Search is inextricably woven into the use of computers, but it's still a relative rarity when it comes to the mobile phone market.
That's why I was keen to try Yahoo's attempt to make the technology more approachable through its free voice-controlled search product, OneSearch with Voice. My overall assessment after trying it on a BlackBerry Pearl 8130 Yahoo lent to me: the software is useful, but it whetted my appetite more than it actually transformed my life.
To use OneSearch with Voice, you hold down your phone's "talk" button and speak a few words into the phone. The phone sends what you said to Yahoo servers that convert it into text and run a search tailored for mobile phone users. Whereupon, the results and sometimes an accompanying ad appear on the phone.
It didn't always produce the right answer, but it did so often enough and easily enough that I found myself turning to the application more and more frequently. And its textual results were more useful for me than Google's 1-800-GOOG-411 voice-only search service.
There's no secret why Yahoo is eager for the market: mobile search is growing fast and is a powerful conduit for targeted advertising.
Google long since passed Yahoo for search on personal computers, but the mobile market is relatively immature--and it's growing fast. From June 2007 to June 2008, "the number of people accessing mobile search at least once a week grew 50 percent in Europe, with France and Spain leading at a rate of 69 percent and 63 percent, respectively," according to ComScore analyst Alistair Hill, and the number in the U.S. grew 104 percent to 10 million. But Google leads Yahoo by a wide margin for mobile search usage in the U.S., U.K., Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.
So how's does OneSearch with Voice stack up?
What's good The best thing about the service, far and away, is that it frees you from your phone's keyboard. Even on finger-friendly phones such as the BlackBerry, typing is a pain. With voice control, you can run searches much more easily.
I'll plead the Fifth about whether I tried OneSearch while driving, but there are other times when one-handed typing on a phone keypad is difficult. One early aha moment came while I was walking through the rain holding an umbrella. Another was lugging a bag through the airport. With OneSearch with Voice, I could have my say, then check back after a few moments to see if the phone fetched what I wanted rather than trying to pay attention to typing and walking at the same time. … Read more