Mango ripens

Looking back through the archives I realised that I was a happy BlackBerry user for four years. Upon joining Microsoft they declined to provide me with a BlackBerry, and instead gave me an HTC Mozart sporting the Windows Phone 7 operating system (NoDo). Okay, I didn’t actually ask for a BlackBerry – before joining I’d had a good look at Lewis Turek’s phone, had found out his pass-key, and took great pleasure in changing the theme to pink when he wasn’t looking.

Even that far back (wow, over three months ago), the new generation of the OS, code-named Mango, was public knowledge. A couple of weeks into my Microsoft career I journeyed to Denver for the annual MGX shin-dig, and was treated to more info about Mango and some rather slick demos. Of course, when new technology is dangled before you (but just out of reach) you want it. Yesterday, our mobile phone operator made the update available – and today was my first day as a Mango user.

Okay, I do appreciate that a summary of what’s new is a bit redundant if you haven’t experienced the original OS. But hey, it’s my blog and I get to write what I want. So in no particular order…

Battery saver – have a guess. This option turns off automatic receipt of e-mail and multi-tasking. There are two further options, one to always turn on the battery saver when the battery is low, and another to turn the battery saver off when I next charge it. So far, and I know it’s only one day, my battery has lasted far longer than it would do in an average day without using the battery saver.

Threaded e-mails – like in Outlook (and some other e-mail clients), the e-mails are grouped together and collapsed, keeping related e-mails together and making for a tidier inbox.

Multi-tasking – press and hold the back arrow for half a second, and I can swipe through the applications open in the background. Nice.

Internet Explorer – I don’t think I ever used the browser on the phone much, because the apps tend to give you the info required. But I can see loads of improvements (multiple open tabs, were they there before?), the browsing experience is lightening-fast and the page rendition is very faithful to the original.

Bing finds more things – one of the demos I saw in Denver was the extended capabilities of Bing. The demo guy showed the phone recognising a book by scanning its cover with the camera, and linking straight through to an on-line retailer to buy it. He also showed scanning some non-English text and having it translated into English and Czech (there were some guys from the Czech Republic standing next to me). My personal favourite is getting the phone to listen to some music, recognising it, and allowing you to buy it.

People, and what they’re up to – thank heavens for social networks. How else would I know what you had for breakfast or what you’re watching on television? Using NoDo it was possible to get all of my Facebook contacts into your phone’s address book, but about seventeen seconds after doing so I realised that was a mistake. What I now had was over four hundred and fifty people in my address book (most with no contact details), and somewhere in there were the handful of people I would probably want to call. Mango also allows me to pull in your Facebook contacts… and Twitter buddies and LinkedIn contacts. In a rather neat way it consolidates them, so that there’s one (for example) Lewis Turek who exists in Outlook, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Of course, the world would be a better place with four Lewis Tureks, but I just need the one on my phone. This consolidation of the social networks provides an update for any chosen person, wherever they’ve updated their status recently. I can also get a news feed for everyone from all sources, and I can drill down to one source… just Twitter for example.

However, I still have nearly five hundred people in my address book. No fear, Mango has an answer to this… groups. I’ve created a group for family, a group for colleagues, and a group for friends. Even better, the groups can be pinned to the start screen, so getting to a Microsoft colleague or family member is really quick. This also means that I can see social updates for just these groups rather than everyone.

Me – I can also pin myself to the start screen, giving me another quick way to access notifications and news from my networks, and to post a message to all of the networks at once. I can also ‘check in’ to places and set my chat status.

Messages – I haven’t tried this yet, but I can see the options and how it works. Previously, ‘messages’ just meant ‘SMS messages’. With Mango, a conversation can swap between various sources (SMS, Facebook, Windows Live) but it’s maintained as one single conversation on the phone.

Calendar improvements – basically multiple calendars, colour-coded to differentiate them. I can see that school reunion event from Facebook alongside my Outlook calendar.

More social photos – I always thought there was something lacking in NoDo. It seemed logical to me that I should be able select a photo from the phone and share it via Twitter… but this was missing. Instead, I had to go into the Twitter client, create a tweet and add the photo. No big deal, but it wasn’t really following the premise of doing things in context. Mango fixes this shortcoming, so I can now Twitter-share a photo directly from the camera roll. Another photo-oriented feature is person-tagging – if I elect to share a photo on Facebook, and the phone recognises that there’s a person’s face in the photo, I can tag that person before uploading.

You’re history – sorry, I mean “your history”. Contacts now have a history card, so (for example) I can look at Lewis’ profile, his tweets and his Facebook updates… and then I can view a history of the e-mails we’ve sent, the calls we’ve made and the text messages we’ve sent.

There’s a few hundred other new features, but that’ll do for now.

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