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WP7 (6) - Bing

Feb 15

Written by: Mark Schramm
2/15/2012 3:48 PM  RssIcon

Well, it’s been more than a month and a half since I began using a Windows PhoneDescription: as my primary phone device.  I was going to cover a few things but Bing Search is so expansive that the blog just starting growing beyond reason.  I have decided to stick with Bing this time around.

Let’s begin with just good old searchin’.  On my iPhone I could search but only after I loaded up Safari or the Google App. All Windows Phones have this handy little search button below the screen, just to the right of the home button.  On my phone (Samsung Focus Flash) it’s a capacitive button which I’m not so sure I like very much.  The problem with it is, I keep brushing it with my hand and that’s enough to take me to Bing which interrupts whatever I was doing.  You get used to it but maybe a more physical button would be better here. 

So… about Bing.  One press of a button (or really just the barest hint of a touch) brings up the built in Bing search App.  It works just like Google (although perhaps MS might disagree) and you can type in anything at the top where it says “Search the web” and it returns results using the Bing search engine.  One nice thing about the search is it categorizes it for you.  It creates Windows Phone pages (Pivot Items) containing “web, local and image” results.  The local tab is really nice as it seems to increase the relevance of the results.  Of course you get the beautiful Bing background images too.  Although I’m not sure how much bandwidth gets chewed up downloading them, they sure do look nice.

But what are all those little icons for?

Searching by text alone is just not good enough.  Most people I know that have iPhones go out and get a program like Shazzam that allows their phone to listen to music playing and then tell them the name of the song and perhaps where they can buy it.  When I got the Windows Phone one of the first things I did is download Shazzam (Because my wife always asks what song is playing on the radio… like I should know it).  I no longer have it on my phone as it’s simply not necessary.  Tap the icon that looks like a musical note and hold your phone up to the music.  In seconds the song is displayed with a button to get it from the Zune Marketplace (Zune is kind of like iTunes for Windows Phone but with an all-you-can-eat offering).  The functionality is built right in.  Easy.  But there are other buttons too.  The one that looks like an eye does a visual search.  Point your phone’s camera at a book or some other thing you are planning to buy and it will search for it using Bing Visual Search.  When pointed it at a book it told me all about the book and included links to reviews and places it could be bought.  Piece of cake.  The microphone icon does an audio search and produces results from the web, images and also anything local.  Just like that.  The last button I have not written about is the “Local Scout” button and this is very cool indeed.

Description: Scout

With a tap of a single icon (or tap of the Local Scout Live Tile) you can find out what’s happening right around you.  You get a multi-page picture of your neighborhood.  On the first page, your Windows Phone lists all the places around you where you can “eat+drink”.  Click on any particular establishment and you get a multi-page view showing everything about the place including a link to directions, phone, address and neighborhood, reviews and links to apps that might have information about this particular place like Yelp, Transit apps and many many others (includes an option to download the App if you don’t have it already).  On the second page you get a number of tiles showing things to “see+do” in the neighborhood.  This has links to theatres, specials, happy hours, concerts, tours (did I mention Happy Hours?) and many more all happening around you.  Click on a see+do tile and you get the same sort of information you got for restaurants.  Now that you’ve eaten and done something, it’s time to shop.  That would be the third page that shows all the shopping places around you.  Scroll through them and find what you want.  The last page shows highlights including favorite places that you frequent in the area.  Local scout’s value is immeasurable when in a strange town.  Our family quite often travels for our kids' swim meets and there is time to kill.  How cool will it be just to whip out my Windows Phone, tap a button and now I know what’s cool to do around “here”.  It’s like having your very own “local inhabitant” with you!


The only thing odd about Bing is that sometimes the audio search just can’t figure out what you’re saying.  That, in itself, is not too strange.  What IS strange is that something I mutter in one room works great, but move to another room and you just get this strange pseudo-jeopardy kinda sound while it thinks unsuccessfully about what you just said.  I have yet to figure out if it’s background noise or the room acoustics or just the way I’m holding the phone.  It just sometimes won’t work no matter how slowly you talk into it (and consequently people around think you are bit of a moron talking slowly into your phone like its deaf or doesn’t understand English, k-n-o-w  w-h-a-t   I  m-e-a-n?).

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