SMS Text Search Smackdown

It's 5 p.m., and Keith and I are standing on the corner of 4th Ave and 13th Street. Our destination is Pop, a lounge located right across the street. For kicks, we decide to have a little contest to see which engine's SMS search service would be first to return the exact address.

Despite the hoopla surrounding mobile search, I agree wholeheartedly with fellow "Search Insider" Columnist David Berkowitz that SMS text search is where it's at. As a Manhattanite, I find this piece of functionality is one of the most useful a cell phone has, other than, say, the ability to actually make a call. The funny part is that SMS text is about as basic a technology as it gets. No doodads, no whiz-bang creative. You simply send an SMS text query to either Google (46645) or Yahoo (92466) and get short, relevant results. (Well, most of the time.)

In the Ring Back to the smackdown. I decide on Google. My weapon: a Sprint-enabled Palm Treo. My query: "pop new york." Keith takes on Yahoo. His weapon: a Cingular-enabled Sony Ericsson S710. His query: "pop 10011," his zip code.



In a quick jab, Keith shows me his screen, complete with the right address and cross-street. Yes, folks, the cross-street! There was also a link to a Yahoo Local map. A few seconds later, Google sends me a listing for a different establishment: Pop Burger, located clear across town.

Feeling defeated, I quickly try to mimic Keith's query, to no avail. A complete and total knockout. We grab a booth and order three mini cheeseburgers.

Weighing In After this little exercise, I went to each engine's respective SMS Search page to assess the differences. Both engines offered the obvious: local, weather, stock quotes, definitions, zip and area codes. Google had double the number of offerings, including: phonebook (type in a number, get the address), driving directions, movies, Q&A (for example, the population of Japan), translation, Froogle, calculator, currency conversion, sports (for example, Lakers), and finally, help and tips for SMS, via, yes, SMS. Yahoo's page was a bit harder to find, considering all the other mobile offerings the firm has. That being said, Yahoo conveniently allows consumers to check what they can do with their phones, given the carrier, make and model. In terms of SMS Search, Yahoo has a nice right hook in its Wi-Fi hotspot finder. The daily horoscope is fun, and definitely plays to Yahoo's portal model.

4INFO (44636) also has an SMS search offering. If you haven't heard of the firm yet, note that USA Today/Gannett has a minority stake. On the service side of things, Movo Mobile is a young Florida-based firm sporting a short-code offering from its Web site.

Saved by the Bell Fortunately, we are very early into the match, almost too early to count the rounds. In August of 2005, M:Metrics Inc. stated that just 3.6 million people had used text search, suggesting that full side-by-side comparison of functionality is extremely premature.

I expect that in addition to adding new features, engines will work more on building general market awareness of SMS search, as well as observing the human-technology interaction during the adoption process. Like any new consumer technology, SMS search is a learned process.

I, for one, just received my first SMS horoscope: It is the perfect time to take stock of your life and be grateful for

Next story loading loading..