Toward the end of August, I signed up for a trial of Kagi -- a privacy-focused search engine.
You get 50 free searches, and then, if you want to continue, you can convert to a paid account at $10 a month.
I mentioned here that I wasn't planning on converting to paid, as $10/month felt very steep and I didn't think I could make it my default search on my iOS phone, but @pallas's comment here ultimately made me want to give it a try.
Thus, I dropped the $10 bucks to turn the free trial into a paid one-month trial.
I'm very glad that I did.
The free trial itself was actually not very convincing to me. Knowing that I had limited searches and not wanting to run through them more than I needed, my searches were in the single digits each day. I was very judicious about what I searched and how I typed it. Furthermore, I kicked myself if I instinctively typed something like "imdb everything everywhere all at once" into Firefox's search bar instead of going to imdb.com and then typing in the movie title, as that meant I'd wasted 2% of my allotment on what wasn't technically a search but more of an internet navigation optimization.
On the searches I did I felt like I got good results, but I wasn't sure if that was because of the quality of the service or if it was because I'd simply thought more about what I was actually typing in. Also, the trial made me way too aware that I was searching with limited queries to really make me feel at ease about actually using the service.
Now that I've paid for a month, however, I've just used it as a stand-in for how I used to use DuckDuckGo -- "wikipedia steam deck"-style searches and all.
Kagi doesn't track your search contents, but they do track your number of searches. I have completed roughly 400 searches this month, which Kagi says costs roughly $5.00 out of the $10.00 that I paid them. I don't know nearly enough about any of this to know whether this is an accurate accounting of actual costs or overstating things, but I will say that the $10 price that I initially felt was steep has looked a lot more worth spending after a month on the service.
Kagi generally finds what I'm looking for within the first link. If it's not the top link, it's in the top 3. Furthermore, it seems to dredge up less junk. With DuckDuckGo, I loved that I wasn't being tracked for the purposes of advertising, but it felt like DDG had no problem serving me pages that were built specifically for that purpose. I'd often look up product reviews and get re-routed to sites that appeared to be nothing more than machine-generated lists of recommendations with Amazon affiliate links. I've had to deal with less of these while on Kagi. Some of them still come up, but they're either further down the rankings or they're put into their own "Listicles" section.
Where Kagi really shines though, is local searches. Pretty much the only time I would bang through to Google from DDG was for local stuff. I don't know if it's my location in particular, but DDG is not great about giving me things that are specific to my area, often preferring to give me a smattering of things that are from similarly named locales from elsewhere around the world. Kagi, on the other hand, gives me the kind of local results I get from Google.
Most local searches of that type tend to come from my phone, and this also helped me understand that better search on a phone matters WAY more than better search on desktop. The smaller screen and limited view means that it's significantly more important for the top result to be the one I want on my phone than it is on desktop. As such, Kagi is winning me over because it's made mobile searching frictionless -- something I couldn't say for DDG. That aspect alone is probably going to be what keeps me on the service. I'm planning on paying for at least another month, though after that I might go back to DDG for a month to see how I feel in comparison.
I mentioned earlier that I didn't think I could make it a default search on iOS. I mistakenly thought Apple had that locked down? Turns out it's actually possible through an app. Also, Kagi apparently has an entire browser for macOS/iOS. I tried it out and it works quite nicely, though AdGuard+Safari seemed to do a bit better ad-blocking than the stuff they'd built into Orion, so I've stayed on Safari.
There's actually a whole lot of cool looking power-user stuff on offer from Kagi (you can individually prioritize and de-prioritize specific domains across your searches, for example), but I'm not the kind of user that needs significant search depth, so I can't really speak to anything other than the standard search experience.
What I can say is that I've been very happy with that experience so far.
Also, it should hopefully go without saying, but this post isn't sponsored in any way nor was I requested to post it by Kagi. This is me choosing to give my own experiences with the service because I thought people here might be interested.