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Windows Phone 7.1 Mango Update

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Localization and Keyboard
  3. ultitasking
  4. Phonebook: People and Groups
  5. Chat Messaging
  6. Mail Improvements
  7. Standby Mode: Live Tiles
  8. Bing Search
  9. Calendar
  10. Pictures Gallery
  11. Voice Technology for SMS and Texts
  12. XBOX
  13. Office
  14. IE9
  15. Power Consumption
  16. Music&Video Hub Update
  17. Mango: First Impressions

Introduction

Before taking a thorough look at Mango update, I'd like to note that a very particular review of all Windows Phone 7 features was done in a separate article. I have not seen a more detailed review anywhere, so allow me to refer you to it. Here we'll talk about the update, select functions and compare them to the competition.

Windows Phone 7 In-Depth review

The sales of WP7 phones started in fall of 2010. Mango will become available for all existing phones in September, 2011 and will be free. A year passed between the versions and Microsoft talks about nearly 500 additional functions and updates to the OS. I could not find them all as some are just the corrections of the past mistakes, different interface designs, fixes of deficiencies in previous version. If the first Microsoft OS version simply could not be considered a contemporary smartphone OS in the absence of multitasking and a large number of software limitations, Mango tries to take care of some of the critical shortcomings. The direction of the development is correct, but it is extremely slow. During this time other OS went further and the functionality of Mango does not look revolutionary, it is a rather small number of improvements or gradual development. In the summer of 2010, the Microsoft VP Terry Myerson, responsible for WP7, said that getting the OS to an ideal state may take up to 5 years, and the first version needs to be considered as a starting one. I doubt Microsoft fans need to argue with a man who knows the strengths and the weaknesses of the OS the best. Unfortunately, some fans seem to think they are more Catholic than the Pope, so as a comparison I will provide the examples of a similar Android feature and show how it works. I believe such comparison will be the most open and objective. You can always try the same at home and see how it works.

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Localization and Keyboard

In addition to five existing menu languages new ones will be added. This will allow starting selling the Windows Phone 7 devices on the new markets, Russia in particular. The design of keyboard is basic and described in detail here.

Unfortunately, there was no improvement in keyboard. It's exactly the same keypad with SMS voice composing option (we'll talk about it later). Below, you can see the versions of keyboard for various languages. The switching is done with one key when you hold it, the list of all available languages appears, when you just press it the neighboring keyboards switch. You can add a few different keyboards.

How it's done on Android

The standard Android keyboard works about the same and has similar functionality. A little better located keys, different predictive word selection algorithm, but overall we can't say there are any serious differences.

However each manufacturer adds their own versions of keyboards, often set as a default. For example Samsung uses a standard keypad plus Swype. HTC phones also use a better keyboard. For WP7 such products don't exist yet, the possibility of them coming around is questionable (the Russian keyboard never appeared in the first year, it was based on Spanish with the help of a stick and a rope, but allowed Microsoft employees to claim the possibility of writing in Russian).

The conclusion? Android wins with a huge advantage there is a great number of various keyboards for it available and Microsoft only has one, basic version.

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ultitasking

How can a modern phone exist without multitasking is unclear to me. In Mango the substituting multitasking is realized, memory holds up to five applications running (this is how many a user sees). By pressing and holding a Back button, you may call out the menu with app icons, switch among them. The condition of each one of them is remembered with online apps continuing to work.

Unfortunately, you cannot close a separate app as this option is not available. During the year of existence WP7 did not receive a task manager to view memory processes or shut down a particular application. It must be a special position of Microsoft. All apps are managed by the OS. Applications for WP7 can have inbuilt push notifications to boost their operation in the background mode.

How it's done on Android

The user sees latest 8 apps, but they can be more numerous in the RAM. Push notification is available too. In Android Market there is a multitude of free task managers to clear the RAM or close down separate apps and processes. The majority of manufacturers install one standard Task Manager. By default you can free RAM as well.

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Phonebook: People and Groups

In Mango you can now create your own members groups. Before this option was not available in the Phonebook. Create a group and add contacts there. Such a group will be displayed at the top of the contacts list. While viewing a group you can send SMS or e-mail messages to all members. Moreover, you can track all activities of members in social networks Twitter, Facebook, etc. It is a unique capability to view all messages from a small group of people and you will never lose their messages in the general events on your Facebook or Twitter page.

