Bing Vision lost all features but QR scanning in Windows Phone 8.1

Bing Vision was at one time a very interesting and innovative feature on Windows Phone 7.5 in 2011. The camera tool lets users scan QR codes, barcodes, books, CDs, DVDs, and even the (now) deprecated MS Tags. As creative as it is though, it never seemed to make waves in the tech world. Ironically, in mid-2014 Amazon's Fire Phone is nothing but a super Bing Vision with links to Amazon's massive online store.

Bing Vision gets a demotion in Windows Phone 8.1, at least for those in the US and other regions where Cortana is the primary means of search. This loss of function is because Cortana does not handle scanning items with the camera.

Saad Hashmi of Windows Phone Daily first noticed the initial loss of barcode scanning in Windows Phone 8.1, but it turns out there is more to it. The differences between Windows Phone 8.0, 8.1 Preview for Developers and 8.1 with Lumia Cyan is fascinating and a lot more telling, as seen by the above image. Here is a breakdown of Bing Vision functions by OS versions:

  • Windows Phone 8.0 – Barcodes, QR codes, Microsoft Tags, books, CDs, and DVDs
  • Windows Phone 8.1 Preview – Scan barcodes, QR codes, books, CDs, and DVDs
  • Windows Phone 8.1 Lumia Cyan – Scan QR codes

It is not just in name that those functions are gone, as attempting to scan a book or barcode in 8.1 with Lumia Cyan does no good, as the service does not recognize the object in question.

So, what to think? It is hard to believe Microsoft would just toss aside this type of technology, so perhaps they are shoehorning it into Cortana at some point. However, we spoke with 'Talderon', a well known insider who works within Microsoft's Bing and he has doubts that it will be included in Cortana. He also adds there are no known internal plans to bring Bing Vision in some other form to Windows Phone. This, of course, does not preclude a reincarnation of Bing Vision, but so far, if there are any details, they are scarce.

A bigger issue is discovery. Legacy users know where to find Bing Vision on 8.1 (Camera > Lenses) but new users generally have no idea, as this feature is sort of buried within the OS.

Once again, this appears to be Microsoft forsaking a function before its replacement is readily available (or adequate). On the other hand, we cannot remember the last time we used Bing Vision for anything more than scanning QR codes, and perhaps Microsoft noticed this too in their analytics of how people use the service.

We are reaching out to Microsoft for clarification on the matter and will update this article accordingly. For all we know, this could be a temporary glitch and is not necessarily a permanent change.

