Very few apps allow you to quickly search the web properly

Often I want to use my iPhone to search the web very quickly for some random thing. I don’t think this is very unusual. The process should be as quick as possible. Unfortunately I’ve only found one app that does this right: The DuckDuckGo app.

Look at this: When you launch DuckDuckGo, the keyboard is ready, and you can just start typing.

Unlike some other apps, DuckDuckGo doesn’t have its own voice search, but the system-wide Siri dictation is easily available from the already-visible keyboard. DuckDuckGo’s bang modifiers are available through a handy shortcut. The app’s only flaws are that, by default, it launches into its “stories” mode instead of search mode. This is easily fixed with a setting, but I would prefer the ability to entirely turn off stories mode. Another flaw, which it shares in common with every other search app, is that its state is persistent between uses. I don’t want to see the results of my last search when I launch the app. I would prefer (perhaps after a minute or so) that when I relaunch the app that I be taken right back to the search screen, keyboard ready.

Just using Safari is not very good. When I launch Safari I might be confronted with a tab that I want to keep–meaning that I have to open a new tab just for the search. Even if I’m not, I have to first tap in the search area for the keyboard to appear. Finally, when I’m done searching,the tab for the search persists until I either close it or navigate somewhere else. In short, just using Safari is not ideal for quick searches.

Neither is using the built-in Spotlight search. While it’s very easy to access (just pull down from the home screen) and the keyboard appears without having to tap in a search area, the system-wide search is primarily geared toward searching within installed apps. Web results don’t appear until very far down a scrolling list, and even if selected, just launch you into a new tab in Safari—with the same problem that the tab is persistent until you actively close it or navigate somewhere else. If you do three searches using this method in a row, you might be left with three useless open tabs.

The Google app is admirably minimal (especially with Google Now turned off), it provides the best results, and its voice search is very good and accessible with a nice big button. However, when you launch it, you first have to tap in the search area. Same with the Bing app (which is not as minimal).

Apps that you are going to type in should make it easy to start typing. Right now, only the DuckDuckGo app succeeds at this modest goal. Addiitonally, apps for quick look-ups should make it as easy as possible to perform new look-ups without making you do all kinds of maintenence in terms of closing out tabs and old results. The DuckDuckGo, Google, and Bing apps all do an adequate job at this, but could be better. (A non-search app that does this correctly is Drafts by Agile Tortoise, which not only launches with the keyboard ready but clears its context after a cerain timeout period.)