got this very right, but the major sites are still failing badly with this issue.



 10:48 pm on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Perhaps it's part of the browser software being used on the phones themselves. Like the google toolbar on a regular browser its more than likely part of the browser technology to send Google information.

I haven't read the fine print in any phone packaging but I would be EXTREMELY surprised if the phones didn't log absolutely everything about your setup when you use it. Data is worth billions these days.

A company recently launched a mobile advertising platform that is able to track your location via gps (and other) technologies to see if an ad you just saw on a mobile unit prompted you to visit the store. The ads of course being targeted to you because of your proximity to the store.

With "get to example local store in the next 30 minutes and save 10%" type of ads on their way... our information is no longer private.

I have the same questions as you Brett, including "where do I opt out?"

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