A big update to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform is coming this autumn, filling in many of the missing pieces that made Microsoft an also-ran in the smartphone wars. But the so-called “Mango” update is more than just a game of catch-up; it also brings a bunch of features that other phones don’t have, or can only add through third-party apps.
Here’s a rundown of what Windows Phone 7’s Mango update will bring:
Finally, Windows Phone apps will be able to run in the background, so if you’re listening to some tunes in Slacker Radio, the music will keep playing even as you switch to other apps. The multitasking menu is accessed by holding the “back” button on the phone’s hardware.
The Bing search function in Windows Phone now has a local “scout” function that lets you see what’s nearby, based on the phone’s current location. Categories include places to eat and drink, things to see, stores to shop and can’t-miss highlights.
Essentially, it’s Google Goggles for Windows Phones. Again, through the Bing search function, users can scan objects with their phones’ cameras to learn more about them.
Live Tiles are a big part of Windows Phones. They’re those little app grids that occupy the home screen, and they often show information such as unread message counts or the weather. With the Mango update, users will be able to control the types of information that third-party apps display through these tiles. For instance, you can bookmark a specific product in Best Buy’s app, and the Live Tile will tell you where to find that product nearby.
The Mango update in Windows Phone will let users link multiple e-mails to a single inbox. On the phone’s home screen, Live Tiles can be set up to include e-mails from any number of addresses.
Twitter and LinkedIn
Although individual apps are already available for Twitter and LinkedIn, they won’t be integrated with the Windows Phone home screen until Mango arrives. The update will let users see how many messages they have through the phone’s Live Tiles.
Got a group of friends that you stay in touch with? Windows Phone’s Mango update lets you throw them all into a single Live Tile, showing their latest e-mails, messages, status updates and photos. Through this tile, you can quickly fire off a message to the entire group.
Voice-to-Text, Vice Versa
Windows Phone will throw a bone to users who can’t break the text messaging habit, even while driving. The update lets users dictate text messages by voice, and have incoming text messages read back to them.
If a contact goes offline in a messaging service such as Facebook, Windows Phone will let users continue the conversation on another service, or through text messages. A selection screen shows all services through which the other person can be reached.
Internet Explorer 9
Microsoft’s revamped mobile browser brings support for HTML5, used on the mobile versions of video sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Speed is also improved, with Microsoft claiming that its browser loads pages faster than iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices.