They say you never get the second chance to make a first impression, so it’s rather fortunate for Microsoft that very few consumers paid attention to Windows Phone 7 the first time around. Windows Phone 7 Mango isn’t really a do-over, per se. However, it represents a concerted effort to both play catch-up with Android and the iPhone and further distance Windows Phone from those two wildly popular platforms. While Mango won’t debut until the fall—both as a free upgrade for existing device owners and on new hardware—Microsoft provided us with a preview build of the OS to try out on a Samsung Focus. So how far has Windows Phone come and how far does it still need to go?
When Windows Phone 7 debuted in the fall of 2010, it was obvious that the OS had some sturdy building blocks in Xbox Live, Office, and Zune, as well as nifty features like the ability to fire up the camera with the phone locked. But it was the look and feel of Windows Phone 7 that made it stand out from the crowd, including Live Tiles on the home screen that feed status updates and a beautiful and unique panoramic interface. Some blame poor marketing for the OS’ tepid reception, but the software also had plenty of holes. No multitasking. No Twitter integration. No cut and paste. You couldn’t even enter a web address in landscape mode.
Fast forward eight months—a long time in the smartphone world—and Microsoft has filled in nearly all of those holes. More importantly, Windows Phone 7 Mango brings several compelling new features to the smartphone wars. The OS primarily focuses on enhanced communications, deeper social integration, smarter search, and a new way of connecting apps to the web.