What a week. It kicked off with new Windows Phone handsets from AT&T and ended with our friends over in “big” Windows taking the wraps off Windows 8. Still, there were plenty of Windows Phone tidbits to go around. Here are a few of my favorites.
Apps updated for Mango start to arrive
Here they come. New versions of the official Foursquare and Flixster apps tuned for Windows Phone 7.5 (aka Mango) landed in Marketplace this week—and they weren’t alone. Wondering what new and cool things you’ll be able to do on your phone once Mango—and apps designed to take advantage of it—arrive? The Foursquare entry offers a good taste, tapping new Windows Phone 7.5 features such as fast-app switching, extra Live Tiles, and App Connect. Watch this new YouTube video for a quick look at what these new features are all about.
Hot deals: Buy a Verizon HTC Trophy, make $49.99
Attention savvy smartphone shoppers: Amazon Wireless is offering a hard-to-resist deal on the Verizon HTC Trophy. You can now buy the phone for a penny. If that’s not good enough, you’ll also get a $50 Amazon gift card with your purchase. The deal expires at midnight on September 27. Check out the Amazon Wireless site for the full scoop.
App spotlight: Guardly for Windows Phone
Safety is one big reason why carrying a smartphones is so comforting—and why more parents are handing out phones to their kids. When it comes to my own family, I’m a chronic worrier. So the new Guardly app in Marketplace immediately caught my eye. Billed as a “personal safety service,” the app is designed to quickly connect you to friends, family, or authorities during an emergency and includes a bunch of other safety-related features. Check out the company’s website to see how it works.
App roundup: 5 apps, 30 seconds
The latest video review from our friends at Pocketnow features Bandwith Test, Geocaching, Got News, Prime TV, and the game Danger Wing. What new Marketplace arrival caught your eye?
What an amazing time for Microsoft developers! The buzz down here at the //build conference has been truly inspirational. It also reminds those of us in Windows Phone just how far we’ve come in only 18 months. It was not so long ago at MIX10 that we pulled the wraps off of the brand new developer platform for Windows Phone, introducing you to a new take on the mobile developer platform. We opted to take a fresh look at mobile app development; one that combined the powerful and familiar Microsoft tools with well understood and widely used languages. You responded in kind, creating one of the fastest growing mobile ecosystems in history in terms of the rate of apps published.
Just 6 months ago at MIX11, we introduced the development platform for Windows Phone 7.5, code named Mango. There we demonstrated your next wave of capabilities and opportunities on the Windows Phone platform. While the first introduction of Windows Phone was a clean sheet, Mango expands the capabilities of the phone to enable you to build even richer experiences via proper multi-tasking via Background Agents and expanded Live Tile capabilities, to name a few. Mango also broadens the opportunities for you to build a business, or just get noticed with 19 more markets and an innovative new way of connecting apps with consumers via App Connect.
Using the free Windows Phone SDK (which includes Visual Studio 2010 Express, and Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone), you can target the Windows Phone Runtime to build Metro apps for Windows Phone. The developer tools we provide are without question the best on the market, which means you can spend more time focusing on your app experience. More and more of you seem to be showing your support for the Windows Phone RT every day. Over 50K of you have registered as Windows Phone developers, and have built over 30K apps to date. Stats are great, but here’s what some of you have had to say about the platform (source: Why Is Windows Phone 7 Winning Over Some Indie App Developers?)
Geert van der Cruijsen, developer of Social Lookout, said that “Windows’ Metro UI is really adding something.”
Pieter Voloshyn, developer of Thumba, said “Microsoft came late in the game but came well, and I see a lot of gas for WP7 to compete.”
You aren’t the only ones excited about the long term potential of the Windows Phone platform. Following the announcement of our partnership with Nokia with its beautiful hardware and 190 market footprint, IDC *predicted that Windows Phone would be the number 2 position worldwide by 2015. Gartner agreed, **forecasting end users open OS sales in excess of 600 million units by 2015 for Windows Phone. This ecosystem is building, and Microsoft and our partners are committed to making Windows Phone a success in the market.
In the end, the voice that matters most, though, is that of the customer. Here’s a word cloud made up from all of the user reviews of the Rowi app (a Twitter client):
The words which jump out are “great”, “best”, “live” & “tile”, “love”, “notifications”, “awesome”, “clean”, “simple” and “smooth.” Those are the types of experiences you can build when you target Windows Phone. Here’s another example, this time of the Cocktail Flow app:
“Great”, “beautiful”, “best”, “nice”, “love”, “awesome”, “amazing”. Customers love the apps built for Windows Phone.
Yesterday, we saw the first look at the Metro style apps on the PC. As the Windows Phone Runtime evolves, we plan to align the PC and Windows Phone platforms as much as possible. For example as demonstrated yesterday, developers will soon be able to easily share XAML and C# code between the PC and Windows Phone. And for developers building Windows Phone apps today, those apps will work on Mango and on the next major release of Windows Phone as well. Any app that you have built, or build today, will just work.
The time to get your Mango apps into Marketplace is now. AT&T announced their Mango lineup on Monday, and existing customers will begin getting their OS update this fall. At a minimum it’s worth updating your existing app now so that when customers experience Mango they benefit from “fast app switching” multitasking, which requires little more than a recompile of the app. If you want to stand out from the crowd, get your apps updated to take advantage of other Mango features like Live Tiles and App Connect.
Part of our plan for Windows Phone and this community has been to ensure that we build a great platform and sell it to a lot of customers. With the recent addition of Nokia as a key ecosystem partner, you will see even more handsets in even more markets. We have already announced the doubling of the supported markets for app ingestion, but you can also expect a wider range of price points across the Windows Phone portfolio to ensure more phones are sold to more customers.
It’s a great time to be a developer. Mango will start landing on phones this fall. What are you going to build?
General Manager, Windows Phone Apps
*Source: Worldwide Smartphone 2011–2015 Forecast and Analysis, Doc # 227367, March 2011.
**Source: Gartner Inc., Forecast Mobile Communications Devices by Open Operating System, Worldwide, 2008-15, Roberta Cozza, April 5, 2011).
Here’s the latest from the world of Windows Phone. See something cool I missed?
YouTube on Windows Phone 7.5
YouTube this week launched a new mobile version of its website that’s designed to work better on Windows Phone 7.5. As some of you know, Mango ships with a browser based on Internet Explorer 9 and supports web standards including HTML5. If that geeky fact means nothing to you, just take a look the screenshots below. On the left, you see what YouTube looks like on a current Windows Phone. The shot on the right shows YouTube on a Mango phone. The new site is obviously spiffier and better organized. It also now offers search auto suggestions and high-quality (HQ) video. But the most exciting change (to me, at least) is that, because the site supports HTML5, you'll no longer need a stand-alone app to watch YouTube on Windows Phone 7.5.
New Mango how-to videos
Speaking of YouTube, if you haven’t visited our official Windows Phone channel on YouTube lately, make sure to check it out. We recently did a little redecorating and think you’ll like what you see. We’re constantly adding new videos showing off the forthcoming release of Windows Phone—including, most recently, a batch of new how-to videos on Windows Phone 7.5. If you’re waiting to get your hands on a Mango phone—or just curious how it works—these brief tutorials (like the one below) give you a great sense of what using it is actually like. What do you think?
“This one time, at app camp…”
Heads up, UK developers: Microsoft is hosting free all-day camps to show you how to make Windows Phone apps from scratch. These hands-on workshops and short tutorials, taught by experts, are a great opportunity if you’ve ever wanted to build your first app. To attend, register for the London camp (Sept 17) or the Manchester camp (Sept. 24). Space is limited, so sign up soon. Here’s more details on the event.
