Google is synonymous with search engines to the point where it’s turned into a verb on its own. If you need to find something online, you Google it. That stranglehold on the search engine market helps Google maintain their 70% hold on internet searches, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from heavily advertising Bing as a serious competitor to Google.
While Google has its name ingrained in the average person’s brain, Microsoft has thrown some advertising dollars at trying to make Bing a thing. The Bing It On campaign tried to highlight the strengths of Bing right next to Google, and while it hasn’t lead to 70% market share for Microsoft, Bing is sitting at #2 with a little more than 10% of the market. That’s a pretty sizeable gap, but hey, it’s something.
But is Bing really good enough to compete with Google? To find out, I subjected myself to exclusively using Bing instead of Google for a month so you wouldn’t have to.
For this test, I used the most up-to-date versions of the Google and Bing apps from the Play Store. I searched for the exact same query in both apps, then snapped the first few results and compared the two.
We’ll start simple with searches that would be common for most people and work our way up to some more advanced searches.
Search 1: Movie Times
It’s pretty common to use your phone to figure out what movies are playing nearby when you’re planning a Friday night, so why not use that as our first test? I searched for “movie times” in both apps, and these are the results.
Google proactively lists the movies near your location, while Bing seems to ignore where you are and simply lists currently playing movies with some additional details. Bing throws in Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and Metacritic scores at a glance, which Google won’t display unless you click on a specific movie. However, Google gives you the option to sort movies by genres, which might help if you’re in the mood for a comedy or you’re looking for a good date night movie.
It’s hard to say either search engine is clearly better here. Google gives you better sorting options and location-specific results, but Bing shows more information at a glance. If you live near a major theater that plays all major movies, that location-specific stuff is useless since it doesn’t give movie times on the surface, so this one is going to come down to personal preference.
Search 2: Restaurants still open near me
This query gets a little more specific and actually seems to flip the abilities of the search engines compared to the movie search. Interestingly, neither app showed the same restaurant in the first set of results. Bing seems like it knows that I really like Chinese food, though.
Both apps show you quick ratings and hours at a glance, which is exactly what’s needed when you’re searching for something that’s still open later at night. Google gives you the option to search by tags, while Bing offers some filters to sort by relevance, distance, popularity, and rating, plus allows you to narrow results down to what’s open now, open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. There are additional filters to cut out restaurants below a certain rating, only show restaurants in a certain price range, and a few other things that make it very easy to narrow things down to exactly what you want. Compared to Google’s vague “steak” tag, Bing offers some serious granular control.
Google’s results here are good enough, but being able to apply so many filters to your search put Bing at a notch above the competition.
Search 3: When was Twitter started
Simple search, because you’ll definitely do this at least once trying to settle an argument. I asked both search engines when Twitter was started, and both engines delivered a quick, accurate data, plus links to social media and Wikipedia pages for the social network. Bing shows more information at a glance, while Google keeps things clean and hides the extra info behind a drop down box and page link.
I wanted to know when Twitter was founded, and both engines gave me a solid answer without too much fluff or difficulty.
Search 4: Bethesda Game Studios number of employees
This time I hit both engines with a much more complex question looking for a specific answer. I asked how many employees Bethesda Game Studios (Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls) had, and got some pretty mixed results.
Bing didn’t do a great job. It didn’t even attempt to give me a number, just a link to Bethesda’s Wikipedia, Twitter, and Google+ page. Thanks, Bing.
Google managed to scrape the information from Wikipedia about BGS’s parent studio, Zenimax, and told me that Zenimax had over 1000 employees. Sure, it’s not an exact number, but we weren’t really expecting a digit like 983. It also gave a bit of financial information and some of Zenimax’s other subsidiaries. Fairly useful.
Google wins this by default by giving any information, since Bing just grabbed a Wikipedia link and tried to pass it off as an answer.
Search 5: Unlocked phone on Verizon
Search engines are great for finding solutions and troubleshooting, so let’s see how both engines hold up.
Google understood the query to mean that I wanted to use an unlocked phone on Verizon or I wanted to unlock my current Verizon phone, while Bing wanted to sell me stuff.
Depending on what you would personally mean by this question, either search result could win. It’d be nice if Bing threw in some information articles besides just sales links on Amazon and eBay, especially since links 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 were basically the same thing, but the tutorials and news did show up a few results down. Google was the opposite, but was better about not repeating links.
