Bing is showing some love for Windows smartphones with an updated, free app that includes turn-by-turn mapping and directions. But while improving one part of the app, Microsoft took a step backward with local searches for finding restaurants, hotels and other necessities for travelers.
First, the good news. The latest Bing version will give turn-by-turn guidance in the U.S. on my AT&T Tilt2 and other GPS-equipped smartphones running Windows Phone V6 and higher. That's the same kind of service that some cell phone carriers still try to charge 10 bucks a month to use.
Some of the phones which will support the updated app include the Fuze, Pure, HD, Touch HD and other HTC phones, along with several Samsung models and the T-Mobile Dash 3G. If your phone is not supported, you can still find much of the same information on Bing's mobile website, m.bing.com.
Unforttunately, the latest Bing app also cripples local searches. In previous versions, I've found the local searches usually very accurate for finding restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, movies and other attractions.
But something happened in the update. Now, if I search for "all restaurants" where I live, Bing returns nothing. If I search for a specific type of restaurant, such as barbecue or steak, it will return results. But the list still doesn't seem as complete as in previous versions.
Microsoft calls it "an amazingly lifelike voice experience" when using the navigation portion of the program. In my opinion, the mapping portion of the app is not as good as other GPS programs I've reviewed,such as CoPilot Live or Garmin Mobile. But CoPilot Live and Garmin Mobile are not free, either.
For a free app, the latest Bing version is worth the download if it will run on your smartphone. An improved search engine for location-based attractions would make it even better.
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