Google Launches Local for Mobile

In a move to replicate the success of its mobile search engine technology, Google today launched Local for mobile. The application attempts to take mapping to the cellular level.

Google bills Local for mobile as “a free download that lets you find local hangouts and businesses across town or across the country — right from your phone.”

It’s perhaps too early to get customer feedback on the search titan’s latest effort, but Jason Dowdell, founder of MarketingShift, the blog focused on media research and technology, told TechNewsWorld he doesn’t think the market is ready for Local for mobile.

“It’s a waste of an application but a necessary step in order to mashup search data to the mobile user,” Dowdell said. “Like all things that advance the adoption of technology, this is two steps forward and one step backward.”

Limited Access

Google’s new mobile application has limited steps at that.

Google said Local for mobile works with most Java-enabled mobile phones, especially those purchased within the past year. That includes phones offered by Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile.

However, Local for mobile does not support BREW-enabled phones, like those offered by Verizon, Alltel, or Nextel phones, Blackberry or Palm devices. Google said it is working to expand the service for these phones.

Much the same, Local for mobile is only available for searches within the U.S. The company said it is working to increase the availability “as soon as possible.”

The Mobile Internet

Google Local on the desktop and Google Local for mobile offer similar functions. The mobile version offers detailed directions, integrated search results, movable maps, and satellite imagery.

With detailed directions, Google displays the route on the map itself with step-by-step directions. Integrated search results offers up local business locations and contact information on the map.

The movable map function is designed to help establish visual orientation by letting users zoom in or out and move in all directions on the map. Finally, satellite imagery allows users to get a bird’s eye view of the desired location.

What Google Local for mobile has that its desktop counterpart does not have is mobile-specific features like click-to-call. So although the application is free, carriers may charge data service rates for downloading and using the application and calling the business you are looking for.

Limited Popularity

Still, Dowdell is not impressed with the notion of searching mapping applications from a mobile phone. He said the last time he downloaded a mapping application on his cell phone was when he was stuck in traffic on I-85 in Atlanta.

“I couldn’t even get the application working properly while I was sitting still in the car. I can’t imagine trying to use a mapping app on my cell phone while actually driving or even walking,” Dowdell said.

“Think about it, the only people that will use this are tourists in big cities and by the time they find the location on their cell phone, their friends have already hailed a cab and gotten directions the old fashioned way … they asked the doorman.”

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