Summer heat begins to ripen Windows Phone Mango update

I have now personally used three different versions of Mango and still haven't tried the RTM version yet and it gets better and better every time. When it is released consumers should be very happy.

Just over a month ago I posted a detailed feature on the Windows Phone Mango technical preview that was preloaded on a Samsung Focus by Microsoft. That OS version was a custom build with number 7661.WP7_5_Trial label. I then used a method found online with an update.bat file to update my original HTC HD7 to version 7661. Then yesterday, Microsoft released build 7712 to developers after sending the RTM out to manufacturers and I just loaded this on my Dell Venue Pro and HTC HD7. This 7712 build is behind the RTM (I understand the RTM build is 7720) so there are still more updates to come before we actually get to what consumers will see in their hands in the fall.

The unofficial Mango update method is not something you should attempt if you care about warranties and be ready to risk bricking your device and turning it into a door stop. I have used Windows Phone 7 for over a year now so I was willing to eat it if my devices failed, but actually the process doesn't require any Chevron hacking or anything and is quite simple. I actually was able to update from the first beta version to the latest just by plugging into my PC, launching the Zune Desktop software and then selecting to install the update that it prompted me to install. The only issue is that you may have to start with an older version of the Zune Desktop software and then upgrade to the latest beta version as you progress through updates.

Let's take a look at how these builds are progressing:

Build 7661 Technical Preview

This was the version I talked about extensively in my June 20th article and it did have several new features when compared to NoDo devices, but there was a lot still missing too. The new features I noted include:
  • Group tiles
  • Linked inboxes
  • Facebook Chat in Threads/Messaging
  • Conversation view
  • Office Mobile improvements, including SkyDrive documents access
  • Updated Games hub
  • Native podcast support on the device, including direct downloads
  • Improved Marketplace search functionality
  • New Bing features (Local Scout, Music, Vision, and Voice)
  • Internet Explorer 9
  • Saved camera settings
  • Media player controls on the lock screen
  • LinkedIn account support
  • Smart DJ support

Build 7661 available through Update.bat method

Even though this build has the same first part of the number as the one Microsoft loaded on the Samsung Focus, there were a couple of apparent differences. One of the first things I saw was that this build had the indexing method on the application launcher page so you could easily jump to applications rather than scrolling through the entire list. This indexing is similar to what is present in the Contact list on Windows Phone 7.

I also discovered that the native podcast download on the device did not work for me with my HD7 and this build so while I liked the indexing on the launcher screen I didn't like this lack of podcast downloads so I kept using the Samsung Focus instead of the HD7.

Build 7712 released to developers

I decided to go ahead and update both my Dell Venue Pro and HTC HD7 to this latest version since I figured it must be pretty full featured given that RTM was just sent out and has a number close to this one. There was a Dell update for my Venue Pro so I did that first and then performed the hacker update. When I plugged my HD7 into my PC an update notification appeared automatically so I just accepted it and installed it on the device.

As you can see in my video below, this 7712 version rocks on both of my devices and I think my SIM card will be staying put in the Dell Venue Pro for quite some time. These are the improvements I have seen so far, that are in addition to those listed above for the 7661 version I have on the Samsung Focus:

  • Native Twitter integration where you send Tweets from your Me tile
  • Support for custom ringtones and alarms (see below for more on this)
  • Index in the application launcher
  • Auto-fix function in the camera software
  • Ability to share photos via email, text, Facebook, SkyDrive, and Twitter (similar to how Android does it)
  • Transitions when using the task switcher
  • Visual voicemail support (I use and prefer Google Voice for my voicemail so I couldn't test this)
  • There are different color shades in Messaging so you can now much more easily differentiate the two sides to a conversation rather than text bubbles all having the same background color.

What is still missing in Mango?

A major missing functionality is multi-tasking because developers have to update their apps to support it so this is one area we cannot yet test out. We can use the task switcher (press and hold on the back button) to jump quickly between open/frozen apps.

I also do not yet see WiFi hotspot or USB tethering support, but I believe that is something that carriers now take ownership of so it is highly likely that this capability will depend on your carrier's tethering policy and decisions, unfortunately.

How do I get custom ringtones and alarms on my Mango device?

I tried installing custom ringtone on the Samsung Focus Microsoft provided to test with Mango 7661 on it, but it doesn't work. However, as you can see in the video above both my HD7 and Dell Venue Pro support custom ringtones and alarms. To see all the details on how to do this, it is really quite easy, check out the post over on Neowin.net.

I still haven't figured out a way to customize alerts since I like having R2D2 alert me for text messages, but at least I can customize my ringtone and my alarm clock tones and they are the most important to me.

Mango is moving right along

I love what I see in this latest 7712 update and think consumers are going to love what we end up with this fall. There may be more improvements in icons, menu items, etc., but I have to spend more time with the latest version to figure out what they may be. Microsoft really needs to get their act together in terms of advertising when Mango devices come out because Mango makes the platform even more compelling than I personally already found it.

As a fan of the Zune experience, an Exchange user, and someone who enjoys good games Windows Phone devices are an easy choice and I don't see another platform serving as my primary one anytime soon.

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