Workaround to enable local business listings and voice search on Windows Phone 7 in Australia

Early adopters of Windows Phone 7 users in Australia might have noticed a lack of local results in both the Bing search application and Maps application (also powered by Bing). If you haven’t, you’ll find a search for “McDonalds” in Melbourne will take you to McDonalds of South Carolina, USA. Not quite within walking distance.

Fortunately, Rafael Rivera and I have found a workaround. Although it’s going to sound stupid, rest assured, it means you won’t be completely out of luck until Microsoft fixes this.

Enable “Local” results in Bing search and Maps:

  1. Go to the application list
  2. Open “Settings
  3. Open “region & language
  4. Scroll to bottom and change “Browser & search language” to “English (United States)

Furthermore, you can opt to sell out more of your Australian pride for the extra voice searching functionality (ex. “Find Pizza in Melbourne”) which too has been disabled.

Enable voice searching:

  1. Scroll to top and change “Display language” to “English (United States)
  2. Change the “Regional format” to “English (Australia)
  3. Touch the “Tap here to accept changes and restart your phone.” link

Note: This setting is OEM-dependent and may be limited or disabled in which case will have no effect. HTC devices seems to have this locked. LG and Samsung do not.

The two downside to this workaround is that all distances will be provided in miles instead of kilometres and “News” results will source US publishers than Australian ones. Pain worth suffering in my opinion.

Although it’s hard to fully comprehend the irony of this situation, I’m guessing the reason behind this is the fact that Bing’s mobile web service does not return “local” results if the locale is set to Australian. Having said that they obviously don’t lack the database to provide such a service since it’s filled with local listings provided by Yellow Pages. Can someone please flick the switch.

29 insightful thoughts

  1. I was afraid they’d do that with the voice recognition, given their refusal to even sell Microsoft Voice Command to anyone in Australasia back when it was available.

    I think you can improve the speech situation a little: I believe they’ve also enabled it for English(UK), which would spare us the miles and similar rubbish (probably also a closer fit for Australia and New Zealand…at least we wouldn’t have to pronounce “r”s at the ends of words). I don’t know if that means pounds instead of dollars though.

    The Bing situation is frustrating…it’s bad enough that here in NZ we won’t be able to buy music from the Zune store.

      1. That’s ridiculous! I’m looking at picking one up (in the UK) at the weekend — hope all this stuff is just disabled for trivial reasons. Any word is the Samsung devices have these settings locked? Want to get the Omnia 7…

  2. Voice Search doesn’t work in any combination in New Zealand on my HTC Trophy :(

    I think something has been tweaked in the ROM because “Display language” doesn’t contain “English (United States)”. It only contains English/Italian/Deutsch etc.

  3. That stinks (especially since we can only get HTC devices in NZ) – Microsoft should not have allowed OEMs to vandalise the OS in this way.
    This is a problem from the development standpoint since we need to be able to change these settings freely to test localisation.

  4. If it is true that OEMs are allowed to lock the device to one/a fewspecific langauage, then it is goodbye, Windows Phone 7, and I will buy iPhone4. I thought the whole purpose of Windows Phone 7 was to stop hardware manufacturers from messing with the system.
    It looks like it will be Windows 6.5 all over again where you had to unlock and flash your device in another language if the one you wanted wasn’t one that the OEM provided. And now we are hearing that sim-locked devices can be blocked by teleoperator/OEM to so that Microsoft updates won’t be delivered as a way to force you to buy a new phone.
    How Microsoft is allowing this is beyond my comprehension. What a miserable, miserable fail.
    I have wanted a Windows Phone 7 phone ever since it was announced in February. Finally, I thought, a phone that handles languages and regions as iPhone4. But apparently it is just as crap as 6.5.

  5. early adopter in switzerland – the bing search and bing map is completely useless here. search results are worst i have ever seen. no navigation, no local results, nothing. if this does not get advertised correctly people here will refuse these phones. this bing integration is such a big issue for windows phone 7 and if its not done well microsoft has lost any market share here within the first weeks.

    i dont know but in my opinion this is a VERY serious issue for a company trying to gain market share?

