Windows Phone

10 small but impressive ways Mango improves the WP7 experience

Mango's biggest changes have grabbed most of the headlines, but WP7 users will appreciate the small improvements, too.

When Windows Phone 7 (WP7) first launched, the focus was on the bold new direction that the user interface took, concerns over its long term viability, and criticisms regarding major missing functionality -- like wireless tethering, copy and paste, and multitasking. In the last month, Microsoft has released the newest version of WP7, commonly known as "Mango." While it addresses many of those big concerns (such as adding support for front-facing cameras and introducing a multitasking model),many people are overlooking the slew of minor improvements made to the OS. Now that my WP7 phone has had Mango on it for a few weeks, I have found 10 small changes that have made it a much more pleasant phone to use.

1: Internet Explorer's new address bar

Something that drove me nuts in the original WP7 was that in Internet Explorer, you had to work to get the address bar to show, and it would only show in portrait mode, not landscape more. With Mango, the address bar is always showing in both views. This makes navigation much easier, and you do not have to fiddle with screen orientation to show it.

2: Ringtones

Mango finally lets you use your own ringtones. It is a bit clumsy, but at least the option is there. You need to go to the Zune software you do your sync from, find a song that meets the requirements (MP3 or WMA format, under 39 seconds long, less than 1 MB in size, and DRM-free), set the Genre to Ringtone, and sync it to the phone.

3: Facebook chat integration

If you look under Messaging, you will see a new Online tab. Here, you can use Facebook chat. While I do not like using Facebook chat within my browser, I do like having other clients to work with it on my desktop, and having the choice on my phone is nice. Now my wife has one more option to get my attention!

4: New search options

The original WP7 search system just sent a search to Bing, and that was it. Now you can search locally (Scout); discover what song is playing; scan QR codes, Microsoft tags, books, CDs, and DVDs; or speak your search query. All these choices are accessed with the icons at the bottom of the screen in the search system.

5: Shaded "bubbles" in messages

Like other phones, WP7 would put the messages back and forth into "bubbles" showing who was speaking. But unless you paid close attention to the bubble position and shape, it was easy to confuse who was who. In Mango, the different bubbles have a slightly different shade to help differentiate the speakers. It is subtle, but it does make following the conversations much easier.

6: Upload video to Facebook

One of the most glaring omissions in the original WP7 (up there with the lack of custom ringtones) was the inability to upload videos to Facebook directly through the phone. Now you can share videos just as easily as you could share pictures. Oh, and speaking of sharing pictures, the broken Facebook upload that came with the July Facebook app update is fixed, so your pictures upload properly now like they used to.

7: Threaded email conversations

Email conversations are now threaded by subject, which makes it much easier to follow them. WP7 gets praise for its email client in general, but this was something that most folks had been asking for. You can turn this feature off in the email settings if you like, though. But I've found that it is a great use, especially for my business email account, and I am sticking with it.

8: Spoken map directions

I have to say, I hated using my phone for maps because I was constantly having to look at the phone. Why? Because unlike every GPS unit or application out there, the WP7 map didn't speak directions out loud! Well, Microsoft fixed that in Mango, and you can now count on your WP7 device to replace a dedicated GPS unit.

9: 10-minute snooze

One of the little things that drove me nuts in the original release of WP7 was the alarm system. It only had a five-minute snooze, and there was no way to change it. What's the point of that? For those of us who use our phones as an alarm clock, that doesn't make much sense. Mango fixes this by increasing the snooze time to a full 10 minutes. It is still inexplicably unchangeable, though.

10: Facebook birthdays on the calendar

I am not a huge fan of Facebook as a Web site, but as a system for keeping in touch with people, its critical mass of users has made it to become a big part of my life. All the same, I prefer to talk to close friends on the phone or text message them rather than send them Facebook messages. Now that the birthday reminders from Facebook show up on my phone's calendar, I get reminded in the middle of the day about it, so I can give them a call or send them a text message, which is a little more personal than a Facebook Wall post.