How to Mango-fy your apps
And what if you’re not in the U.K.? Fear not. Microsoft MVPs Rob Miles and Andy Wigley just kicked off a new video series on Channel 9 called Mango Jump Start that’s designed to teach developers how to make apps and games for Windows Phone 7.5. So if you’ve been wanting to starting making Windows Phone apps, here’s a great place to start.
30 days with Windows Phone
Tony Bradley from PC World recently began a new series of articles called “30 Days With Windows Phone 7” where he gives WP7 a month to win him over from his old mobile platform. He updates the series every day and discusses particular facets of the WP7 Mango experience that interest him. It’s a good read. His latest installment focuses on threaded messaging in Mango. Check it out.
Roundup: Apps, apps, apps
If you’re looking for new apps to download, look no further. Our very own Laura Foy has the skinny on her latest 5 favorite hot apps: IonBallEx, Relaxify, Speed, NightStand Clock, and Fastball 2. If that’s not enough for you, take a look at PocketNow’s latest weekly app roundup.
Most of the US is excited about the start of the NFL season this week. Elsewhere, though, it’s all about a different ball sport: rugby. The Rugby World Cup 2011 kicks off this weekend, and its official app recently hit the Marketplace. The free app has lots of info about the event and includes news, video, team stats, and even stadium info. Check it out.
As an active Twitter user on the Windows Phone team, I was excited when I first learned that Twitter integration was coming to our phone. But I admit I was also skeptical. We’ve had great Facebook integration for a while now, but Twitter is a different animal. And not just on the surface—the way that you communicate on Twitter is fundamentally different from Facebook.
Would combining these feeds on a small screen just amount to a lot of extra noise?
Well, I’m happy to report that that’s not the case at all. In fact, my phone is now the primary place where I both check and post to Twitter (along with Facebook and LinkedIn), and it’s become one of my favorite new features coming in Windows Phone 7.5 (aka Mango). Part of what makes it great is that it’s flexible. In the People Hub, for example, when I’m checking feeds, it’s fast and easy to filter. I can see stuff from just one social network—or all of them—with just a couple quick taps.
I follow a lot of people on Twitter, so I usually check Twitter and Facebook separately. Filtering makes it possible to do that very easily without leaving the People Hub. You can also go deeper into the People Hub settings and fine tune your settings even more.
So, I’ve talked about the People Hub. But for me, the elegance of the Twitter integration really shines in another spot: the Me Card.
In the current version of Windows Phone, the Me Card is fairly sparse—sometimes I forget it’s even there. In fact, I once had a friend ask me how to get it back on his Start screen because he’d unpinned it (answer: tap People, tap your photo, then tap the Pin icon.)
In Mango, the Me Card has transformed into possibly the most useful Tile on my Start screen. Any time someone comments on my Facebook status, posts something to my Wall, or mentions me in a tweet, I get a neat little notification on my Tile.
I’ve been using Mango with Twitter for a few weeks now, but this past weekend was the true test. I was headed to the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), a 3-day gaming convention in downtown Seattle. There’s a lot to see and do at PAX, and I wanted to keep up with my Twitter followers and Facebook friends without having my nose buried in my phone all weekend. Each time I noticed a notification on my Me tile, all I had to do was tap it and flick to Notifications, and all the stuff I wanted to see was right there.
I could easily tell which ones were new and which ones I’d already seen, and then respond, like, retweet, or what have you. So, when the crazy group of 20 dudes dressed like Lando Calrissian from Star Wars came marching by, I was able to take a quick pic and share it without missing any of the action. And despite the different conventions that Twitter and Facebook use, it all felt very seamless.
A quick flick on the Me card brings up What’s New. Think of it like your personal feed: it has everything you’ve posted to any of your social networks in chronological order. This was useful as well, as I could see at a glance which new posts had been commented on or responded to.
Another flick and I’m on the Profile pivot, where I can do things like check in or post a message. Here you can also choose where you want to post while you’re posting. If I want to put something on Twitter, say, but not Facebook, it’s super easy to do that.
If you’re familiar with Twitter or Facebook, then some of these tasks will seem fairly basic. And you might be thinking, “I can already do this stuff on a bunch of different devices out there.” That’s true, but on Windows Phone, the difference is that you can do them all without ever opening an app. That might seem like a fine distinction, but after a long weekend at PAX, I can say it’s really made a big difference in how I interact with people.
Twitter and Facebook no longer feel like programs I have to access, but rather services that I’m always plugged in to. It doesn’t feel like my apps are connected to my friends—it feels like my phone itself is connected, and I’m always one step closer.
Andy Myers is a consumer writer on the Windows Phone Engineering team. He’s also a musician and student of vintage video games. His Twitter handle is @Stenobot.
It seemed only natural to follow up today’s post on photo-related changes coming in Windows Phone 7.5—aka Mango—with one about some of the fantastic photo apps available right now in Marketplace.
From Facebook to Flickr, smartphones are quickly becoming the primary way people capture and share pictures. So it’s probably no surprise that an explosion of photo apps has followed—apps which make it possible to bypass your PC and do most fixing and fussing directly on your Windows Phone.
Here are some of my own favorite tools in Marketplace for phone-based touch-ups. (For fun, I also polled some of the designers and engineers who work on the Pictures Hub to get their take.) Since Mango hands app makers a bunch of juicy new programming options—including for the first time direct access to the camera—I’m expecting even more creative photography apps to arrive in the months ahead.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another app tricked out with more image editing tools—and all for just 99 cents. Packed with more than 70 tools and tweaks, Thumba Photo Editor lets you resize, crop, rotate, flip, remove red eye, and sharpen your photos. You can edit embedded GPS info and add protective watermarks. There’s also impressive selection of filters and special effects. Several shutterbugs here swear by it. “It’s like having a mini-Photoshop on the phone,” one says. A worthy competitor is Pictures Lab ($1.99), another full-featured photo editing app with an enthusiastic fan base.
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of gimmicky photo-morphing apps. But PhotoFunia is in a class by itself. This entertaining app boasts more than 225 effects. Sure there are the standard ones that let you turn your face shot into a charcoal sketch or watercolor. But there’s also unexpected options to put your face on a billboard, a stamp, or the wall of the Louvre. The end result is often shockingly believable, like it was professionally doctored. PhotoFunia is also just plain fun. As one fan here said: “Who doesn’t want to see their face as the billboard on Times Square?” Free.
PhotoSafe serves as a password-protected virtual vault for any photos on your phone that you want to keep hidden from prying eyes. It’s also a handy way to prevent Angry Birds-addicted kids from accidentally deleting important shots while messing with your phone. The app is straightforward: Pick a password, then just copy over images from the Pictures Hub into protected folders (or snap photos directly with the camera). Images sequestered in PhotoSafe won’t be transferred automatically to your PC when you sync with the Zune software, either. $1.99 + free trial
If finger painting is your thing, Fantasia Painter Free provides 12 brushes and bunch of cool effects to add Van Gogh-like flourishes to your shots. My kids love this app. But it should also appeal to artists and anybody with kid-like tendencies. Free
When I’m walking around Seattle, I often have the urge to capture the sweeping Space Needle-pointed skyline. But creating panoramas is notoriously tricky, and my previous attempts looked like they were assembled by Dr. Frankenstein. Then I discovered Ztitch. What’s cool about Ztitch isn’t just that it brings drag-and-drop simplicity to the pano-making process. But it goes a step further, creating full 360º panoramas that provide the uncanny you-are-there illusion. Free
With Windows Phone “Mango” declaring RTM and developer tools hitting “RC”, it is time to start getting websites updated for Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) availability on Windows Phone. In today’s post, we’ll describe changes to the browser’s user-agent (UA) string so that you can start testing those website updates.
