Mango is great, but Windows Phone 7 still lacking features

by wp7geek on 19th April, 2011
   

Recently at the Mix11 event, Microsoft showed off its upcoming Mango update for Windows Phone 7. The update will open new possibilities for developers and end users will probably see better and smarter apps in the marketplace. There is no doubt here that Microsoft is definitely doing its job and improving the platform. However, I wish someone from the development team read this blog post and address these basic day to day features which are lacking and are a real inconvenience  to the end user.

Copy and Paste

NoDo must be one of the most hyped update I personally have experienced in the mobile industry. I can say that marketing has done an excellent job with it, but I feel that all this copy and paste hype just caused further disappointment especially when it is not what you expect it to be.

Microsoft for some reason has limited as to from where you can copy or to where you can paste. One main hindrance for me is I cannot paste a phone number in the dial screen. I mean if I get a business email, the phone is not smart enough to recognise the number in the email and underline it so I can dial it directly. I can although copy the number in its weird format and add it to Outlook contacts without any issues. Now I really don’t want to add a contact, I just want to make a simple phone call.

Here are some of real life examples of numbers in emails I get from people around the globe:

+C-XXX-XXX-XXXX (recognised by the phone, dials properly)
+C XXX XXX XXXX  (recognised by the phone, dials properly)
+CC XXX XXXXXXX (recognised by the phone, dials properly)
+CCC+XXXXXXXXX (does not recognise the country code, cannot dial properly)
C-XXX-XXX-XXXX (does not recognise the country code as there is no +, cannot dial properly)
+CC / XXX / XXX XX XX  (recognised by the phone, dials properly)
(+CC)  XXXX-XXXX (recognised by the phone, dials properly)
CCC (X) XXXXXXX (does not recognise the country code as there is no +, cannot dial properly)
+CC (X) X XX XX XX XX  (recognised by the phone, dials properly)

(C = country code; X = number)

As you can see some of them are in a format which the phone recognizes to dial a number directly and some are not. I really cannot go on emailing people to change their signature which my Windows Phone supports.

Second scenario, I am on a call, some one gives me a number, I note it down in notes on the phone and again I cannot paste that number in the dial screen to make a call.

Third scenario, I cannot paste the number copied from the IE browser.

I really don't understand how difficult it would have been to just allow copying and pasting text/numbers in all screens. The only solution for me is to have a paper and pen in hand and write the number down.

Tethering and Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

There was some debate before the launch of Windows Phone 7 as to if Microsoft would give control of tethering to carriers or just allow tethering by default. In the end I really don't know what happened since there was no tethering at all for the Windows Phone 7 platform. Tethering is basically pushing your internet on the phone to a laptop or pc or other mobile devices. You can tether via usb cable, Bluetooth or by Wi-Fi. Tethering to multiple devices at the same time is called a "mobile hot spot", where the phone acts like a Wi-Fi hotspot and multiple devices can connect to it using the internet data available on the phone. If your phone supports any Wi-Fi protocol, then it is no biggy to allow tethering. There is really no extra hardware requirement for tethering. Microsoft has blocked tethering on purpose and can enable it via a software update with out any hardware changes.

If you are travelling with a Windows Phone 7 you are expected to carry a separate data card or a separate phone to get your laptop connected. In many countries globally where Windows Phone 7 currently sells, the Wi-Fi coverage is really poor. Many of them have to rely on tethering when on the go.

I am really confused as to why neither tethering or a WiFi hotspot feature is not supported on the Windows Phone 7 platform.  Currently Android, iOS, BlackBerry and even Symbian supports tethering. Forget smartphones, my 10 year old Sony Ericsson T68i supports it.

UPDATE (September 1, 2011): HTC confirmed "Internet Sharing" in two new devices Radar and Titan, however current users will have to wait as that feature won't be rolled out in the initial mango update. More info here.

UPDATE (August 11, 2011): Confirmed WiFi or any tethering is not supported in Mango, it is not there is the beta 2 of the mango update. Mango has already gone rtm and carriers are currently testing it.

UPDATE (May 17th, 2011): Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango Update) would probably bring in WiFi Hotspot support by using Network Communication and Information Systems (NCIS) technology. No official confirmation yet.

Comprehensive search in Phone Contacts

Windows Phone 7 and the Office Hub is suppose to be an extension of my desktop experience. Though Microsoft has done a very good job with the Office Hub, it has missed out on certain basic things. There are limitations when you search for Outlook Contacts in the phone. I have my exchange account setup and the phone allows me to search my contacts only if I enter the first or last name.

On my PC, in Outlook, I can search any contact via any part of the first name, last name, company name, address, telephone  number, email address, etc. In other words any field of your Outlook contact. When I have these same contacts on my Windows Phone with all the details, why cannot I search with any field? Why limit to first and last name?

On the other hand if you use Outlook, try searching for an email. The email search is so comprehensive compared to contacts search. I have no issues with the email search. I can search any part of the from name, from email address, subject or even some matter inside the email. Thumbs up for the search function in Outlook Email, and thumbs down for the search function in Outlook Contacts.

UPDATE (September 30th, 2011): Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango Update) improves contact search by allowing you to search by Company name also in addition to first and last name. There are other system wide search changes. For more details check out Search improved with Mango, but still lacking in features.

PPTP / L2TP VPN not supported

Like many other enterprise smart phones this feature is not available with the Windows Phone 7 platform. So if an enterprise has a stringent security policy where a mobile user has to get authenticated by VPN the Windows phone 7 lags behind. In such scenarios the user will have no access to the corporate data or exchange. This would not be a problem for many but a pain for few! Currently Windows Phone 7 supports SSL VPN via  Unified Access Gateway when using an Exchange Server. Documents can be access only if you have a SharePoint server on your companies intranet. There were some rumors that VPN support would be added in an update, but there is no official word by Microsoft.

Conclusion

The bottom line is, the features mentioned above are really not big or require huge R&D. These small features do matter when you really use your mobile device on a day to day bases. As the phone is now a part of your personal and business life, these basic features go a long way in making things more convenient for you. I really hope Microsoft can address these lacking features and do something about it.

 

Do you wish you had these or any other basic features on your Windows Phone 7 device. Let us know in the comments below.


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