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Yahoo's Inquisitor search comes to iPhone

The great iPhone application is super fast, easy to use, and a shoulder above some of its competitors.

Despite Yahoo's latest efforts to defragment its mobile offerings, on Thursday the company released a mobile version of its Inquisitor search tool for the iPhone. Unlike its desktop version, which plugs into the search box built into Apple's Safari browser, this version exists as a standalone search application.

Before your eyes glaze over, it's worth a mention that this application is ridiculously fast. Search results stream in without chugging down the iPhone's processor, or slowing down your keystrokes. More importantly, it lets you start typing in a query less than four seconds after launching it, which in my testing was about two seconds faster than Google's voice-powered search app, and slightly faster than starting a cold search from Safari. Is this a huge difference? No, but if you're in a hurry to look something up quickly this is genuinely helpful.

Another big difference from some other search applications on the iPhone is that you can view the results in an integrated Webkit browser without it kicking you back to Safari. Google's iPhone search app doesn't do this and it drives me absolutely nuts, since if it's not a page you were looking for you have to start a brand new search from Safari's search box--which means more typing, or exit the browser and head back to the search app (Update: reader Commenter46 notes you can set the Google app to do this via a top secret settings menu).

You can see quick descriptions of search results along with site favicons. Results also open up in an integrated browser. CNET Networks

Each search result gets its own summary, complete with a favicon. If you come across a result from a site that has a notable favicon, it jumps out immediately. I also like how when it's loading a page in the integrated browser, it keeps the site's title and description in the lower half of the screen, which sure beats staring at a loading page.

In addition to standard Web results it also throws in related news stories that get thrown in at the top of the heap. It also provides suggested search results as you type, as well as sticking them on the bottom of the search so you can go back and revise your search without re-typing. These are both very user-friendly features which make it easier to make quick refinements or skip a few keystrokes.

Of course two big things missing from this application that iPhone search applications from Google and Vlingo have is voice-activated search and location-filtering. If you don't care about these two things, I think this is a really solid replacement, especially if you find yourself doing a lot of searching from your iPhone's home screen. Hopefully Yahoo's relaunch of its mobile service later this month will bring this same level of speed.

Previously: Yahoo plug-in gives brains to browser search