Google Quietly Kills SMS Search, Closing One Way Of Connecting With Mobile Users Who Don’t Have Data Plans

Posted: May 13, 2013 in Apps, Google, GT, Mobile, Technology
Tags: , ,

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Google is well known for its regular bouts of spring
cleaning when it kills off a number of products in one
fell swoop, but it also sometimes makes quick
changes in between the bigger announcements. One
of those has now hit its portfolio of SMS-based
products aimed at users of lower end devices: Google has quietly closed down SMS Search. People began to notice the service stop working on
Friday, and asked about it in one of Google’s Product
Forums (good thing those haven’t been closed down
yet) and on Reddit. Jessica S., a Google employee,
set the record straight: “Hi everyone, Closing products always involves tough choices, but
we do think very hard about each decision and its
implications for our users. Streamlining our services
enables us to focus on creating beautiful technology
that will improve people’s lives. Thanks,
Jess” For those of you who didn’t use it, SMS Search was a
service Google had created that let users send
search queries by text message to a short number, in
this case 466453. The search results would also
come back as text messages. These would not be
links to further web pages, but actual information, playing on the many services that Google offers on
its desktop search portal for things like currency
conversions, weather and local listings. This was
mainly intended for feature phones without data
connections: But the search could also be used on smartphones: Google’s SMS services page hasn’t removed a link to
SMS Search yet, it goes to a 404 page.
Trying to find a picture of how SMS Search looked, I
came across (on Google) a link to its Canadian SMS
Search page, which appears to still have an active
link, but as Ghacks points out that won’t work because it uses the same short code number as the
U.S. service did. In some regards, you can see why Google would
choose to axe SMS Search. The number of feature
phone sales is on the decline worldwide as more and
more people make the shift to smartphones. In the last quarter of 2012, Gartner says the number
of mobile phone sales worldwide was a 472 million
units, compared to 478 million a year ago, but at the
same time smartphone sales increased by 58 million
to 208 million (it has yet to release its quarterly
figures for Q1 2013). It could be that Google is simply doing this to stay
one step ahead of the times. Or it could be that, as
with other products like Google Reader, it was not
getting enough use of the service. For now, Google’s other SMS products that let you
check your calendar, update your Blogger blog, check
your Gmail, and send and receive SMS text
messages through Google Voice, appear to still be
working; but users will inevitably start wondering if
these will be next on the chopping block. We’re reaching out to Google to ask and will update
as we learn more.

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