The Little-Advertised New Features of Windows Phone 7 “Mango”

MangosConsidering the expansive list of enhancements and new features, I can’t imagine there was a single Windows Phone user that was not excited about the recently released Mango update. We were given native Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn integration, as well as enhanced multitasking and Live Tile support, among countless other improvements.

But these features were no surprise, as they were the highly anticipated features that would make WP7 a relevant platform in today’s smartphone market. The purpose of this article is to expose a couple of my favorite new features that were not so well-known prior to release. Not only are these features nice-to-have enhancements, they have simplified and improved day-to-day use of my mobile phone.

Outlook Mobile

Connecting to my company’s Exchange server for email was great before Mango, but the user interface has been pushed over the top after the update. I prefer to configure my Outlook 2010 desktop client to display emails in Conversations, which makes keeping track of email threads much easier. When applied to the smaller screen of my HTC Trophy, this feature really shines. Instead of having to scroll through every email I receive, they are now grouped into threads, as they should be.

While this enhancement is nothing groundbreaking, it does bring Email on WP7 up to par with other mobile phones, further buttressing Microsoft’s relevancy in the rapidly changing mobile market.

SharePoint Mobile

Prior to the Mango update, the native SharePoint functionality was hardly useful, even for SharePoint professionals like me. The original version only worked with SharePoint sites which implemented Forms Based Authentication (FBA), effectively making the feature useless. My company’s Intranet site uses Windows Authentication (NTLM), which meant that I could not access any of my own documents stored in SharePoint, let alone any documents stored on my clients’ SharePoint sites.

WP7 Office Hub
The Office Hub in WP7

While the enhancement was not widely advertised, the Mango update added support for NTLM authentication, and I can now access project documents with a couple taps of my finger. I no longer need access to my laptop and WiFi to get at the documents I need to do my job.

Coupled with the Office Hub integrated into WP7, viewing Office documents on a mobile device has never been so seamless. This is a feature, if marketed properly, that Microsoft could use to gain an edge in the corporate sector, which would undoubtedly help them overtake the iPhone and Android as the mobile platform of choice for day-to-day business.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s not likely to usurp Apple or Android as the #1 mobile platform any time soon, but they are making solid strides to cement themselves in the #3 spot. As the smartphone market continues to grow, the value of a viable third competitor will as well. I love my Windows Phone, and I definitely love how it continues to make my professional life easier. If Microsoft continues to make the right improvements and learns to market these improvements correctly, Windows Phone may establish itself as a successful mobile OS for years to come.

Windows Phone 7 ‘Mango’ Has Officially Been RTM’d

Windows Phone “Mango” has officially been RTM’d. What’s RTM? It means that Microsoft has given the new build its stamp of approval and released it to the manufacturers. Once it’s in the hands of companies like Samsung, HTC, LG and others, the finished software will go through rigorous testing and configurations to make things run smoothly on their respective handsets. That means that everything is on schedule as the company preps for a fall release.

But the real questions is: Why should you, as a potential Windows Phone 7 user, be excited? Well, there are about 3 reasons.

People

Windows Phone Mango is furthering Microsoft’s vision of making your phone about more than just communicating, they want it to be primarily about the people you communicate with. Meaning that the focus should be on them, not on how you get in touch with them.

One of the new features that addresses this is unified messaging – the messaging app can switch between SMS, Live Messenger, and Facebook Chat without breaking a sweat or interrupting your thread of messages. Threaded email will also be introduced, along with the ability to selectively merge your inboxes; for example, you can choose to combine your Hotmail and Gmail accounts, but leave another email account separate.

Grouping of contacts is now an option as well, letting you see social updates from a specific group of people or easily send out group emails, text messages, and so much more. To add to this, there is a deeper integration of social networks beyond Facebook. Twitter and LinkedIn are both slated to be added to your contacts, allowing you to keep up with their social presence in one simple glance.

Web

Before you get too excited, no, Mango will not be the first mobile software to introduce Flash to the market. What it will have though, is Internet Explorer 9. Not a mobile version of the desktop browser, but the same desktop browser just loaded on your phone. In early tests, the new browser was substantially speedier than it’s current iOS, Android, and BlackBerry counterparts.

Bing has some great new features as well. Local Scout extends the search functions to give you detailed information based on your location. This could mean highlighting the hottest restaurants or informing you of seasonal attractions that may be on at the time. Plus, you’ve got Bing Vision, which is essentially Google Goggles for Windows, allowing you to scan barcodes and QR codes to gain additional information.

A cool use of Bing Vision was demoed by scanning the cover of a book, which then opened the Kindle app and the user could instantly purchase the eBook. This is a recurring theme in Mango, offering up apps as solutions to searches; for example, a search for movie showtimes may bring up the Fandango app that’s loaded on your phone.

Finally, Bing Audio will also be added. It’s essentially a Bing version of the popular app Shazam, and allows for the tagging of music that is played to the device as well as lyric searches and instant mp3 downloads.

Applications

Microsoft has really stepped up their game here in order to lure in developers from competing smartphone platforms. One of the biggest changes is multitasking support, which will allow some simple tasks to be operated in the background, with most apps simply being suspended until they are reopened. Holding down the “back” button will bring up a grid of open applications that you can slide through with ease.

Live Tiles have gotten a few tweaks, giving developers access to previously restricted content that will allow them to deeply integrate live tiles with their respective applications. This means less time spent on your phone as more and more information will be available at a glance, just like Microsoft has wanted all along.

Now are you starting to feel the excitement? Mango may not be a huge change, but it is bringing a polished feel to the mobile OS that it needed in order to compete with it’s more mature peers and it seems to be only a matter of time before it takes its rightful place beside iOS and Android.