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Windows Phone Mango update bears fruit

The keenly-awaited Windows Phone 7.5 update is now rolling out to users around the world, bringing with it a host of new and revamped features designed to bring it in line with its competitors such as iOS and Android
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By Ben Woods, Senior reporter on
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Windows Phone 7.5 home screen

Microsoft has begun rolling out a long-awaited update to its Windows Phone operating system that combines new features with deeper integration of social-networking services, the ability for home page tiles to show live updates, and multitasking.

The new software version, Windows Phone 7.5, internally codenamed Mango, started being sent out to Windows Phone users on Tuesday. It is expected to have reached all users by the end of October, Microsoft said. Handset owners will be informed of the update via an over-the-air (OTA) notification, but will need to connect their devices to a PC in order to upgrade.

Microsoft has focused on improving three core areas — people, internet and apps — of the OS in a bid to encourage growth of the developer and customer ecosystem, a key disadvantage Microsoft faces in comparison to the likes of Apple iOS and Google Android.

"Mango is finally coming out for existing devices. The number of new features and capabilities compared to the devices that came out barely a year ago is stunning. Windows Phone developers and indeed those from other ecosystems like Symbian will feel like kids in a candy store with this release," Al Hilwa, mobile analyst at IDC, said.

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Windows Phone Mango SkyDrive

Microsoft has also upgraded some of the business-oriented Mango features, adding the ability to connect to SharePoint and store and sync files with Office 365 and Windows Live SkyDrive. SkyDrive gives users 25GB of storage as standard.

The platform also allows users to add and maintain multiple email accounts and calendars in one place, or to view each individually.

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Windows Phone Mango threaded messaging

Microsoft said the update contains hundreds of new or tweaked features, including the addition of Twitter and LinkedIn integration, which join Facebook and Windows Live as part of the People Hub.

The integration of instant-messaging features from the social networks means that users can conduct a conversation without interruption regardless of platform. For example, shown above is a conversation that took place across both Facebook chat and SMS, but displayed as one threaded conversation view. Additionally, the OS recognises if a contact is not signed in to the service you are using and prompts you to use SMS instead.

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Windows Phone Mango People Hub

The updated People Hub displays photos, status updates and contact details from across all relevant accounts that have been set up, including Twitter, Gmail, Windows Live, Facebook and LinkedIn. It also provides the option of organising your contacts into groups or filtering the list by service.

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Windows Phone Mango apps

Microsoft has also changed how Windows Phone 7.5 handles apps on the home screen, allowing users to pin their favourite tiles. An API gives developers access to live updates, such as new content or notifications, on home screen tiles.

The release coincides with the revamped Windows app marketplace, which has around 30,000 apps versus the nearly one million that have been developed for the iOS and Android platforms combined, according to Appsfire.

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Windows Phone Mango Bing

The company also allows developers to build functions that make use of other native OS features, such as search, using a feature called App Connect. For example, if a user is searching for a restaurant using the new Local Scout or Bing search features (pictured), an app, such as Top Table, could let the user book a table directly from within the search results.

"Being able to showcase data and numbers in a home screen tile with the prominence [of] the Metro interface has to be exciting," Hilwa said. "Other capabilities like taking advantage of XNA and Silverlight in one app or finally being able to write augmented-reality apps thanks to the camera APIs should also be big draws."

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Windows Phone Mango multitasking

The update also introduced numerous other little tweaks and features including multitasking for apps — which is more like 'app switching', suspending the background app until it is used again — visual voicemail, video sharing across social networks, automatic facial recognition on photographs (pictured above) that prompts for tagging before uploading to Facebook, and the ability to tether handsets to other devices in order to use them as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

The update is making its way to Windows Phone 7 handsets globally right now but users will need to make sure they have the most recent version of their current OS installed before upgrading, Microsoft said.


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