A friend of mine recently coined a phrase I had not heard in a long time. It was “all that glitters is not gold”. Some may have the same sentiment about Windows Phone at initial release, and with NoDo being a nogo for some didn’t help matters. With the release of Mango, Windows Phone definitely shines; but still is not gold.
There are some 500 plus changes that were implemented in Mango. It is not feasible to even attempt to go over all of them so I will focus on the features that I have used over the past month. The one big change to Windows Phone that runs really well is the integration to social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Live. You can have all your contacts loaded into the phone in a matter of minutes and get updates on the more active live tile. Clicking into your contacts you can see any post or pictures without having to launch a third party app. They did not stop there, let’s say you have 300 Facebook and Twitter contacts, it can be tedious to read through all those post. You can create groups that contain only the contacts you want and you can see just their post, tweet, photos etc. Wait there’s more. You can also send text or email to a particular group depending on what contact information you have for the members of that group. This is definitely a nice addition. Its fluid, it’s metro. Hang on, there is more, you have heard of threaded messaging? Opening the text icon takes you to the messaging thread. From there you can see conversations for your contacts, not just text. You can also see IM’s from Facebook or Live messenger and change your online status. You have the ability to change the where you message a user. If you are on Facebook and messaging Bill and he goes offline, pressing a button will let you text him on his phone. Another addition that is integrated is the ability to text or IM by voice. I used this feature extensively while driving and while not flawless is very welcome on the road. It even goes so far as to read the message to you over the phone speaker or the stereo in the car and allow you to reply or not. There are different levels of configuration for this on the device.
Speaking of messaging you can now have a unified mail box and then for those with more than one mailbox, you don’t need a tile to access each. Bing maps with turn by turn navigation are part of the OS. Here is a little gem I stumbled on, I added an appointment and put the address in it to test a theory. I opened the appointment and the address was hyperlinked. I clicked on it and Bing Maps loaded and was ready to provide navigation at the push of a button. It is apparent that Bing really helps drive the experience and adds to the polish. I did a search for a business and clicked the link to call and instead of just showing the number, it shows the name of the business. Speaking of Bing, using the new vision feature you can read barcodes, tags and it will even recognize text. Once it reads you can search for a product, open the website, and it is all integrated, no third party apps required.
Email of all types worked flawlessly as expected. Whether they were Push or scheduled Pull accounts. Internet Explorer is noticeably faster and no there no flash for watching video, silver wont stream video either; but the latest from Adobe if there is something cooking for Windows Phone. Other phone changes include the change to the camera; especially the ability to have your setting persist between use instead of having to set your preferred video setting every time you launched the app.
At the time of this writing I did not have any applications that can take advantage of the key newly opened API’s. The opening of a lot of these will allow a lot of developers to really polish their applications. Since we are talking about the API’s, nothing in the changlog didn’t yield good news for certain features making in Windows Phone this round. The one that stands out the most is the Bluetooth Stack. Zune which is a great entertainment hub has the ability to sync to your device wirelessly, (read over WiFi), and your computer if it is a desktop needs to have a WiFi adapter installed in it. This is not spelled out in great detail on any website or in the Zune app, without digging enough most people would not know this. The ability to use Bluetooth as it was in the past should have been part of the system since day one. Also missing is streaming audio from a video to Bluetooth headphones. No video yet has the ability to stream audio over Bluetooth. This can be an issue especially if you are like a lot of people and hate cables and have to resort to using 20thcentury technology to enjoy your videos on the go without being rude. Speaking of being rude another welcome piece of coding that seems to have gone to the wayside is the ability to have the phone go silent during a scheduled meeting on the calendar.
I have used almost every mobile device since the Newton and can say Windows Phone 7.5 definitely provided an enjoyable and smooth experience, especially considering I was running a developer build that will likely change still yet before release. I can’t say its gold yet; but it’s looking a lot more polished these days.