Review: Bing for Android

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Apps
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Yes, you read that right.  Microsoft’s Bing, one of Google’s main search competitors, launched it’s app on Android today.  Why all the coverage everywhere?  Simple, it’s actually good!

Now this probably won’t make too many people ditch their Google services to befriend Microsoft as their new primary search option on their phone, but it does offer a very feature rich alternative to all the integrated Google services on your Google phone.

I’m admittedly an Android fanboy as I love every Android device I’ve ever used, so like other bloggers, reviewers, posters, etc.. I feel a little un-faithful even using this app to review it, but as I stated above, you can’t help but at least give credit where credit is due when using this app.

When you first start it up you’re presented simply with the screen pictured at the beginning of this post.  You have the full picture background Bing has come known for featuring on its web search homepage, with the ability to choose from Images, Movies, Maps, Local, News, and Directions for search categories.

This is pretty much along the lines with the same links you would find along the top of the Google search page on your mobile phone.

The Image search is straight forward. It pops up some searches pulled from the background image in a weird tile format at each corner of the now centered picture, but you get the standard search bar at the top to type in whatever you want to search for.  I typed in Android, but then was greeted with my first annoyance.  There was no on-screen button to initiate the search.  You have to use either the enter key on your physical keyboard if you have one, or the enter key on your virtual keyboard.  This is a small annoyance, but an annoyance none-the-less.  Once you initiate the search, the image thumbnails appeared quicker than any other image search I’ve used (including Google’s) and was smooth in scrolling through the tiles of images. Clicking on an image brings it up full screen where you can flip side to side to view other pictures from your returned results.  Again, this runs smooth and efficiently compared to other image searches, but again, there was an issue.  I couldn’t save any of the images I was viewing. Long pressing an image made my phone vibrate like a menu would pop up, but nothing every came.  I’m hoping this will be addressed with an update.

One purely positive feature is Movies button.  You simply click it and it pulls a list of movies playing near you, based on your GPS or network returned location.  When you click on the movie, it takes you to a more detailed listing giving a synopsis, trailers, and show times from any local theaters.  A lot of movies I looked at didn’t have a synopsis or trailers but I’m sure again that can be address with whoever they’re using to pull that information from, or possible pull from more sources to fill in some gaps. You can then click on the movie theater if you’d like and then you’re taken to a listing or that theater showing all movies playing there, as well as buttons to quickly map or call the theater.  Very user-friendly, streamlined, and polished.

similarly the Local option works by pulling a list of categories with different places populated in each depending on your location.  You can browse restaurants, shopping, nightlife, arts & entertainment and more.  Moreover inside each of these categories is more specific sub categories.  If you read our review of Goby recently, it’s very similar to that, although I think Goby has more events and places, but that is its primary function.  This is perfectly suitable for a quick and easy way to find the closest restaurant, hang out, or whatever you’re looking to do on the spot.  Once you select a category and have your list of results, clicking on one will give you more information on the place/event such as directions, a website, menus or coupons. It also gives specific details like payment accepted, typical price, etc.  Very informative for a quick look-through to see if a place you thought you wanted to go to, is a place you really want to go to.

News is pretty much identical to Google news from their site.  It lists the most recent topics of each section as you scroll down. The one thing I don’t like is the fact that you can’t directly pick a news topic and see all the related stories to just that topic.  You can accomplish this, but there’s direct link to a list of the categories, that I noticed at least.  You can scroll through all the topics on the news page, and each topic shows a summary of a couple of the most current stories relating to that topic.  Underneath the last story for a given topic is a “more” button which then lets you get a list of all articles in a specified topic.  Again I wish this was more streamlined, but the news function still serves it’s purpose.

Now onto the Maps and Directions features.  I’m grouping them together for two reasons.  First, the rely on the same underlying events.  A map you’re looking at a specific location, with directions you’re looking for a route between two specific locations on the same map.  Second, they are both so similar to Google’s Maps and Navigation apps that I felt it would be redundant reviewing them separately.  So for the maps portion, it works as you would expect.  You start it up with it loading to your current location and you can then drag to, or search out any destination you want.  There are layers and the same features you find on their web version.  Again, very similar to Google’s offerings.  I made two observations in my short time playing with, one good and one bad.  The bad is it seemed to be using my network location, not my GPS location when I initially opened it.  It put me about 3 miles from my real location.  The good however, was scrolling over to my real location seemed to be a breeze as the map tiles loaded at least twice as fast as Google’s Maps does.  This almost outweighed the initially location being inaccurate to begin with.  Moving on to directions, it’s a pretty straight forward extension of Bing’s map feature.  You have a starting and end point and it routes you between the two using their map service.  I would have to give Google Maps a slight upper hand on this one for features, but I haven’t been able to try this out yet while in a car to see if it happens to be more accurate, as I know Google’s navigation has gotten me lost or taken me an unusually longer route than expect, more than once.

So ultimately this is a very viable alternative to Google’s offerings that come preloaded on most Android phones.  The old adage comes to mind though, “If it aint broke, then don’t fix it,” because as good as Bing may be, they’ll have a hard time convincing users to switch from Google’s fully integrated, and fully working offerings.

At least you don’t have to feel “locked” in to using Google’s service now if you didn’t want to.  You now at least have an option.

Enjoy!

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