Microsoft (s msft) introduced its new dedicated Bing iPad search application Thursday, and my first impression is that it offers more useful features than Google’s (s goog) iOS (s aapl)app in a better package. Yet while it may outclass the competition, I also doubt I’ll ever use it again.
Microsoft did a nice job with the iPad Bing app. I’ve included a gallery below so you can see for yourself just how pretty the free app is. The sweeping vistas that make Bing so visually distinctive on the web look great on the iPad’s screen. The dynamically updated section thumbnails along the bottom of the interface not only look good, but they also offer some pretty great centrally located useful features as well. You can call up news headlines, weather, movie trailers and more with a single tap from the home screen. And everything transitions beautifully from one screen to another with the help of snappy and smooth animations.
As is often the case with Google offerings, its own dedicated universal iOS app looks bare-bones and more a case of all function, no flash by comparison. Microsoft even includes a voice search feature like Google, too. But despite its many virtues, I predict it’ll suffer the same fate as the Google app has on my iPhone and iPad: I’ll probably only open it a couple more times, and eventually I’ll delete it from my home screen.
Why? Because search is not something I need all that often on my tablet or smartphone, thanks to the wide availability of narrow-focus single speciality apps. And even in those instances where I do want to search the web, I can access Google or Bing in my device’s mobile Safari browser in just as many clicks as it would take me to get to it in a dedicated app, and the apps will kick me out to Safari to track down my results anyway. Search apps may use a dedicated browser by default, which Bing does, but that’s just another problem since in-app browsers don’t offer Apple’s recently-introduced WebKit optimizations.
Bing would probably work kind of nice as a sort of always-on picture frame/desk clock/info center, but that’s not how I use my mobile devices, and I’d much rather open Reeder, Flipboard or Zite to go hunting for news, or use Google Maps for directions. Bing does a bunch of things adequately, but in the age of apps, I’ve come to expect and prefer software that does one thing and does it very well instead of Swiss Army-style titles that tries to do too much.
The fact is, the only real search I need is built-in to my iOS device thanks to Apple’s own Spotlight search, which is always just a swipe or two away. More often than not these days, if I’m searching on my mobile device I’m looking for something local, and that’s something no third-party offerings can provide, and even if they did I’d probably just use Spotlight anyway.
Do you use third-party dedicated search apps on your device, and if so, what for?