Changes to the UA string for IE9 on Mango
The updates to the Mango UA string mirror changes made to the IE9 UA string on Windows. In fact, we can reuse most of the description from the original post announcing the IE9 UA string on Windows (the only difference is the version numbers we are moving from):
In addition, we have incremented the mobile-specific version from ‘IEMobile/7.0’ to ‘IEMobile/9.0’ and updated the OS version as well. Note that IE on Windows Phone has always sent the “short” UA string – pre and post platform registry value tokens are not supported.
With these changes, the default UA string for IE9 on Mango is:
Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 9.0; Windows Phone OS 7.5; Trident/5.0; IEMobile/9.0; <manufacturer>; <model> [;<operator])
The manufacturer and model information is populated automatically into the end of the UA string. The mobile operator also has the option to add their name to the end, so you may see that token at the end of the UA string on some Mango devices.
IE9 on Mango supports compatible document modes similar to IE9 on Windows, controlled via a compatibility list. If a site is set to IE7 or quirks document mode on that list, the UA string that is sent will be:
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows Phone OS 7.5; Trident/3.1; IEMobile/7.0; <manufacturer>; <model> [;<operator])
We’ll describe more details on how the compatibility view list works on Mango in a future blog post.
Finally, note that for app compatibility reasons, apps that use the WebBrowser control will send the old Windows Phone 7 (IE7) UA string until they are re-compiled with the WPSDK 7.1.
While the UA string is an important means of identifying a browser, you should not rely on it to target specific functionality. Instead, use feature and behavior detection to detect specific browsers wherever possible.
If you do decide to use UA detection, we suggest using the “IEMobile” token to identify Internet Explorer on Windows Phone as a mobile browser. If you would like to target modern markup at IE9 (and future versions of IE) on Windows Phone, you use a regular expression to extract the IEMobile version token then check if it is greater than or equal to 9.0.
Call to action
Program Manager Lead, Windows Phone
We heard you.
Minesweeper, the ad-supported Xbox LIVE game we debuted in the U.S. Marketplace recently, is launching as a free download around the world (except Brazil and Korea). The title, which for now is English only, should be available by early tomorrow morning in your local Marketplace.
It’s no secret that two weeks ago when we announced Minesweeper and another free ad-supported game, Sudoku, many of you who live elsewhere were disappointed to learn they were U.S. only titles. A few folks were downright mad, and questioned our international aspirations and commitment.
We took notice. You see, a lot of time is spent here working on ways to get our phone and apps in the hands of more people around the world (for evidence, see here and here), so your reaction struck a chord.
“It’s not that we don’t want to have worldwide consumer releases,” John Dongelmans, a director of Xbox LIVE games marketing and one of the early responders, told me. “But in some cases we face challenges due to feature availability and licensing restrictions.”
Dongelmans said the team is working hard to ensure more Xbox LIVE titles for Windows Phone are available more broadly in the future—including, by the way, Sudoku.
“We are serious about resolving this.”
Today we’re releasing the next version of the Zune software. As one of the Zune program managers, I wanted to provide a brief look at what’s new in the 4.8 release, which you can download here. To update your current version, click Settings > Software > General, and then click Check For Updates.
If you already have a Windows Phone, you probably know that the Zune software is a key companion for your device. It allows you to update your phone software, sync photos and videos, shop for apps, and more.
You probably won’t notice too many differences in how Zune 4.8 looks: Most of the changes were designed to pave the way for the next release of Windows Phone, codenamed Mango. Our primary goal with this release was to make the Zune software the best companion for your Mango phone, so the team implemented a few new features and made a bunch of under-the-hood refinements and fixes, including several based on your feedback.
One important job of the Zune software is to update your Windows Phone software. In version 4.8, we’ve streamlined the process to help get your phone up and running again faster with the latest features and fixes.
As we’ve announced, Mango will expand the number of locations and languages where Windows Phone is available around the world. We made sure the Zune software would follow. While it may seem small, this is possibly the largest overall change in Zune 4.8. You’ll also notice vast improvements in text entry and sorting for many Asian languages.
Zune 4.8 now supports 22 display languages, including Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (US and UK), Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish.
In addition, Zune 4.8 is available in these countries or regions: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Tweaks and fixes
Finally, the team made a lot of under-the-covers changes to improve your overall experience in Zune 4.8, although not all of these changes may be readily apparent. Here are a few you will notice:
We’re continually looking for ways to improve the Zune software and Marketplace. On behalf of the entire Zune software team, thank you for your support and we hope you enjoy this release.
Here’s a quick recap of my favorite posts of the week. Have a great weekend!
The results are in: Dilbert digs Windows Phone
Remember the Windows Phone 7 Challenge? To refresh: We gave a Windows Phone to CNET’s Molly Woods and Dilbert creator Scott Adams, both of whom had publically expressed disenchantment with their current smartphones. They agreed to give Windows Phone a whirl. If they didn’t like it, we’d donate $1000 to the charity of their choice. Yesterday, Adams posted his final thoughts. “The Windows interface is intuitive, simple, and has a liveliness that I find appealing,” he wrote on his blog. While the cartoonist had some quibbles with all the phones he tried (hey, nobody’s perfect), he concluded: “If you want a smartphone that is easy to use, performs well, has a good battery life, and doesn’t frustrate you, the Windows phone is the best choice of the three options I tested.” Read it here.
Bing introduces “We’re In”
Bing yesterday launched a handy new social app in the U.S. Marketplace called We’re In. The app “makes organizing get-togethers, carpooling and trying to find people in a crowd a breeze.” The app shows you where your friends are, making it easier to know when to cut the cake or order the first round. The team is working on versions for other smartphone platforms, too. Download it from Marketplace
PocketNow’s latest picks
Here’s a new app roundup from the folks over at PocketNow. Like I mentioned last week, these videos are great for those who have trouble keeping up with all the new apps that hit the Marketplace. The video covers 5 apps, dwelling on each for a mere 30 seconds. Take a gander.
Back-to-school for moms
I recently combed through Marketplace for apps to help students heading off to college. But what if you’re a parent who is planning everything for your children’s back-to-school needs? Mommy blogger Jennifer from The Dirty T-Shirt recently talked about how she uses her Windows Phone to tame the busy back-to-school season. Her selection of apps is different, and I especially like the way she uses pinning to get things done. Read it here.
Gamers probably saw the Xbox LIVE news posted here this week: 14 new titles and some new Xbox LIVE features on the way for Windows Phone. Well, the hardworking crew over at GeekWire got curious enough about one item teased in the post—a new feature called Fast Async—to write a follow up on it. We’re not saying too much about this right now, but as you’ll see Todd Bishop did manage to wring a few more details out of us. Check out his post.
It’s a sweet day for mobile gamers. Today Microsoft previewed new Xbox LIVE titles and features coming to Windows Phone in the months ahead. The announcement came at the annual Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany.
We’ve already written about some of the changes on the way for the Games Hub in Mango, the next release of Windows Phone. But at Gamescom today members of the Xbox team outlined several other exciting capabilities coming this fall. Visit the Xbox press room for details. Meantime, here’s a quick recap:
Today the Xbox team also unveiled 14 great new Xbox LIVE titles coming to Windows Phone in the months ahead:
So which games are you looking forward to playing most?
My university days took place in the era of ink and paper.
Oh, how times have changed.
Spiral notebooks and ball-point pens? So last century. Today a well-stocked Windows Phone can substitute for entire backpack’s worth of campus gear and ease the transition to dorm life. So with a new school year just about to start, here are my 10 app picks for making college a little easier.
