Maybe baking social features into a phone’s OS does not imply OS updates are required to incrementally improve that functionality after all. Windows Phone, which is well-known for providing a lot of social features natively as part of the OS, has seen some updates recently which may be small by themselves, but provide us a small hint of the possibilities of how we may get updates to the experience without needing updates to the OS.
First, we got news that the Windows Live service (now called Microsoft account), which powers the social features in Windows Phone, was updated so that the People Hub shows a person’s Twitter profile in the “notes” section of their information card. Previously, People Hub only included a Twitter contact but it looks like the Windows Phone engineering team extended the API to bring in the profile information into the contact card. As you can see in the screenshot below, I had populated “notes” section for Keith Dsouza in his contact information I have stored in my Hotmail Contacts. After this new feature was turned on, a notes entry for Twitter has been added which is his profile information from Twitter.
Separately, I noticed that in the Me tile notifications, if there was a picture attached, the notification previewed the picture. I was unable to confirm if this is in fact a brand new feature across the board or if it is enabled only for a certain set of photo sharing services, but as you will see in the screenshot below, images are being previewed now, which I don’t recollect seeing before. This is most likely limited to a certain number of photo-sharing services, but it is good to see this small update nevertheless.
Finally, over the past weekend, I noticed that I am getting a Me tile notification update even for retweets of my @ mentions. Let me explain: suppose someone replies to my tweet, and somebody else retweets (native twitter retweet, obviously) that person’s reply to me, I get an update on my Me tile. Unfortunately, the Me tile does not update for retweets of my tweets, it only updates when someone retweets my mentions or replies, but a good small step in the right direction. I have written before that getting a Me tile update for a native retweet of my tweets should be a supported feature. I got the following update over the weekend:
As you can see below, the original reply was on April 29th. I got the Me tile update notification only this past weekend, when someone happened to retweet Tim’s reply:
Another feature recently added was to enable a Facebook message to be sent via Messaging app to someone who is offline. This was another item on my wish list for 2012 and it turns out that it was enabled on the service side, thereby instantly benefitting everyone.
As I stated earlier, these are not killer features by themselves, but what I see are more significant is the ability and the inclination of the Windows Phone team to update the service which automatically benefits the entire user base. Combine that with the engineering decisions to link everything to Microsoft account using web services/APIs, and using that in Windows Phone (and Windows 8 too) may turn out to be a great benefit to this platform. Any time a new feature or functionality is added to Facebook, Twitter or any other service linked to the Microsoft account, it may be possible to make it available as a “native” service in Windows Phone and Windows 8 relatively quickly.
Have you seen these updates? Did you have some of this earlier? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.