As expected, Microsoft has just announced their Mango 7.1 update for Windows Phone. The update brings a slew of much needed features to currently available, as well as upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices. There are actually 500 new features packed into this update, including the likes of multitasking for 3rd party apps, visual voicemail and more.
Mango improves Windows Phone with a more “people centric” approach to communication. Groups is a new feature that lets you set up separate groups of contacts for families and different groups of friends. A group can be represented as a live tile. Threads is another new feature which makes communication easy by bringing text messages, messenger and Facebook chat into a single thread. So you can communicate with your buddy across all these different platforms without leaving the thread. Neat! Plus, by viewing someone’s contact card, you can see all the recent pictures that someone has uploaded or been tagged in across multiple social networks. Their contact card also shows their most recent social network updates. Linkedin And Twitter are now integrated into the phone too.
But perhaps the most anticipated update to Mango is multitasking. You can now switch between tasks by holding down the back button which will bring you to a stack flow interface, similar to how WebOS and the BlackBerry Playbook OS multitasks. You can also resume inside an application, right where you left it. Multitasking capabilities will now extend to 3rd party applications and Microsoft is making the tools to do this available for developers, today. Speaking of third party applications, 3rd party apps can now support Live Tiles as well. Live Tiles and apps can now receive pushed live updates and notifications.
Voice dictation has also been amped up in Mango. If you’re listening to music and a text message comes in, the device will read it to you out loud, and you can even respond back to the text message using your voice, so that you never have to touch the phone.
All of the Microsoft Office apps like Excel and Outlook have also been updated. More than ever, Outlook is more like the desktop version of itself. To that effect, you can even specify email permissions. Plus, you can now connect to your documents on Office 365, and Syydrive, besides just Sharepoint.
Bing has improved too. The search engine will offer you search results based on your location and time of day. You can search with voice, text, location – and now even with vision. The Vision function works similar to Google Goggles. You can snap a picture of something – a book cover, a bar code, or whatever, and Bing will bring up special information about it using a new feature called Quick Cards. Quick cards provides users with information without taking them to a separate web site. So for example, you could search for a movie in Bing and a Quick Card will come up showing you reviews, movie times, and more information about the movie. The Quick Card will also give you an option to jump to an appropriate app that can provide you with more information about whatever you just searched. So for example, a Quick Card about a book would offer you app shortcuts to jump directly into the Kindle app to download the book.
Bing maps has been improved too and now features indoor maps for many public places – like malls! Never get lost trying to find Annie’s Pretzels again. Local Scout is yet another new feature which should make traveling a breeze without having to download any special additional apps. The app lets you see what is going on around you in real time. So you can find out about all the points of interest surrounding you from events, to tours, shopping and more.
The Windows Phone Mango release will be available in the Fall as a free update. Microsoft says that aside from these aforementioned new features there will be plenty of other new features too. Microsoft will also be adding additional languages to Windows Phone. And they have announced that several more handset manufacturers are on board to make devices, including Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE. 4G handsets are also on their way and they are promising lower priced handsets options. And as expected, the first Nokia smartphone running Windows Phone 7 is poised to be released in the fall and it will be running Windows Mango. Overall, with all of these handset manufacturers backing Microsoft up and the promise of more affordable handsets, plus the tight social networking enhancements and new multitasking capabilities, Microsoft is well poised to take over at-least third place in the smartphone Market share.