Most of my college weight gain stemmed from the slab-like textbooks strapped to my back (that’s what I like to tell myself, anyway). First step to banishing book-induced shoulder pain? Download the Amazon Kindle app (free; Amazon Services LLC). This popular e-reader lets you bookmark pages, highlight key passages and even capture marginalia. The Kindle Store stocks thousands of free classics that will satisfy most Intro to Lit reading lists and also sells e-textbooks. And don’t miss Amazon’s money-saving new textbook rental option. OverDrive Media Console (free; OverDrive Inc.), meanwhile, is another must-have college app, since it provides access to e-books and audiobooks from more than 15,000 public and school libraries around the world.
When I left for college my parents told me the most important thing to learn is how to set goals and stay organized. If I’d had a smartphone with the next two apps back in the day, I might have done a better job sticking to their advice. Fans of the popular online task manager Todoist should check out its unofficial Windows Phone companion Todoist Lite (free; Piotr Wach), a great way to organize assignments. Once synched to a Todoist.com account, you can also check your marching orders from any computer. Another highly-rated to-do app is the simply named Tasks (free; Telerik).
Whether your major is biology or basket weaving, college success often comes down to how well you can memorize stuff. My old-school solution was a deck of 4-by-5 note cards. Now there’s Flashcards and My Flip Cards. Flashcards (free; Microsoft Corp.) is a no-frills memorization app that lets you create custom flash cards and take on-demand quizzes. The app helpfully flags wrong answers for follow-up drilling. My Flip Cards (free; Abel Martin), meanwhile, taps into Quizlet.com’s massive user-created flashcard archive (3 million plus, according to the site), which covers just about every imaginable item you might want to commit to memory.
Taking class notes is easy with OneNote, which comes pre-installed on every Windows Phone. (My other favorite school-friendly built-in? The phone’s hidden scientific calculator. To reveal it, pop open the Calculator app and turn the phone sideways.) Notes you take on your phone can be uploaded to Windows Live SkyDrive and synched with Office on your PC, so you can pick up where you left off. Many students I know also can’t live without Evernote—perfect for those last-second cram sessions on the way to a test.
For me, college also came with some hard lessons in money management. It’s where I first learned the term credit risk. Marketplace has great apps to help students stretch their dollar. Slick Deals (free; XBITech) helps you find deals on everything from airplane tickets to fast food by tapping into listings and recommendations from the popular Slickdeals online community. Looking for a part-time job, place to live, or cheapo Ikea bookshelf for your dorm room? Then you’ll want the Craigslist deLUXE Lite (free; Next Generation Phone Solutions) to browse the latest listings in your area.
Apps for U.
Finally, a growing number of colleges and universities (Ohio State, MIT, and Drexel are a few examples I spotted) also now have custom apps in Marketplace that supply everything from campus news and maps to class schedules. Some of these are official university products, others not. But it’s worth a quick search for your school to see what’s out there.
OK, everyone—class dismissed. This week’s homework assignment? Share your own scholarly picks in the comments section.
Hello everyone. For several months now I’ve been dropping by here each week to bring you the latest on software updates for your phone. We’ve learned a lot from delivering the first round of updates—lessons we’re applying to the next release of Windows Phone, which I know many of you are eagerly awaiting.
My team and I are heads down right now, putting all our energy into preparing for this major update. Until that work is done, I wanted to let you know that I won’t be actively posting here. The next time you hear from me, it’ll be to let you know Mango is making its way to your phone.
In the meantime, rest assured that this blog will continue to be your source for news about the phone, including updates. And if there’s something important that needs to be addressed, we will.
Eric Hautala, GM, Customer Experience Engineering
Prepare to start wasting some serious time, people. Two of the most immensely popular puzzle games of all time—the PC classic Minesweeper and the newspaper staple Sudoku—just landed in the U.S. Marketplace for Windows Phone. But these aren’t just any versions of the classic games. They’re official Xbox LIVE editions—so now they come with all kinds of cool powerups and achievements. Best of all? These ad-supported titles will cost you nothing (except your workday).
The goal in Minesweeper is to clear the board using flags to safely mark potential hidden mines. One wrong move and it’s game over. The new Xbox LIVE version comes with two modes—Classic and Speed—and as many as 4 different levels of difficulty each. Sudoku, the hit Japanese numbers-based logic game, challenges you to fill a 9x9 grid with the numbers 1 to 9. (But of course it’s not quite as simple as it sounds.) Play it in Classic or Lightning mode.
Here’s my take on the most interesting and useful Windows Phone news from the past week. Love it? Hate it? Jot down a comment and let me know!
Big updates for Angry Birds, Facebook and more
It was a big week for app updates in Marketplace. First, Rovio added 90 new levels to their blockbuster game Angry Birds. This update unlocks Episodes 10 and 11, and brings the total number of levels in the game to 245. Download it now. But that’s just for starters. A bunch more big-name apps also received notable upgrades this week, including Facebook, Groupon, USA Today, Evernote (blog), and WordPress (blog).
11 tips for taking better pictures on your Windows Phone
Has your phone become your primary camera? Then you’ll want to check out Dave Johnson’s handy PC World article that offers some suggestions for squeezing better shots from your Windows Phone. One of his suggestions is to stock up on image-enhancing apps. Not sure where to start? Check out Know Your Mobile’s list of top 5 photography apps in Marketplace.
Sydney’s top Windows Phone apps…
Who the heck is Sydney and why should you care? Good question. Sydney is Sydney Myers, teen lifestyle editor of the mobile tech site Phonedog. You may remember that we featured Sydney here last week when she wrote an illuminating essay on why she switched to Windows Phone from Android. Well, now Sydney has struck again. This time she’s named her 10 favorite Windows Phone apps, and it’s a refreshingly quirky list. Always fun to see the phone, and Marketplace, through the eyes of a new convert. Check out her list
Gizmodo, meanwhile, maintains its own authoritative lists of what its editors deem the absolute best apps for each major mobile platform. The lists are updated monthly, and Giz just published its Windows Phone picks for July. Which Marketplace apps made the cut? Click here to find out. “Windows Phone 7 is impressively rounding itself to an awesome OS,” the editors write in the new intro.
Tips for managing your contacts
Device Magazine publishes a regular tips column on Windows Phone that’s perfect if you’re new to the phone—or smartphones in general. Geared to beginners, the latest installment is about better ways to manage your contacts. Check it out. And don’t forget about our own popular tips sheet on the Windows Phone website.
Now on Windows Phone: Cro-Mag Rally
Say hello to Cro-Mag Rally, the first kart-racing game on Xbox LIVE for Windows Phone. The game features a two-player mode, nine race tracks, and several vehicles—plus 200 achievement points. The game, which costs $2.99 and includes a free trial, is for anyone who needs their arcade racing fix. Download it now
On a recent run around town with my wife to grab dinner and pick up one of the kids, a text message came in from my son. Not an unusual event in itself, but what made this message interesting is that my phone read it aloud to me — and I replied back with my voice.
Meet Voice-to-text, a new hands-free messaging feature coming this fall in Mango and one that’s quickly become a personal favorite. And after seeing it in action on my test phone on our drive, my wife looked at me and said, “I want that for my car.”
Voice-to-text works for both text and instant messages, and it’s handy even when you’re not driving since it can slash the time you spend typing—a good thing at times even considering the fantastic keyboard on Windows Phone.
But the feature really shines when being hands-free is a necessity, like when I’m driving. My car has Bluetooth built in, and my Windows Phone is paired with it. When I’m driving and a message comes in, Windows Phone uses the Bluetooth connection and car’s sound system to narrate the message and record my response (pausing and resuming music or the radio if needed). The “conversation” goes something like this:
WP: [music pauses]You have a text message from Cody Pardi. You can say read it or ignore.
Me: Read it.
WP: “When will you be home?” You can say reply, call or I’m done.
