Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Search

In Windows Phone 7.5, there are a plethora of new features that are integrated into search. Previously, it only allows you to basically go to Bing! and enter your text or keyword into the search box. Now, the search is deeply integrated and can seamlessly jump into apps if necessary. Not only that, there are also Music Search, Bing Vision, and Voice (Search).

Voice (Search)
With the Voice update in Mango, now you can hold the Home button and say stuff like "Call John" or "Text Jack" or "Open Maps". Along with all that commands, it also allows you to do searches with Voice - so you can say "Find Pizza".

This is very helpful for searching during driving. I have used this feature several times and it works pretty well. Plus, it's easy to enable, just hold the "Home" button and speak. Also, if you receive an SMS, you can say "Reply" or "Read" to reply or read respectively - and then dictate your message to the phone.

Android has had this feature for a while, but the Froyo, Gingerbread, and Honeycomb versions that I have used (HTC G2, Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy Tab) were not accurate and cannot recognize non-western names. Let's see whether Ice Cream Sandwich will bring improvement on this. I was expecting Mango to be the same way - but I was surprised that it actually recognizes most of my contacts, including the ones with non-western names. It is not as impressive as Siri in iOS5 (yet), but it's not bad, not bad at all.

Music Search
Music Search is basically like running Shazam, but much better. There is no limit on searches, it also finds songs better by displaying artist, song title, and album, but also shows you where or how to play or buy it from the Marketplace.

Previously I used Shazam - which works OK, but the free version only provides limited functionality and music searches. The Mango Music Search however, is very simple to use and unlimited in usage. I also found out that it is actually more accurate (at least in my experience). After searching for music and getting a result, I can go to the Marketplace - and then either purchase & download or play the song. Since I have a Zune subscription, this works awesomely. The integration with the OS itself is also worth it - I do not have to open an app nor open the Marketplace separately.
Shazam is good, but the Music Search is better.

Bing Vision
Bing Vision allows you to search using the phone camera. It can recognize text, Tag code, UPC code, QR code, etc and display the product information at an instant. It also can search based on book cover, CD/DVD covers, and game covers. Initially I thought this is just a novelty or to just making search easier. But, not only it does make search easier (e.g. capture the cover of the book vs typing the title), but it can also capture text (like document scanning).

Search Result
Search result is now getting smarter. When I searched for "pizza", it automatically displayed the result in the "local" pivot area. I can swipe and go to the "web" area if I want, but the "local" area makes much more sense. Then if I select a search result from result, Mango brought me to the pivot card for the result (which is most likely a pizza restaurant) - which is filled with the contact information, hours, neighborhood, etc. I can swipe and see all the reviews aggregated for the restaurant. Another swipe got me to the "apps" pivot area - which enables me to launch related apps such as Foursquare or Twitter etc via App Connect.

When I searched for "moneyball", it displayed the result in the "web" area, with local showing cinemas on the top. I can that one of those if I want to watch the movie at the local theater which then - just like the restaurant - shows its own hub, with "about", "showtimes", and "apps".

App Connect
App Connect is super useful. So basically instead of launching an app from the Start or Home screen, I can seamlessly launch relevant apps from connected apps/area. One of those connected area is the search result screen. So for example, if I want to watch the trailer for "Moneyball", after searching it on Bing, I can just go to the "apps" pivot area and tap on "Flixster" or "IMDB", which will launch directly to the the Moneyball page within the respective app. Previously before Mango - or on iOS or Android - I will have to go to "Home" and open up "Flixster" and navigate to the "Moneyball" page.

There is a video about App Connect in the Bing blog, you can watch it here.

So overall the search experience has tremendously improved. I am using search more and more on my phone now and looking for further future improvement in this area in the next Tango release.

My other WP Mango Reviews:
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Update Process
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Email & Calendar
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: People & Me


lawrence said...

try SoundHound for Android. Its better than Shazam, it can recognize me humming the song :)

Joe said...

Yes I do like Soundhound better than Shazam, in fact I still have it installed in my Android devices.