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First look at Windows Phone 7 Mango impresses

The next major software update for Microsoft Windows Phone 7(s msft), codenamed Mango, is complete. Microsoft handed over the Mango update to its carrier and hardware partners on July 26, although there’s no announced date for when existing WP7 smartphones will see the software. Nor are there any official release dates for new phones that will run on Mango: Yes, I’m looking at you Nokia(s nok).

When I tried the first release of Windows Phone 7 on an HD7 handset last November, I saw a solid platform with plenty of potential. The Mango version of WP7 helps Microsoft handsets reach that potential with a number of improvements. Yesterday, I was able to install the Mango software update on the HD7 I bought a few months ago, and even with just a few hours of hands-on time, I’m impressed. Some general thoughts:

  • The software makes the hardware seem much faster. It’s difficult to quantify, but it feels like the entire user experience is at least twice as fast with the Mango. Tap a tile or an app and it opens much more quickly. Navigation is brisk. It’s as if the old single-core 1 GHz processor in my phone were swapped out with a speedy new dual-core chip; it’s that noticeable.
  • Voice integration is excellent. I can see why Microsoft is banking heavily on the TellMe technology it purchased in 2007. Yes, it’s similar to the speech-to-text I use daily on my Android handset, but it appears far more accurate. A tap and hold of the home button starts the listen process; you can open apps, create and send text messages, or place phone calls. I can’t underscore this point enough though: The accuracy is scary-good.
  • Multitasking is smart (and welcome). One of my biggest beefs with Windows Phone 7 was app navigation. Every switch from app to app required going back to the home screen, which quickly got old for me. But Mango’s multitasking solves that problem in two ways. Holding the phone’s back button shows all running apps as small windows, similar to the cards in HP’s webOS, for example. You can swipe through the running apps. Tap one, and the app will resume where it left off prior. Or you can simply tap the back button to go back one app at a time.
  • The browser, and touch experience in it, rivals that of iOS. Microsoft included a version of IE9 in Mango and it makes the browser better. I say that and I actually liked the original browser in WP7. It renders quickly and is fast to switch orientation when turning the phone from portrait to landscape, or vice versa. Double-tap zooming is effectiv,e and although few will believe this (until they see it for themselves), pinch-and-zoom is lightning fast. Dare I say it? It’s faster than iOS(s aapl) fast. Microsoft says it improved HTML5 support as well, but I haven’t done any specific tests for that yet.
  • Other odds and ends. I’m just scratching the surface because I’m finding new bits in Mango all around. There’s a way to link or unify inboxes, for example, and threaded email conversations are supported. There’s a task manager for those that want or need it. Facebook notifications are appearing on the tile that represents me. I suspect I’ll find many more of these small value-ad features as I continue to use Mango.

Obviously, I’m not providing an extensive review of Mango just yet; I haven’t used it long enough. After just a few hours of use, I like what I see, because Microsoft has made substantial improvements to its mobile platform. I don’t think I could have used my HD7 as a full-time smartphone before, but now I think I could. That’s very different from when I first heard about Mango, because I wasn’t impressed by the planned improvements.

As impressed as I am now with the Mango update, make no mistake: Microsoft still has a long, tough road ahead of it against iOS or Android(s goog). The same goes for Nokia, which ditched its own mobile platforms in favor of using Windows Phone 7 going forward. Well-designed, capable hardware combined with the Mango edition of Windows Phone 7 is a start for sure. With it, Microsoft could become solidly entrenched as the no. 3 mobile platform, but there’s no guarantee yet.

24 Responses to “First look at Windows Phone 7 Mango impresses”

  1. Multi-tasking? I could switch between running apps in my windows mobile 6.5 (by assigning one of phone’s hardware keys, similar to alt+tab in windows)!! What’s new about that?

    • Rahul, officially, I don’t believe it supports it; same as the prior version. I’ve looked since my Mango install but don’t see any tethering functionality. I know that some particular handsets have a USB tethering hack, but my HD7 does not.

  2. Dennisvjames

    Wow. Lots of passion. I use a Samsung Focus with a larger battery and I love Windows Phone 7. It works much better than the Evo that I had. It allows me to keep my calendars up to date (personal and business) and get my email and respond to it when I receive it. I can open my Word and other docs and look through them as well as do light editing. And because it’s a closed system I don’t have to worry about some app draining my battery. If things stopped right here I would be a happy camper. My only fear is that Mango will make things too busy… ;-)

  3. I’m waiting to dump my iPhone 3G for a Mango phone. Never thought I would say that, but the iPhone has gotten so slow that certain apps are virtually unusable.

  4. Things are only just getting started. Mango allows apps to do some really cool things with live tiles. Developers are going to start submitting their mango updated apps on the 22nd so i’d expect to start seeing them in the marketplace in September. Can’t wait

  5. J.Stewart

    Microsoft and CEO Ballmer are completely blind to the reasons why Windows Phone 7 failed to sell.

    1. There is only one position in the market for a highly closed OS, and that position is taken by Apple due to its first-mover advantage. The closed nature of Windows Phone is ruining its chances.

    2. Microsoft destroyed its own reputation in mobile, becoming the laughing stock with farce releases such as Windows Mobile 6.5 and Kin. The ‘turkey shoot’ method of flooding the market with various platforms in the hope that one may work is daft.

    3. Windows Phone was released prematurely. It wasn’t finished (ie, half-baked). Apart from the infamous omission of Copy & Paste, most of the hardware APIs were missing, reducing the quality and scope of possible apps.

