For the first time Yahoo is letting mobile phone users query its search engine, giving them access to conventional web results, local business listings and related information, as well as images, such as pictures and maps.
The service will launch on several US carriers. Users can access the services from a data-enabled phone by going to mobile.yahoo.com.
The mobile data market is now taking off, but simplification is key to capturing mobile users, said Yahoo chief operating officer Dan Rosensweig, who announced the mobile search service in a speech at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association Wireless IT & Entertainment trade show in San Francisco.
Out of 137 million people who use the web in the US, more than 30% also use mobile data, Rosensweig said. Meanwhile, 79% of Yahoo website US users also have a mobile phone.
The service also features "search shortcuts" that let users request specific information, such as weather data, stock quotes, sport scores and flight information.
Yahoo had previously provided mobile-phone access to its e-mail and instant messaging services.
Earlier this month, rival Google introduced a service for mobile phone users to tap certain parts of the Google search index via SMS text messaging. Google also supports other mobile modes of accessing its search engine, such as Wap and i-Mode.
This Yahoo service should benefit users of internet-enabled multimedia phones, because many of those users have found it difficult to access that type of content, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group.
"A lot of people can't figure out how to do it," Enderle said. "About 40% of phones out there have browser capability and that capability is being either under utilised or not utilised by most of them. The carriers aren't happy about that; the data usage is way down."
Juan Carlos Perez and Stephen Lawson write for IDG News Service