Thanks, jpspiderman, for the tip!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Too often it's 1 step forward, 2 steps back...
  • And now I have Paula Abdul in my head lol.
  • Yeah, now I have this stuck in my head. Ah, my childhood.
  • This is the song i remebered of :) Good old GTA: SA .
  • That's a lovely song. I've never heard it before.
  • That's called dancing.
  • Before everyone goes all sensationalist on this, looks like the functions just got moved to other apps. Bing Vision used to be able to scan text in other languages to English... and it kinda sucked because you had to scan and wait for it. Now it's in Bing Translate and it can translate in real time.
  • ...and barcodes, DVDs, CDs, books? Why push them to third-party apps and not keep them internal?
  • This article was definitely news to me. I had tried a book cover search on 8.1 and it didn't work, but I brushed it off as a developer preview thing. When I saw the Fire phone advertising that functionality, I thought to myself that I already had that in my phone with Bing Vision. I am not a fan of this functionality being removed, and I'm with you when you ask "Why?" !
  • I agree, bring it back to compete with amazon!!
  • To give developers something to develp.  Less headaches and updating for Microsoft.  They can push it off to 3rd party developes and let them create various apps that will increase the app number in the store.
  • it's not just about app number in the store. people are looking for trending apps (and that they arrive in a timely fashion on the platform) and the big name apps that have the same feature parity to iOS and Android. and since we don't have (1) the number of apps (2) platform feature parity or (3) timely/new-trending apps there is NO EXCUSE for Microsoft to not be pushing so much harder to build better features and differentiated experiences that are not app-ecosystem dependent.
  • Exactly this. Something so simple like this should be built into the OS.
  • Did anyone actually use that feature? I honelstly have not done that outside of testing it once when it first came out. I'll bet MS has usage stats that less than 1% of anyone used it. Anyway, i would assume bing vision will go away soon because cortana will do it all.
  • What the hell!! I knew I should've bought a kin. They never had any features removed!
  • Here's my guess, they removed it because they were planning on reincarnating it with the introduction of the 'innovative' new WP they were planning on introducing, which has now been cancelled. I would like to think that they are still planning on bringing it back, hopefully sooner than later. It's pretty ridiculous about the timing. Right when another phone is introduced with features that WP has had for a long time, they now don't have them. 2 steps back no doubt.
  • What about what they're doing with the Bing website, they added image match, so maybe they will incorporate that into Cortana to be used with the camera instead of uploading, at some point.
  • Bing Vision let you copy the scanned text for searching or copying and pasting elsewhere. Bing Translator cannot do that. Its functionality and purpose are totally different.   Edit: never mind, I see text scanning is still an option and so is translating it. Not sure why you stated otherwise.
  • I agree, gfunk84! Bing Vision got me through school, converting book text to OneNote text. Office Lens is nice, but it just generates a OneNote embedded PDF. I'm wanting cyan less and less...
  • I'm not even on Cyan yet and my Bing Vision features have been pulled. :(
  • What I came hare to say.
  • Why does MS always remove the best differentiating parts of WP? First it was hubs(I really miss the picture, people and games hub) & now it's Bing vision.
  • Maybe its being setup as an app that can be updated independent of the os but the hooks it plugs into stay as is
  • I thought that's what it was. All Cortana needs is the same image thing to launch Bing Vision, the Bing Vision that was in WP8, when you hit the search button. Not hard. One button to launch the real Bing Vision app from within Cortana. Done. Put an intern on it.
  • it has to be a management problem. this is 'old' microsoft all over again. honestly i'm tired of giving them a pass on things like this. they continue to break features that worked perfectly well 3-4 years ago. they're simply lacking continuity and a vision. imho wp7.5 was the better os, even if it was behind on features it was far more coherent than wp8.1   and this exact same comment could apply to xbox music and a dozen other features. it's a shame to see the potential of windows phone be wasted in this way but i think once nokia is fully integrated i'm not gonna have any more reason to stick with windows phone
  • I completely agree - so tired of making excuses for Microsoft. it's not only a management issue, but also a marketing issue for Windows Phone. clearly Amazon can sell many phones by introducing a "new" feature that Windows Phone had 3 years prior, and that same feature that Microsoft never put any further development into or marketing into is now dropped and abandoned. (and of course when we add it back the headline will read, "windows phone finally catching up to 'fire phone'")Instead of always making the conversation about apps/lack of apps Microsoft continues to not control the message about the differentiated features and higher functions of the windows platform. if Microsoft continues to abandon these differentiating features of the OS and rely on the silo app model of iOS and Android I am moving on because we don't have the number of apps or quality of apps as they do.
  • Want to know what the consequence of trimming many thousands of your dev/test workforce is? Reduced features that are not high priority. Any feature even the smallest piece of UI needs a lot of test coverage and infrastructure to keep it alive, even after development has finished on it. And this scanning feature actually requires a lot of back end for it to work. They have to make product cuts somewhere especially when needing to focus on more important things (eg Cortana), and let me tell you it was not just Windows group that got hit. So it doesn't really surprise me.
  • For all the hub-bub about WP8.1 I cant agree more that WP7.X felt so much more polished.  I love using my wife's HTC Radar 4G.  It's classic at it's best!  From Music, Photos, you name it it's just feels better.  Sure 8.1 has newer features but they are not all that compelling to me.  But here's the deal.  If anyone (like me) who's been using Microsoft products for a long time, then you already know Microsoft is KING of taking away functions whenever they provide a new OS/Update.  It's criminal, but that's what they do.  They can't help it.  The sad part is someone in power approves these things.  Oh well... 
  • The separate Facebook app is simply horrible. Sure miss the integration of hubs that I bought into.
