Yahoo Launches Sketch-a-Search App For iPhone


Yahoo at CTIA Wireless debuts two search applications for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch

Yahoo, determined not to be an also-ran in the search engine market, has released two new search applications for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch, one of which lets users search for information without typing in keywords.

Released at the CTIA Wireless trade show on 23 March, the Sketch-a-Search application lets iPhone users search by drawing a boundary on the iPhone’s map to find local restaurants within that area.

“What do you do when you’re looking for a restaurant in a certain area or section of town, and you don’t know the name of the neighborhood, or even its ZIP code?” Ariel Seidman, Yahoo’s director of Mobile Search products, said in a blog post. “Now with the Sketch-a-Search app, you can draw a circle around the general area on the map—around the San Francisco waterfront, let’s say—and voilà, restaurants appear.”

Users can draw any shape, including a circle or a line, on the map to see restaurant results in an area or street, then click on restaurant results to read reviews, look at photos, get directions or call the restaurant to make reservations.

Users may also filter restaurant results by “cuisine, ambiance or ratings,” Seidman said. The application defaults to a person’s current location and remembers previous locations.
The drawing can be cleared by clicking the Sketch icon or just shaking the phone, recalling the clearing method from the popular Etch A Sketch toy.

Yahoo Sketch-a-Search currently only covers restaurant searches in the United States, but the application will eventually be made available to international markets, and with additional local categories—think hotels—”in the near future,” Yahoo said.

This new search mode comes as companies are increasingly enabling gesture search on mobile applications to take advantage of virtual touch screens and provide a fun, easy alternative to manually typing in queries. For example, Google earlier in March launched Google Gesture Search, which lets users surface contacts and applications on their devices by tracing letters on the screen with their fingers.

The other new Yahoo application, Yahoo Search for iPhone, is a standard search application for the popular smartphone. It includes embedded Yahoo maps, localized query suggestions that are displayed as users type, search history, voice search and other content from Yahoo that appears right in the search results.

The Yahoo Search for iPhone application, which like the Sketch-a-Search app may also be cleared with a shake of the phone, is available here for 22 markets across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Yahoo could use a bit of traction with these applications, as the company’s search engine market share has been inexorably sliding. Conversely, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which is in the process of powering Yahoo search thanks to a 10-year search pact, has been gaining popularity.

Yahoo dropped from 17 percent market share through January to 16.8 percent in February, according to research from ComScore released March 9. Bing jumped to 11.5 percent of the U.S. search market in February, up from 11.3 percent in January.

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