DuckDuckGo Android app: a first look

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 27, 2013
Updated • Jun 27, 2013
Google Android, Search

As you may know if you are a regular here, I'm using DuckDuckGo as my main search engine and other search engines only if I cannot find what I'm looking for when I'm using it.  Even though I have been using the search engine for some time now I never really noticed that apps for iOS and Android were available as well.

Today I noticed that the team pushed out completely redesigned apps for both mobile operating systems making it the perfect opportunity to review the Android application here on the site.

DuckDuckGo Search & Stories offers more than just search, and while I would say that mixing contents is a bad thing most of the time, it does work considerable well this time.

When you start the app you get the search form on top, but below that a selection of articles or news items. It is not immediately clear what they do here or where they come from. You do see small icons that highlight the websites and services they have been pulled from but everything comes into place only when you open the apps' settings.

duckduckgo android app duckduckgo stories

A tap on change sources displays all news sources that the app supports. It is not your usual selection of newspaper news though even though you find some among the listing. Here you find Reddit categories, Techmeme, Slashdot or Hacker News that you can add to the apps' front page. Only the top stories are pulled from those sites though and if you want, you can switch completely to magazines and newspapers such as CNN, The New York Times, ESPN or The Guardian.

If you do not want to use the feature, you can change what is displayed on the apps' homescreen to recent searches or saved items instead.

The search displays suggestions as you type. If you start to type van gogh for instance, you will eventually get information about the artist that you can select right away. Unlike on other search engines, the suggestions display information so that you know what they are about.

search suggestions search results

You can tap on a suggestion to load the search results page immediately for the selected search term. It displays the usual zero click information on top and the results below that.

Another interesting feature of the app is that it supports the !bang syntax. This means that you can redirect your searches to other search engines, e.g. Amazon, Google or Bing, look up a location on Google Maps or search on Stack Overflow for programming help.

DuckDuckGo App Tips

  1. The application saves your recent searches by default. You can disable that in the settings. Alternatively, it is possible to clear the recent searches at any time in the settings as well.
  2. You can disable the auto complete feature of the app as well in the settings.
  3. Note that all !bang commands seem to be supported even though only a small selection of them are displayed when you type the ! in the search form. To get a list of all supported options enter !bang in the search and tap on the search button afterwards.
  4. You can change the font size and theme (light or dark) of the app in the settings.
  5. If you are predominantly looking for results from a specific region, use the region boost feature to pick a country that you want prioritized in the results.


If you are using DuckDuckGo on your desktop computer, then you will feel right at home when you are using the mobile app of the search engine. The stories feature may appeal to some users but not to all, but since you can display other information on the home screen instead by default, it does not really matter that it has been integrated into the application.

It does not seem possible to disable the stories completely though, as you can still open them even after changing the home screen to display different information.

Support for the !bang syntax and the informative suggestion feature are even more helpful when you search on mobile than when you are searching on the desktop.

All in all a great application that gets the thumbs up.


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  1. Rick said on June 28, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Yep, DuckDuck should be DeadDuck.

    Privacy terms deliberately phrased for ambiguity are definitely NOT on.

    Having said this, any site needs to find some means to monetize its use. A search engine’s best means of doing so is to collect your search data.

    Collect = log. If anyone thinks that your IP address, cookie or the like isn’t being recorded … of course it is in some manner.

    Solution: No perfect ones. A VPN is good but your activity is still probably still accessible at the VPN server level. TOR seems like a good option, other than the authorities undoubtedly offer up machines to act as servers (just like on the torrent side).

    I think it boils down to protection via international laws. Having said this, your data is only a hack away which avoids these legal complications (if the US is hacking into China’s infrastructure, delivering virus’ to Iranian nuclear facilities, China hacking into US banks etc etc etc, I’m betting it’s simple to get your search history).

    Summed up: if you are on the internet, your online activities can be watched.

  2. ilev said on June 28, 2013 at 12:59 am

    Still trust DuckDuckGo?

    …using services such as DuckDuckGo on the presumption that they are safe, is a dangerous thing to do….

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 28, 2013 at 3:34 am

      I’m preferring Duck over Google or Bing anytime of the week, yes. I’m not trusting them blindly however as I do not trust any company out there. They are all out to make money in one way or the other.

      I do not think that all the points that Alexander Hanff makes are valid. At the very least, they are blown out of proportion. Yes, it is a small company. Yes, they may have fucked up in regards to the support cookie and other things. But they have reacted on this immediately and resolved the issue.

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