WP: Say your message.
Me: “In about 20 minutes.”
WP: [The phone transcribes and repeats the message] You can say send, try again, or I’m done.
Me: Send. [music resumes]
My initial thought when I used it for the first time was “this is a game changer” because it felt natural to use while driving without being a distraction. And it all just worked. In fact, I was so impressed with the technology I decided to sit down with Alex Perez Avila, a program manager for many of the voice features in Windows Phone, to get an inside look at how it all happens.
Alex works in the Microsoft Tellme team, which develops the voice recognition and text-to-speech technology found in a growing number of Microsoft products including Office, Windows, and Xbox. He told me that competing smartphones are adding some voice features, mostly for existing phone options. Alex and his team, meanwhile, wanted to create something seamless that felt natural for completing everyday tasks such as calling someone in your contacts list or finding a local restaurant. “We think this will set Windows Phone apart,” he said.
Windows Phone taps the Microsoft Tellme cloud service for voice recognition and transcription. “No one else has it,” Alex said, “and we think customers are really going to like it.” The service, he notes, has built-in ways to learn from itself and improve recognition and transcription accuracy over time–all without putting additional software on the phone. The feature, he says, “will just get better and better as more people use it.”
I mentioned to Alex that I noticed my Mango phone can speak modern-day abbreviations such as TTYL (“talk to you later”), LOL (“laugh out loud”), and even (“happy smiley face”). I asked him if Windows Phone could translate those back if I spoke them while composing a text message. “Yep. We understand a limited set of key phrases and will transcribe them as abbreviations.” He demonstrated—and indeed it worked as advertised.
In addition to Voice-to-text, Alex walked me through several other Speech-related improvements on the way. In Mango, for example, Speech can be triggered even when the phone is locked by pressing and holding the Start button. You also have control over how and when text messages are read. By default, the phone reads messages aloud when connected to Bluetooth headset or stereo (which is how Windows Phone knows to read my text messages in the car).
There are some great new accessibility-related Speech features coming in Mango—using voice to forward calls and setup a speed-dial list. When Alex showed me these, I was impressed. In one very cool example, he stored a number in a speed dial location and then dialed it, hands-free. Other things you can use Speech for in Windows Phone include:
All these features put together makes voice an incredibly integrated part of Windows Phone in Mango, and I think will it set the bar for voice-recognition technology in a smartphone. To finish the story I started this post with, I told my wife that if she wanted that voice feature in her car she’d have to get a Windows Phone because her smartphone doesn’t do that.
“OK, fine with me,” she said.
Now that was something really worth hearing.
Bill Pardi is a senior consumer writer in Windows Phone Engineering
As web sites become more like applications, measuring and tuning their performance dramatically increases in importance, especially on mobile devices where latency and other performance-related factors have a high impact on user satisfaction. In fact, GigaOM just recently released findings that almost half of users are much less likely to return to a Web site that loads slowly on their handset.
We consider helping developers to measure real-world performance of their mobile sites to be so important that we were on the leading edge of implementing the W3C Navigation Timing interface in Internet Explorer 9, and helped drive it to Candidate Recommendation status very quickly. This interface is available via the
window.performance object on IE9 for Windows Phone “Mango” devices, and you can read more about the work we’ve done on this standard here and here. If you don’t have a Mango device, you can download the easy-to-use emulator from the App Hub on MSDN.
The Navigation Timing interface gives Web developers a way of measuring a complete end-to-end picture of user latency – that is, the total amount of time involved in various parts of the process by which a user first requests a Web resource until the time point where it has finished loading in the browser.
Using the Navigation Timing features, you can measure things such as (but not limited to):
The Navigation Timing features are available from the window.performance object (as with any feature, your code should make sure that the given feature actually exists before attempting to use it), which itself just provides objects for timing and navigation. Assuming the feature is supported, you can use the window.performance.timing and window.performance.navigation objects to obtain timing data.
The PerformanceNavigation Interface defines two properties and a few constants:
The type of navigation. Can be TYPE_NAVIGATE (0), TYPE_RELOAD (1), TYPE_BACK_FORWARD (2), or TYPE_UNDEFINED (255).
Indicates the number of redirects the navigation experienced for the page to load in the browser
The type field indicates what kind of navigation was measured. This can be either a normal navigation, a reload event, or a programmatic navigation event via the history object. NOTE: Navigations that result from client-side redirects such as using a <meta> tag with a refresh directive are not counted as redirects – the API reports these as whether they caused a reload or a navigation to a new URL.
The actual timing information for the navigation is available on the timing object, which implements the PerformanceTiming interface. Each of these properties represents a time point during the lifecycle of the navigation event. These time points, listed in order of their occurrence, are:
Time point at which the navigation begins
Time at which the user agent starts unloading the previous document, if there is one, otherwise 0
Time at which the previous document finishes unloading the previous document, otherwise 0
If any redirects are involved, this is the time point at which the first fetch request that initiates the redirect starts, other wise 0
If there were any redirects involved, the time point at which the last byte of the last redirect is received, otherwise 0
For HTTP GET requests, the time at which the user agent starts to check the application cache, otherwise the point at which the resource fetch starts
Time point at which the user agent starts the domain name lookup for the document. If the document is retrieved from the cache, this is the same as fetchStart
Time at which the user agent finishes looking up the domain name. If the document is being retrieved from a cache or locally, same as fetchStart
Time when the user agent starts establishing a connection to the server. If the document is retrieved from the application cache or otherwise locally, this is the same as domainLookupEnd
Time when the user agent finishes establishing a connection to the server. If the document is retrieved from the application cache or otherwise locally, this is the same as domainLookupEnd
Optional attribute – it is undefined for user agents that don’t provide it. If HTTPS is used, this is the time point when the user agent starts the handshake process to secure the connection. If HTTPS is not used, this is 0
The time when the user agent starts requesting the document from the server, or from the application cache or other local resource
Time point immediately following when the user agent receives the first byte of the response from the server, application cache, or local resource
Time point immediately following when the user agent receives the last byte of the response from the server, application cache, or local resource
Time point when the user agent sets the readyState of the current document to “loading”
Time point when the user agent sets the readyState of the current document to “interactive” – this is the first point where the user can interact with the page
Time point right before the user agent fires the DOMContentLoaded event
Time point right after the DOMContentLoaded event completes
Time point right before the user agent sets the readyState to “complete”
Time point right before the user agent fires the onload event
Time point right after the onload event completes
To calculate the amount of time required for a particular navigation sequence, you can simply subtract one value from another. For example, to calculate the total time required to load a page, you can simply subtract navigationStart from loadEventEnd:
var perfData = window.performance.timing;
var pageLoadTime = perfData.loadEventEnd – perfData.navigationStart;
Or, if you wanted to see how long the request-response process took, you could simply use:
var connectTime = perfData.responseEnd – perfData.requestStart;
Each of the timing events fires at a defined point in the page navigation process, illustrated by the following figure:
Having this data available inside your page can provide several real-world benefits. Site developers, for example, can implement a URL parameter switch that turns on performance testing for the page, allowing testers to gather data from live production pages. Or, a site might choose to implement an “opt-in” feature for live users to provide this performance feedback via XHR so that the site can measure how well pages are being navigated to in the wild.
Microsoft is committed to working with the W3C to create an interoperable way of measuring the performance of Web sites, of which the Navigation Timing API is just a start. Let us know how you’re using the API and what kinds of insights it has helped you find!
Joe Marini (@joemarini)
Principal Program Manager, Internet Explorer Windows Phone
Check out a few of our favorite bits from around the web this week. Have a great weekend!