  6. I feel lied too by microsoft and htc. as i want a win phone 7 from telus here in canada so bad. but more and more its looking to be a pice of _____ fill in blank. due to missing features . voice search. no zune music store. no zune pass. no zune smart dj. its pathetic. i thought it was due to the data transfers b.w servers in the states and the phones around the world. but now if the mapping doesn’t work. rim and iphone are looking alot sweeter. my old phone craped out a few days before launch here yet the phone is quite scarece and cost at the moment is high due to mid contract. my sister got a new torch yesterday and put my number on her old blackbery. so im trying it out right now never had one. if i end up liking it i may just stay with it. see how this phone pans out and not be an early adapter… thankyou microsoft for showing your true colors after i recearched and read up on any hint of isues on your phone. sucks for the guy who goes to the store puts downn 500 and says i want that. doesn’t realise its just a prity looking device with limited features and thinks its the cream of the crop when its now.. im sory for these people.

  7. Take my advice – if you dont live in the states to have all features just skip it. Get some other phone. Check again in a year. Maybe its on par with the competition by then. Imo, this release is an advertising fiasco.

    I still like the phone and will stick to it, but its crazy how much less I get compared to the competition.

  8. Glad I found this page! Was looking at importing one to NZ as had an imported Android device which worked fine for local search, maps, etc but I found Android too clunky. Almost went for an iPhone 4 then had a look at Windows Mobile 7. Now it looks like its going to have to be the iPhone 4 after all with it’s Google Maps integration. Shame on you Microsoft! Bing maps is global so what reason is local search messed up for? MAYBE this will be fixed in an update that is MAYBE coming early next year. I for one won’t be handing money over to MS until it DEFINITELY is included. It’s a nice looking device but there are many, many more countries out there than the USA…

  9. New Zealand here. Bing maps and voice recognition works fine for me. I switched my system locale and browser locale to US last month and my region is set to NZ. Have a samsung device with language only showing as English. No local results though.

  10. btw directions in bing maps and voice recognition within the bing search button browser works fine for me as well. Just no local search which is a shame but there is a very nicely done YellowNZ app now available in the wp7 marketplace.

  11. This workaround certainly seems to work for the samsung omnia 7 puchased from optus in australia. Wish i could do sms and email with voice as well. Android seems to have it and it works quite a treat on my brother’s Desire HD.

  12. Wow, if I’d known about this, I would have reconsidered getting the HTC 7 pro. At least the workaround works for me, so apparently not every HTC device is locked.

  13. What about the Zune metadata, like scrolling album art and artist Bio. When I first setup my phone, I used an Live ID that is tied to a US Zune account (which I did years ago in order to use an imported Zune). This worked great, with the Zune tile becoming a live tile depending on what music I was listening to.

    Well then it came time to buy and App, and Zune would let me use an Aussie Credit card with the US account, and astonishingly, no matter what, I couldn’t change the region of my Zune account to Australia.

    So I created a new Live ID and made sure to create a new Zune account that was Aussie. But then Zune wouldn’t let me use this account unless the new Live ID was the primary ID of the phone.

    Shockingly, this required me to totally wipe my phone and start from scratch with my new and totally unused email address / Live ID. After linking my old addresses to this I finally got App purchasing set up.

    Then I applied all of Long’s tricks to get the local search and speech function to work. Great, all success so far.

    BUT, no matter what I do, I can’t get the fancy Zune meta data going on the phone anymore.

    Of course, the old hack was to change the region of my PC to US, in order to get the music and Podcast marketplace to work, but doing so now will stop me being able to login to my Zune account on my PC saying “Location mismatch”.

    This is so frustrating, I mean, PODCASTS, why is this option gone? I know I can manually add the RSS feeds, but I really want to be able to browse the podcast directory.

    Anyone found a hack for this? perhaps a reg key that opens up marketplace without voiding the ability to sign in with an AU account?

    Cheers.

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