AOL dials up Web search for mobile phones

New service will allow users to search for Web content, find local merchant information and do shopping comparisons.

AOL is entering the mobile phone Internet search fray, testing a new service in the United States that will allow most cell phone users to search for Web content and local merchant information and do shopping comparisons all on their handsets.

The new AOL Mobile Search Services will give mobile users access to the AOL Search service, Pinpoint Shopping Search and AOL Yellow Pages. It is available on any Wireless Application Protocol-enabled phone, which is the majority of the mobile phones on the market, said Himesh Bhise, general manager of AOL Mobile.

Using keywords, searchers receive a list of results to scroll through and can read the Web pages by clicking on a link. "It will have the same layout as on AOL Search on the desktop," Bhise said.

The company, a division of Time Warner, is partnering with InfoGin, an Israeli company that has developed proprietary technology that automatically adapts Web pages to mobile screens.

Pinpoint Shopping allows users to quickly find information that helps them to compare products, prices and merchant reputations. AOL Yellow Pages allows users to call merchants with one click and get a map and directions from MapQuest.

The service is free, but carrier charges may apply, Bhise said.

AOL may not be the first to offer mobile phone Web search, but Bhise said the service quality will be high, and error messages and system freezes from trying to squeeze heavy Web content onto a small device will be minimized.

Google already offers mobile phone-based Web search and localized listings, and earlier this month Yahoo extended its browser-based mobile search function to all WAP-enabled phones.

Mobile Web search has been around for several years, but only recently have lower fees and technology improvements allowed for increased adoption. The mobile market is being targeted by Yahoo, Google and other Internet search companies that are looking for ways to increase their audiences and boost advertising revenues.

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