Mango goes RTM
In case you missed it, the Windows Phone engineering team officially signed off on the “release to manufacturing” (RTM) build of Mango earlier this week. Here’s what you didn’t see in the blog announcement from Terry Myerson, engineer-in-chief for Windows Phone (standing center, in striped shirt): a behind-the-scenes peek at the official Mango sign-off meeting.
To me, these sign-off meetings are the most interesting and exciting moments of the entire software development process. Even as a grizzled former tech journalist, the chance to witness one for a major Microsoft product still gives me a little thrill. They have the atmosphere of Mission Control at a Shuttle launch. It’s standing room only, and the hallways are packed with people (like me) trying to listen in (ok, and maybe trying to snag a free glass of champagne). During sign off, Terry’s lead engineers go around the room and give an official go/no go for their various feature areas. There’s always a swirl of emotions in the room: nervous tension, excited anticipation, relief.
In this case, of course, everything was a go. The room erupted and, well, you get the picture. Mango is one step closer to your hands.
Meet the world’s first Mango phone
Speaking of Mango, Fujitsu Toshiba just unveiled the IS12T, the world’s first Mango device and Japan’s first Windows Phone. The phone sports a 3.7” WVGA screen, 32GB of storage, and a 13.2 MP camera. Plus, it’s waterproof and comes in 3 colors. The phone is slated to be released in “September or beyond”. Here’s Engadget’s write up. In a separate event, Microsoft this week also showcased a bunch of great Japanese apps, which you can learn more about in English or Japanese.
Switching to Windows Phone
Sydney Myers, Lifestyle Editor at PhoneDog.com, wrote an interesting piece on why she recently switched to Windows Phone. She's enjoying the experience so far, mentioning how she’s enamored with the "simple, elegant, and minimalistic" feel of the Metro UI and loves how it "carries all the way into the apps." We truly appreciate her compliments and are glad to welcome a new member of the Windows Phone family.
Will Dilbert love Windows Phone?
Speaking of switchers, recently Microsoft’s Brandon Watson made a bet with web celebrities who’ve become dissatisfied with their current phone. The wager? If any of the celebs try Windows Phone 7 and don't like it, Brandon will donate $1000 to a charity of their choice. Scott Adams, creator of the much loved Dilbert comic, and CNET reporter Molly Wood have accepted the bet. We can't wait to see what happens next! Who is your money on?
“There’s a new fruit in town.” That’s the catchy tagline for what we think is easily the most creative student project we’ve seen all week (ever?). Izzy Grant created a commercial that shows how Mango comes in handy in her everyday life. The project also underscores another point: We really have great fans. Know of any other fun grassroots Windows Phone projects? Share them below in the comments section. Watch the Vimeo video
Yesterday we started delivering another round of hardware-specific updates to Windows Phones around the world. As I explained last week, these are being sent to specific models—not every phone—and are designed to make targeted improvements to things like battery life, call clarity, or touch responsiveness, depending on the model.
We’ll send these hardware-specific updates from time to time. It’s all part of keeping your Windows Phone in tip-top shape. If you have questions about how to install them, visit Update Central.
I also wanted to spend a quick moment on updates for the AT&T Samsung Focus. In reading your comments from last week’s post, there seems to be some understandable confusion over the updateability of Focus 1.3 phones. Let me clarify: There is no issue with the updatability of 1.3 phones. Also, rest assured that 7392 will be bundled in our next update for AT&T customers with Focus 1.3 phones.
Hope this clears things up a bit. See you next week.
Hey everyone. Greetings from beautiful (and scorching hot!) Toronto. I’ve been vacationing here with family this week—and putting my Mango-loaded phone through its paces. It’s been a great holiday helper, keeping the kids entertained and helping me quickly pinpoint nice places to eat and drink near our hotel. Given my focus on relaxation, I went heavy on game-related news this week. Tell me what you think!
Tentacles wows reviewers
Looking for an app to make your fruit phone friends jealous? Fire up Tentacles, a new Xbox LIVE title that’s exclusive to Windows Phone. In their review, the folks at WMPU declared it a smash hit and shot a nice video review of the game, which debuted earlier this week. I dare you to watch the first few seconds and not run to Marketplace for a copy.
App picks from the New York Times
In his App Smart column this week, the New York Times’ Bob Tedeschi picks his favorite Windows Phone apps. If you’re new to Windows Phone, it makes a good shopping list (and even veterans might find a surprise). Tedeschi does have a few quibbles with Marketplace search results and the ability to browse apps on a Mac—both of which will be addressed in Mango. So hang on, Bob!
New behind-the-scenes Mango tours
This week we published a couple of fun videos on our official YouTube channel that take you behind the scenes of Mango. Each short clip introduces one of the engineers who make Windows Phone and provides a chatty overview of changes to various features. This one features the People Hub.
10 must-have games for Windows Phone
WMPU’s Andrew Bares provides his take on the 10 titles anyone with a Windows Phone should have in their Games Hub. ”This isn’t a list of the best games overall, it’s simply a list of games you should definitely have!” he notes. Check out the list
Win a Fruit Ninja-themed Windows Phone 7
Here’s a juicy opportunity for Fruit Ninja fans. Microsoft is offering a chance to win a Fruit Ninja-themed Windows Phone and Xbox 360 as part of its new Fantastic Fun and Fruit sweepstakes. To enter, just text SPLATTERMELON to 76060 by July 24th. (If you miss the deadline, you’ll have another chance when the contest is rerun between August 26 and 28.) You have to be 18 years old and a U.S. resident to enter. To learn more, see the official contest rules.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down this week, marking the end of a era for NASA and manned space flight. The good news: Atlantis is alive and well on Windows Phone. To commemorate the final shuttle flight, Flying Development Studio has released a new update for its popular and highly-regarded flight sim, Infinite Flight. Here’s a peek.
Here’s my take on the week’s most interesting Windows Phone news. Have a great weekend!
Nokia behind the scenes
All Things D ran an interesting behind-the-scenes look at Microsoft’s alliance with Nokia this week. Ina Fried’s piece has a lot of nice details about everything from the timing of the first Nokia handsets to how the partnership works on a day-to-day basis—and even includes some fun quotes from Windows Phone chief engineer Terry Myerson. According to the story, three key ingredients of the marriage are reindeer antlers, Blue Devils, and something called Halo. See what I’m talking about
Windows Phone on the catwalk
The latest installment of the ongoing Windows Phone Me Series debuted on GQ.com this week, and as you might have surmised, its subject is fashion. The video focuses on Shipley & Halmos, a NYC-based clothing label and design firm founded by Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos. This Me offers a window into the creative process, the personal dynamics between the founders, and how their Windows Phone fits in. Watch more Me Series videos
10 Windows Phone apps I can’t live without
Our list this week comes from IntoMobile’s Martin Perez, who provides a rundown of his 10 desert island apps for Windows Phone. Check it out
Preview: Indoor maps in Mango
PocketNow.com recorded a short walkthrough through of a handy Mango feature that hasn’t received much attention to date: indoor maps. I also sat down recently for a Q&A with the lead engineer for this feature—so watch the Windows Phone Blog for it soon. In the meantime, here’s the video.
Preview: Visual voicemail in Mango
The crew at PocketNow.com were busy this week. Besides indoor maps, they they also recorded this preview of another much-requested Mango feature, visual voicemail. Take a look.
Deal alert! Dell just cut the price on the Venue Pro, one of the most unique-looking Windows Phones out there. You can now pick up an unlocked handset for $299 and contract phone for a fraction of that—while supplies last. Shop now
It was a short 4th of July holiday week here in the U.S.—but still plenty of news in the world of Windows Phone. Enjoy the highlights and your weekend!