For your family name the group is created automatically. The phone scans Facebook and verifies your relations with contacts you often call or write to. It is a handy option indeed.

Other OS do not offer similar features and you have to use separate lists for different clients. For example, you need to create the list in Twitter or do it on PC . WP7 Mango makes the process easier.

How it's done on Android

Contacts groups are created in a similar way, but there is no integration with social networks. A group can be sent a message and this is where all similarities end. In shells from Samsung and HTC separate contacts can be assigned their profiles in social networks and in the viewing mode you can read everything written by such a contact. Systems are built differently, but you end up with identical capabilities there is no longer need to navigate through lengthy messages in social networks to read the entry of a particular contact. I think you cannot give advantage to either of approaches. They offer similar options to choose from.

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Chat Messaging

While viewing or creating a message for a contact you are not limited to SMS only. Feel free to use SMS or any other inbuilt Microsoft client for quick messages. By default you are offered Windows Messenger and Facebook Chat. The convenience of the approach is obvious if you have cheap Internet or WiFi access to use Facebook Chat instead of paying for SMS. Your conversations are conveniently displayed as chats irrespective of the client used. The conversation is displayed as it was. The availability of the contact in online messaging apps is shown during the creation of the message, which is logical. Why bother writing messages no one will receive?

How it's done on Android

The feature is not supported by rival OS.

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Mail Improvements

Messages chains support was added and now you can see all messages from a person in a chain with your answers if any. It is similar to chains in Gmail, which is rather convenient.

Another upgrade is the addition of Linked Inbox. You can combine several mailboxes together and see all messages in one place. By answering such a letter you will use the mailbox it was sent to. It is hardly a revelation, but it is convenient nonetheless. When mail accounts are joined the inboxes are amalgamated into one and you can give it any name you wish.

Corporate users will benefit from the support of secured messages impossible to redirect, print or copy. The rest of the people will not pay attention to the feature, which is supported only on WP7 devices, while on other OS messages will not be protected whatsoever.

How it's done on Android

There are no differences of note and we have parity here between Mango and Android.

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Standby Mode: Live Tiles

Tiles were always live in the standby mode and you could see the number of unread messages. Mango goes one step further and apps provide live information. For example, British Airways app displays the status of your flight on the main screen. Bing maps can show your current location , which is great.

How it's done on Android

Widgets on the desktop can be updated live and differ by their size taking the whole screen or a portion of it. Theoretically we have a parity here again, but Android offers a superior flexibility in widgets fine tuning (different sizes, more desktops, customization of updates and so on).

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Bing Search

In Bing Search we have Bing Vision now. Once activated the camera starts and the phone can automatically recognize the cover of a book, CD, movie poster and offers related details. As always there is support for bar and other codes. In the search returns you can also access feedback of users and the link to shop where you can buy a particular product.

Bing Music Search is similar to Shazam. A track sample is enough to find its name, performer and full description. The server connection is used at all times. The search in third parties applications provides information from appropriate apps. Let's say, when you are looking for a movie you can search in IMDB app with the results to be displayed in the app. There is nothing similar offered by other OS.

How it's done on Android

Among standard options on Android there is no utility to carry out this kind of searching. On the other hand Shazam can be used for free. Besides, there are applications for reading bar codes and scanning books. Once again WP7 does not have anything like Layar at the moment, so Android has a bit of an edge in this department. Microsoft is following in the same direction, but they still have to do the catching up.

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Calendar

You can add events automatically from the mail (vCalendar), integrate several calendars (Google Calendar, Facebook, Outlook and so on). Events from different sources are highlighted with one color.

How it's done on Android

Everything is identical.

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Pictures Gallery

It is possible to scan images for faces search and recognition. You will be able to filter images depending on people featuring there.

How it's done on Android

Similar features are available for separate Android models.

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Voice Technology for SMS and Texts

It is based on server technology and you have to stay online. You can dictate a message and sent it to a contact. I have to mention that the voice recognition is on the prototype stage now, so it cannot be given a proper assessment. It does not support offline mode and cannot recognize names of contacts.

