Like many iPhone owners I downloaded iOS 9 yesterday, after a couple of false starts. The new OS has some nice new features but isn’t radically different. But there are some meaningful changes especially when it comes to search and local search in particular.
I was on a panel yesterday at #Entrata Summit in Utah. The question of Apple search came up and its competitiveness with Google. Apple is slowly chipping away at Google’s mobile search dominance but as a general matter the product isn’t truly competitive yet — except perhaps in local.
There are now four entry points for Apple Search on iOS devices:
- Apple Maps (now getting reviews from more sources)
- The new right-swipe Spotlight (federated) search, with suggested content
- Siri web search (still mostly Bing)
- Safari (still Google, though diminished somewhat)
Most interestingly, on Safari, Google search results can be “demoted” to second position in a newly federated list. In fact this happens every single time for local queries. The top result is now from Apple Maps, which has immediate and significant SEO implications.
The number one result for a local search in Apple Maps is also going to be the number one result in Safari.
Another interesting change is search suggestions or local category icons. On the left below is a screen from Safari (when you touch the search box). Selecting an icon will take you to further category refinements as well as a list of local results.
On the right below is Spotlight search with its local category buttons. This seeks to unify the local search experience across entry points.
Right now Apple can’t really compete well against Google in general web search. However, it now has a range of viable options for local search that are likely to take a bite out of Google’s mobile volumes.
What are your thoughts about all this?