Windows Phone 7.5 adds long-awaited features like multitasking and native 4G support to Microsoft’s mobile platform.
A Microsoft official said the company may begin distributing the widely-anticipated Mango update for Windows Phone 7 as early as next week.
“For months, we and dozens of partner companies have been laying the groundwork for the Windows Phone 7.5 update–and making solid progress. As a result, we now expect to start rolling it out in the next week or two,” said Eric Hautala, general manager for Customer Experience Engineering in Microsoft’s Windows Phone group.
Mango is officially known as Windows Phone 7.5. It adds more than 500 new features to the Windows Phone platform, including multitasking and 4G support. For those who can’t wait to get their hands on the official update, Hautala cautioned against downloading and installing pre-release versions that have been circulating on the Web.
“During the official Windows Phone 7.5 update process, every Windows Phone will also receive software from the handset manufacturer,” Hautala said, in a blog post. “This matched and paired firmware has been painstakingly tuned so your phone–and apps–work with all the new features of Windows Phone 7.5. Since your phone requires the proper firmware to function as designed my advice is simple: steer clear of bootleg updates and homebrew tools.”
Users of the current version of Windows Phone 7 will need to update their devices through their personal computers. Windows PC users will need to install the latest version of the Zune software for PCs, while Mac users, if there are any that use Windows Phone, will need Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac. Windows Phone devices are available from HTC, Dell, Samsung, and LG. Nokia will join the group later this year as Microsoft’s go-to partner for Windows Phone under a strategic alliance.
Mango adds numerous improvements to Windows Phone, from new end-user features to transparent back-end services, according to Microsoft.
A feature called Threads lets users glide between text, Windows Live Messenger, and Facebook chat within the same “conversation.” Groups lets users receive and send messages from predefined social or business circles directly to and from the Smart Tiles home screen. Contact Cards have been enhanced to include feeds from Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as previously supported networks.
Local Scout, which is integrated with Bing, yields hyper-local search results for dining, shopping, and entertainment. Mango also adds long-awaited multitasking capability, which lets users move freely between applications and pick up and resume where they left off. 4G wireless support is embedded.
For security-conscious enterprise customers, Mango adds support for various rights management technologies. For example, it lets authorized users open emails tagged with restrictions such as “do not forward” or “do not copy.” Additionally, it beefs up integration with authoring and collaboration tools like Lync and Office 365.
In the U.S., Windows Phone is available on the AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile networks.