  • i sure miss the integration of the hubs too. ridiculous. the backtracking of features instead of feature development is not what I bought into either.
  • Who really scans barcodes? Or books/cds. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • I really just want to scan QR codes quickly - would be great if it were built into Cortana so it would be just as many steps as before 8.1
  • People who still leave the house to shop. :P I know I do it to compare prices on books and determining whether buying them in-store with a coupon is cheaper than Amazon.
  • Amazon's app does this, why do you need the phone OS to do it?
  • Yes, and it shows you what amazon is selling, wehn Bing vision showed you more options.
    Beyond that why would anyone want to jump in and out of "apps" to do something that was done (very well) natively?
  • Because the Amazon app doesn't always recognize the code.
  • Thank You. Someone else who actually understands how valuable it is.
  • Ditto! Plus, all those searches carried over to Bing rewards points. I get $10 in Amazon gift cards a month and now that's going to be slowed down without Vision. Dang it.
  • "Who really scans barcodes? Or books/cds."
    Just saying that this is Amazon's sole focus with the Fire Phone. It may flop, but if WP could do basically the same thing, why downplay or even remove it?
  • Are you kidding me? It's a killer app when you are out shopping and need to look up online prices and reviews.
  • Or DVDs or BluRays or ... I did. When the function was right where it belonged, on the search screen. Yes, Cortana added song identification, but would it have been so damned hard to have added one more button at the top of the screen to take me to what was turned into the lens that is now a next to useless neutered function? It probably has something to do with what is going on with the Bing team, but seriously, Microsoft, W.T.F.?
  • I always knew there had to exist people who still buy DVDs or BluRays. Otherwise there wouldn't be DVDs or BluRays anymore but still... it's kind of hard to believe some people go through that trouble... On the other hand I guess I do like buying those when it's a movie I REALLY like and want to get a hard cover version or a collector's edition.
  • Lately it seems that is more than two steps back at a time
  • Yep, it's a -huge- step back. (sarcasm).  Last time I scanned a barcode on a bottle of Coke it came up with something totally different.  Only a few of my books were recognised, too. Let's face it, 99% of us only ever used Bing Vision to scan QR codes and there's a billion apps out there for that which do it just as well.
  • While I kind of agree, since I never scanned books or DVDs I still think people should have the option to do some things natively. There's seriously no real reason to disable them. WP will soon remove the option to send text messages because you can chat with people with apps. (In a not so far away future that will make sense though).   Either way, I don't know how it is in the US but here in Sweden you can find out the price of anything on practically every store on the internet. There are like 2 services that do it. So having one of those two apps is more than enough for us I guess.
  • everytime Microsoft updates something, they run a roulette to choose which useful feature they will remove for no apparent reason.
  • This is my biggest dissapointment with WP lately... sure we get some new features, that may or may not work, but we will always lose features... features that worked and were useful...
  • Well it's Microsoft. When other companies release updates they ADD stuff. When Microsoft releases an update they TAKE AWAY stuff. This happen with ALL Microsoft products.
  • Why can't they just keep it the same and have the eye next to the music icon?????????¿¿¿¿¿¿¿
  • ^^^^^^^^^^THIS^^^^^^^^^^
  • There are about 127 suggestions in Cortana user voice feedback site relating to user requesting that Bing Vision be integrated into Cortana. This discussion will be very fruitful if we could go there and vote for few. Hope Microsoft sees through the fragmentation and counts all the vote for all these suggestions together as one feedback.
  • I somehow feel it was done purposely so a ton of apps can appear taking up the slack and bolster apps count at the same time LOL!
  • Wow
  • Sad, as I used to use that functionality rather frequently.
  • You can still reach it quickly. Add the location settings to your action centre. You can reach bing vision now by quickly turning off your location from the action centre, pressing the hardware search button which will bring up bing instead of cortana and pressing the eye icon.  
  • Also, if you're on AT&T, they have (had?) an app for that.
  • There are about 127 suggestions in Cortana user voice feedback site relating to user requesting that Bing Vision be integrated into Cortana. This discussion will be very fruitful if we could go there and vote for few. Hope Microsoft sees through the fragmentation and counts all the vote for all these suggestions together as one feedback.  
  • I'm on the developer preview and I'm not able to scan barcodes....
  • Really, I'm on DP as well and just to make sure, I just scanned a barcode and it works just fine.
  • I made a post about this on reddit last night and there are other people that are on DP that can't scan barcodes.
  • Must be one of those 1 out of every 10 things that happen.
  • I can't either! I just moticed this for the first time, as I distinctly remember the other functions being listed before recently. I'm on a 1020 with the developer preview..
  • It only scans QR codes.
  • No, it also scans barcodes in DP, in the final Cyan update it doesn't which is what the op says he is on.
  • I don't have Cyan and my phone says "Scan QR codes" only.
  • Hi all, there are about 127 suggestions in Cortana user voice feedback site relating to user requesting that Bing Vision be integrated into Cortana. This discussion will be very fruitful if we could go there and vote for few. Hope Microsoft sees through the fragmentation and counts all the vote for all these suggestions together as one feedback.  
  • I don't use it all, but I also don't see a point in removing features..
  • I'm with you there...
  • True dat
  • I agree
  • Every single feature matters when you are behind behind two competitors
  • The problem in 8.1 is discovery. As a new users, how would you even know this feature exists?
  • Any user new to a platform with have discovery problems but with deep linking in WP why couldn't Microsoft put a link in the app list which launched the camera in scanning mode?
  • Yeah, too many clicks to get to it in 8.1; probably better that some things stay with the old OS. Are there 3rd party apps that do the same thing?
  • Daniel, the function still works, you need a lense app to access it. Check out "QR for Cortana" for Windows Phone