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Though you can watch our video tour above of the new Games Hub in Windows Phone "Mango" (see review), you'll want to read all the changes cataloged by Microsoft themselves. From the Windows Phone Blog, you can tell, once again, that Microsoft is listening to consumers by incorporating a lot of changes. Indeed, the Games Hub feel more unified with the whole Xbox ecosystem and the changes are most welcomed.

Here's what's new:

  • Improved Collection View - basically smaller icons for games with a list view, makes it easier to navigate
  • New 3D Avatars with attitude - With XNA/Silverlight in a single app, your 3D Avatar is now "built in" with more functionality and movement
  • Improved Xbox LIVE messaging - Word suggest/complete is now built in, you can communicate with other Xbox  LIVE members on PC, phones or console. "If a message contains certain emoticons (e.g. Smile, Sad smile), you’ll notice your avatar’s expression change to reflect that emotion! (If a sender overloads a message with conflicting emoticons, your avatar will look bewildered."
  • Connect with Xbox LIVE friends
  • Integrated achievements and new comparison views
  • Edit your profile
  • Improved Spotlight content
  • Improved game request notifications: In Mango, you’ll receive notifications for multiplayer game or turn requests and can track them in the Requests section of the Games Hub.

Some of those last few ones are just carry overs from Xbox LIVE Extras, which is now purely for the Avatar Marketplace and to design your Avatar. Overall, a solid list of changes to look forward too.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

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To say "Mango" for Windows Phone 7 is a large update is a bit of an understatement. It's massive. Although we have had two updates to our fledgling OS, both have been relatively minor. "Mango", however, is Microsoft's attempt to fill in all the gaps left from the v1.0 release last fall. Can it succeed?

We've been able to handle a preview release of "Mango" for the last few days and have put it through various tests, comparisons and the all important "just using it like a normal phone". Our device was the venerable Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7.661.WP7_5_Trial (mojobld).20110607-1957, which means this is a relatively late build (June 7th) and as you can see, Microsoft seems to be going with "7.5" for this release.

How did it fair? What did we learn? Lets just say you won't be disappointed and yes, it's basically everything Microsoft has been touting it to be since February--no smoke and mirrors here. So hit on past the break for our hands on review, four videos, photos and more. Then you can hit us up in comments and we'll try our best to answer.

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Windows Phone Mango can save camera settings?

Assuming those early leaked shots of an HTC device running a 12MP camera are accurate, one feature that was right in front of our eyes but we missed: Save Settings.

Last we checked, there are no current Windows Phone that allow camera settings to be saved, much to the frustration of many users. And while the beta developer tools allow the flash-settings to be saved, implying the rest can be too (they're not available in the emulator), this is the first hard proof that yes, once again, the Windows Phone team is eagerly paying attention to our wants and needs.

To be honest, we're not really surprised that this is there. After all, Microsoft so far has given us almost everything we ask for, given enough time. Still, it's nice to know it's coming this fall (fingers crossed).

Update: Tech writer Manan Kakkar has this to say on the matter, referencing the VIP Mango event last week: "...was told at the event that OEMs will have choice, default will be what we have now."

Thanks, Robby Light, in comments for pointing this out

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Another day, another video of Mango in action!

This one shows all sorts of things including how Bing Audio works, YouTube video support (looks to work better within IE9), multi-tasking, messaging/history and some Xbox LIVE info (we like the part where the avatar punches and cracks the screen).

September/October can't come soon enough, that's for sure.

Update: Just got a nice tip from Antonio on this one.  Check out the video around the 4:38 mark.  In the XBox Live hub you see the option to "Pick a multi-player game and invite someone to play".  Could this be the multi-player (phone vs. phone) feature?  Any other new features hidden within the video?

Update 2: Oh look at that, we've always had that "notifications" page in our Xbox folder, but this does say "multiplayer" for the first time.

Source: Nokia with Windows Phone (blog); Thanks, Morten N., for the tip!

