Wireless carriers AT&T and T-Mobile are playing a game of musical default search engines, giving and taking away in a fun display of mobile phone brinksmanship.
Days after iPhone carrier AT&T said it had chosen Yahoo as the default search engine for the Android-based Motorola Backflip, T-Mobile USA replaced Yahoo with Google as its default search engine on mobile phones such as RIM BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile devices.
MocoNews broke the story March 5. When asked for comment on the coup, a Google spokesperson referred eWEEK to T-Mobile, which did not respond to a request for comment.
However, Yahoo confirmed that the search component that formed the foundation of T-Mobile's Web2Go service in November 2008 had expired.
A Yahoo spokesperson stressed that T-Mobile and Yahoo will continue to work together, citing the recent partnership on Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Messenger and on content services such as the "prominent placement of Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance, Flickr and weather" on T-Mobile's Web2Go portal.
Moreover, Yahoo is still the exclusive mobile search service for the millions of users of T-Mobile in Europe.
Yahoo also took a shot at search rival giant Google with this competitive platitude:
""Mobile is a key priority for Yahoo, as we are at the forefront of innovation and the development of personally relevant Internet experiences for consumers globally. With more than 80 carrier partnerships for our award-winning mobile search experience, including the recently announced partnerships with O2 in Germany and Chunghwa Telecom in Taiwan, we are displacing our largest search competitor as the trusted partner of choice.""
Default search deals are significant ways to pad search engine market share, as the search engine that pops up when a user loads a Web browser is more likely to be chosen, for expediency's sake.
However, this won't affect some savvy users who are exacting in their search tastes. These users will simply switch to Google, Bing or Yahoo regardless of what the default provider is on a device.
Yahoo remains strong on mobile devices, but Google is gaining serious mobile momentum through two main channels. First, Google is the default search provider for Apple's iPhone via AT&T.
Second, T-Mobile heartily supports Google's Android platform, offering the G1, MyTouch 3G and the new Nexus One smartphones. Naturally, Google is the default search engine on those devices over Yahoo, which is losing search market share on the desktop, and Microsoft's Bing.
Bing secured the default search slot for phones offered by No. 1 U.S. wireless network Verizon Wireless in January 2009. That deal was reportedly worth $500 million.
With AT&T picking Yahoo over Google for the Backflip and T-Mobile booting Yahoo in favor of Google, the game of musical default search engines is getting more interesting.
So, the current score: Verizon defaults to Bing, AT&T points to Yahoo, and Sprint and T-Mobile go with Google (as noted earlier, T-Mobile is staying with Yahoo in Europe).