Daniel Garcia is a web developer/software architect by day, rebellious tech-punk twenty-something by night. He is a contributing writer to BlackBerry Rocks! who reviews applications for BlackBerry devices, as well as shares the occasional tip for fellow Rockers. He has a BlackBerry Storm 9530, soon to be 9550. If you would like to know more about him, you can follow his Twitter account: @buzzedword.
Earlier this month, Verizon pushed out Bing for Mobile to all Storm handsets, as well as preloaded the software onto all new Storm 2 units. If you haven’t already heard, Bing is the new kid on the block to the search market, going toe to toe with the big dog: Google. Why should you be using Bing, instead of Google? Can’t say. I’m here to rock the BlackBerry, not worry about petty search wars.
Read the full review after the break.
Let’s start with the obvious: Bing is beautiful. If you haven’t seen the desktop version, do yourself a favor and check it out, if only to see the daily background. A welcome surprise comes to be that this picture is replicated on the mobile app, adding a little jazz to what is normally mundane search.
The next big feature Bing brings to the table is auto-suggest search. This is big. Combined with the GPS functionality built into the application, you’ll soon be searching for things you really would never care to find otherwise. More on the GPS in a few. The autosuggest feature is not a dictionary completion in disguise, you can clearly see a network connection being formed followed quickly by a populated list of search queries you should try. A very nice touch to help you find what you need faster.
All applications have to worry about speed and responsiveness, search applications are no different. However, they have a difficult hurdle to challenge: at what point does that application stop, and the web result begin? If you look at Google’s “Quick Search” application, you are redirected immediately to a search results page within the BlackBerry browser. Not so with Bing, your results show up within the application with a quick blurb about the page, and related results below. Your results can page, and you can “pivot” around a result all within the application (“pivoting” around a result involves narrowing your search criteria based on a specific search result). The end result is a much faster and immersive experience within the application than if you had been redirected immediately to the browser.
Getting back to the GPS functionality, which is arguably my favorite feature in Bing, all search results will localize relative to your GPS position and the semantics of your query. If you search for “Events”, you will return events happening around you at your current location. If you search for “World Series”, you will return results about the World Series as a whole, rather than events happening around your location. Semantics means everything with Bing, and from the testing done with this application, the inferences Bing makes are usually the correct ones. This is the closest to natural language search on a mobile phone of any kind that I have ever seen. You can also search News and Movies in alternate tabs located at the top of the application, and these features use GPS localization as well. Movie showtimes will remain within Bing at all times, and you even have the option with select theaters to buy tickets online (will launch in browser).
The GPS mapping feature is the weakest part of Bing for Mobile. The maps provided only provide satellite and terrain views, though a nifty traffic view is also available. There is no option for Birds-Eye view like on the desktop site, so this will be an uphill battle for Bing to compete with Google Maps for Mobile. All things considered, however, it says something to the completeness of this application to have Maps, Search, News, and Movies all in one kit. If I were to draw one more negative to the Maps, it would be that to have true turn-by-turn directions, Bing will redirect you to VZW Navigator instead of displaying within the application.
The final feature that Bing offers users is voice search. Essentially, you click and icon that looks like a disembodied head floating in the search bar, and just like black magic, Bing prompts you to speak your search query. If you’ve ever used Tellme, the experience here is roughly the same; talk into the mic, the app confirms your search, search gets kicked to the application. Very smooth, and instead of adding another “voice layer” to the application, once Bing understands your search, it gets handed off to the main application. Very slick, very smooth.
In all honesty, there’s no reason you shouldn’t download this application if you have a Storm. It is very useful, and the few times you have to pull on it, you’ll be glad you have it.
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