Windows Phone Mango RTM: What is still missing?
By on July 28th, 2011

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Today came the exciting and unexpected news of Windows Phone Mango’s Release To Manufacturing (RTM). The Windows Phone team has completed the release and handed it to mobile operators and handset makers to start testing the latest update to Microsoft’s mobile operating system reboot.

Windows Phone Mango has several hundred new features which have been covered at various places across the web, including some of the v1 annoyances it has resolved for me personally. Here I want to make a few comments on what still remains to be added. Granted, these are smaller in some ways than the gap that Mango closed, it is still worth talking about what Windows Phone lacks in terms of features and functionality already available in (or announced for) iOS and/or Android.

  1. VPN functionality: Windows Phone still does not support connecting to a Virtual Private Network (VPN), typically used to connect devices to corporate networks from outside the company. iOS offers native VPN support as well as support for VPN client apps.
  2. At-rest encryption: Encryption of the storage on the device is a huge issue for corporate IT departments in being able to support a mobile device. As smartphones get more and more capable of performing computer-like tasks, and as they start storing more and more company data, they also become a huge liability in case the phones get lost or stolen. At-rest encryption protects the data on the device in such cases. Microsoft has said that the isolated storage on the device is only available to the specific app and that is how they quasi-protect the data, but I don’t think IT departments think that is enough. iOS for example, has encryption built into newer devices since iOS4.
  3. Complete backup/restore: As part of the recent NoDo update, Windows Phone introduced phone backup, but it is crippled in that only Zune desktop can execute it, and it cannot really be triggered manually (on demand). iOS (iTunes) on the other hand, does provide a way to backup and restore on demand.
  4. Multiple Windows Live ID’s per phone: Windows Phone links the device to a Windows Live ID which you enter during setup. This is the ID used to connect to the Marketplace for purchasing apps and other content, but more importantly, it is also the ID used to access other in-built platform services like Zune Pass music subscription and Windows Live-connected services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and obviously, Windows Live Messenger and Facebook chat. What if I want to share my purchased apps with my wife but we want to have our own Windows Live-connected services on our phones? It is impossible today without sharing a Live ID, but SkyDrive, IM, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are services which don’t translate well with a shared Live ID. On the other hand, iOS/iTunes allows you to use a different ID to purchase apps/content from the store, than from the one you associate with the device. So I envision that in Windows Phone you still enter a Windows Live ID at setup, which will tie the ID to all your platform services like SkyDrive, IM, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but when it comes time to purchase apps or content, you can choose which ID to use. 
  5. DLNA, Play To: When Windows Phone launched, DLNA capability was used by LG as a differentiator for their phones. Now that the initial launch dust has settled, it is about time Windows Phone included DLNA/Play To feature across the OS. This will be a good response to AirPlay which is one of the few really magical technologies that have come out of Apple. If I could beam my recently captured photos/videos from my Windows Phone to the TV via the XBOX or a TV-connected Windows 7 PC, it would be awesome. 
  6. [Updated 7/29/2011] Voice commands for Music/Zune: How could I miss this one? One feature that seems to be missing from Mango is the ability to use the excellent voice commands for Music playback (including of course podcasts), including controls like pause, play, stop and skip. I hope at least this one is a surprise feature in RTM which we have not seen in the beta builds.

Do you have anything else you would add to this list? Let me know!

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Author: Romit Mehta Google Profile for Romit Mehta
Romit writes about mobile news and gadgets, and is currently a Windows Phone owner (Nokia Lumia 920). Find him on twitter @TheRomit. Personal site is http://romitmehta.com.

Romit Mehta has written and can be contacted at romit@techie-buzz.com.
  • MW

    Tethering.

  • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

    MW: May be an important feature, but it is not important to me. I don’t see the need for it, and without 4G, I don’t really see the use for it either. It may be because I hardly travel, but in my use cases, it is not that critical.

    • jasonk

      Tethering is absolutely #1 on my list, I cannot believe it is still not in Mango. I had it on my iPhone 3GS.

      You’re telling me I have a brand new device on the latest software semi-targeting the corporate environment (?) and it can’t do a network connection? Bizarre.

      • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

        Umm, tethering _is_ included in Mango. It is not available in the build that has been generally made available so far, but it has been demo-ed at the HTC Windows Phone event last week. Of course, it is dependent upon carriers who may choose not to not even enable it.

  • Sid

    VOIP along with SIP for making calls over the internet. Big up for corporates as well. ;)

    • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

      Sid, I am not sure about SIP but I know that Skype is going to be coming to Windows Phone (app was announced at MIX ’11, pre-Microsoft acquisition), so I know VoIP is coming in some form.

      • Sid

        Romit, I reckon an app is a good idea but I like the old school ways of MS. They integrate everything into the OS directly…at least the most essentials. I understand they have SIP socket programming already in place but is locked – few reported on the glimpses of their ROM.
        Much like the threads feature in 7.5, SIP feature to make calls from the contact list anywhere in the world would be well cool.
        In fact, I vouch for the fact that GSM / CDMA and other primitive telecom protocols should be made redundant and VOIP the primary way of communicating…of course that time is still quite far off! :(

        Oh! I like your article though…

        • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

          They are going in the direction of integrating everything in the OS (notably, in Mango, we see Facebook check in, chat, etc. all made part of the OS/platform).