Not repeating and wasting search results gives Google the nod here, and it’s nice to know that Google understands I wasn’t trying to buy anything.
Search 6: Amazon turn off text notifications
Let’s say you did buy something from Amazon and you managed to turn on text notifications, but now they’re getting annoying and you need to know how to turn them off. Reasonable situation, right?
Google has your back. Not only does it link you to the sections of Amazon’s site that you need to go to, but it gives excellent details scraped directly from Amazon on turning those notifications off.
Bing gives a link to where you need to go without much guidance, with a few more links on how to turn those notifications on, not off. So close.
Not only did Bing give links on doing the opposite of what was asked, but it also can’t match Google’s helpful directions.
Search 7: ASRock A Tuning fan controls
I use search engines to help find software and troubleshoot computer parts, which happens pretty often. In this search I needed to find some information on how to control fan speed on a new motherboard.
Bing’s first result was the software that I needed, while Google’s first result was a forum that helped explain some of the nuances and problems with the software. Google’s second link was a download for the software, while Bing started hitting some forum posts afterwards.
Browsing through those forum posts, Google’s results were significantly more helpful than Bing’s. Plus, it managed to show more with less screen space because of how Google shows forum posts from the same website. However, Bing gave me a link to the actual software first, which was a plus.
Troubleshooting here is really going to depend on what you’re looking up. Google gave better support references, while Bing gave better software links. That may be reversed if you were looking up information on a car part, for example, so it’s too close to call a clear winner.
Search 8: iCloud photo library trying to upload pictures twice
I ran into a weird issue with an iPad where it was trying to upload duplicates of all of the iPhoto pictures on the device. What was my first course of action?
Bing Search it!
TL;DR, Bing whiffed it. Pretty badly, too. All that search gave me was a link to turn on the iCloud photo library. It also listed some image search results that didn’t help whatsoever.
Google, on the other hand, listed some forum posts as well as Apple’s support page for iPhoto.
Troubleshooting part 2 leaned very heavily in Google’s favor. Bing gets close on some searches, but on others it really misses the mark, like this example. Google tends to be more consistent.
Search 9: Remind me to buy milk
Okay, this one’s not particularly fair if you’re using an Android phone and not also using Microsoft’s Cortana.
Whenever you ask Google to do things like set a reminder, it will actually do it. Google has built their apps and Android in a way that they’ll tie together nicely, and that’s just not something that Microsoft can match on a foreign platform. You can get similar results using Cortana from the Play Store, although not directly from the Bing app.
Google offers better integration. There’s really no way around that, and it’s hard to fault Bing or Microsoft for that when they’re playing in Google’s court.
Google offers a seriously complete search engine. Results are accurate, detailed, and most importantly, consistent. The Google app has a ton of extra features (like reminders) and it integrates cleanly with Gmail, Google Keep, and other Google services on an Android device.
Google Now and Now On Tap are also two excellent features that reach beyond just searching for things during your day, especially on Android.
Bing came into to this fight with a pretty hefty disadvantage, and I think it’s clear that Google still holds an edge in many, many areas. With that being said, I think Bing still offers some features that might be worth switching from Google for.
Bing Rewards is a big initiative where Microsoft will literally pay you in rewards credits for using Bing. Simple using the search engine will award credits, but Microsoft has a few offers every day that will give you bonus credits. You can use these credits on things like Microsoft Store gift cards, Xbox Live memberships and points, and other gift cards.
The Bing app has a Bing button feature that puts a small button on the side of your screen that you can drag around on top of other apps. If you’re on Twitter and are interested in searching up a movie someone is tweeting about, you can simply drag the button to that movie on your screen and Bing will pull up results related to it. It’s like Now on Tap, but with a button instead of a home button shortcut.
Cortana is also a major selling point, especially if you use Windows 10 and other Microsoft services and enjoy the ecosystem. Cortana will keep your information like notes and searches synced between your Windows 10 PC and your smartphone, and it integrates with OneNote, OneDrive, Outlook, and other Microsoft products.
For most people, it’s hard to justify a switch away from Google’s refined and fantastic search engine. Especially for those of us with Android devices and an investment in the Google Play ecosystem, it’s nearly impossible to beat.
For someone that’s deeply invested in the Windows/Xbox ecosystem, though, Bing is probably worth a look, if only for continuity across devices.