Thursday, September 29, 2011

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: People & Me

The "Me" tile was useless to me before Mango update. It had my picture and the word "Me". Clicking on it brought me to my personal information page. I had it for the first day after I bought the phone, but removed the tile the next day and never pinned it again until several days ago, after the Mango update.

The old "People" tile was basically like "Contacts", it stores all my contacts from Exchange/Outlook, Windows Live, GMail, Facebook, and other services that I included. The "What's New" area displayed all Facebook updates. So mainly, it does the basic stuff - and for me, since I don't usually connect my Facebook to my phone, my "What's New" is always empty, I also do not want to clutter my Contacts with my Facebook "friends", since there was no way to filter my Contacts before Mango.

So what does Mango bring to "Me" and "People" hub? A lot.

"Me" Tile
Mango brought Twitter & Windows Live chat integration. So in the "Me" tile, I can change my chat status ("offline", "online", "busy", etc) - without opening an App. One of the most important feature in the "Me" tile now is "post a message" - which is a "status update" for either Twitter or Live chat. Since I tweet a lot, this then becomes one of the most frequently used feature for me - again, without opening any app. It also allows me to "check in" - a Facebook check-in integration (I wish it was a Foursquare one). From it you can choose a location or add new ones, and then add comments.

The Live Tile itself now displays how many new notifications I have. These notifications are derived from mentions in Twitter, Live chat from people, Facebook posts on your wall/conversations and mentions. This is truly adhere to the "Glance & Go" concepts, where I can glance and see my notifications in one place, inside the "Me" tile - without the hassle of opening up each individual apps to see what's going on.

"What's New" now is filled with my Tweets or twitter posts, my Facebook posts, and Windows Live posts as well. This becomes like the "sent" folder of some kind. I don't find this that useful, although I can see some people may have more use for it.

"People" Hub
Now, "People" hub is much more than "Contacts". First of all, with the integration of Twitter, the Live Tile for "People" also displays avatars now. Same thing with people's Live Tile - it alternately display their avatar, Facebook photos, and their local avatar. Not only that the tile now also displays their latest status updates from Twitter or Facebook or Windows Live. It isn't just the place you look for a phone number or email, but much more - where you can find out what's going on with your friends via social network. This is pretty neat - I can view the status updates of the people I consider important (since I put them on my Home) without going into their "People" view or opening up an app! Truly in line with the "glance & go" motto!

Windows Phone integrates and try to sync your contacts from all the services that you allow it to connect - for me this is Twitter, GMail, Windows Live, and Exchange. If somehow it does not find the connection between accounts, you can link them yourself and integrate the people's card into one. In my case, out of a couple hundred contacts, I only have to do this for less than a dozen contacts, and Windows Phone has done the rest - IMPRESSIVE! But that feature is pre-existing from pre-Mango - the new feature in this case is now I can filter my contacts and only display selective contact source in the "People" hub. This is a major feature for me - as I don't want my "not-in-Exchange" Twitter and Facebook friends to show up in my "People" hub. But they are still searchable and link-able! Yeay - so they are not cluttering my "People" hub, but they are still there and I can still interact with them through my phone. This sounds simple, but in practice this is truly brilliant and score an extra user-friendliness point from me.

The "People" hub has its own "What's New", which shows status updates and posts from the people. But now, you can filter them, just like contacts. You can choose to show all, or just twitter, or just Windows Live, Facebook, or any combination thereof.

In Mango, you can also create "Groups" of people or contacts (like "family" or "soccer guys" or "co-workers" etc). These "groups" show up in the "People" hub, and you can send emails, SMS to the group at once. This is very nice and very intuitive - the group name shows up during the auto-complete when you are filling in the recipient list for your email or SMS. The "Group" hub also has its own Live Tiles for each members and has a "What's New" screen, which shows status updates and posts from the people in the group. Just like regular contact, you can also pin the group to the Home screen - which creates its own Live Tile. I feel that this is pretty well thought out and designed - and since mostly I interact with people in groups, this feature is a killer for me, which really is easy to setup and gives a uber-nice experience and a delight to use.

Inside a particular contact panorama page, now there is a "history" pivot page. This gives you a running historical list of your interactions with this contact - from emails, phones, and SMS. You can filter it to display only "yesterday" or "last week", etc.

There you go - is it perfect? No. I have my wish list:
1. The notification list in the Me tile also includes SMS and phones.
2. History in People should include my Twitter & Facebook interaction with the person.
3. Foursquare integration for check-ins.
4. Twitter multiple accounts support.

I would say in closing for this part of the review is that the updates to the "Me" and "People" hub are impressive. This makes using a Windows Phone such a joy, even without installing any apps. The concept of "glance & go" is brilliant, so I can spend my time not in opening & closing apps, but still able to take care what or who I consider important quickly.

My other WP Mango Reviews:
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Update Process
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Email & Calendar
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Search
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Update Process

Windows Phone update, codename Mango (version 7.5) just got released on Tuesday, September 27th 2011 - it was highly anticipated and showcased repeatedly by Microsoft via numerous medias. With 500 or so new features, the Mango update is the push to get WP platform to be on the same competitive level as iPhone and Android. So finally it's here and I have installed my update and this is my review for the update and I will make this a series of reviews (instead of combining into a single bog post), starting with the update process itself.

I was expecting it will be trickling slowly in US via carriers (like NoDo update) - mine would have been updated within 4-5 weeks after that date. But, it turns out that Microsoft really went above and beyond in making sure that the release process is unlike the NoDo update - I got my update right on that day and it seemed that everyone else was too. Overall the update process was smooth, although it was still via Zune instead of OTA.

Not only this is awesome compared to NoDo, but it is also awesome compared to Android updates. My HTC G2 just got updated to Gingerbread within the last 2 months and the Ice cream Sandwich update is going to be released within 2-3 months - so the lag is quite substantial.

All my apps and settings and data are all intact, and in fact the update process actually make a backup of my phone before executing the update, so in the case the update process fails or interrupted, it can restore the phone to the previous version. Once the update ran, all my apps that have not been updated to Mango were all working and everything is preserved. I need to no new device to experience the upgrade, my HTC HD7 runs just as smooth and awesome as before. The only thing that I will not be able to do with my HD7 is video-chat, since my phone does not have a front-facing camera.

This data and setting preservation is actually much better compared to the update process for iPhone. Going from iOS 3 to iOS 4 was a painful process, losing data and settings here and there. Most of the time, Apple requires you to get a new device to experience fully the new iOS functionality and performance.

For some of you who are still waiting, here is a trick you can use to force an update via Zune - check it out here.

My other WP Mango Reviews:
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: People & Me
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Email & Calendar
Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Review: Search
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