How it's done on Android

Google Voice technology helps to recognize the voice with better accuracy, but certain handsets have inbuilt apps not requiring going online and boast better accuracy (for example, Vlingo). To my mind Android has an advantage here.

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XBOX

User pictures are improved, while the players receive a statistics option and you can buy things for your avatar. Courtesy of multitasking games can be paused to be resumed from the same place.

How it's done on Android

There are no analogues for XBOX at the moment, but Google promises to add it in the future version of Android.

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Office

Office 365 will be supported almost for the first time, though other platforms will enjoy the service as well.

SkyDrive gives you free 25 GB of online storage for documents, photos, etc. The service is available to every Hotmail subscriber and it was merely transplanted to Windows Phone 7.

Office Hub was not changed and you can read its description here.

How it's done on Android

DropBox is an analogue of SkyDrive. It has less space, but the automatic files synchronization on different devices is a huge advantage.

There are several office applications for Android. Usually you have to pay for apps with editing capabilities, while viewing only is often free. Their features frequently beat the suite from Microsoft (more formatting variants and better formats support).

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IE9

The browser was completely overhauled and according to Microsoft it corresponds to its desktop version and users the graphics accelerator to handle pages. The browser is fast indeed. Interface elements are more convenient and the address bar is at the bottom now. It's a pity, but the browser cannot work with Flash. In settings you can select a mobile or desktop version of the browser. In prototypes the desktop version (with the graphics accelerator) does not work at the moment and cannot be assessed now. It is one of the first beta versions, so it is too early to judge.

How it's done on Android

At the moment we cannot compare browsers, because IE9 is not ready yet.

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Power Consumption

In settings you can save the power of the battery. Once activated the option shows the estimated operation time and when the power wanes the screen backlight changes to become more energy efficient among other things.

How it's done on Android

The standard element of the OS is represented by the utility showing the use of power for all features of the phone and you can see different modes. Almost all companies add to their flagship models proprietary utilities to monitor the power use.

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Music&Video Hub Update

In the Music section we have podcasts now. They are managed similarly to the Apple approach. First you download podacsts into Zune on your PC and only then synchronization with the phone starts. The option will be available only to US Mango users (at least if we speak about this autumn).

From Zune HD the SmartDJ feature was borrowed to create play lists automatically. In the vertical track lists you have 25 items at the moment. Interface elements of the player were changed a bit. In the standby mode when the screen is locked you see a currently played album cover (it can be disabled). Player controls are located there as well.

Unconverted video formats are not supported, so you have to replicated Apple iPhone strategy as well.

How it's done on Android

The number of players is excessive and they can cater to any taste. The standard player supports equalizers and other related features. You can download music directly to the gadget and filter tracks by all parameters. You are not tied to your PC as is the case with WP7 or iOS. I think Android comes out on top.

Almost all Android flagships support the playback of unconverted video.

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Mango: First Impressions

I will repeat the simple idea that Mango is a necessary step forward and gives new capabilities to the mobile OS from Microsoft. The speed of development is rather slow at the moment, because new features are not numerous for one year of evolution. At the moment WP7 is trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android. In autumn we will get more details and by the time Mango becomes a reality there will be even more additions to boast.

WP7 will suit those who do not seek maximum features from a phone and are satisfied with voice calling, SMS and social networking. The OS is rather simple and can offer high speed of operation, easy to use interface, which is still not always logical. Losing to iOS in ergonomics WP7 represents its alternative. At the moment Microsoft has something similar to iOS one year after the introduction of the original iPhone (I mean the speed of development and not the particular features). Headlong competition with other OS will be lost by WP7, but the main point is the speed of development. So far we get annual updates, but to catch up with the rivals you have to do it at least twice a year. The system aims at the US market first of all, but in autumn of 2011 we will see its reception in Europe and Russia. First sales in Europe were negligible so far and the new update will not change the situation dramatically, though it is getting better all the time. Everything depends upon the feedback of users and appropriate publicity.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

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Related links

Windows Phone 7 In-Depth review

Full review of Android 2.1 (Eclair)

Detailed review of HTC Sense under Android 2.1

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Michael Savuskan (msav @ mobile-review.com)

Published — 09 June 2011

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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