Microsoft is completely overhauling its Bing for iPhone app today. While most search queries occur within the browser or Spotlight feature of iOS, Microsoft is betting on people downloading a powerful separate app to search the web without Google. That’s a stretch, but after using the app for the past few days I can certainly see its appeal.
I’ve been searching for people like Taylor Swift or Drake, and films like The Godfather and Spectre. The new Bing for iPhone app does a good job of providing useful results that aren’t just a list of text or Wikipedia links. For films, Bing lists their Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB ratings, and even iOS apps like Netflix or iTunes where you can buy or rent titles. It’s even clever enough to remove options for Spotify for artists like Taylor Swift that keep their latest albums off of most streaming services.
Bing links to your other iOS apps
Bing for iPhone will also launch the actual apps when you click the Netflix, Twitter, YouTube, or other app icons. As it’s a deep link it will also open the relevant profile page, movie, or song that you actually searched for. That’s certainly more useful than Google’s own iOS app, that simply loads them within itself rather than try to connect up to the native iOS apps.
It’s also just quick to search, whether it’s for images, simple web queries, maps, or just bars and restaurants nearby. This is a web-based app, but it doesn’t always feel like one. Speaking of speed, it also works as a really fast barcode scanner. You can point your camera at a QR code or barcode and it pulls up a Bing search result for whatever product you’ve scanned.
All of these features would be great inside Cortana
All of these features are great additions, and they certainly rival Google’s iOS app, but these would make more sense inside the new Cortana app for iPhone. Microsoft is currently testing Cortana for iOS, but having both apps feels like a duplication of effort. "The reality is that we don’t think about it that way. We really do think of Cortana as your digital personal assistant," explains Ryan Gavin, Microsoft’s general manager of search, in an interview with The Verge. "Reaching into search, and reaching into Bing to provide great answers to questions, that’s a big part of her promise, but it’s certainly not her only promise."
Bing also powers a lot of Apple’s iOS search. It helps with certain Siri queries and even with web results for Spotlight. Microsoft’s new Bing iOS app is separate to that work. "We continue to have a great partnership with Apple," says Gavin. "This is really just a reflection of our work across search, across platforms." While this will only be available for the iOS platform today, and limited to the US, Microsoft is working to Bring it to Android in the future. "We don’t have a date to share, but we’re working on it," says Gavin. If you’re interested in trying out Bing for iOS then it’s available from Apple’s App Store.