Checking In On Bing

If you tried Bing soon after it debuted, you probably haven't gone back to it.  Google, after all, is so good at search it's hard to imagine what you could possibly be missing that would motivate you to make the switch.  But Microsoft had a very strong 2015, with killer updates to its mobile offerings, whether on their own mobile devices or those running iOS or Android, so it makes sense to see what they might have done to improve Bing this year.  After all, Microsoft will pay you to use Bing, something Google won't do.

If you aren't familiar, Microsoft has created a system called "Bing Rewards" that enables users to earn points from playing trivia, visiting advertisers or even just using the search function on Bing.  the reward points can be redeemed for gift cards to major retailers like Amazon or Starbucks, turning into contest entries for big ticket Microsoft products, or donated to charity.  The pay isn't much. A typical user might earn a $5 gift card every month, but with a little effort, a user who started today could earn a $100 gift card at Amazon by next Christmas.  Not too shabby.

Hoping that Microsoft has improved the user experience on Bing as much as it has on its other software is jarring.  Searches are still slow and they are filled to the brim with advertisements.  Any topic entered returns results for shopping, many of which seem to be from less reputable foreign sites that specialize in forgeries, frauds and gray market sales.  on a small screen, virtually every search result page requires the user to scroll before finding a result that isn't an advertisement. Frequently, the correct result can't be found until the second page.  You may not realize how nice it is to immediately see the result you're looking for without scrolling or hunting, but once it's gone, the absence becomes painful.

Maybe Microsoft has been working on under-the-hood improvements?  After all, Google had some security issues earlier this year and Apple is fighting the good fight for your privacy.  Some simple personal finance-related searches don't reveal any particular features of note.  On the other had, entering "100 EUR to USD" into Google automatically returns an up-to-the-minute currency converter, while Bing's version works only about half the time.  Other smart searches work more consistently, although Google has quite a few more smart search options, including info that's related to your health.  Bing does have a really neat flight search feature that's worth checking out.

Other personal finance issues are even more problematic with Bing.  It took nearly a week for Bing to return new articles on "How the Fed rate hike will affect me."  It goes without saying that search results like that do little to instill confidence in Bing's news coverage.  When coupled with the ads, their financial help is even more questionable.  A search for "how much do I need for retirement" was especially worrisome.  After two columns of advertisements, which required scrolling to nearly the bottom of the page, a smart search answer box appeared.  How much money does Bing this its users should put together for retirement? $85,000.  Not per year, just $85,000.

The final verdict isn't good for Microsoft.  Bing is passable but inferior to Google for everyday searches, expect in a few select cases.  For anything that might matter, like news, your health, or virtually any matter relating to your personal finances, Bing isn't the best options.  Choosing Google means ignoring Bing rewards, which means another way to think about it is that Google search costs you $5 to $10 per month.  Unless something big changes at Bing, Google is a bargain at twice that price.