Watch Out Apple, Google: Windows Phone's Next Big Update Is An Absolute Home Run

mango title imageWindows Phone Mango is incredibly beautiful

Photo: Ellis Hamburger

Windows Phone is getting a giant update coming this fall called “Mango.”We can’t wait.

Mango has some truly inspired features that integrate social networks into every aspect of the phone, as well as many others.

We got our hands on the beta version of Mango a bit early, and we’re going to prove that Windows Phone isn’t dead.

Windows Phone Mango is gorgeous--a breath of fresh air.

The home screen doesn't look much different from before, but wait until you see what's underneath. People Hub is first.

Hold the back button (bottom left) to activate multitasking. Swiping between apps is quick and very fluid.

Mango plugs into Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There's my most recent tweet. If you tap yourself, you can see your notifications and post status updates.

Native status updates are huge. Pick and choose which social networks you want to update.

The Notification screens brings in information from all the social networks you have plugged in.

Choose which social networks you want to see updates from.

Tap a tweet to retweet or reply to it. It all works flawlessly.

In this view, you can only see LinkedIn updates.

There's also native support for posting comments to LinkedIn, as well as Facebook.

Mango has built in support for real-time Facebook chatting, even inside your SMS texting window.

In mid text conversation, you can switch to Facebook chatting within the same thread.

Groups is an innovative new feature that lets you communicate and keep track of specific people.

Once your group is complete, you can pin the group to your home screen. Send a text or email to everyone in that group effortlessly.

Within your friend group, there's a news feed that only contains updates from those people.

You can also swipe to view photos of only people in your friend group.

Voice activated actions work great.

Speak a message, and the phone converts it to text.

Internet Explorer 9 is a new Mango feature, and is blazingly fast.

Bing Vision looks a whole lot cooler than Google Goggles. It works almost instantaneously.

One cool new feature is called App Shortcuts. Do a web search, and any relevant apps will pop up. If you search for a specific movie, there will be a link straight into the IMDB app.

Another innovation--instead of scrolling through contacts or searching, you can tap the # sign in the contacts list to pick by letter.

Bing Maps looks great, and can even show maps of indoor malls so you can find the store you're looking for.

Voice activated searching is quite accurate.

It heard us correctly on the first try.

Search pops up with tons of information, all formatted for your phone.

Search for a neighbourhood in your city and Mango's new Local Scout feature is there to help you. Here are places to shop.

Local Scout also has built in reviews for restaurants, bars, etc. Most importantly, it all looks really sleek.

Here are places in the neighbourhood you selected to eat and drink.

Here's some stuff to see and do in the neighbourhood you selected.

Office is excellent on Mango. There's integration with the brand new Office 365 and Microsoft's cloud service SkyDrive.

OK, so what's missing?

One word: apps.

Windows Phone Mango is a stellar platform that integrates social features far better than Android or iPhone (even in iOS 5), but can't really succeed until developers get on board and build apps for it.

Most importantly, Mango looks fresh and focuses on people. It's the only mobile operating system besides WebOS to put such a tremendous emphasis on communicating with others, which is what phones are for, right?

Windows Phone has finally caught up to the big boys.

Oh, and Microsoft--for Pete's sake let us take screenshots on the thing. Also, convince the nation's largest carrier to sell more Windows Phones.

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