Microsoft revises Bing suggestions for 3rd party apps, causes headaches for Windows Phone developer

One of the neat features we like with Local Scout, the Bing service that shows you things to do around your location, is the tie in with apps. For instance, when you go under eat + drink and pull up a restaurant you can scroll over to Apps to open up the listing in a third party app like Foodspotting.

The ability to do that is quite useful as it saves you time in having to go to your favorite app and look up the same information. One change that came with Windows Phone 8 though has us scratching our head, and it’s affecting third party apps, including Liquid Daffodil’s popular Add to Contacts app.

Add to Contacts is an app that should be built into the OS but it is not. When you do a search for local business or place to eat, you can’t just add the info to your People Hub. It’s particularly frustrating and a little odd that it has gone missing for so long. Liquid Daffodil made Add to Contacts to address that problem, and as a standalone search app it works just fine.

But the app is also supposed to tie into Bing/Local Scout so that when you find an establishment, you can then open it up with Add to Contacts and instantly save the information to your People Hub. It’s part of the Bing Suggestions option (Bing > Settings > Suggestions) and it can be toggled by users on or off. However, due to a logic change in Windows Phone 8 by Microsoft, Add to Contacts no longer shows up there, neutering its efficacy.

Prior to Windows Phone 8, this was the logic of how any app would be listed with Bing Suggestions:

  1. Apps you had installed that applied to the selection, and then
  2. Suggestions/recommendations on Apps based on ratings and context

This method ensured that your installed apps i.e. apps that you want to use on a regular basis take priority and are listed over the suggestions/recommendations. While that second category is especially important for app discovery, we can see why it should be placed below what is locally installed on your phone. After all, if you installed an app there is a good chance you want it integrated into your Bing Searches and Suggestions.

With Windows Phone 8 though, this logic now appears as thus:

  1. An App will only show up in the Apps list in Local Scout IF it was highly rated and downloaded

In other words, any user installed apps that could do the job with the contact info will be ignored unless they are very high profile.

It’s a weird system because it gives an unfair advantage to prestigious apps like Nokia’s HERE services or Foodspotting but gives virtually no chance to small, third party apps like Add to Contacts (which is rated 4 out of 5 on the Store with negative remarks coming from a failure of this function). Because of this, Liquid Daffodil has made the decision to pull the app shortly from the Windows Phone Store. While it still works as a standalone search app without the integration into Bing, it’s only about half effective for most users.

This of course is but one example but in reality it will have an effect on any developer on Windows Phone 8 who makes an app hoping to have it show in Bing Suggestions e.g. Super Contacts.

What’s even more odd about the “logic” behind Bing Suggestions is the inconsistency with apps that are presented e.g. for one restaurant we are often seeing and Fandango, neither of which has anything to do with the establishment.

With Add to Contacts being yanked from the Store in the near future, user will have to find other ways to add new places to their People Hub. Hopefully Microsoft will reverse its stance on this listing logic for suggested Apps in Bing search results because as of right now, it seems a bit unfair to emergent developers.

Have you noticed any third party apps no longer showing under Bing App Suggestions? Let us know.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, 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 for some reason, watches. 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.

