Windows Phone 7 is one of our favourite mobile platforms, and the Mango update brings some core functionality that was missing in the original release. With all of the new features and tools, there is a minor learning curve, but this list of tips will get you using Mango like a pro in no time.
We’ll go through many of the individual apps and utilities that you are familiar with in Windows Phone 7 and show you the new enhancements that can make your life easier.
Bing really comes into its own as a key part of the Windows Phone platform in Mango, and Local Scout takes centre stage. Local Scout makes it easy to discover restaurants, events, and attractions based on your phone’s location data. Using Bing’s resources, Local Scout can provide you with contact information, reviews, directions, or a link to associated websites.
Most of us have experienced the situation where you hear something on the radio and want to know more about the song or artist. Windows Phone Mango now offers Music search within the Bing app. Simply press the Music button, and your phone starts listening to the song, and attempts to find a match. When a match is found, Bing provides album art, song title, and a link to the Zune Marketplace.
You know those scanning phone apps that capture a barcode or QR codes and give you link results? Barcodes only scratch the surface of what Bing Vision provides. Vision allows you to capture an image using the phone’s camera, attempts to recognise any text in the image, and then gives you the ability to search or translate the text. Vision will also search based on the image itself. For example, capturing the cover of a book launches a search for that book and a price comparison between sellers.
Bing not only gives you more ways to search using your phone, but also more ways to use those search results. When using any of its search methods, Bing gives you a normal result set, but it also hips you to available apps that can give you even more details, whether those apps are installed on your device or not. As a good example, a classic Bing search for a movie will give you ratings and show times. But with the new App Links, you also get a list of apps such as IMDB, Fandango and Flixster. The App Link will allow you to navigate directly to the details for your search result within the app itself.
Windows Phone already provided turn-by-turn navigation on Windows Phone 7, but it was less than optimal. With Mango, navigation receives a huge upgrade, including directions with voice prompts. Bing provides you with both a map and step-by-step directions with large fonts and arrows indicating which direction to turn. If you want an update on how far you are from your next turn, just tap the map and Bing will give you a spoken update.
Many smartphone owners have scores of contacts or, as Windows Phone refers to them, People. Managing your People can sometimes be a hassle, and trying to send an email or text to a specific group of people can outright suck. People Groups in Windows Phone Mango let you combine multiple contacts into a smaller set. Once you have a Group created, you can easily pin it to your start screen, providing quick access to send an email or SMS message to the entire Group.
Have you ever started a conversation using SMS and then continued it using email? The History section of a contact will let you see your communication history with each person. SMS and email messages are listed, as well as a phone call history. You can quickly jump to the details of each message with a single tap.
What’s New Account Filter
In addition to Facebook integration, Mango adds the ability to connect to Twitter and LinkedIn. With the sheer number of contacts we deal with in our social networks, the What’s New area of the People Hub can be a never-ending blur of status updates and wall posts. People Groups can help you narrow your updates to specific lists of people, but What’s New will also allow you to only view updates from specific social networks. Tapping the What’s New text at the top of the screen lets you choose which networks will show updates.
Microsoft has taken Facebook integration to a new level in Mango, starting with integrated support for Facebook Chat. You enable Facebook Chat under Messaging Settings and will have to link your Facebook account with your Windows Live ID. Once configured, you can set your status and view online friends using the Messaging app. Chat also supports Windows Live Messenger accounts.
Voice support in Windows Phone takes a big step forward with Mango. When in a message thread you have the option to dictate a message using the Speak button instead of typing it. Windows Phone will also read incoming text messages aloud, which is particularly useful while driving. You can change how and when text messages are read aloud in the Speech Settings.
SkyDrive Integration with Office Hub
SkyDrive performs so many roles in Mango, but none more useful than the integration with the Office Hub. Previously in Windows Phone you could synchronise your OneNote documents to your SkyDrive account, while other document types (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) could only be saved to a SharePoint Server. Mango provides the ability to save any document type to your SkyDrive account, where you can view, edit, download, or share your document. Our money says any additional integration with Microsoft’s existing cloud features is a step in the right direction.
“Unified Inbox” is an antiquated notion. Instead of forcing you to choose between using a single Inbox for all your email or leaving them all separate, Windows Phone Mango allows you to pick and choose which mail boxes should be grouped together. Simply choose “Link Inboxes” from the menu within a mail box, and Mango will ask you to select which boxes to link together. Changed your mind? Mango also allows you to gracefully remove the link.
Finally, you can use custom ringtones with your Windows Phone. Question: How do you load them? Answer: the same way you load any other music using the Zune client software. Caveats: Your song must be an MP3 or WMA file, less than 40 seconds in length, less than 1MB and must have the genre set to “ringtone”. Simple.
Zune has had Smart DJ for a long time, but it’s new to Windows Phone with Mango. Smart DJ will take your selected song, album, or artist and create a playlist based on similar music. The concept is similar to Pandora radio, only with songs in your local storage. It’s a great option for creating a different selection of music to listen to in an instant.
Multitasking is one of the biggest new features in Mango, and it makes a big difference. In truth, it’s actually really fast app switching, as apps are limited in what they can do in the background, but in most cases you won’t know or care. To use the feature you hold down the Back button on the front of your device, which will bring up a row of screens that you can swipe through. Do be aware that this feature must also be supported on the individual app level, but developers are doing a good job of getting their apps updated.
Windows Phone has had Voice Commands since day one, but it’s greatly expanded in Mango. Pressing and holding the Windows button on your phone will initiate Voice Command, as will tapping the call button on your Bluetooth headset. Voice Command in Mango lets you compose a text message, place a phone call, perform a search using Bing, and various other functions. For more details, activate Voice Command and ask “What can I say?” for some more examples. Additional options can be found under the Speech option in Settings.
It sounds pretty nebulous, and power-saving features can often impact performance, but Microsoft did some pretty amazing things with Battery Saver in Mango. The feature is found in Settings > Battery Saver. There are only two checkboxes, one to always use the feature when the battery is low, and the other to activate it only until your next battery charge. Battery Saver disables push email and multitasking, both of which are clearly indicated on the Settings page.
It’s not a new feature in Mango, but Microsoft did announce its web-based Marketplace at WindowsPhone.com the same day as the Mango release. It’s really convenient to be able to just open up a web browser and find some killer apps for your phone. The Zune desktop client is great, but a web page is much more accessible. Just like with Android, the Windows Phone Marketplace allows you to find new apps and install them to your phone without ever connecting a cable.
App Purchase History
Another big feature of WindowsPhone.com is the ability to view a history of all your app purchases or downloads. The history also allows you to reinstall your apps remotely, which can be pretty handy if you’re trying to track down that app you accidentally uninstalled.
Find My Phone
Every smartphone user has panicked over a misplaced or stolen phone. With the money invested in the device itself and the amount of information we rely on the phone to organise, losing a smartphone can be disastrous. Find My Phone gives you a map view displaying the last known location of your phone, and will also let you remotely lock or ring your phone (even if silenced), making the process of tracking down your device a breeze.
Such is Mango!
Mango for Windows Phone brings a lot of new functionality to the platform, so much so that we’re barely scratching the surface with these tips. If you’re a Windows Phone user let us know the features you find yourself using the most, and if there are any tips we missed feel free to share those as well.