          Also, in a recent interview, a Skype exec was on the record saying Skype for Windows Phone could be done in a way that no other platform could be. This tells me that the app is transitionary and at some point it will be just like facebook chat is, another service on the platform.

          Thanks for the compliments!

  • Dan

    and let’s not forget the more important things that REALLY matter for the average majority:
    1. USB connectivity and mass storage function (Zune is crippling, iOS to a significant extent also. Must one use a client to transfer files when copy and pasting is as simple as 1,2,3)
    2. Bluetooth FTP (do i need to wait for network or wifi availability to share photos, business cards, and other small files?)
    3. Memory expansion (microSD) Even 32GB may not be enough for some.

    iOS and WP7 are crippled. The dependence on Zune and iTunes forces the paradigm that one should have a computer terminal to maximize use and content exchange. So much for being a converged device.

    This is where Android, and the other ‘uncool’ OSes like Symbian, Bada shines. Too bad they don’t lack third party communities as rich as iOS.

    • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

      Dan,

      IMHO, USB mass storage mode, even though it may be useful to a small set of power users, is not something that most people (including me) miss. As long as the interface software (Zune, iTunes, WP7 Connector on the Mac) is able to seamlessly sync/transfer, I am fine.
      Bluetooth FTP is again, a desirable feature which is not applicable to non-enthusiasts. If wireless sync is available over wifi, why would you need bluetooth?
      Memory expansion is a hard one. I would like to bump up my storage (and I have, on my Focus) but I don’t want to make a decision every time I install something, about where I want to install. Android users are faced with such a choice. I’d rather have fixed storage, which is somehow guaranteed to “just work” by OEMs.

      I am not sure what you mean by Zune/iTunes crippling the phones. Both support untethered operation and it is only a matter of time before we see even more disconnection from the PC.

      • http://www.musigmaphi.com Dan

        Remember that your article/editorial is about the things still missing in Mango. I just pointed them out. It’s irrelevant whether these features are for enthusiasts or non-enthusiasts.

        I think it’s the versatility, the list of options that you can do with a device which Mango STILL lacks. Remember that WM 6.x devices, despite having the archaic UI and inconsistent performance had these.

        Sure, wireless sync over wifi is good but it’s not universally available.

        I’m not saying that wireless sync, for example, should be replaced… But a lot of people would agree that it also needs to have native USB tethering for mass storage/sync and not just for diagnostics and without the need for a hack.

        In my case, I usually use my phone with its 12MP cam and Xenon to photograph post and pre-op photos, surgical specimens, and occasions of course. The only way I can upload that to our terminal is via USB connection. Should I update our institution’s infrastructure to accomodate the deficiencies of the phone?

        Another scenario: suppose I friend of mined showed a downloaded movie which I also happen to like. I can usually copy that just using USB. But he doesn’t have Zune, should I install Zune, register, etc. so I could copy the movie.

        You get my point. WP is good but and it would even get better but its not there yet.

        Again, I just pointed out the things still missing in Mango. I can forgive VPN, DLNA, voice commands. These are the things that matter in my use case.

        • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

          Dan,

          A couple of points you mentioned seem to be something specific to certain use cases. WP7 already allows upload to Skydrive, Facebook and Twitter (for pics) and Skydrive and Facebook for videos. Rather than share it via a PC, why not share it via the cloud? Can USB tethering for file transfer (or bluetooth, for that matter) help? Yes. Is it top 5? No. Not to me.

          WiFi is not universal, but if you want to make the case for “a friend’s PC”, I can make the case there may not be a PC at all. What then? Cloud is the savior, isn’t it?

          Getting stuff on and off the phone is definitely a less used scenario than trying to play a video or seeing a slideshow on your TV, or taking your phone to your workplace and being unable to do anything on the corporate wifi network. Voice commands are getting better and better and now that I have played with Mango for a bit, I can say that being able to play and stop music/podcasts in the car by voice is far more important to me than the “inconvenience” caused by having to use Zune on my PC’s.

          You make great points though. If I were creating a longer list, USB mass storage would definitely be on top of that second list. In fact, one of my annoyances with Zune is that it does not let you manage your apps like iTunes does. I wish I could add and remove and re-arrange apps from the desktop rather than doing it all on the phone. Hopefully v5 will get there.

  • http://msmvps.com/blogs/alunj Alun Jones

    At-rest encryption is achieved through hardware – the Micro-SD card on your device is encrypted and cannot work in any other Micro-SD reader without formatting.

    • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

      Alun,

      Wait, so you are saying the base storage is encrypted at the hardware level? Or only the additional storage that I may add? If the base is, then it is news to me, and that is something not explicitly clarified/denied by Microsoft.

  • Tyler

    Here are my top 5 missing features after Mango:

    1. Hardware encryption
    2. VPN
    3. Device-wide (universal) search
    4. Video over MMS
    5. Ability to pin everything (settings, XBL icons, etc.) to start

    I haven’t seen any news on forthcoming updates past Mango but would imagine the WP7 team is tied up with WP8 development. I really hope something gets released before the next build because frankly these are glaring omissions.

    • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

      Tyler,

      I understand your missing features, but I am afraid this will not come until the next major rev, so we are looking at Fall 2012. I do agree, these points should be covered sooner, and I hope they get updates mid-year, but I would not hold my breath.

      There are also things like multi-selecting Pictures from the albums, which is not possible today :-(

 
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