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Of all the new features, the one some of us are pretty excited about is turn-by-turn navigation in Bing. It was something that many of us got used to on Windows Mobile, so it's been a struggle in 2010-11 to have it go missing (especially with an EVO available for driving).

While the system is hardly ground-breaking, it looks well implementd here and should greatly help when driving around a new part of town. Check after the break for a video of the Mango emulator in action.

Source: YouTube (SharpGIS) Thanks, Sébastien M, for the snapshot above

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Eck, there's just rumor upon rumor tonight. This one is from MS_Nerd again, who at least has a solid track record. In a few new tweets, he drops some bombshells:

  1. 3 "new" hardware partners for Windows Phone to be announced
  2. The full Mango wave will launch with ff-cams (front-facing cameras)
  3. Zune Pass will slowly be merged with Xbox Live Gold, adding more 3rd-party content to the subscription (like ESPN).

The first one seems like a nice middle ground between "we'll see new phones tomorrow" and the "we won't camp". Perhaps we'll just hear (or even see) some new devices but from new OEMs (Acer, Asus and ?). The second also seems plausible--heck Microsoft did just buy Skype, it makes sense they'd want to bullet-proof their upcoming phones once they figure out how to integrate "Microsoft Skype" into our OS.

Finally, the third fits in with all the Zune-being-re branded/changed rumors. We suppose it even makes sense to merge the two as they are very similar, no? As Xbox and Zune services grow tighter, it'd make sense to merge those ecosystems. Plus, you know, perhaps MS Points can finally buy music (on the go) or apps, eh?

Source: @MS_Nerd 1 and 2

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On Sunday, when the Windows Phone Dev Podcast aired, co-hosts Ryan & Travis Lowdermilk mentioned they had a few more screen leaked shots of Windows Phone 7.5 aka 'Mango'. However, instead of just releasing them, they wanted to verify and go over them a bit.

Flash forward to today and they've posted new pics depicting two new features which should make folks happy:

Smart DJ -  Found on the ol' Zune HD, it's described as thus "If you have a Zune Pass, you'll hear a mix of music from your collection and from the Zune catalog if you're near a known wireless network. Otherwise, if you don't have a Zune Pass or if you aren't near a known wireless network, the Smart DJ mix will just include songs from your own music collection.". Basically it rivals iTunes Genius and is something us Zune'ers have been wanting for awhile. (For a good 'versus' article, see Gounce's iTunes vs Zune piece).

Disable the camera shutter sound - pretty self explanatory, we can finally disable the ever so loud (and annoying) camera shutter noise. Hooray for spy shots!

Combine with all the other features we've heard so far, Windows Phone 7.5 seems to be going a long way in fixing/augmenting the OS in all the right ways.

Source: Windows Phone Dev Podcast

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We're digging this pattern of leak on Sunday, more news on Monday thing, in regarding our super-massive Windows Phone 7.5/'Mango' update coming this fall.

As if yesterday's news wasn't enough, yes there's more as revealed today by the Windows Phone Blog called "Productivity takes a big step forward in Mango". The post highlights a few new business/corporate features that will sure make users even more happy, including:

  • Pinnable email folders: Pin a folder to the start screen for quick access. This could be an email folder for a specific project, from a specific group or person (like your boss), or an RSS feed you’ve set up in Outlook.
  • Conversation view in email: Emails in your inbox are organized by conversation, bringing replies to a thread into a consolidated view so it’s faster and easier to stay on top of the conversation.
  • Server search: Search your email server (e.g. Exchange Server) for older emails no longer stored on your phone, giving you ready access to all of your mail.
  • Lync: Lync Mobile brings the Lync experience to Windows Phone customers by delivering Unified Communications capabilities, including instant messaging and the ability to see the presence of your co-workers. The Lync app will be a free download from Windows Phone Marketplace and will be enabled with support from your business organization.
  • Complex (alpha-numeric) password support
  • Information Rights Management
  • Support for access to hidden corporate Wi-Fi networks

And guess what? They're still not done with all the new features in WP7.5, meaning we can expect further info coming in the next few months. Plus we're getting a "VIP early look" at Mango next week, with hopefully some hands on...

