Appolicious powers Verizon Educational Tools

Find your way around with Bing for Android

by Tim McLain

You have to hand it to Microsoft. Not complacent to let their Bing search service live solely on the Web, the free Bing app brings some welcome search and mapping features to the Droid, wrapped in an easy-to-use package that helps users "find what they need, when they need it."

Fire up the app and use the voice-activated search to find the perfect restaurant, decide which movie to see nearby, view stunning images, and grab driving directions to local destinations.

On top of these rich features, Bing sports eye-catching photos matched with daily trivia questions on its home screen. Beauty and brains in a single app, from Microsoft? Miracles happen, folks.The menu is clean and clear. Stocked on top of today's image are buttons labeled Images, Movies, Maps, Local, News and Directions. A standard search bar is offered at the top, complete with the now-familiar microphone button to enable voice queries.

The Images button brings up both a search box to find specific photos by keyword and a set of four collections related to the image of the day. Each album is presented as a small stack of thumbnails. Just click on one, and Bing provides a screen full of results for easy preview. Eye candy and serious browsing functionality blended together perfectly.

Movies brings up a list of flicks playing near you. Click a title, and a synopsis appears, along with links to trailers and today's show times.

News is your gateway to local, U.S. and international news of the moment. Based on your location, the app does a solid job of offering three to five recent stories in each category. It's one of the best basic news apps I've used.

Local pops up a ready-to-go list of categories to choose from, including restaurants, shopping and services, nightlife, hotels, transportation, arts and entertainment, government and community plus health and fitness. Once you find a local business of interest, reviews and an instant-call button appear, along with a map link.

Clicking through to get directions is painless and fast, and the maps (also available by clicking Directions or Maps on the home screen) are super-clear. However, without turn-by-turn voice navigation, being able to see and track a route visually seems very last year. That and only your passenger will be able to help get you from point A to B.

Finally, the app makes it easy to save searches and favorites to your home screen. If you're a Bing fan and looking for an alternative to Google's suite of Android apps, Microsoft offers a compelling app in Bing. Adding missing turn-by-turn directions and voice-navigation features for most areas of the U.S. will make Bing for Android a must-have application.

Until then, the Local and News functions (not to mention the quality Image search) make this a solid app all on its own.