Posey's Tips & Tricks

Hands-On First Impressions of Windows Phone 7 'Mango'

Windows Phone 7 "Mango" has been released to the cell phone manufacturers, but so far none of the cell providers have made the new version available to the public. Even so, I managed to get my hands on a Mango phone a couple of weeks ago. Now that I have been using it for a few weeks, I wanted to share my first impressions with you.

If you attended Tech-Ed 2011 in Atlanta, then you know that Microsoft was seriously hyping the Mango release. With over 500 new features, I expected the Mango operating system to be a lot different from the original Windows Phone 7 OS. However, the two operating systems really aren't that different from one another (at least not from a usability standpoint). Yes, there are a lot of new features, but they have all been integrated into the operating system in such a way that none of the new features are an "in your face" distraction. Those who are currently using Windows Phone 7 should have absolutely no trouble finding their way around in Mango.

I don't want to turn this into a comprehensive review of Mango. I have only had the new operating system for a few weeks, and I don't think it would be fare for me to write a full-blown review of something that I have only just begun to explore in depth. However, I do want to point out a few things, both good and bad, about the new operating system.

The Bad
For me there were two major disappointments with the Mango operating system. First, Microsoft still hasn't included a screen capture utility. This probably isn't a big deal for most people, but as a technology writer I tend to make a lot of screen captures, so this lack of functionality is kind of a problem. Thankfully there are a couple of third-party hacks that can be used to get around this limitation.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all in Mango is that Microsoft has removed support for ID_CAP_INTEROPSERVICES and DLL import. At first this change is easy to dismiss as something that only affects developers, but it is actually something that affects nearly all Windows Phone 7 users.

The removal of support for ID_CAP_INTEROPSERVICES breaks a lot of apps. Several of the apps that were installed on my phone prior to upgrading to Mango no longer work.  I haven't yet tried installing any apps from the Marketplace, but I have tried installing several apps using the same method that is used by developers. Most of the apps that previously installed without issue prior to Mango now fail to install.

Obviously the removal of support for ID_CAP_INTEROPSERVICES will cause some pain during the transition to Mango, but the news isn't all bad. Mango has a lot of new, and very welcome features.

The Good
One of my favorite new features is Bing Vision. This feature lets you aim the phone's camera at a barcode, a book cover, or a CD or DVD cover and BING will identify the product and take you to a place where you can purchase it online.

I was curious to find out just how well this new feature worked, so I put it to the test last week while I was having lunch at a Mexican restaurant with my wife. I have always been a hot sauce junkie, so I tried out Bing Vision on the barcode from the bottle of habanero sauce on the table. Even the sauce was an obscure import, Bing Vision found it.

The search engine also has a similar feature which will allow the phone to identify music that it hears. I haven't experimented extensively with this feature, but the phone had no trouble identifying songs by Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold.

Another favorite new feature is Internet Explorer 9. While it is true that the browser still lacks Flash support, it does a much better job rendering Web pages than the old browser did. There are a couple of Web sites that were borderline unusable from the original Windows Phone 7 browser that are rendered perfectly by the new browser.

Finally, I love some of the changes that Microsoft has made to the phone's mapping capabilities. Microsoft has finally added verbal turn by turn directions, which is a feature that was sorely missing in the original release. What I like even better however, is that the phone will give you a list of nearby restaurants and attractions. The list is designed in a way that allows you to easily access reviews and the establishment's Web site. This feature is very well done, and I have already used it several times to find restaurants in unfamiliar cities.

It remains to be seen whether or not Mango will live up to all of the hype, but in spite of its flaws, it seems that the Mango operating system is well designed and includes features that make my life easier.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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