Source: Windows Phone Blog

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Another week, another leak of Windows Mobile 7.5 ('Mango') features. Once again, the chaps at Windows Phone Dev Podcast have managed to get their hands on some screen shots of reportedly new features coming this fall to Windows Phone. And once again, if true, you won't be disappointed.

  • Windows Live Messenger, Facebook chat and AOL Instant Messenger all integrated under Messaging--and remember, we heard this is rumored to be a dual data/SMS system, making it really reliable even when your connection is not. Your presence as well as your friends are displayed in the People Hub dynamically.
  • Office 365 and Skydrive built into Office hub--'nuff said
  • Group Messaging: currently there are some nice 3rd party apps that do this, but the ability to have pre-defined groups to message to will be now native, allowing to create quick groups for Family, Work, Friends, etc. This will work for Email and SMS.
  • Artist art on Lockscreen: This is very cool, especially those with Zune HD players. What this does is pull down the Zune/Artist artwork of your current selection and plays it in a marquee/banner fashion on the screen. It currently does this on your Zune desktop/Xbox (play some music and wiat a few mins, you'll see). Evidently, in WP7.5, you can do this on your phone, making the Zune HD/Windows Phone distinction even less. This was always an awesome thing on the Zune HD, so we're glad it's being brought over.
  • Games Hub gets a facelift, including 'sync' option (potentially for online-game play). We first reported this back at MIX11, so now it's confirmed.
  • Native Checkins are coming e.g. Facebook Places. More info here.
  • Visual Voicemail will use Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP)
  • Battery saving features/options (under Settings)
  • WiFi Hotspot support, uses Network Communication and Information Systems (NCIS) technology

Not bad, not bad at all. The messaging features should be very popular as well as the other additions coming to Mango--an update that is rapidly turning into a major overhaul of the entire Windows Phone system. We expect to see more, of course, come May 24th in New York City, so make sure you join us for all the live coverage!

Source: Windows Phone Dev Podcast; Thanks, Brianna, for the heads up

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As if a dam has broken, even more info has leaked out about Windows Phone 7.5 aka 'Mango' (see earlier coverage). The latest comes from a Chinese site called Cnblogs.com, evidently from a developer who manged to take some pics of the OS in action.

Although the post has since been conspicously pulled, the images above were captured by LiveSide.net and show off some hitherto unknown (but speculated to be there) features. These include:

East Asian Language Keyboard, Handwriting and Dictionary Support--[we saw this mentioned a few days ago]

Improved SkyDrive sync in Office hub - adding Word, Excel, and PowerPoint sync support. Each document type will now be indicated by the color of the tile:

Bing Image Search, Bing Vision, and Bing Audio – besides Bing Vision and Bing Audio as revealed earlier this morning, it seems like Bing will now feature Image Search as well.

Windows Live Messenger integrated in People hub – as we have predicted earlier, the Chinese developer confirms that Windows Live Messenger will be integrated in the People hub. You will be able to directly IM someone on your contact list.

The biggy of course is the addition and integration of Windows Live Messenger to the mix. We knnow direct Twitter support is on board for WP7.5, though we have to actually see it, but it's nice to see MS finally embracing their Live Messenger as well.

In fact, we've heard that Windows Live Messenger is pretty smart too: "when sending a message the phone will autopick the best method - IM or SMS", according to @WindowsPhone8 (DM).

Finally, one other feature we heard about from the above source:

  • Lync client (aka Microsoft Office Communications Server) is coming in the Mango timeframe

We knew about Lync and Windows Phone from last November, but looks like Mango is when it will happen.

Source: Cnblogs.com, @WindowsPhone8; via LiveSide.net

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