Monday, October 31, 2011

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango review

What's new
Our purpose in this review is not to go over every minor feature or change brought to WP7.5 -- head over to our in-depth Mango preview for all of the finer details -- rather, our goal is to highlight what Mango brings to the table and how it does so. The update adds over 500 features to Windows Phone, and unless you're a hardcore fan, you won't have any interest in roughly 470 of them. Sure, they're all nice to have, but the sheer majority of them won't do much to affect your experience on the OS.

The features that do make an impact on your everyday smartphone experience, however, do so in a major way. Microsoft's finally incorporating multitasking, social network integration, plenty of much-needed improvements to email and Exchange, new voice dictation features, and plenty more that we'll get into later. In short, Mango is precisely what we wish Windows Phone would've been from the beginning -- a platform that's capable of handling all of our needs, no matter how crazy they may be.

Hardware requirements

You may have noticed that almost every Windows Phone launched over the last year has been eerily similar in hardware specs, and most lack any significant customization. Microsoft exerts a lot of control over what equipment runs its star mobile OS (unlike, say, Google), and you're typically hard-pressed to find any large deviance between devices -- with the exception of handsets with physical QWERTY keyboards. None of that has changed with Mango, as Ballmer's Boys require a specific set of components.

All Windows Phone 7.5 devices will include a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU (new devices will use 8x55 or 7x30, though existing ones that use an 8x50 CPU will be supported as well), DirectX graphics hardware support with hardware acceleration for Direct3D, a minimum of 384MB of RAM, at least 4GB of flash memory, WVGA (800 x 480) display resolution, a 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB 2.0, WiFi 802.11 b / g support (n is optional), FM radio, Bluetooth and at least four required sensors (with more optional).

Upon reaching out to Microsoft as to why dual-core CPUs aren't supported by Mango, we were told that the performance gains weren't enough to justify the battery efficiency concerns and additional cost. It's looking into ways to incorporate the newer processors eventually, but it's still a work in progress and integrating them into Windows Phone will likely have to wait until Tango or Apollo at the earliest.

User Interface

One of Mango's more impressive feats is the fact that even with its myriad new features and functionality, it's nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor if you don't know exactly what to look for. This is because Microsoft's managed to preserve the signature Windows Phone look -- also known as Metro UI -- complete with two columns of tiles on the Start screen and the full alphabetical listing of apps after a quick swipe to the left. While the size and placement of these tiles haven't changed, the content displayed within them has; many of the native tiles contain more viewable information, and even third-party apps are able to turn their small bit of real estate into a live tile capable of being updated dynamically.

Live tiles are nothing new in Mango, but they've definitely been given more freedoms. Before, apps from the Marketplace were "live," though they didn't have the ability to add much dynamic content. Now, more stuff can be pinned to the Start screen, including multiple tiles from the same single app (as an example, you could have five different eBay bid tiles featured on Start, or the weather from two separate cities); these tiles can all deep link to the app's content. Previously, only native tiles could flip over or offer dynamically updated information, whereas all third-party apps will now be able to take advantage of the same functionality. The tiles can also receive push notifications more frequently than before. All in all, the Start screen is much more alive with Mango, which only serves to enhance the Windows Phone mantra of "glance and go." As Microsoft sees it, the faster and easier it is to view vital info, the sooner you can get back to your life and get other important things done.

Once enough apps are installed on the phone, you'll notice letters popping up in the app menu, similar to the way they show up in the People Hub. The idea is that it's much easier to jump to the app you're looking for, instead of taking ages to scroll all the way down to find it.

If you haven't been a fan of Metro UI before, the chances of you adopting a newfound fondness for Windows Phone with the newest update are pretty slim. When the platform launched last year, we enjoyed how fresh and innovative the design was, but the user experience just couldn't match up to what you can find on Android or iOS; Mango, however, has done an effective job of transforming Metro, turning it more into the "glance and go" device Microsoft has wanted it to become.

source : Engadget