Microsoft spills the juice on its latest Windows Phone Mango…
Yesterday we got our first official look at the next Windows Phone update codenamed: Mango and boy are we glad we waited patiently! Just seven months after the release of Windows Phone 7, Mango packs in the punch with several new features its offering and exciting new innovations that are unlike any other phone in the market.
First on Microsoft’s agenda was the live webcast at 7:00 am PDT where Andy Lees and Derek Snyder both introduced several new Mango features through a series of pictures and demonstrations. Next at 2:30 PST, we had two more people in the Microsoft family introduce us to some of the main features of the Mango update. Their main focus, however, was to clarify that Mango is all about the consumer and about the three main things that consumers want to use their phones for.
1. Communications: This could be anything from a simple phone call all the way to checking-in to a location, commenting on photos, IM, tagging friends, and communicating via Phone to PC or Phone to TV. Through the demo of the new enhanced People Hub, we saw how easy it was to keep in touch with those who are most important to us. The new contact cards keep everything about a person in one place including phone number, email, call history, all their pictures, status updates from their social networks… you name it, the new People Hub can do it. (Talk about an easier way to stalk someone. And I thought Facebook wall trolling was bad enough.) This is actually a pretty cool update as far Social integration goes.
Another new feature that Mango will introduce is Groups. Mango will make it easier to communicate with your different social circles and will keep you updated via a Live Tile if you wish with push notifications which are something that is also new with Mango. Groups will allow you to group several individuals together, say if you have your 3 BFFs and a group of co-workers you frequently have happy hour margaritas with, you can group each of those social circles and communicate with each group separately but still see all their updates together. Everything about those 3 BFFs will be in one place, grouped together. I think you get the idea.
Also, Mango makes it easier for texting and chatting, implementing messenger services like Windows Live Messenger and Facebook chat. We’re glad that Microsoft didn’t take the easy route and just create a new messenger app or something that would not integrate with any of the already existing messengers out there because that would be total fail. Mango introduces us to Threads which will allow us to communicate in more ways than one via a threaded conversation through text messages and social networks, all in one place. You can respond to a text via a Facebook wall post, or reply to a Facebook post via text message. It’s that seamless.
One of the coolest things that Mango introduces us to as far as communications go, is the Voice to SMS feature. Although its already available on some competitor devices, this new feature for Windows Phone looks like it might dominate. It is in fact, a new way to multitask. Example: Say you are in your car or jogging in the park listening to music on the go and you get a text message. Your phone will read you the text message and then prompt you to either ignore or reply it. Then you have the option of speaking a command and a text message and after the voice recognition technology gets your message, you have the option to send it all without having to touch the phone. However, after watching the live webcast, there was a moment when Derek Snyder was doing something and a text message came in and the phone read it to him. It kind of halted what he was doing at the moment and he had to use the Ignore command. It was very fast but I can see how that might get a little annoying especially if you are streaming music through speakers and you’re not near your phone. Or if you get a million text messages a day, are you going to have to use the Ignore command on all of them? Basically, it wasn’t clear whether that feature was optional and if there was a way to shut it off in the Settings menu.
2. Applications: Mango brings full on multitasking and complete app and phone integration without the hassle of limited battery life. One of the coolest features that Mango offers, is the ability to see all your open applications and tasks. I know that Apple has done this before, however, with Apple’s “multitasking” you weren’t really multitasking. In fact, it is a little annoying to see it keep a record of all the apps you have previously used and never clear the list unless you do it manually. Clicking on a previously used App, just reloads the app and doesn’t start you where you left off which isn’t true multitasking. With the new Mango update, Windows Phone will be able to keep a list of all the apps you have open and also allow you to go back to them exactly where you left off. This will be especially handy when you are close to getting that high score on Bejeweled and get interrupted by a text message or a phone call you have to take.
Mango also features something new called App Connect and App shortcutting. This is where you can access an app without having to actually go directly into the app. Say if you are searching for a movie on Bing, you will get the showtimes but you will also get an IMDB icon (if you have the app downloaded to your phone) where it will allow you to access only the movie information you are searching for through an App shortcut. This can allow for faster searches through your phone and for finding things online quicker as well.
3. Internet: Mango brings forward full implementation of IE9 and HTML5. It doesn’t just kind of look like the popular browser, it goes far and beyond in making sure to completely take advantage of all of IE9′s features.
As mentioned above, another interesting feature with Mango is the new enhanced Bing search. Not only can Bing search the Internet, but it can also search through all your apps that are currently downloaded to your phone. Mango has implemented something they are calling QuickCards which is a fast way of seeing all the information you need to know about a particular item, say a movie or a local venue. Not only can you get showtimes for a movie at a local movie theater, you can also decide what you want to do before and after the movie with Local Scout. Local Scout together with QuickCards lets you explore the local neighborhood and provides all the contact information, reviews, upcoming events for the venue, maps (including an indoor map), and lets you categorize them as favorites. For something to become a favorite, you can simply make it a favorite or check-in to that location. Very convenient.
These were the main topics that were discussed during both live webcasts yesterday. Some other topics that were briefly touched upon was the use of a new picture detection technology which will allow you to use your camera to detect things like book and DVDs automatically and then find ways using your phone to acquire said items. Andy Lees also boasted about how the Microsoft Marketplace has attained a whopping 18,000 apps in a little under 7 months. He spoke a little about the new hardware developers that are jumping on board for the Mango update like Acer, Fujitsu and of course Nokia. He also mentioned that the developer kit for Mango is out now and is ready for developers to take full advantage of it and get a head start. Lees also mentioned that there are over 500 new features that will be available for the Mango update.
A couple of things missing from Mango: WiFi and USB Tethering, Flash Support… just to name a few.
The Mango update is set to be released Fall 2011 via a notification on your Windows Phone which will require you to connect your phone to your PC to get the update.