| By Chris Murray |
Nearly a year after the initial release of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft unleashed the first major update to its mobile operating system: Windows Phone 7.5 — code-named Mango.
This update has an extraordinary number of promises to keep. Can it deliver?
A plethora of new Windows Phone features
Last November, Microsoft re-entered the smartphone arena with Windows Phone 7. WP7′s simple and elegant user interface impressed many who used it. But a paucity of features left it trailing well behind the competition, keeping its user share small.
In the lead-up to the release of WP7.5, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer noted that WP7.5 “added over 500 new features.” While I can’t confirm that number, there are a sufficient number of improvements to make Windows Phone 7 competitive with iPhone and Android models. In this two-part coverage of WP7.5/Mango, I’ll review the most notable ones. Part 1 covers changes to these features:
The interface of the future is tiled
Microsoft’s use of its Live Tiles started with the first version of WP7, and it remains the core element of Mango’s user interface. Tiles bear a dual burden: like icons, they act as shortcuts to information and applications; but like gadgets, they present the user with up-to-date, contextual information. With Mango, Microsoft opened Live Tiles’ capabilities to the entire developer community. Whether created by Microsoft or a third-party applications developer, all Live Tiles are now — visually — created equal. Simply put, this means that your RSS Reader’s Live Tile can spin and update in the same way as Mango’s native applications (such as Games Hub).
Another Live Tile tie-in is the ability to pin specific pieces of information and areas from within applications directly to your Start screen. For example, I can open HTC Hub, click on Indianapolis for the weather screen, and click pin to create on my Start screen a Live Tile linked to this specific page. This newly created Live Tile continues to update automatically with Indianapolis weather information. When I tap the tile, the app takes me to the related page in HTC Hub.
A fix for the single-minded Windows Phone 7
One of the chief complaints about WP7 was its lack of multitasking support. Mango remedies this shortcoming with Fast Application Switching (FAS). Simply press and hold the Back button on your Mango device to view a deck-of-cards layout of the five most recently used applications. Instead of displaying the applications as icons (as Apple’s iOS does), Mango thumbnails show where you left each application.