Is Google Flubbing Mobile Search?

As more and more cell phone users access the mobile web, it’s not a surprise that mobile search is becoming one of the first widely-used mobile web services — fifteen percent of Koreans that access the Internet with a cell phone use mobile search, according to this Korea Times article today, and Google and SK Telecom plan to release their mobile search engine next month to push that number even higher. In comparison, 8% of cell phone users have ever searched the web via cell phones in the U.K., and a little over 10 million have tried it out at least once in the U.S., according to M:Metrics.

Given Google’s search-synonymous brand, this begs the question, how well will Google’s search fare in the mobile environment? If it is up to consumers and brand recognition alone, the company could easily dominate many of the world’s mobile search markets. Out of the 10 million plus subscribers who tried out mobile search in the U.S, Google was used around half of the time, or by 5.25 million users. But Yahoo also had around 4 million users and MSN Mobile/MSNBC had around 1 million. AOL Mobile, Go2 Search, and “I’m not sure who provides my mobile search” made up the rest.

Google might be leading off the U.S. mobile search market with its brand name, but the mobile web isn’t yet like the open Internet environment. Carriers, and handset makers, still dominate the mobile deck. Yeah, mobile web users can just type in any web site in a mobile browser, but the deck still dominates mobile eyeballs and some carriers don’t want to do a deal with such a dominant search brand like Google. That means Google might not as-easily recreate its web-based search success on cell phones. Tellingly, Sprint announced a deal with Microsoft for mobile search last week.

We were curious how much progress Google has actually made, doing deals with carriers and handset makers for mobile search. We asked Google and they compiled this timeline for us. How well do you think Google is handling the mobile search market?

Google’s mobile search deals with carriers:

  • Leap Wireless – 11/6/2006
  • SK Telecom – 10/30/2006
  • NTT DoCoMo – 10/5/2006
  • Celcom – 9/20/2006
  • Optus – 9/14/2006
  • KDDI – 7/19/2006
  • Beeline – 5/16/2006
  • Telefonica – 5/3/2006
  • Vodafone – 2/14/2006
  • T-Mobile EU – 6/29/2005

Google’s mobile search deals with OEMs (type of deal varies):

  • Nokia – 5/16/2006
  • BenQ – 4/27/2006
  • Sony Ericsson – 2/28/2006
  • Opera – 1/24/2006
  • Research in Motion – 1/12/2006
  • Motorola – 1/5/2006