Yahoo and Nokia have a good relationship, with a number of joint projects, so the continued support from Yahoo for their mobile phone client, Yahoo! Go, is welcome. Easily downloaded and installed, simply by pointing your smartphone browser at http://get.go.yahoo.com/, the java application provides a single icon to click on for a number of Yahoo services.
With a big warning on the download page that you ‘have to install this on the internal memory', the target audience (i.e. the non-Symbian geeks) might just wonder what to make of that - especially if they have an N81 or N95 8GB where, to their mind, all the storage is internal!
The big change with Yahoo! Go 3 is that their widgets engine has been ported into the client. These widgets allow access services outside of the Yahoo portfolio - currently there are widgets for MTV News and MySpace. Yahoo is looking to release an SDK at some point in February so other sites can join in the fun. Of course, at that point they're going to have to explain to their users how to install their widget into the Yahoo! Go system - and that'll be a lot of hoops to jump through.
Uptake on the widgets could well be vital to the success of Yahoo! Go but I have to say that adding them is slow, quite painful, and once there are more than a handful, the discovery problem that plagues any index system on a mobile screen is going to be evident.
The widgets are placed into the carousel, a 3d graphical ring of icons for each function. It's eerily reminiscent of the Nokia media launcher in the N95 if it was viewed edge on. While it looks great, it can be a touch slow in operation, and wastes a lot of screen estate in my opinion. But it is one of the few areas that designers can work on the graphics and make something look nice. Even more so, when you consider that everything else Yahoo! Go presents is in a browser-like 2d scrollable column of mostly text.
On first launching, all the services available to Yahoo! Go users are present in this carousel, namely Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Local Search, Flickr, News, Weather, Finance, Sport and Entertainment, and this brings up the main point of Yahoo! Go. You need to be a heavy user of Yahoo! to get the full benefit of the application. You need to have everything set up, to be bouncing between the areas for full effect. Personally, I've got a Yahoo Mail account, but it's not used heavily, a Messenger account, and the social photo site Flickr. Deleting the unused areas speeds up the carousel to a useable speed - and from a user point of view, deleting unneeded icons is much easier than adding a new service.
Pizza results on Yahoo! Go
Being on mobile, one of the big possibilities is searching 'where you are', and the OneSearch option in Yahoo! Go delivers this, although in my tests not very well. It's unfortunate, given the capabilities of modern phones to get a rough location from tower data, or an exact location from a built in GPS, that the client makes no effort at all to look for these things, leaving you to manually punch in your area. And when you do (in my case "Leith, Edinburgh" searching for "Pizza") the results aren't detailed enough.
Yahoo! Go returned three pizza results, all over a mile away, all three being major commercial chains. For comparison, Nokia's Maps (1.x) client pulled in close to twenty results, with more local pizzerias alongside the nationals, and many of them a lot closer.
Pizza results on Nokia Maps
Other services to me just don't provide enough information. You get the top few entries, and some text, and then have to click through to the major story - while this light browse might be suitable for some, in this media rich age of online information, Yahoo! Go and what it delivered through the information channels left me distinctly underwhelmed.
But the fundamental question for me in all this is "why", because every bit of the functionality of the applet is duplicated online, in a mobile specific web site (http://beta.m.yahoo.com/). Okay, it misses the graphically nice carousel, but (functionally) everything is there, including the heavily hyped widgets. So when you boil the choice down to a rather slow java client, or the 'already familiar interface' in the web browser, my gut feeling is everyone is going to bias towards the web site - I know I am.
So it's technically competent, but (unfortunately) like many Yahoo properties, it partially duplicates what's already in the portfolio, with no clear reason for being there.
Ewan Spence, 26 Feb 2008