Verizon has unilaterally updated user Storm 2 BlackBerries and other smartphones so that their browser search boxes can only be used with Microsoft Bing.
The move is part of the five-year search and advertising deal Verizon signed with Microsoft in January for a rumored $500m.
Verizon pushed the search change over its network two days ago, the company has confirmed with The Reg. "We're a proud supporter of Microsoft's Bing search engine," a company spokesman tells us. "On a couple of select smartphones (Storm 2 the most prominent), we've changed the [Verizon Wireless]-supplied web menu to make Bing the default search engine."
Previously, the search box - baked into the top of Verizon's browser, above the url address bar - could be set to search Google, Wikipedia, and other sites.
Naturally, such sites can still be queried via the browser proper. But countless users are up-in-arms over the switch. A discussion thread dedicated to the change at CrackBerry, a popular BlackBerry user site, is now 36 pages long.
"This frustrates the heck out of me. On the phone with VZW right now. The rep is telling me that she can choose search options from her non-Storm phone, so she's off to get a Storm to find out what the deal is. Will post results. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr," writes one user.
A sea of similar comments has also appeared on Verizon's web forums. "Yesterday, all of the search providers that used to be available through the browser disappeared and bing is the only option. I hate bing. I no longer am able to search using Google, Dictionary.com, or Wikipedia from the 'Go to...' page on my browser. This is a very poor decision...to take choice away from their users," the first post says.
"SOMEONE is pushing this change to Blackberry users without notification and without giving the option to refuse this change. If this has happened to you, please call Verizon and inform them. I really want my choices for search back. Not only because I hate bing, but because taking choices away from customers is just a really **bleep** thing to do."
Verizon and Microsoft have an existing relationship. In January, the two signed a five-year search and ad deal rumored to be worth $500m. When we asked Microsoft to comment on the Verizon search-box switch, it referred us to a January blog post.
"Verizon Wireless subscribers in the U.S. will be able to use Live Search on their mobile devices to find information on local business and shopping information, access maps and directions, find ringtones and other mobile products and services," the company said at the time. "This partnership will give Verizon Wireless customers great search results and provide targeted, relevant mobile advertising to enhance the overall mobile computing experience."
When we asked Google for comment, a spokeswoman said: "We're passionate believers in competition that's good for users. We're committed to working with industry leaders to provide the best user experience possible and develop innovative products and services."
It should be said, however, that according to press reports, Google was in talks with Verizon over a similar search deal before the Microsoft pact was finalized. Google and Verizon have since agreed to a deal that involves the two companies jointly developing Android phones for the carrier's network.
Meanwhile, press reports indicate that Google intends to sell its own Android phone in the New Year. Google has confirmed the existence of a Google-built Android phone, and this device is built for GSM networks - i.e. not Verizon's. ®