Bing is rolling out a set of upgrades for Windows Phone 8. The wide-ranging update—which will show up automatically on U.S. phones in the coming weeks, with additional markets coming thereafter—streamlines the Bing search interface and adds some handy new features.
A few of you might already have noticed the change. For everybody else, here’s a preview of what you’ll soon see when you tap the Search button (Note: some features I describe below are only available in specific markets).
New look, more features
Today when you tap Search and flick left or right, you see four different search result categories: Web, Local, Media, and Shopping. Once the update rolls out, you’ll see just three: Web, Images, and Videos.
Why the design change?
As useful as some of the existing views might seem, many people just don’t use them all—or know that they’re there, Bing product manager Alisher Saydalikhodjayev told me. Consolidating and streamlining the views should reduce confusion and help people find what they’re looking for more easily.
The new Web category, for example, is designed to be smart enough to show whatever’s most relevant to your search, including images, videos, and local results (check out the screenshots below). “We’re gonna put more info on your first search result screen,” Saydalikhodjayev says. This also means less swiping on your part, he notes. The Bing team has also worked to improve the freshness of the service’s local results and made it easier to get things like directions and phone numbers for local businesses.
The update also brings richer results for popular websites. For example, say you search for “Delta Airlines.” Bing shows delta.com as the top result, but also provides links to Flight Status, SkyMiles, Track Flight, Flight Schedules, and other popular destinations within the site, saving some taps.
There are other upgrades. The new Images and Videos categories now support infinite scrolling. Images also received a design makeover that brings larger, auto-sized thumbnails. Here’s how it looks:
Finally, some under-the-hood tweaks were designed to make Bing deliver results faster on your phone and gobble up less data—a big deal in the era of carrier caps. Saydalikhodjayev says that’s because, post update, your phone downloads results only for the default Web view. Images and Videos are populated on demand if you swipe over to them.
That’s a big change from how things work on your phone today. Today Bing fills all four existing categories with results every time you search, whether you use them or not.
More Instant Answers
Instant Answers are one of my favorite Bing features—and they’re an especially big time saver on a phone. They save you from having to open other apps or navigate away from the search result page.
The new update brings 10 Instant Answers available on the PC to the phone, including traffic, flight status, exchange rates, word definitions and translations, and more. For example, search for “Define Awesome” to get the dictionary definition right there on the search results page. Or “USD JPY” to find out how the US Dollar is doing against the Yen. Here’s how they look:
Once this new batch of Instant Answers arrives, Windows Phone will support about 30 in all. And Saydalikhodjayev says new Instant Answers introduced in the future should arrive on Windows Phone more quickly thanks to the new update.
More at-a-glance info
Last year Bing introduce a web feature called Snapshot, which provides information at-a-glance about people, places, or things, so you can quickly find what you’re searching for. Now that same capability is coming to Windows Phone 8 in the U.S.
For example, type in the name of a coworker and you might see details like where they went to school, where they worked, and other people connected to searches for that person. For a place like Mt. Everest, you might see things like a short description, elevation, date of first ascent, and the names of some of the famous people who summited it. (Just tap on that little featured thumbnail photo in search results to access the related info.)
Search for the movie “World War Z” and you’ll see reviews, cast members, related films, and even links to buy movie tickets.
So whether you’re searching for a celebrity, co-worker, animal, geographic location, or man-made structure, Bing helps you better understand the world around you by providing at-a-glance answers and related info based on what people are searching for.