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

9 comments
fiosdave
fiosdave

The ability to take audio/video out thru the headphone jack and be able to feed it to my 50" plasma TV! I do this with my Flip camera and it's great! Also, with the enabled voice reading of text, how about a "whisper" command, in case others are nearby! Allow for a temperature probe to be plugged into the headphone jack, as well as other peripherals. Lastly, allow a printer to be plugged into the USB port, or at least, WiFi or Bluetooth connections to printers, external keyboards, etc. Yep, I DO want everything! Dave

rpb_
rpb_

You talked about the major missing functionality in WP7. What would you say are the major missing things left in Mango?

kallal
kallal

When driving any text message comes in, I asked if I want to have it read to me (Bluetooth headset). This oh so great and of course so much safer. The other fav is I listen to streaming radio all the time - with multitasking I now can read email and browse while listening to internet radio (tunedin radio app is great). Also use multitasking to launch additional browser windows in the background (so I don't have to wait for web page to load). Simply tap+ hold until context menu appears and choose open in new tab. As soon as page starts loading then hold down back key until multi tasks switch and then flick back to page you were reading (all the while new page opens in background - so as I work my way down web page I launched new pages of interest in background - I do this with email open and running along with radio app running - the task switching just rocks and new browser pages load in background so I don't wait for web pages to load anymore.

Justin James
Justin James

I would like to see some better control over audio output. For example, when a Bluetooth headset is paired, it basically decides that all audio should go through the headset except the phone ringer itself and the wakeup alarm. Meanwhile, I carry my headset on a pouch, and the only time I put it in my ear is to make a call, so I would prefer if all sounds still went through the speaker, or if that could be configured. For what it's worth, I've never had a phone that let me choose, they all worked like like too, and I always thought it was annoying. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I know some folks like Deb Shinder rue the lack of removable storage, but I don't see that as really needed, that's a power user thing and iPhone users seem to be getting on just fine without it. I think that tethering and/or hotspot functionality is a much bigger one that affects a lot more people, but I also recognize that it's a stretch because of the carriers. Microsoft has acquired Skype, I'd like to see Skype get the same treatment as Facebook has, which would be killer for the business users. Twitter users will probably look for a deeper integration as well (I haven't checked it out since I don't use Twitter at all, but I know it's "weak" at best). Outside of that? I'd like to see more variety in the handsets (particularly regarding having more options with physical keyboards), but that's not a Mango issue. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

I just noticed the red squiggles under misspelled words a day or two ago. :) The text message thing, drives my wife nuts because she has her car stereo connected to the phone, and I'll start shouting "read it!" when it's not something that she wants read to the whole car. :D J.Ja

lanopschool
lanopschool

I would like to see the ability to have a presentation button. trying to show my 80 year old mom a pic of her gandchild on a small screen does not work to well. push a button and have it project an image onto a wall. it would also be handy for those emails where you have to scroll and read lots of text. just my thought.

markp24
markp24

Hi, for thinkgs missing. I have a samsung focus, updated to wp7.5. tso far its soo much better than the windows 6.5 phone i havd before. but i cant seem to be able to copy and pase contact information from the phone book to an email. (as well as copy/paste in other locations) i can copy and past webpages fine though. Also the outlook notes support was dropped (had to move over to evernote, which may not be a bad thing)

kallal
kallal

Actually, I tether all the time on my LG900. On my LG You have to bring up the service menu, and change a setting. While this might not be officially supported, I don't consider it a hack of any kind. Ditto for Skype, it coming soon and I can't wait. As for storage there is registry setting that turns the phone storage into a USB drive. This means you can browse a set of exposed folders on the phone (with 16 gig, it makes a great jump drive). And this lets me copy videos and files to the phone at real high speed. While there are some phones that purport to support removable storage, I not missed removable storage, but I hope it comes in the future. However without slots/doors on the phone, it tends to keep the phone designs clean. I absolute love my wp7 phone, and the only real issue I can think of is no local sync of outlook (and memo + tasks don't make it to the phone). This is really my only real pain point and gripe I have. Albert K

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