To dial by typing in a contact's name, similar to blackberry, tap the phone icon then tap the search button (permanent magnifying class bottom right). Keyboard pops up and you type in the contact's name it brings a list of options to call.
Only problem I see with hitting search first is you get everything that's been typed into the search. For example, if I type c-r-a for someone who's name is craig, the first think that comes up is crackberry.com. hitting the phone button first eliminates the clutter and only searches contacts
Or press and hold the search button until Speak Now screen pops up. Then say "Call Joe Blow". As far as I know this works no matter where you are in the phone.
Also works if you google search a business, i.e. Press and hold search, say something like "Comfort Inn, Minot North Dakota" The google search results have a direct dial button to the right of the search results.
Pretty much the Speak Now search figures out what you want to do and does it.