WP7 “Mango” Update: Smarter, Easier, Coming this Autumn
In a VIP Press event today, Microsoft unveiled just a few of the 500 new additions to the Windows Phone 7 OS. The update, codenamed “Mango”, has the overarching goal to “make the smartphone smarter and easier”, with the main focus on communication with contacts, software and apps, and the internet experience.
Full information after the break.
Windows Live Tiles, the “face” of the OS, are being given an overhaul, to make them ‘smarter’, allowing them to display more information, more often. They also light up, flip round, and have more sophisticated animation. Twitter and LinkedIn are now baked into the OS along with Facebook, and every major social network is now integrated into the People Hub. Microsoft have implemented Groups, which allows users to collect related people together in a grid, allowing you to view updates specific to that Group, as well as automatically collecting tagged pictures of those in the group.
Messaging is set to be given an overhaul in Mango, too. There is a new, BBM-like system being implemented, albeit on a much more open scale. It will be integrated with traditional SMS messaging, as well as Live Messenger and Facebook Chat, in a what is known as multi-threading. This means that if you were to message someone through Facebook chat, they can text a response, and then you can open Live Messenger and respond through that, and it will all appear in the same message thread. Very handy for tracking conversations. WP7′s keyboard, already arguably one of, if not the, best keyboards on any smartphone, is also being overhauled. It’s now a “much more intuitive typing experience”, with word prediction software – for instance, type “How” and it could suggest “are”, then “you”, and will learn from a user as they type for more accurate prediction. Text-to-speech and voice recognition are also being touted as an extra feature, with the ability to have the phone read out any texts sent to you, and then speak a response and have it sent – of most benefit to those using their phone handsfree while driving, but even so we’d exercise caution.
Email has gained additional benefits, too, with “rich information management tools”, such as being able to flag an email as ‘do not forward’. Likewise for the calendar, which now integrates with Facebook, much like HTC Sense and Samsung Touchwiz on Android, pulling events from the cloud and displaying them in the WP7 calendar.
Microsoft also showed off additions to the Pictures, Office and Xbox hubs. The Pictures hub has now gained face detection, for easy tagging of yourself and others before uploading to Facebook. Office was demonstrated with greater Exchange support, and the ability to pull documents and edit them from SkyDrive. The Xbox hub contained a welcome addition – the ability to quickly jump in and out of a game without losing progress, and with instant resume. Gaming is intended to become a “social experience” like it is on the 360, although whether this means the integration of Party Chat style systems or further multiplayer integration was not elaborated upon.
A nice addition was the demonstration of the British Airways app, which also demonstrated some of the new APIs open to developers, such as taking advantage of updating Live Tiles and notifications. The app displays all of your upcoming flights, updates to schedules, allows you to see your seat, displays boarding passes and allows for check-in… pretty much the norm for an airline app. However, one highly welcome (and pretty cool) addition is the ability to take a 3D walkthrough of the plane to choose your seat, as well as see the in-flight menu, movie selection, and even see the name of the captain flying the plane. Very impressive.
Third-party apps have, apparently, been “freed from their silos”, with the addition of the enhanced app Hubs, smarter Live Tiles and app shortcuts, and smarter apps with more advanced APIs and multi-tasking being implemented. Developers have been given access to more of the hardware of each WP7 device, allowing them to utilize graphics acceleration, sensor input, the camera, background processes and a lot more.
The Windows Phone 7 browser has also been given a significant overhaul, with the current browser an amalgamation of IE7 and 8. The new one, though, is essentially a miniature version of Microsoft’s new and improved IE9 desktop browser. It will “tailor the web to your palm.” and features HTML5 encoding, as well as various speed improvements and the ability for hardware acceleration through each handset’s GPU. It was demonstrated running the HTML5 benchmark “Speed Reading”, along with the iPhone 4, Blackberry Torch and Droid Charge, and they each managed 2fps, 5fps and 10fps respectively, while the WP7 handset reached 30fps. A serious step up.
Bing search on the handset sees the addition of voice and visual search, as well as being more location aware. Bing search for a movie and it will obviously show you showtimes and local cineas, but using what MS are calling AppConnect, it will automatically hand off search results to the IMDB app, allowing you to browse all the information contained within that app regarding the film. Restaurant reviews are included, and offer more in-depth reviews, more addresses, phone numbers, opening hours and better directions. Local Scout enables you to see all the places around you that are available for eating and drinking, as well as things to do such as museums, concerts, attractions etc. Tap on a shopping centre, for instance, and you will be taken to a map of the interior of the centre, with the location of all the shops displayed.
Visual search was demonstrated, with the ability to tap on the eye icon, and the camera automatically opens within search. In the instance shown, a book was scanned, the cover recognised, and information, reviews and places to buy the book were suggested, as well as links to apps on the phone such as Amazon Kindle from which you could download it.
Microsoft also announced new hardware partners for Windows Phone 7 devices, with Samsung, LG and HTC being joined by Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE. Oh, and of course, Nokia. There are, apparently, Nokia test devices already running Mango in MS’s testing labs.
The new Mango SDK is available to download to developers now, and Mango, with it’s 500 new additions to the WP7 OS, should be coming to all handsets sometime in the Autumn.