What a difference a year makes.
This time last year, Microsoft and partners Dell, LG, Samsung and HTC rolled out the first Windows Phone 7 devices. You could smell the disappointment. Easily a generation behind competing Apple iOS, Google Android or even the BlackBerry QNX platforms, Windows Phone 7 floundered about from day one. No wonder most developers all but ignored it.
Playing catch up, Microsoft is rolling out a beefy update to the system, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. Expected soon on new smartphones from Nokia, Acer and Samsung — Microsoft is popping out the upgrade globally all month long to current WP7 users, too — there are some 500 new features here. So is it ready for prime time? It’s too soon to tell. But here are the high points.
1. It’s a lot faster. Apps on Mango zip along — especially on the right hardware. And its built-in mobile version of IE 9 takes advantage of hardware acceleration circuitry. That’s why Internet performance is so noticeably better. Check out this comparison of how Mango compares to its predecessor.
2. The Metro UI home-screen — with its live, updating tiles — is clean and feels intuitive. At last, it’s touch-responsive. And having tiles up front for your apps means no more tedious digging and scrolling around to find them. The UI, at least so far, is endearing, fresh and off to a pretty great start.
3. Finally, the system supports task-switching, often mistakenly referred to as multitasking. Mango also catches up with threaded email features and deeper integration with social services like Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live and Linked In. And yes. You can cut and paste!
4. Mango’s organizing principle is around a concept it calls “hubs.” Each hub — these include the People Hub, the Games Hub, the Photo Hub and so on — combines local and cloud-based content. This is a nice touch. For example, the Pictures hub lets you integrate local pics with your pics on, say, Facebook. The People Hub similarly combines emails and notifications from local Microsoft Email and native Google Gmail, plus other services and systems. Barring major bugs, the Hubs so far seem a fresh and welcome approach to streamlining data from diverse sources.
5. Nokia CEO Steve Elop, on announcing Nokia’s deal with Microsoft to make WP7 its flagship OS, said that deal officially made Microsoft-Nokia an entrant in a “three-horse race” run by Apple and Google. It’s still just a pony, though. Analysts commenting on last week’s announcement of Windows Phone 7 Mango said Windows Phone had just about one percent of the global market.
If you’re one of the very few WP7 phone owners out there, check the Where’s My Phone Update site to see when Mango is coming to your device.
Watch groovyPost as we check out the newest crop of Windows Phone 7 devices.