Yahoo Mobile Abandons Its Smartphone App To Focus On The iPhone

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Score another one for the iPhone. Yahoo is abandoning its mobile app for the Blackberry and other smartphones in order to focus more on its recently relaunched iPhone app. For every other phone, it is concentrating development efforts around the mobile browser experience. People applying for the smartphone app, which is still in beta, are receiving a notice (reproduced below) stating that “Yahoo has decided to cease development” of the app on May 20th. Yahoo Mobile now only has eyes for the iPhone. Rather than create a million apps for every other phone, it is standardizing on delivering the same experience through the mobile browser. Or so it would seem.

A Yahoo spokesperson confirms:

We are reprioritizing some products to help us better deliver the best possible experiences to consumers on mobile. To streamline our services, we will not develop Yahoo! Mobile for smartphones to focus our efforts on mobilizing Yahoo!, improving Yahoo! Mobile for web and Yahoo! Mobile for iPhone as well as developing new and engaging experiences for consumers, partners and advertisers.

We currently have mobile products that reach hundreds of different devices (including Blackberry), and we continue to expand that comprehensive list.

The company announced a revamped Yahoo Mobile in February, and rolled it out in April with a new iPhone app and browser support for more than 300 devices. Yahoo Mobile now combines mobile search, your email, IM, and social messaging streams, and personalized Yahoo content such as news, sports, stocks, and RSS feeds.

Standardizing on the mobile browser certainly makes economic sense. When it comes to developing apps, Yahoo needs to pick a platform and it is clearly going with the iPhone. Every other phone will have to do with the mobile browser for now. (Although, Yahoo says it will develop apps for other platforms when it sees enough demand. Update: Indeed, I have been able to confirm that new apps for the Blackberry and other mobile platforms with a different look and feel than the discontinued smartphone app are in the works). While Yahoo is putting a lot of effort into making the mobile browser experience more app-like, it will still never be as fully-functioning as a customized mobile app. There is nothing wrong with betting on the mobile browser. But just last March during a briefing I had with Adam Taggart, head of product marketing for Yahoo Mobile, when I asked whether Yahoo was leaning more towards distribution through apps or mobile browsers, he replied:

We are embracing both, apps and browser. We as Yahoo are all about ubiquity. We have a renewed appreciation for the browser because they are getting materially better, but you can always do more with an app on your phone. In the immediate time frame you will see a lot more standalone vertical apps coming out of Yahoo.

He positioned the other smartphone apps as a way to address people with Blackberies and other Web-capable phones who have iPhone envy. Here is how he positioned the smartphone apps which Yahoo is now abandoning:

The smartphone app is a way to turn your smartphone into an iPhone at no additional cost, if you are envying the iPhone.

The smartphone app actually included some features not found in the iPhone app, such as a socially aware address book which could pull contacts from the phone’s native address book and merge that with your Facebook friends, IM buddies, or other contacts on the Web. Don’t expect that feature to come to a mobile browser anytime soon.

Here is the text of the email sent to interested beta testers:

Yahoo! has decided to cease development of the Yahoo! Mobile smartphone app
effective Wednesday, May 20th. So you will not be provided access to the
beta program for this product.

For the time being, we will be focusing our efforts on the newly-launched
Yahoo! Mobile experience for browsers (available at new.m.yahoo.com) and
for the iPhone (available via the Apple App Store).

We really want to thank you for your interest in being a beta tester. The
feedback we receive during these programs is extremely helpful in improving
the customer experience across all of Yahoo!s mobile products.

In the meantime, stay tuned for more exciting new mobile product releases
from Yahoo!. Theres a lot coming and we want to hear your feedback!

Many thanks,
The Yahoo! Mobile team

Update: I changed the headline of this post from “Blackberry App” to “Smartphone App” because the beta app being canceled runs across several smartphones. Also, as I note in the update above, Yahoo may very well be working on other apps for the Blackberry and other mobile platforms. But until we see those, its main focus currently, as far as mobile apps go, is on the iPhone.

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