  • Microsoft seems to just keep trying to push people away from WP :(
  • ^This
  • +1000
  • Agree 100%.
  • I feel the same way. It seems that they just haven't gotten what mobile is about, coming from a seemingly unwieldy company. Contrast this with Nokia which has made rather swift changes to be as nimble as possible...
  • Yep. Seems like Microsoft's leaders are EXTREMELY out of touch!
  • Sounds like an ill-thought out approach to managing it's (slowly) growing marketplace.
  • Really odd thing to do...smh
  • I would love to hear what Microsoft means by "user experience". I imagine it's vastly different from our interpretation.
  • That app was so useful to me in windows phone 7. Now it's basically useless. I'm getting more and more frustrated with MS! Patience only lasts for so long!
  • MS should count themselves lucky that they were able to have Nokia as partner, if not Wp would have been more or less dead!
  • When did this chagne take place? The Add to Contacts app is still at the top of my list when i use local scout and scroll over.  Always has been on my 920, and stil is today.  Weird?
  • To clarify, Microsoft states that "using the app" repeatedly will EVENTUALLY allow Add to Contacts to show up, and they acknowledge is a bug/oversight. Some users see it as soon as they downloaded it, but some have to "trick" the app by opening it and closing it, as well as toggling Suggestions multiple times.
    Microsoft Premier Support says this WILL be fixed, but there is no committed ETA.
  • The fix they should implement is giving users the option to manually add suggested apps. They could put that as an option in bing scout, which will comb through your phone for valid, relevant apps and let you manually add what you want and rearrange it. That'll solve clutter.
  • +1 Exactly
  • The way that the the App Suggestion feature worked on WP7.x was worthless, so any change would be an improvement in my opinion.
    As for saving Local Scout results to your Contacts is so 1990 and more appropriate for iOS and Android.
    Windows Phone 8 uses a new mentality where "businesses" and "location" results are saved to your Favorites on your MS account or Nokia Here account.
    As Windows Phone users we need to break away from the past; its the only way to make a clean break and move forward into a Modern future.
  • Speak for yourself. I would like to have a restaurant right there in my contacts so I can call, order what I need and be done. Not have to check my MS or Nokia account. The argument was that WP was supposed to make things simple and quick for its users. I don't know how saving a local scout listing to your contacts is anything but.
  • I agree that haven't restaurants listed as "People" doesn't make sense, and there are better places to store your favorite restaurants. But that doesn't mean that the apps list isn't broken in WP8. They need to fix it so that the installed apps that are applicable always show up, and show up first.
  • People should be renamed Contacts. As it is, I have a number of non-people in my People, complete with their logos for their contact photos: the kids' school, favorite restaurants' call-ahead and order lines, work, etc. Also Microsoft needs to fix the Windows RT version of people. What a disaster.
  • Thanks for explanation! I've wondered all this time why this app was working like it did on my trophy. MS, get it together! LD has made some great apps, and this one is one you should have paid to make part of the OS, its that good.
  • I've had issues with this. When I search for a local business and swipe over to apps and click on Add to Contacts, sometimes the phone number of that business is not pulled into the app. I contacted Liquid Daffodil about it a couple of weeks ago and they made me aware of this ongoing issue with Bing and mentioned there was soon going to be an article about it in WPCentral. Love Add to Contacts but hope Bing works out these issues.
    Edit: For instance, when I searched for "Children's Primary Care" in San Diego, one of the results was this: Note that there's a phone number in there. But when I scroll over to the apps tab, and click on Add to Contacts, it doesn't pull in the phone # as seen here:
    Edit: I suggest folks go to (desktop version) and click on Feedback at the bottom right corner of the page and voice their frustration. And paste a link to this article. I just did.
  • I mentioned this in the forums ages ago. Suggestions don't even work in Canada. Before you all jump to give me a lesson on how to trick it to work I've done that already. I have local scout but suggestions, and even the pivots for food, events etc do not work. Pain in the ass.
  • I would pay to make it so Flickr was not on the suggested apps list for EVERY SINGLE THING EVER SEARCHED.  I hate that...Search McDonald's...clearly you are looking for food, right?  But apparently they want you to upload photos...
  • I don't think I'm ready to pay for this feature, but definately, the user needs to be given more control over what shows up in App-Connect.  I don't need ebay to show up for EVERYTHING I find with a search.  I'm guessing this is part of the issue.  MS wanted to foil developers who abused the system by registering with every possible search result they could.
  • Who runs this company. I am becoming increasingly baffled with thier thought process.
  • Could it be that MS wants to make that space an advertising field? Hmmmm
  • For those that actually have apps show there, consider yourself lucky. That was a feature I use to use all the time. Now that I have my 920 nothing shows up there. I knew it had to be some type of bug.
  • I wonder if this is why I can no longer find Navigon to send an address from a search. It took long enough for them to get linked to that, now the only way is to flip back & forth and manually transfer the address.
  • I have HTC 8x. Maps doesn't work. Bing search: can't choose "suggestions as you type" in settings as this options is dimmed out. No scout either and no apps. What's going on?
  • You're probably not in the US? In Germany Bing has only rudimentary features for example.
  • Seems like the only ones with their head on straight is Nokia. I love WP but I agree. Alot of the decisions and the way things are going can only take so much. Makes it harder everyday to bring people on board. I've converted over 8 people already. Come on MS stop letting us down.
  • The more you talk about windows phone 8 the more im glad I am waiting to get it. Seems like there is alot to be fix with it... Or reverted back to cause its in windows phone 7.8
