Search is a big business nowadays, and up until today there's been one prominent search engine giant which has dominated the App Store in it's entirety. I am of course talking about Google. They first covered the need for immediate search by introducing Google Mobile onto the store, which also included the ability to search by voice. Later, we then had them introduce a mobile version of their widely popular Google Earth software.
With Apple having partnered with Google in the past to bring Google Maps out of the box on the iPhone, by all accounts it seemed Google had (and still has) things pretty much sown up! .. But let's not forget, Google aren't the only ones who want a piece of the iPhone's 'search' market share. After all, Microsoft had already created numerous version of Bing for other mobile devices, however as noted earlier in the year it was clear if Microsoft wanted to complete with the major search giants like Google, they'd have to bow down to the iPhone - and they have ..
Yesterday, having already released a mobile version of their Seadragon software earlier this year, and later introducing their Tag reader software, we saw the debut of Bing. Microsoft's own relatively new search engine. I have to say, I was surprised. Not by the fact we now have Bing on the iPhone; Surely that was inevitable, right? No, What surprised me the most is how well designed it is. It's clear it was thought about beforehand, and I like that in an app.
Quite simply, Bing lets you search - and just like Google it does so in various ways, not surprisingly one of them being of course - voice. According to Microsoft, it's key features on the iPhone are the displaying of the daily image from Bing.com, easy to access voice search, tips and tricks on the home page, "Locate Me" functionality, the ability to add pushpins and save locations. Represented by little Grey squares, Bing's homescreen is home to some of the latest news stories of the hour, alongside some interesting facts, off set on the 'Pic of the Day'.
The app lets you search by Images, Movies, Maps
(which ironically uses Google Maps), Businesses and Directions. Search results are displayed in-app, with the app featuring a built-in browser. Sadly though, no option to switch out to Safari. Figures much? Searching for businesses is pretty cool. If the business has been rated by Bing users, Bing will display and break down it's rating for you. For example, say you're searching for a coffee shop, if it has the data, Bing will display rates for aspects like the atmosphere, drinks and menu quality. A nice plus. Directions in-app feature full Google Maps, plus location (if turned on), along with manual directions and the option to manually step through each turn on your journey.
I must say - it's a good start Microsoft. One which I wasn't expecting and definitely a pleasant surprise from you of all people. That said, I do have a small caveat. Turn by turn directions with voice overlay would have been nice.