Marketplace tops 25,000
While estimates differ, unofficial Marketplace counters now peg our app inventory at somewhere north of 25,000, as multiple bloggers noted last week. Regardless of whose numbers you trust, the bottom line is that Marketplace is going gangbusters. But buzz about the overall app count overshadowed what I think was the week’s most exciting news: the boatload of brand-name apps that poured in. WPCentral counts at least 52 marquee titles in the last two weeks. Liveside.net, meanwhile, compiled its own handy list (complete with download links) of standouts. Check it out
Windows Phone records a music video
If you thought that Windows Phone in your pocket was only good for making goofy clips at bars and birthday parties, take a peek at Kurt Vile’s new music video for “Baby’s Arms”—shot entirely on a Samsung Focus. As Rolling Stone and CNET both reported this week, the video was directed by fashion photographer turned auteur Todd Cole, who filmed on location in East L.A. “Baby’s Arms” is a cut from the Philly singer-guitarist’s excellent new album Smoke Ring for My Halo. The project, the latest installment in the Windows Phone Me series, not only resulted in an entertaining video for Vile fans, but budding smartphone cinematographers won’t want miss the revealing behind-the-scenes companion footage, which shows how Cole and his Focus pulled it all off. It’s my favorite Me to date.
11 neat Mango features you never heard of
Our list of the week comes courtesy of Techie Buzz, which compiled a fun highlights reel of Mango features that haven’t bathed in the tech press limelight as much as some others—but are gems all the same. This list made the rounds here inside the Windows Phone engineering team. We enjoyed it and think you will too. Read it now
New in Marketplace: Garmin StreetPilot
With so many standout apps pouring into Marketplace in recent days, it’s tough to spotlight just one. But here I go anyway. Garmin, maker of the GPS devices you see on so many dashboards these days, has introduce StreetPilot for Windows Phone. The $40 app turns your phone into a personal GPS navigator, with voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions. The app has street maps available for the U.S. and Canada and include free real-time traffic updates. To save on data charges, maps are downloaded on demand. If early reviews are any hint, StreetPilot looks like a winner. Buy it now
Windows Phone wins major design award
Windows Phone took top honors in the 2011 International Design Excellence Awards. The annual awards, sponsored by the Industrial Designers Society of America, recognizes the world’s coolest-looking stuff. There were more than 2,000 entries in this year’s competition. From these, judges picked 27 to receive their Gold award, the event’s highest honor. Windows Phone won gold in the “Interactive Product Experiences” category. In their citation, judges called the phone “a truly elegant and unique experience.” Who are we to disagree? Read the press release or See what other Microsoft products won
Remember that official Foursquare app re-launch we announced just last week? Well, the app has already hit version 2.2, which brings improvements including a visible speed boost. It looks like the only check-ins the busy Foursquare crew is performing these days are for Windows Phone app code. Bravo, guys, bravo. Download it now
It’s hard to believe Windows Phone 7 landed in the hands of our first customers a mere nine months ago. Since then, we’ve been listening carefully to your suggestions to determine how to make the phone even easier, more efficient, and more fun.
Today I want to provide an insider look at some of the navigation improvements in our next release—including ones related to multitasking. As program manager for these features in Mango, it was my team’s job to help you move more easily around the phone, preferably without thinking much about how you got there.
Reviewing the basics
Before jumping right into what’s new, I want to rewind for a minute and recap our navigation philosophy.
There are two hardware buttons on every Windows Phone for getting around: Start and Back. Pressing Start takes you to the Start screen, populated by Live Tiles that can be pinned, removed, and reordered to suit your tastes. Start is both a launch pad for favorite apps and your personal space. It’s a big part of what makes your Windows Phone unique.
Flicking left takes you to the App list, where all your apps are ordered alphabetically. The App list is consistent and predictable. You can reliably find an app (even when it’s infrequently used) by name.
Finally, there’s the Back button, which pretty much does what it says: takes you back to the place you came from or left off.
That’s it. The model is pretty simple. But, as always, there’s room to make it better.
Finding apps faster
I have about 50 apps on my phone right now—roughly five screens worth. While the App list is predictably alphabetical, it can become quite long over time. Sure, I know where to scroll to find an app. But excessive scrolling is sub-optimal (engineering speak for “it’s a pain”). We’ve also heard this from those of you with large app collections. In Mango, we looked at a number of ways to make this experience better.
Tapping a header in the People Hub today opens the quick jump menu (left), which can whisk you to a specific section of your contacts list. In Mango (right), we’re adding the same feature and a search option to the App list.
One possibility we explored was ordering apps by how recently or frequently they’re used. While useful, this solution can prove disorienting and confusing, since app order is constantly changing. An App list organized by frequency would probably also look similar to your Start screen, where most people pin the apps that they care about most.
We also wanted the App list to feel consistent with other lists on the phone, like contacts. In the People Hub we use search and a quick jump menu to help you find contacts quickly. Ultimately, we decided that approach was the best solution for the App list, too.
Although there is one slight difference. When implementing the quick jump option, we wanted to balance function with aesthetics. If you don’t own many apps, the feature doesn’t make much sense, since the alphabet headers artificially lengthen the App list, creating gaps that make it feel sparse and unappealing. Hence, you’ll only see the headers when you have installed at least 45 apps.
While quick jump is helpful, I have to admit that sometimes it’s easier to just type an app’s name. So we also added a search option. If you’ve used it in People, it works like you probably expect, filtering the list of apps as you type. If you don’t find the app you were searching for, we provide a convenient link to get it from Marketplace by tapping Search Marketplace.
Have you ever wanted to quickly continue or finish something that you left off earlier? I run into this quite often. I’m in the middle of an intense Fruit Ninja game when a text message notification pops up at the top of my screen. It’s an I Can Has Cheezburger link. I must tap it! When I do, it takes me to the website, where I find a pic that’s so awesome that I must share it with my Facebook friends.
After all that, I really want to get back to whacking fruit. My instinct is to press the Back button. But if I don’t see what I want after a couple of tries, I usually press Start and navigate from there. What I really need is a way to hyper jump back to a specific point in time.
Sound cool? Say hello to the task switcher.
We believe the best way for someone to navigate between tasks is literally by showing them where they left off. Whether it’s a half-composed email, a game in progress, or the last photo you saw, you can return to it easily in Mango by pressing and holding the Back button.
In Mango, pressing and holding the Back button on your phone calls up the task switcher, which makes it easy to quickly pick up where you left off.
When you do, you’ll see a set of “cards” that represent the last 5 things you did or apps you used, arranged in the order you used them. (My team’s nickname for this feature is “visual back”.) These cards remind you what you were doing so you can pick right back up again. This is efficient multitasking.
Flick left or right and tap on a card to resume right from where you left off. The task switcher is designed to be fast and predictable (although it does require app developers to do some work on their end). Don’t get me wrong. I still use the Back button for its original purpose: to navigate within an app and or get back to the previous thing I was doing. But “visual back” helps you resume tasks that are a little farther away.
One design problem we pondered at length was how many cards to show. We wanted the experience to be intuitive and require minimal effort. Five seemed like a good balance. Having only a small number of cards ensures that the task switcher is predictable. Unlike other smartphones, this design also helps save you from having to babysit your apps, tracking which ones are running and manually closing them to conserve battery power. The phone does that work instead.
Of course, I know some people will probably wish there were more cards. As always, we’ll continue to monitor your reaction and reevaluate our design for future releases if needed.
We think getting around on a Windows Phone with Mango has never been easier and more fun. Working on these features has been tremendously rewarding for me. I hope that you’re as excited about what’s coming as I am.
Rachel Jiang, Program Manager, Windows Phone Engineering
“When will Windows Phone support my language?”
