Sprint has released an enhanced version of its search that allows users to tap into their phone’s location when doing searches. The search feature is powered by Microsoft’s Live Search.
The first time user experience isn’t exactly intuitive. When doing a search off Sprint’s portal, one of the layers that comes back is “Local” clicking again to “Go Local” then asks whether you want to enter a location or “Find Me.” Selecting “Find Me” renders a release authorizing Sprint to give your location to Microsoft. The results that come back after all this (my query term was “Target”) still show ringtones and screen savers above the local results.
Search results aren’t sorted in any discernible order. Usually in local search, results are sorted by distance from the starting point or alphabetically. These are neither.
The authorization to use “Find Me” can be stored for a session, day, 30 days or unlimited, making return visits easier.
A link labeled “Get Precise GPS Location” offers users of select phones the option to download a Java applet. Instead of typing out what you’re looking for, you can speak the name of the business or the category.
Although category names (restaurants, bars, Mexican restaurants, movie theaters) worked fine, business names did not. Of the dozen or so names I tried, only “Cheesecake Factory,” “Target” and “Dominos” returned the results I was expecting. These terms are so common that many data providers treat them as categories.
It seems that the browser-based search uses triangulation from the towers to calculate location, whereas the application uses GPS from your handset.
Despite its flaws, it’s still a significant move. This is the first time I know of that a U.S. carrier has offered location-enabled search for free.
Update: The Java application also can tap into the phone’s address book. If you find a business and want to share it, just pick a name from the phone’s address book and send.
- Sprint press release
- Sprint And Microsoft Extend Mobile Partnership, Offer New Services (Search Engine Land, includes screenshots of Java app)