  • A related matter is the changes to search results. Last October Micrsoft switched the algorithms for Store searches to be powered by Bing, allowing for things like returning an appropriate set of results for mispelt search terms. In principle this change should have been quite good, but the way they've ranked the results is completely flawed. Now the apps whose name matches the search term exactly have precedence over those with matching keywords (making the keywords almost irrelevant). For my app Calculator², this means that apps called 'Unit converter' appear above it in the search results even though Calculator² is far more popular. The Windows Phone team responded to my feedback and improved the situation, reducing the weight associated with a matching app name, but it's still not perfect. However, the search algorithm in the Windows Store hasn't been touched and suffers greatly from this issue. Have a look at the images I posted halfway down this thread for examples: I believe this is very poor and is vastly reducing the perceived quality of the Store for Windows Phone users. It's equally bad for developers, as with the example given in article. Do I really want to develop for Windows if the visibility of my apps is seriously limited because of poor decisions by the Windows/Windows Phone teams? Fortunately, in my experience Microsoft seem to be quite good at listening to feedback so articles like this are exactly what's needed. Hopefully both issues will be addressed sooner rather than later.
  • Are you saying that if I search "unit conversation" you were not on the top with your calculator app...and that if I search for the term "unit conversation" that your app should appear higher than an app actually called "unit conversation" because yours is rated higher? That sounds completely backwards.
  • I'm saying that when a user searches for 'unit converter' are they looking for apps called 'Unit converter', or are they looking for apps that are unit converters? Do we really want all the 'unit converter' apps to be called 'Unit converter'? What about multi-functional apps, which generally provide better value for consumers? I can't call my app 'Scientific calculator', 'Currency converter', 'Unit converter' all at the same time even though it does all of these things. The whole point of providing developers with keywords is so that the app appears under relevant searches. The ranking of the app in the search results should only depend on quality measures, such as number of downloads, ratings, rating score, etc. This is how the search algorithm used to work before the changes (although it did have other issues which the changes addressed). I understand what you're saying in that if users are searching for a specific app by name, that want to find that app quite easily. But this will generally be the case as long as the app name isn't to generic, i.e. a search for Smartglass will still return the Smartglass app as the first result because it's a unique name and not many apps will use 'smartglass' as a keyword. Even if the user can't find the app immediately, if they're searching for a specific app they might know more information (e.g. the developer name) to narrow the search results. What the current algorithm does is hinder general searches for apps in the Store, which I would guess are the most typical types of searches. The bottom line is that on Windows, apps that are of very poor quality, some of which still use the default app logo from the SDK and have no ratings, are ranked above mine in the search results for 'unit converter', 'currency converter', etc. simply because they're called 'Unit converter' and mine isn't. Yet my app is in the top 100 free apps (and has been as high as 10th), has almost 500,000 downloads and is very well reviewed. If my app suffers from this problem, then surely a lot of other quality apps do too. It's not good for anyone that users don't even know about the quality apps in the Store because the Store isn't optimised to show them.  
  • yes I noticed I can't find Navigon in the app from Bing except HERE Drive. I hate this unfair advantage for specific app. Microsoft should think again 'nd again.
  • The thing is ... Local Scout is currently useless for me because the categories eat+drink, see+do and shop are all empty. Only the "for you" category is somewhat filled with deals (mostly only 5 entries).
    If I change the Browser & Search language to my native language German the local scout disapears from the Bing search. :/
    So whether this App suggestion works or not is totally useless to me anyway because this damn Local scout is broken anyway. >.<  
  • Microsoft treats their mobile plattform in a badly way. 
  • I was wondering why I wasn't able to use it! This is the kind of shit a carrier would do if they created an OS!! I might as well go back to Android and enjoy the freedom!
  • The search button has always been strange to me. Since i'm in The Netherlands most of the features like in the US dont work. Which makes the button pretty useless.
    And on top of that, why can't i use the button to quickly search a contact i wanna call? Or look up an email i got. Or other stuff. Ever since they removed the option to use the button to search within an app, its not clear what Microsoft is really using that button for. It only seems to piss people off when they accidently push it. 
    At least let me search for my contact, which would make fast calling faster. No need for a livetile you might not use often (or at all) and no need to get into the people hub and search until you reach the contact (always takes up a few seconds and is thus way slower than other platforms).
    Come on Microsoft, make use of the search button for non-internet related stuff!
  • I'm also in the Netherlands currently and it is sad to see, that some of the main features this OS have only work properly in the US :/
    But I have an advise for you, try the voice commands to quick open or call a contact. Simply long press the win key until voice is activated and say "call/open contact name". I tried it in English and German, also with slang and it worked pretty well.
  • Okay, just to clarify. If LD pulls Add to Contacts from the store, will my app still work?
  • Yes. You will have use of it until you uninstall it.
  • What a screw up!!!
  • "Wow, they REALLY screwed everyone THIS time...looks like their evil schemes are just coming to fruition, Ha Ha they really got everyone good didn't they?" Please, lets keep a level head and not make like it wasn't an oversight in the ONE thing that we're all just scrutinizing at the moment that they may otherwise have let slip through the cracks. Unfortunately they're a big company and will probably fix it eventually thanks to the careful eyes and decisive reporting by this awesome site...I STILL love Windows Phone and am grateful to WP Central! ;)
  • why do you all complain ,, WHAT IS MICROSOFT = SOFTWARE DEVELOPER
    so microsoft do not whant you as a developer ,, you are stealing there profit,,
    that is why the close of varius frameworks , silverlight,xna, and soon office developerment 
    you have to buy it all from microsoft ,, and when it comes to games ,, you will not get all the good games unless the developers pay microsoft to be on there platform
    Microsoft device and service  =  there service is to delever a close up platform that you can not developer on
    only big multi billion dollar companys are allow to publish an app
  • So, when I change my region to Canada (where I'm from), "Suggestions" and Local Scout" are not available... Come on MS, catch up!