Bing’s redesigned iPhone app focuses on instant answers

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Bing's new app is both pretty and powerful.
Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft released a completely revamped Bing app for iPhone today with a redesigned home page and a much larger emphasis on instant answers to search queries. Finding what you’re looking for now takes much less time.  It’s possible that this release is a stepping stone to the iOS debut of Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Google Now.

Bing still features the famous photo of the day, but now quick access buttons for search, places nearby, restaurants, movies and more overlay that captivating background. If you swipe up from the bottom where it says News, you’ll see the top stories at any point, typically from MSN.

When you conduct a search, it’s clear Bing tries very hard to figure out what you’re looking for and just give it to you. Displaying search results is the last resort. For instance, before I even finish typing out Adele’s name, Bing suggests I visit her artist page. Once I finish typing out the name and search, I get a collection of visual items related to her including thumbnails for news stories, quick links to her Wikipedia, IMDb and social media accounts, more links to play her music on various websites and streaming services and multimedia results below that.

It isn’t until several flicks later that I get toward the bottom where the familiar search results are waiting if the top half of Bing’s offerings didn’t satisfy.

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Now you can listen to Adele’s beautiful voice right away for instant sadness.
Photo: Microsoft

The story is similar when you tap one of Bing’s new home page buttons. The app separates restaurants into their own categories for nearby, highly rated, fast food, etc. Each restaurant gets its own mini card with a photo and Yelp rating. If you tap one you can get the restaurant’s contact information. Once again, Bing proudly boasts integration with other apps and services with multiple third-party links for viewing the menu, reading reviews, making a reservation or getting directions. TV shows and movies do the same, providing links to watch on sites like Netflix, Hulu and Vudu.

The Bing update is a highly welcome one because it’s a one-stop shop. It’s plainly not as intelligent as Google Now, but it’s not meant to be. That’s Cortana’s job. Bing for iPhone is Microsoft’s best attempt yet at streamlining web search as we know it. I only hope it doesn’t take the folks in Redmond too long to roll this experience out to the desktop and mobile websites. Get Bing free in the App Store.