In some form, it’s a question I hear nearly every day. As a member of the phone’s international engineering team, it’s my job (and passion) to help make Windows Phone speak more languages and work in more places around the world.
Today I want to provide a big-picture overview of our language plans for Windows Phone in Mango—something that we haven’t detailed in one place before. We get a lot of questions, and I hope this helps clear up any uncertainty about what to expect this fall when Mango is released—now here come the lists!
How do you say Windows Phone in Greek?
One of the things I love about my job is that I get to work on so many different parts of the phone. Translating all the words you see on the screen—the user interface— is just one part of making a more cosmopolitan smartphone. It also requires a great on-screen keyboard, beautiful fonts that render text crisply on a small screen, and the expansion to new markets of key companion services like Marketplace and Xbox LIVE.
Although we still have a long way to go, Mango represents a sizeable step forward. At launch last year we supported 5 display languages: English (US and UK), French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
In Mango, we’re adding 17 more: Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian (Bokmål), Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish.
The Zune software will be available for the same set of languages.
I want to stress that you might not see all these display languages listed as options on your phone. The exact display options depend on your handset manufacturer and mobile operator.
Why doesn’t the phone just come with the entire set of display languages? For one, they take up a significant amount of space, leaving less room for music, pictures, and other content. Also, an operator may not be able to support a particular language. For example, an operator in Norway might not feel comfortable supporting a phone with Hungarian. That said, many phones likely will have multiple display languages installed.
Displaying some of these new languages required new phone fonts. Specifically, we’ve added 4 beautiful new fonts for the East Asian languages:
These fonts come with the display language, so they’re only available if that language is present on your device. In addition, Mango now includes the Segoe UI Symbol font, which includes emoticons (Emoji), the new Indian rupee currency sign, and other useful symbols.
Touch typing in Turkish
Moving from output to input, Mango also expands the set of languages you can type using the on-screen keyboard.
The 20 new keyboard options are: Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, and Ukrainian.
The keyboard languages shown in italics also support text prediction, which makes typing on your phone faster and easier. Even better, all these input languages are available on any Windows Phone, regardless of which display languages come with it.
The new East Asian keyboards—which were developed in Asia by the same team that creates them for Windows and Office—are especially neat. We’ll explore them in more detail in a future post.
A view of the Start screen in Finnish (left), one of the 17 new display languages coming in Mango for Windows Phone. We’ve also created new keyboards for typing in East Asian languages such as Japanese (right).
Buying apps and playing games
I know many of you also want to know about our global rollout plans for services like Marketplace and Xbox LIVE.
As we announced last month, starting this fall you’ll be able to buy apps from Windows Phone Marketplace in 35 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. (The specifics of how you buy an app and which apps are available in Marketplace do vary by country.)
This fall you’ll see a significant increase in the number of new countries where the Xbox LIVE service for Windows Phone is available. The Zune Marketplace for music, video, and podcasts is also expanding to more markets. We’re not quite ready to announce specifics just yet—expect to hear more later this summer.
Finally, we get many questions about specific phone features—especially ones related to searching and mapping— and where they’ll be available. Here’s a list of ones we hear about most:
While I hope you’ll agree that Mango is a step forward, I’m all too aware that there’s still much to do. Two areas we’re working hard to address in future releases are languages with complex scripts and extending services to more markets. Let me briefly explain.
Complex scripts are used to write languages such as Arabic and Hindi, where the displayed character depends on its neighbor (“contextual shaping”), and languages written right-to-left such as Hebrew and Urdu. Many of the controls used in Windows Phone require enhancement to properly display such scripts.
You’ll see the first fruit of this work in Mango: text messages will render properly in Arabic and Hebrew. Clever programmers can also create apps in some of these languages. But Internet Explorer Mobile, email, and the copy and paste feature can still become confused by complex scripts in Mango. The good news is we understand the problem and know what needs to be done.
Extending services such as Marketplace or Xbox LIVE to more markets, on the other hand, is a very different type of challenge—as much legal and organizational as it is technical. But we’re working hard to scale up our engineering effort from a couple dozen countries to the entire world.
I hope to write about both challenges, and how we’re addressing them, in future blog entries. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think.
John McConnell, Principal Program Manager, Windows Phone Engineering
Welcome to another installment of the Weekly Wrap, our look back at the week’s most fun and interesting Windows Phone news from around the web. Did I miss your favorite story? Share it in comments.
Welcome back, Foursquare!
The much-missed official Foursquare app has checked into Marketplace again, sporting a snazzy new look and some great new features in its 2.0 incarnation like recommended places, most explored, and check in history. (Read more on the Foursquare blog.) Foursquare, in case you haven’t heard, is a location-based social app that helps you discover new places to go and things to do around town. See where your friends are and what they like, while “checking in” to share your own travels, earning points and prizes along the way. Download it now
Engadget goes in-depth with Mango
As we mentioned, we recently gave reviewers some hands on time with an early version of Mango, our next Windows Phone release. Now the Engadget crew has posted one of the most detailed previews we’ve seen to date. If you really want to sink your teeth into Mango, check it out. “Overall, we've come away with a positive outlook on Windows Phone's newest iteration, and are very eager to see the finished result,” they conclude.
The Windows Phone apps everyone should have
Who can get enough of lists? I can’t. Luckily, there were two great ones this week. First PC World published their list of “essential” WP7 apps, which you should definitely check out. Then Gizmodo provided their take on the best of the best apps for Windows Phone. Curious what they picked—and whether you’re using them yet? Read on
Tips & tricks: Importing contacts, finding download history
I spotted two great tip posts this week. 1800PocketPC revealed where you can find a record of all the apps you’ve ever downloaded for your phone—handy of you ever need to reinstall something. See how they did it. WP Central, meanwhile, showed how to import Outlook contacts on your PC to a Windows Phone if you don't have an Exchange account or contacts stored in the cloud. Check it out
Office 365 and Windows Phone
This week Microsoft launched the much-anticipated new cloud-based version of its popular business productivity suite, dubbed Office 365. What you might not know is how nicely Windows Phone 7 works with it. This short video, excerpted from the Office 365 launch-day demo by the folks at WMPU, provides a nice overview. Take a peek.
Ford previews its Focus app
This is way cool: Ford is working on a Windows Phone companion app for its forthcoming Ford Focus Electric vehicle. Here’s a demo they gave this week to the crew at IntoMobile. The app—MyFord Mobile—can can locate your car, unlock your doors, and even pre-heat your car during the winter. It displays the amount of CO2 emissions you’ve prevented—and even has its own Xbox-style achievement system. And the phone used in the demo? A Focus, of course.
Amazon gets fresh with our phone
The online retailer launched a new app this week for it’s Seattle-only grocery delivery service, AmazonFresh, and the app is exclusive to Windows Phone. Yep, none of the other guys have it yet. The app lets you shop for groceries, schedule delivery times, and manage your account. Download it now
TV app avalanche
Four hot TV news apps hit the Marketplace during the week. NBC’s Nightly News app lets you watch full broadcasts of the evening news and share them on Facebook. The new Fox News app, meanwhile, showcases its popular stories and video clips. The MTV News app brings you the latest on pop-culture. And fear not citizens of the Colbert Nation: The Colbert Report’s The Word App streams the show’s popular “The Word” segments to your phone and has a Live Tile too. Which ones do you plan on downloading?
Our friends at Windows Phone UK just kicked off a new contest to celebrate the finale of our popular Must Have Games program and the arrival of Angry Birds in Marketplace this week. The prize: a new Windows Phone 7 and an Xbox 360 with Kinect. To win, review any of the six Must Have Games and post your write up on Facebook or your favorite blog. Entries will be judged on criteria including originality and humor. Hurry because the contest, which is open only to UK residents, ends on July 7. Check out the details