Abphone – a mobile vertical search service taking on Google

Abphone is this month’s “Mobile 2.0 Service of the Week” coming to you from mjelly.com here at Mobile Industry Review.   After Mbmgl (Japan) and Mxit (South Africa) we continue our showcase of the world’s best mobile 2.0 services with a look at one of France’s hottest mobile startups.


What is it?

abphone is a mobile search engine that focuses on multimedia content that you might want for your phone e.g. images, video and games.  They have created a really simple mobile search interface to a range of different content databases.  You can check it out at m.abphone.com.


Abphone plugs into a range of image and video sources (e.g. youtube) and for games has aggregated content from a range of premium and free suppliers including Glu, Twistbox, Hovr and Greystripe.

In some ways abphone are similar to – Taptu (previously covered here at MIR) – for example, both Taptu and abphone focus on entertainment content rather than internet/ site search.

The service abphone offers has been delivering some pretty good traction:

– 400k unique monthly visitors

– 100+ million page views per month

– 500+ million searches since launch

– 15 sessions per active user per month


Why is it interesting?

Mobile is an area where Google has not yet really achieved dominance, even in its core areas of strength.  For example, Admob is widely accepted to have beaten them in the mobile advertising space so far.   In the area of mobile search, Google continues to have a pretty weak offering, and mainly focuses on providing transcoded versions of PC-focused sites – it’s page rank algorithm really struggles to rank mobile-only sites.

The success of abphone shows that there may be room for a lot of specialist mobile search providers in specific verticals as the market develops.  Mobile search requires very precise results, so what we might see is a range of specialist players emerging for specific functions.


Ab phone also has some lessons for mobile startups looking to get traction.  Initially abphone focused on generating word of mouth – it got a lot of take-up from being covered in French blogs in the early days, amplified by word of mouth.  Once it had some traction, abphone was able to gain carriage deals with all major operators in France including Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom.

Finally, abphone is also an example of how new forms of mobile search and discovery are going to impact established areas of the mobile industry.  Historically, things like images/ wallpapers have been delivered by aggregators as a premium service, abphone allows users to access this type of content for free.  At the same time, it is creating a new channel for premium content such as games.

abphone are planning to extend their service into new verticals in 2009 (e.g. music) so watch this space.   Could abphone be an acquisition target for one of the big mobile content aggregators like Zed or Buongiorno?

You can find abphone on mjelly which is a directory of mobile web sites and other stuff at mjelly.com and m.mjelly.com

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