Microsoft has always marketed Windows Phone as the most personal smart phone, and with Windows Phone 8, that message has been amped up even further. While there are many aspects to this advantage, Windows Phone 8 includes an interesting personalized suggestions service that makes the system even more personal.
The personalized suggestions service in Windows Phone 8 is opt-in and not enabled by default. It requires you to connect your Microsoft account (and, optionally, your Facebook account) to Bing, Microsoft’s online search service. The first time you attempt to access a feature that requires this service, you’ll be prompted to enable these suggestions.
When you make this connection, Bing will provide personalized suggestions in four key areas in Windows Phone: Local Scout, Music + Videos, Windows Phone Store, and Search. Behind the scenes, Bing will track what you’re searching for across these features and will, over time, begin to tailor its results to your preferences. Adding a Facebook account to the mix can potentially make things more interesting, though this requires a healthy contingent of active Facebook friends: In this case, Bing will also factor in which items—restaurants, music, apps, etc.—that your friends prefer (through the Like feature) or visit (through check-ins).
Note: Personal suggestions shouldn’t be confused with other recommendations you see in Windows Phone Store: These recommendations are “hand-picked,” as Microsoft says, but they are not personal in the sense that they’re not targeted at you specifically. That said, the Store does utilize Bing Search to provide more intelligent app recommendations, for example, that take in account such things as uninstall and crash rates, ratings, and your Windows Phone OS version.
Here are the ways in which the personalized suggestions impact each of the supported features.
A new For Your panel provides recommended local attractions. Under each place, you will see an explanation of why this place was recommended. For example, Dedham House of Pizza was liked on Facebook by over 1100 people.
Additionally, you can sort Local Scout’s Eat + Drink, See + Do, and Shop panels by personalized suggestions, so that you can view only recommended locations of each type.
You will also see suggestions on some Quick Cards, which are like Bing Maps contact cards for places. For example, the Buzz panel will show which of your friends have “Liked” that establishment.
Music + Videos and Windows Phone Store
These experiences work similarly in that Bing’s evaluation of your history and your friends’ preferences will impact various views in the Windows Phone Store related to music, apps, and games. For example, in the Apps store, there is a Picks for you tile that loads a dynamic list of apps based on these personalized suggestions.
As with the Local Scout suggestions noted above, each entry will explain why it was suggested. The TWiT app was liked on Facebook by various friends, for example.
In the Bing-powered Search experience in Windows Phone, personalized suggestions are one of many variables—location is another—that can impact your search results. When you enable personalized suggestions, you’ll see the same Microsoft account- and Facebook-based recommendations in the local results panel especially.
While Microsoft nailed the personal aspects of Windows Phone early on, providing a system that automatically “lights up” with the information that matters most to you, Windows Phone 8 takes it to the next level with personalized suggestions. This service continues the Windows Phone advantage out into the real world and more easily discover new things you’ll like, whether they’re apps and games, local restaurants, shops, and other places, and other items. It’s one of those subtle things you might miss, but it’s worth taking a look at.