Technology

Published on July 11th, 2011 | by Ramon Trotman

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Windows Phone Mango update thoughts

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I bought an HTC HD7 on the launch day. Before that, I was an avid Apple lover who couldn’t get enough of the iPhone or iPad, and I would spend hours jailbreaking (sue me Steve… Oh what’s that? You can’t?) my 3GS and customising it and making it do wonderful things. The kind of things the kind people at Apple deprive us of, for no apparent reason. I heard of so-called zunephones or windows mobiles coming with "a weird blocky look" and would post jokes about it on my twitter (@dodgebizkit) account.

One day however, I came across a YouTube preveiw of the HD7 and Surround. I had been planning to buy an iPhone 4 when the white model was released (come on Steve, white spray can deliveries shouldn’t take this long!) But I was totally blown away by the sleekness of this wp7 system. The day that the HD7 launched I grabbed myself one and had been expecting a huge launch and line queues. However the sales staff had barely even heard of it and wanted to sell me a desire HD (I managed not to vomit at the thought of Android.)

Over the coming months I noticed 3 major components that the phone lacked: copy and paste (soon rectified by MS with the NoDo update after 4 months, unlike Apple who took three years, and was still waiting for that white paint.) The NoDo update also sped up apps and fixed some bugs but removed live-tile and toast support from 3rd party apps.

The next big thing that was missing (and in the current version still is) was multitask and background app support. Meaning you could only open one thing at a time, and if you close it, you will have to start from the beginning again. This was a problem if I was using the messenger app and needed to write an email or send an SMS for example, having to wait for messenger to resume again was a pain.

The third, and biggest problem for me was the lack of API socket support (the main effect of this is that it can’t handle instant messaging very well) which meant that the only way you could connect to Facebook Chat or MSN were through horrible, slow and buggy apps. There was no official MSN app, and this was a WINDOWS phone, that was crazy. My main reason for using smartphones (since n95-2) was to keep in contact via IM services rather than SMS as I travel alot and keep in contact with many people overseas and why pay to speak to them when I can do it faster for free? Also, outside of working, social sites and messenger services make up 90% of my computer use (the rest mainly being recording music) and I have always been searching for a mobile device which I can use to fully replace this 90% of computer use. Unfortunately, the one phone that I fully expected to do this really could not. The iPhone had limitedly managed to do this via the latest eBuddy app, but it still fell short due to Steve loving to shove the handbreak on whenever his company started to gather speed.

Now, after wading through that backlog of backstory back there… On to MANGO!

Firstly, I would like to say, while I am only using an early Beta and not the final cut,if this was the final definitive version of the software, i would still be extremely happy. It is the most well thought out OS I have ever seen and I would call it spot on close to perfect.

It looks like MS looked at iOS, Android, Blackberry, Meego(yes it appears to have implimented some features of the ill fated OS) and webOS; filtered the best, mixed them with a multitude of excellent ideas, steroids and injected them into NoDo’s shell. Polished it all and added some glitter. Really….

It’s much easier to say what isn’t perfect about this release than what is, because it is just so brilliant, it honestly is. But I will scrape the barrel and get them out of the way first. OK, while the raw battery life is far better than in NoDo, when you have the messenger service enabled, the battery drains faster than a bottle of whiskey in Scotland. The same goes for using the super improved IE explorer. Also, in this version it tells me that LinkedIn is connected but failing to connect, I can’t fix or remove that connection. Sometimes the main tile screen is a bit buggy…. But I am really scraping the barrel here and this version is only BETA so you can bet that all the creases will be ironed out on release.

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So, on to the good stuff. Lets look at intergration. Facebook is totaly intergrated into the OS so you don’t need to use the FB app! You can see all your friends’ updates, your notifications, and updated comments via the people hub. You can like, comment, etc on posts, photos, and everything else. The same is said for your windows live, twitter and LinkedIn, and hopefully Skype although that may be something we have to wait for Tango for.

The Facebook chat and your MSN messenger are fully intergrated into your messages and your text messages merge with online conversations, and you can switch between text messaging, fb chat and WLM at the touch of a button with a push system similar to BBM but much better implimented and able to communicate with PCs as well as other phones. WIN.

Live tiles have so much more life now, they’re constantly updating, flipping over, showing people or app updates, information, everything. When they said that you would need to dedicate less time looking at your phone, they weren’t lying. However if they’d have said that you’d not want to spend so much time using your phone, that would be the biggest lie since Hitler claimed to offer brilliant shower facilities; I never want to put the phone down!

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Office has seen a drastic improvement. It syncs all the documents with your SkyDrive, it is all saved in your Hotmail. So if I happen leave this phone in my pocket when I wash my clothes and it comes out as a mangoed mess, this review which I’m writing in a .docx on the phone will be perfectly safe! As will all my class notes (I’m a teacher,) contracts, and voice notes in OneNote (im a musician too and use the phone to jot down musical ideas out and about using OneNote recorder.) This makes mango the perfect business phone, as well as fun phone, accessory phone (think iPhone or android to understand what I mean) and communication device (IM that buries BBM!) meaning that mango has all tracks covered!

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Just some brief points about some of the more beautiful extra features just quickly;

Power save mode detects when your battery is low and changes your settings to prolong battery life and auto changes back when you plug the phone in (this can be disabled)

Ringtones- you can have up to 39second long smiles of your favorite songs as ringtones, on most phones there isn’t even an app for that! (cough)

It allows augmented reality (imagine games that use what your camera sees) for apps

It saves your video camera settings, simple but needed!

Email inboxes can be unified.

Voice text input and text to speech on messages and IM.

Searchable app list- you no longer have a long list of apps to wade through, you can choose the first letter of the app or type its name and you go straight to it.

Pop up toasts work!

There’s a button that can instantly transport you to any place on the planet… OK, maybe not, but come on, if Carlsberg made phones…

The lock screen tells you who’s birthday it is and shows your now playing artist’s Zune picture.

And… There is so much more I could write about Mango but I think I should leave it here or I’ll be writing for eternity. I’ve covered about a quarter of the main points and there are hundreds of small details that are awesome additions, but it would take forever and I have to leave you a few surprises.

Basically, when Microsoft dropped wm6.5 and built 7, they made the biggest comeback since Lazurus, and with this Mango update, they didn’t so much reinvent the wheel as add 500 new features to it, one of which is an Aston Martin revving away leaving the competition cycling their tandems and eating Microsoft’s mango flavored dust.


About the Author

Passionate about most things, most days. All that is required is something Microsoft, something snakeskin, somewhere in Brooklyn and a camera.



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