Microsoft teases Mango: Our complete list of upcoming Windows Phone features

windows-phone-7-promotion-video

At its Mix 11 conference today, Microsoft finally began opening up, and apologizing, about Windows Phone. While the event is mainly aimed at application developers, the Redmond company gave us a glimpse into some of the features coming this autumn in the Windows Phone 7 “Mango” update. Angry Birds, better language support, better app discovery, augmented reality, actual multitasking, and a new way to deep link into apps were among many new features shown.

Apologizing for botched updates

Microsoft’s head of Windows Phone, Joe Belfiore, began addressing and apologizing for the botched release of the first Windows Update, currently rolling out to customers. Belfiore admitted that Microsoft made some major errors when it issued its first test update and the promised “NoDo” update in March. Most of these were very small and were related to odd manufacturing defects and processes that are unique to phones. Sever Microsoft paused the update, but the problems have caused carriers like AT&T to extensively test the update before releasing it. Future updates, he believes, will be issued more timely and without these problems. Belfiore angered some users in March when he claimed that the update was out; many users still have not received the update, which was originally promised in the beginning of 2011. The Mango update will be out before the end of 2011, he cautiously asserted.

Live Agents (Deep linking for your phone)

windows-phone-7-qantas-live-agent-app-notificationThe coolest new feature Microsoft showed off today was the ability to create a Live Tile (shortcut) not just to an app, but to a single page or feature within that app. This feature is great. As an example, Belfiore went into the Amazon shopping app for WP7. He doesn’t like having to open up the app and go through menus to get to the barcode scanner, however. So right in the menu was an option to pin that exact app page (the scanner) as a Live Tile on the Windows Phone homescreen.

Another example shown was the Qantas (airline) app. The app let you pin actual flights straight to your homescreen. Live Tiles and apps have even greater access to phone features now. As your flight gets closer, the Live Tile might turn from green to red. Since it knows the time and your location, it initiates an alarm to tell you that you really should get going and if you’re running late, it even offers up alternative flights. It would, of course, notify you if your flight is delayed as well. Turn-by-turn directions are also available. How useful.

Multitasking and battery management

The Mango update will enable actual multitasking on Windows Phone, which was demonstrated again here today. Belfiore easily flipped between apps on a dedicated “multitasking” screen. The process is much like moving between a bunch of albums in iTunes “Cover Flow” mode, switching between screens on a Palm Pre, or multitasking on the new BlackBerry PlayBook. It seems to work fairly well.

After going over multitasking, Belfiore took Google to task over its battery life issues, asserting that because Android allows developers to run background code whenever they want and do whatever they want, many Android users have to manage their tasks and their battery life suffers. Windows Phone is taking a different approach with its Live Agents.

“What we’re going to describe today [are] background agents that you write as a part of your app that we schedule, in a battery friendly way–sometimes periodically, running for a short period of time when the user’s on battery–giving you events, like when the user plugs into power and has Wi-Fi, so you [the developer] can go feast on that data and that power. And we let these things update tiles and do things in the background and we call these Live Agents. They are our attempt to balance those two problems of letting you run code in the background, but make sure that the user has a highly predictable battery experience where they don’t have to actively, personally manage running processes.”

More Windows Phone features coming this fall

Angry Birds, Podcasts, Spotify coming: Angry Birds is coming on May 25, Spotify is coming soon, and podcast support will be added to the music hub with the Mango update.

windows-phone-7-device-angry-birds

More languages, more countries: Windows Phone will soon support 16 more languages. The number of countries where people can create and buy apps is growing substantially as well. By the end of the year, people from 35 (up from 16) countries will be able to purchase apps on the Windows Marketplace. App creation will rise from 30 countries to 38.

Better app discovery: Belfiore laid out new ways to find apps. Long app lists will now be searchable and have a quick jump that lets you select a letter and hot jump to that part of the alphabetical apps list. In addition, searching for apps on your phone will automatically search the marketplace as well. Marketplace results will be displayed under your local results. This is a feature that has long been a part of Microsoft’s standard Zune software.

An improved Marketplace: The Marketplace now shows title, publisher, price, and rating for apps right in the listing (a feature other app stores already have). However, once you have chosen an app, the Windows Marketplace has pivoting screens (swiping to the left or right) that show you full screen views of screenshots, user reviews, product details and related apps. (Bing instant search result pages have similar extra info pivots.) Installing is now a one click process for free apps.

windows-phone-marketplace-new-features

Augmented reality: Microsoft is issuing a new tool that automatically helps developers calculate the complicated math required to use both the phone’s internal digital compass and gyroscope technology together. It should enable smaller developers to create motion-rich apps. Added access to the camera was announced as well, which should allow developers to better integrate augmented reality experiences into their apps. Belfiore even showed off a Twitter app that showed who in the audience was tweeting.

Conclusion

While many of these enhancements are needed to catch up, or keep up, with Android and iOS, it is clear that, as it has done with Internet Explorer, Microsoft is no longer afraid to be a leader in innovation and features for smartphones. Microsoft is focusing on its mission to make smartphones easier to use, and for that we have to hand it to them. Perhaps Windows Phone may actually be a top contender in the next few years.

Mobile

The Galaxy A8s is Samsung's first with a hole-punch camera cutout

Samsung is building exciting, technologically innovative midrange phones, and the latest to be revealed is the new Samsung Galaxy A8s, which may give us an idea of what the new Samsung Galaxy S10 will look like.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Gaming

How to keep a PS4 in your pocket with the PlayStation Mobile app

Sony built the PlayStation 4 with smartphone and mobile integration in mind. Take a look at our guide for connecting your smartphone or tablet to a PS4, so you can browse profiles, trophies, and other content directly on your mobile device.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Mobile

The best smartphone stocking stuffers for a very techy Christmas

If you've got a tech-loving smartphone enthusiast to buy for, we can help you out. Here's a selection of top phone accessories that would make amazing stocking stuffers so you can have a very Merry Christmas.
Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.
Mobile

OnePlus's 5G phone should arrive in May 2019, may cost up to $850

OnePlus will be among the first companies to put the new Snapdragon 855 processor into a phone, and will also release a separate and more expensive 5G phone in 2019 with the help of U.K. network EE.
Mobile

Santa Claus is coming to town. Get ready with these Christmas apps

Like it or not, Christmas comes but once a year. Thankfully, we've got a list of the best Christmas apps to help get you into the holiday spirit, just in case you want to call Santa or become a Christmas elf.
Gaming

Xiaomi’s Gamepad 2.0 turns the Black Shark into a mini Switch

Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi has introduced the Gamepad 2.0 for its Black Shark gaming phone that launched earlier this year. The new gamepad is similar to the Switch Joy-Con, with one piece attaching to each side of the phone.
Mobile

Google makes it easy to donate to charity straight through the Play Store

As we head into the holiday season, Google announced a new feature on Google Play that makes it a little easier to donate to charity. Through the new page, you'll be able to choose from a range of charities to donate to.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Mobile

The LG V40 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, and Watch W7 are discounted for the holidays

LG announced a series of deals for the holiday season where you can buy the company's two flagship phones, the V40 ThinQ and G7 ThinQ, as well as its latest smartwatch, for between $150 and $200 off, depending on the device.