New 'Mango' Windows Phone version integrates apps

The company said it will add 500 features with the update (see video below)

Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled many new features to its Windows Phone software but it left out a few that some people had hoped to see.

The company said it will add 500 features, many of them that integrate applications together, in an update called Mango. The update will be pushed out for free to existing Windows Phone 7 users later this year. It will also appear on new handset models from manufacturers like HTC and Samsung that already make WP7 devices as well as from Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE, which will make Windows Phones for the first time.

Microsoft also said that the first Windows Phones to come as part of its new partnership with Nokia will run Mango. "We already have Nokia phones running Mango in our labs," said Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's mobile communications group, during a webcast of an event in New York to unveil the new features.

During the event, executives focused mainly on the new capabilities in Mango that might appeal to consumers. One new feature integrates a number of communications services into a single thread, so a user can switch between text messaging, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation, for instance.

Facebook is integrated into the photos application so that when a user uploads a photo to Facebook, the phone scans faces in the photo and can automatically identify the person, making tagging easier.

Mango ties together different applications in other ways too. In one example, Derek Snyder, a product marketing manager for Microsoft, showed off a new feature called Quick Cards. When he searched for a movie, he clicked on "showtimes" which opened a Quick Card for the movie that included information such as a synopsis and reviews. In addition, the Quick Card listed applications on the phone that might be useful. Snyder clicked on the IMDB application, which automatically opened to the page in the online film database for the movie he had searched for.

"It blurs the line between apps and Internet search," he said.

In another example, he used a feature called Bing Vision that lets users scan images, QR codes and barcodes. Snyder scanned an image of a book, launching the Quick Card for it where he could read reviews and find it for sale online. The Quick Card also showed relevant apps including Amazon's shopping app and the Kindle app. Tapping the Kindle app took him directly to the Kindle store where he could download the book.

Mango also includes some updates to the live tiles, a feature unique to Windows Phone that lets users pin icons for applications on their home screens. With Mango, application developers have more options for feeding live information onto those tiles so that users can quickly see updates at a glance.

Snyder showed off a new application built by British Airways that takes advantage of the new features. The tile shows a user the status of their upcoming flight.

Microsoft unveiled some of the 500 updates that will come to Windows Phone later this year

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