Yahoo’s new Go application is the most compelling mobile portal I’ve seen in the eight years I’ve been using mobile products. Go is classic Yahoo! – a range of everyday services that fit the needs of typical users.
Go is centered around a carousel that allows you to pick from various widgets: oneSearch, Local & Maps, News, Sports, Finance, Entertainment, Weather, Flickr and Email.
Go emphasizes the primary advantage portals like Yahoo! and AOL have over the wireless carriers: they know a lot about their users. In many cases, the experience is automatically personalized based on the user’s Yahoo! profile. This dramatically reduces the tedium of data entry on a cell phone.
Advertising is currently limited to a single banner ad for Pepsi on the top of the main screen for each widget.
The application is still buggy. Every time I’ve used it, it has either crashed my phone or locked up to the point where I had to remove the battery. As I write this review, it has crashed 8 times. In use over the course of a week, I’ve gone from 30 seconds to 15 minutes of use before it crashed.
Despite that, I already use it nearly every day. I’ll be an even bigger fan when the kinks are worked out.
When you launch Go, you start at the oneSearch tab. You can search on any topic. Most of the things you’re likely to search on a mobile device (stocks, restaurants, etc.) come back with an enhanced experience optimized for mobile devices. oneSearch also includes Web sites, mobile-optimized Web sites and Web images. Web sites are transcoded by Yahoo! to be legible on mobile devices. If you’ve got a bar bet on the “GDP of the United States”, Go will help you get to an answer. A refine option makes it easy to reformulate your query without having to tap out related concepts.
Also in the oneSearch tab is a link labeled “Today in My City”, which leads to local weather, traffic, news, events, a neighborhood guide and maps.
Traffic and city guide information are the highlights of the local tab. You can set commonly used routes and see incident reported along your route. You can also see highlights of incidents in your area. Oddly, my local experience always started in Fairfax, despite oneSearch correctly showing Arlington.
The city guide includes basic Yellow Pages information as well as enhanced data from Yahoo! Local, including user ratings and reviews. It’s relatively easy to get to common local tasks such as restaurants, hotels and places of interest. Some of the data is suspect: Arlington isn’t the most interesting place in the world, but there are more interesting places than Interchange 72.
You can add local businesses to your address book, but I can’t see a way to get at the businesses you’ve added from the mobile client.
Maps are integrated throughout the local experience. It’s not as smooth as Google Mobile Maps, but it does the job.
News shows top stories, including latest headlines, domestic news and world news. You can also add feeds by selecting from a list of sources, importing from My Yahoo! or manually entering an RSS URL. I was able to quickly check off three of the feeds from My Yahoo! and import them to mobile. I’d love to see stats on how many people type in a URL.
A watchlist feature allows you to specify keywords and quickly find information, without constantly entering terms on your phone.
Sports, Finance and Entertainment
These categories follow a model very similar to news. You’re presented with a list of headlines from a set of default sources and you can add or delete.
In sports, “My Teams” and “My Scores” let you zero in on the teams you follow. The finance section integrates with your Yahoo! portfolios, providing easy access to stock prices, charts, vital statistics and news on the companies you care most about.
I couldn’t find an obvious way to get to movie showtimes from a movie page.
The main page shows the two-day forecast for your city and you can drill down for current conditions and a five-day forecast, as well as conditions in other cities. It also shows sunrise and sunset time, handy for travelers who want to know how much playtime they have left or when to head to the ocean for the sunset shot.
This is definitely the widget I will be using the most often. You can see your pictures, as well as pictures from friends and the Flickr community. I can image many a layover spent looking at and commenting on pictures from friends and family.
Flickr images are also integrated in local searches. In theory, this could be used to get a sense of places that you’re visiting. That’s a great application, but it’s one that requires better metadata – a search for Washington, D.C., today is as likely to pull up pictures of school groups on a field trip as it is to pull up the major sites in the area.
You can check email, send messages and search across all of your messages. Addressing messages isn’t as easy as on Gmail, but it does the job.