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. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.