Yahoo Gets Serious About Mobile

New email and Flickr apps show that CEO Mayer is pushing to make Yahoo a contender in the mobile market.
Yahoo has introduced two rewritten mobile applications in the last two days: Yahoo Mail and Flickr. Both are key properties that the listing Internet giant has ignored for far too long. Under former Googler Marissa Mayer's leadership, Yahoo appears to be ready to step up and compete.

In the last five or six years, Yahoo has failed to capitalize on the growing importance of mobility. In 2006, smartphone penetration was at about 15%. Now, more than 50% of new device sales are smartphones. If there are two activities that smartphone users love, it is to send mobile email and take and share pictures. That's why the new Yahoo Mail and Flickr apps are so important.

Mayer herself explained the new Yahoo email system. "Email is the ultimate daily habit," she wrote. "It's often the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing before going to bed. Why? Because it's one of the simplest and most basic forms of communication."

The Web interface has been fully revised, and the company pushed out dedicated Windows 8 Android and iOS Yahoo Mail apps to accompany the Web redesign. They all share the same look and feel.

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"You've told us loud and clear that you want fewer distractions when it comes to email," continued Mayer. "You want to quickly log in, communicate, and get on with your day ... We've redesigned the new version of Yahoo Mail with speed in mind -- getting through your emails is faster than ever before. We've also made your inbox more intuitive and easier to navigate, allowing you to focus on what matters most: your messages."

Mayer knows the importance of mobile email all too well. Her former employer, Google, delivers an excellent mobile version of Gmail to its Android smartphones. It's no surprise that Mayer made a new mobile email experience a priority.

The same can be said about mobile photos. Yahoo's Flickr app has been languishing. The last update was pushed out a year ago, in December 2011. Flickr is one of the many properties that photo lovers were hoping Mayer would take seriously after taking the reins, and it appears that she has.

Yahoo revamped both the Web-based Flickr experience and the iPhone application. (There's no word yet if new Android and Windows Phone apps are on the way, but they likely are.) The new app is significantly better. It makes improvements across the board, in terms of the user interface and design as well as raw functionality. It now supports filters for photos and makes sharing with various social networks a breeze.

These two apps are a solid first step, but Yahoo has to go further. For example, Yahoo Messenger, its instant messaging service, could make a comeback if Yahoo makes it a cross-platform messaging service, similar to Skype, ChatOn, What'sApp, or RebTel.

Yahoo can still turn itself around and compete with Apple, Google and Microsoft in the mobile arena. If it can deliver a good core set of mobile apps to today's leading smartphone platforms, it has a chance.

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