    4. The pace of updates is way too slow, and those releases that have come so far have been a debacle (eg NoDo), further cementing Microsoft’s mobile reputation into the gutter.

    5. Risk. After almost a year on the market, Windows Phone has been a sales failure. WP7 was released to manufacture at the end of August 2010, pretty well one year ago. In the days of WM6.5, Ballmer used to say that he can’t wait for WP7, and things will come good then. They didn’t. In fact, Microsoft’s position in mobile got worse. The snowball effect is that Microsoft’s worsening mobile sales will deter more customers, as there is a very real and present danger that the platform could get cancelled, just like Kin before it.

    So if this was 4 years ago, Mango could work. But as a late starter, combined with Microsoft management pushing it in the wrong direction, it has zero chance.

    • Microsoft is all in and is going to be in this fight for the foreseeable future just like they were with the Xbox. They have the money to keep fighting just like they’re doing with Bing where they are gaining market share.

    • You must really like the sound of your own voice or something…most of what you’ve just mentioned is nothing but your opinion but you spew your bile like its irrefutable fact – very disgusting attitude. Have you ever heard of words like ‘i think’ or ‘i don’t see how’ or ‘in my opinion’? you should learn to use them more often when making an argument – “there is only one position in the market for a highly closed OS”: i’m sorry but could you remind me when the United Nations sat to decide that? And what is this wrong direction Microsoft management is pushing the Windows Phone to that makes it have ‘zero’ chance of surviving? In your know-all attitude you even talk about things you have no idea about – “updates are way too slow”? Compared to which OS do you base that statement on?

      I could argue almost every point you’ve made (except no. 2 and even then i could argue that MS didn’t destroy its reputation with 6.5 or the Kin, but it did by the way they’ve been discarded so soon after launch leaving customers and developers in the lurch – same result, different argument).

      No one needs a soothayer to see that Microsoft has an uphill task ahead of them, but a few years ago, no one even knew what android was, or that Nokia would ever need to join forces with anyone to survive or – to come even closer to the company you mention – that the Xbox would be sitting pretty ahead of both the wii and the playstation 3 (go ahead, tell me you did). so next time when you argue about things like this, be sure to let people know its just your opinion or at least tone down your language, it’ll also make you look less stupid when you end up being wrong.

      • Winning phone 7

        Thanks for saying what I wanted to. I have been using an hd7 win phone 7 since May. It’s an awesome phone now! And with Mango it will be even better! In fact while shopping for tablet I was disappointed at most the performance and experiences on android tablets. I know it’s a totally different hardware platform for tablets, but win phone 7 / windows 8 is destined for the tablet market. Android performance on tablet could not match my windows phone 7, performance, so I bought an ipad2. This is just my experience of course. I can’t wait for Mango to make m HD7 even better.

      • J.Stewart

        To Alki: It’s not my opinion that Windows Phone 7 failed. It’s a fact.

        Look at any of the main market share figures, from Gartner, IDC, Canalys – take your pick. They all put WP7 sales at failure level. Even below Samsung’s Bada OS.

        So, to pull Microsoft out of this failure, it would take something pretty incredible and revolutionary. The Mango update brings many much needed features, such as more APIs and custom ring tones. This is welcome, but it doesn’t come close to revolutionary.

        Windows Phone 7’s Live Tiles were nice, but ruined because Microsoft insisted on controlling everything on them. The rest of the OS is too far behind, and doesn’t bring anything to the table that is incredibly beyond what the competition is doing, and that’s what Microsoft needs.

        I can’t see either Mango or Nokia saving Windows Phone. Which is probably why there are all these rumors about Microsoft considering ditching the Windows brand name. It’s that bad.

  6. I’m really starting to think Microsoft has no common sense when it comes to mobile gear.
    Ballmer laughed at the iPhone and said about Android ‘we have 60-80% market share, welcome to our world’, since then MS has dropped to less than 4% while Android *EXPLODED*.
    MS bought Sidekick and simply killed it with love, Kin was pulled after 6 weeks, wp7 has been a dud at less than 2 million sold despite over a billion in dev and marketing costs.
    I would not be surprised to see WP7.5 go any differently. I can even see Nokia having a near-death experience because of this since Elop is essentially forbidding the production anything without a Windows bootscreen on it.. And since 2007 MS has does nothing but repeatedly fail to make money off of portable devices and online services. (Bing’s division is reportedly over 2 billion a year in the red!)
    I hope there aren’t too many people banking their retirement on the success of Microsoft’s ventures in online services and mobile devices.

    • The world is full of the “Real World” experts who cannot see. Bill Gates saw a desktop on every home, and you did not see it. You cannot see, is your problem not Microsoft’s. Like any Organization Microsoft fumbled many things, nothing new there. They are still making good software that millions use and have better idea than Avery ‘I Know it all’ Joe.

    • trollCall

      have you forgotten for that Microsoft earns money for most Android devices sold. Even Apple, which uses MS Exchange ActiveSync in iOS, has a baked-in fee for Microsoft. Long story short, Microsoft can afford the slow growth as long as those other devices continue to sell, and with Microsoft only selling licenses to OEMs instead of owning the whole process itself, the cost of capital will remain lower than Apple’s. Whether Windows Phone 7 sells only 2 million or 200 million devices, its revenue stream is the most diversified of any of the mobile. Having realized that, M$ will continue to bring hooks from its other business into Windows Phone to complete the ecosystem its seeking to promote more heavily when Windows 8 comes online. In terms of that ecosystem, it’s more than just the UI.