I make films. I'm also a nerd.

App Review: DuckDuckGo Search & Stories for iPhone

As I’ve said before, I find DuckDuckGo to be a compelling replacement for Google. Not only is it a far less creepy company (which is a really, really big deal now that we know about PRISM), but it’s also a lot more useful in some key ways–one example being its !bang syntax, which allows a user to search across numerous popular sites right from within DDG. One minor sticking point, for a user of Apple devices, is that DDG cannot be set as the default search engine in Safari1. That being the case, a good iOS app is crucial–if I don’t have a good way to search with DDG at all times, on all my devices, I may as well keep giving Google full access to my digital underwear drawer.

The company’s new app for iPhone seeks to fill that need more ably than the previous version, which seems no longer to be available on the App Store. “DuckDuckGo Search & Stories” has been released as an entirely brand-new app, rather than as an update; users will therefore not be notified within iOS, and will have to go and download the app manually. Curiously, this completely rebuilt app does not natively support the iPad, unlike the older version. On the positive side of things, DDG finally supports the taller screens of the iPhone 5 and fifth-gen iPod Touch.

Fig. 1

The auto-completion of !bang syntax is particularly handy.

In addition to a familiar search field–which handily supplies autocompletion of search terms and !bang syntax–you’ll also find a collection of news stories covering a seemingly random array of topics. I’ve encountered a few interesting articles while browsing the “stories,” but I do seriously wonder whether this feature is truly useful. Why bolt an odd News Reader onto a Search app in the first place? And who / what is curating these stories? Why and how?

Fig. 2

Oddly random news stories populate the “stories” section of the app.

Overall it’s a great and welcome update to an app that had previously languished for many, many months. It’s certainly a better and faster experience than always having to go to the Web site in Safari, which does not support native DDG searches. It’s easy enough to perform a search from within the DDG app and then open the results in Safari. Users of Chrome, however, will not be met with the same affordances2. Given that fact, I’m pretty certain that I’ll continue searching DDG using the third-party apps I’m currently in the habit of using–and I’ll write a post about all of that pretty soon. If you prefer Safari and really want auto-completion, however, I can definitely recommend this app to you.

  1. There are, however, some great work-arounds, which I’ll discuss in a future post. 
  2. Given the distrust of Google which goes hand-in-hand with DDG use, perhaps this “oversight” is excusable; it’s certainly predictable