Naver Still No. 1 in Mobile Search, But Google Reaping Benefits of Simplicity

A newish study shows that Google search has the highest rates of satisfaction among smartphone users in Korea, but Naver is still tops for market share with 54.8 percent.

In its “Mobile Internet Index” for the second half of 2011, market research company Metrix found that compared with January of this year, satisfaction with Google’s mobile search had risen 0.4 points to 70.5. This nudged it ahead of former leader Naver, which fell to second with 67.1, followed by Daum on 66.7 and Nate on 65.9

google, naver, daum, nate

Overall satisfaction with mobile search fell over the last six months, from 69.9 points to 67.4. This change was attributed to a growing dissatisfaction with actually accessing the search engines on mobile devices. Compared with January, the study noted, respondents said they had found it harder to access all three of the Korean portals. Google was the sole exception.

The reason for this apparent drop in quality, the Korean Communications Commission said, was that the number of smartphone users had more than doubled, while wireless speeds on 3G networks had fallen. Crucially, however, the size of opening pages on Korean portals had also sprawled, while Google’s had remained steady.

Bloter quoted Metrix as saying:

In Naver’s case, their opening page ran to about twice the screen size six months ago. Today, it’s increased to around three times the size. On July 26th, Google’s homepage used about 4.34KB of data, whereas Naver’s used 51.33KB, Daum’s used 30.2KB, and Nate’s used 41.22KB.

Given Korean’s well-known fondness for ornate opening pages, it would be ironic indeed if local portals’ attempts to cater to this demand ended up pushing mobile netizens into Google’s arms. The fact that Korea is supposedly the only country in the world* where Google felt compelled to doll up its famously simple homepage to boost market share, only adds to the weirdness!

(* According to a recent podcast I heard of a talk from “Google employee No. 58” Douglas Edwards.)

For all that, when it comes to actual mobile market share, Naver remains firmly in first place with 54.8 percent, followed by Daum on 18.5 percent, Google on 14.7 percent and Nate on 8.4.

google, daum, nate, naver

A possible takeaway from this is that despite Naver’s much-touted problems, and the supposed inexorable rise of foreign upstarts such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, local social networking sites and portals remain very deeply entrenched in Korea, and will probably be so for some time yet.

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