We’re not far away from the final version of Mango hitting the streets – whether it be in new handsets or delivered as a free update to existing Windows Phone users – so I thought it might be useful to try and précis some of the more interesting improvements coming down the pipe. I wont try and do all of them as there are reported to be >500…

If you’re looking at things from a user perspective then there’s a goldmine of stuff coming our way.

  • More handsets – with new ones coming from Acer, Fujitsu, ZTE and of course Nokia
  • Applications
    • Better navigation of installed apps (search & jump list)
    • Deep link inside an app from the home screen
    • Connect apps to search results (eg IMDB app to a movie search)
    • Slicker installation experience – progress shown “in situ” in the apps list
    • Switch between apps using a new UI (hold the back button)
    • Fast application resume (banish “Resuming…”)
    • Richer Live Tiles so you stay updated from the home screen
  • Staying Connected
    • Windows Phone puts people at the centre of things
    • People Hub has Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn all built-in
    • Group friends, family and see live updates or contact them at once
    • Facebook chat, Live Messenger, Check-ins and photo-tagging all built-in
    • Threads integrate SMS, Messenger and FB chat in one conversation view
    • Email conversation view
    • Linked inboxes – view multiple email accounts through a single inbox
    • Built-in speech-to-text and text-to-speech support for messaging
  • Just Cool Stuff
    • Music Search
    • Bing Vision (recognise text, QR codes and Tags)
    • Local Scout (find places of interest in the vicinity)
    • IE9 for faster browsing and HTML5 support
    • Office 365 and SkyDrive support for Office documents
    • Battery saver capabilities

And the same is true from a developer’s perspective; the below are just some of the highlights of the new features and capabilities of the platform and SDK.

  • Tools
    • Update to the tools includes multi-targeting (build both 7.0 and 7.1 apps)
    • Comprehensive profiling tool
    • Support for generating accelerometer and location data for the emulator
    • New emulator screenshot tool
    • Isolated Storage Explorer tool – inspect the contents of the Iso store.
  • Frameworks
    • Windows Phone Mango is updated to Silverlight 4
    • It’s also possible to combine Silverlight and XNA rendering in apps
  • Multitasking support
    • Fast application switching
      • Applications are placed in a dormant state for fast resume
    • Scheduled Tasks
      • Execute code in the background when your app isn’t running
    • Alarms and reminders
      • Register one-off and recurring notifications
    • Background file transfers
      • Queue file transfer requests that will persist app termination
    • Background audio
      • Play audio when your app is no longer running
  • Sensors
    • Access to compass & gyro
    • Motion API makes it easy to interpret sensor data
    • Camera improvements include real-time access to raw frames
    • Above make augmented reality apps and other scenarios possible
  • Networking
    • Sockets support
      • Communication over sockets with TCP/UDP
    • Network Information
      • Access info about mobile operator, network capabilities etc
  • Data
    • Local database
      • Store relational data on the device accessed by LINQ to SQL
    • New launchers and choosers
      • eg address, Bing maps, directions, contact, ringtone
    • Contacts and calendar API
      • Allows you to query the users contacts store and calendar
    • Encrypted credentials store
      • Cryptography APIs and storage for “secrets” such as login credentials
  • Live Tiles and Push Notifications
    • Live Tiles are now double-sided and apps can have multiple tiles
    • Live Tiles can be updated locally
    • Push notifications updated to support new Live Tiles features
    • Toast notifications can deep-link into an app
  • Advertising
    • Fully integrated into the SDK and coming to the UK soon
  • Beta Testing and Targeted Distribution
    • The Marketplace now support limited Beta distribution and “hidden” distribution

If you haven’t done so already, check out the details of what’s new on the MSDN site, download the Windows Phone SDK, and check out the Inside Windows Phone show on Channel9. Also keep an eye out on Channel9 for the recordings of the recent Windows Phone Mango Jump Start training.