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Bing's big mobile search update comes to Android

Will users of Google's OS bother with a new search app?

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Last fall, Microsoft rolled out a major update to its Bing app for the iPhone. The big change was the realization that searching on a smartphone usually means you want immediate answers to questions while you're out and about, so Bing put all the data from its Knowledge and Action Graph right up front. In our testing, it felt like a superior search experience and something comparable with what Google's doing with its own mobile app. Now, Microsoft has pushed that new experience to Android phones with the new Bing app that just hit Google Play. Whether or not you'll want to switch it up from the default Google search experience remains to be seen, but it's an app that's at least worth taking a look at.

The app is essentially identical to its iPhone counterpart: it understands natural language queries like "what is the population of New York City?" and gives you an answer without you having to dig through a list of links. Searching for a city brings up local info, travel tips, nearby news, and a list of apps that lets you perform actions you might be interested in taking (like booking a hotel through Expedia or Hotels.com). Voice search is right up front, and there's plenty of one-touch access to local points of interest around you like restaurants, movies and various things to do.

It remains a very solid search experience, and Microsoft rolled out a few new features today that weren't present in the earlier iPhone app. When you tap the "gas stations" button in the "near me" section of the app, you'll see gas price data from GasBuddy. Once you find the cheapest local option, you can just tap and get directions in Google Maps (or in Apple Maps on the iPhone).

Microsoft also added a bar code scanner so you can do on-the-spot comparison shopping to see if you can find an item cheaper online, something sure to infuriate local retailers who catch you doing it. On the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, you can access the barcode scanner via 3D touch on the home screen icon; a long press on the big search icon inside the Bing app will get you there on Android, and older iPhone users will find it under the new "deals" menu.

Speaking of the deals section, you can go there to find... well, deals for stores near you. Your phone will use your current location to find retailers that are in the area and pull up any ways for you to save money right there. For iPhone users, none of today's changes are all that radical, but it's an entirely new and improved experience if you're on Android. If you want to give it a shot, the update is available for both platforms now.

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