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13 Most Compelling Features of Windows Phone Mango

Windows Phone Mango isn't really about catching up to Android or iOS, though the addition of multitasking is critical. Due in the fall, this major software update promises to make smartphones easier to use, with better social integration, more dynamic Live Tiles, and web search results that deliver more local info and connect to apps. There are 18,000 apps and counting.

Existing Windows Phone owners will get Mango as a free upgrade, which will require plugging into your PC. Existing partners like Nokia, Samsung, LG, and HTC will be launching 4G phones this fall, but Microsoft also announced new partners: Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE. Microsoft calls Mango a tipping point of opportunity, but what's the meat of this update? Take a look at the top new features in Mango, and don't forget to check out the monster-size gallery.

More Social: Mango uses people-centric approach, bringing together different methods of communications. Now includes updates from Twitter and Facebook. History includes not just calls but also messages.

Groups: With Mango can set up groups for specific groups of friends, such as buddies that live in New York. You'll see all of their social networking updates. Windows Live Messenger and Facebook chat is integrated so you can start group conversations. Typing experience includes word prediction, such as birthday after Happy. You can also pin a group to the home screen.

Threads: You'll be able to switch between between text messages, picture messaging, Facebook, and Windows Live Messenger in the same conversation. This reminds us of webOS, so we'll see how good the experience is.

E-mail Improvements: Instead of forcing you to lump all of your inboxes together, in Mango you can combine specific inboxes into groups like Work e-mail. There's also support for protected file attachments, which is a nice security feature.

Improved Voice Support: With Mango Built-in speech-to-text and text-to-speech, which allows writing messages and chat hands-free. In a demo we saw a Mango phone read back a message and then recognize a reply accurately.

People-centric pictures: When uploading photos to Facebook Mango has automatic face detection, making it easier to tag photos.

Enhanced Office: Office now hooks up to SharePoint for enterprise users and SkyDrive for consumers, which has free Internet storage. Also integrates with Office 365 You can highlight a number of cells and do auto sums in Excel.

New Xbox Live Hub: The live avatar is there with fun new animations. You can see who's online and what they're playing, as well compare gamer scores with your friends. What we didn't see are top-tier titles that you'll find in Apple's store. We're hopping the graphics capabilities of Windows Phone devices improve, because they're lagging right now.

Multitasking/Fast App Resume: By pressing and holding the back button in Mango, you can easily switch between multiple applications, which are presented in thumbnail view. Jumping back into an app is almost instantaneous. 

More Compelling Apps: Microsoft showed off a British Airways app to show off what developers can tap into. You can choose your seat seeing apps can choose your seat. A new features called App Shortcuts lets you go directly to thing you're interested in from the home screen, like a ticket from British Airways instead of the full-blown app.

Internet Explorer 9 and Bing: Mango offers desktop-class browsing experience with hardware acceleration. But the deep Bing integration is the big story here. If you search for a movie, can see movie times but if you click on the movie you. If you search for a restaurant you'll see reviews. This is called Quick Cards.

Local Scout: When you do local search you should see the neighborhood listed. If you tap on that you'll see more points of interest, nearby shopping, and more. You even get indoor maps of locations like malls. All of this is called Local Scout, which also includes events when you click on businesses like Madison Sqaure Garden.

Bing Vision: A new visual search feature lets you scan codes but also objects like books, which Mango recognizes and then links to apps where you can buy it. This feature is called App Connect, which will be persistent throughout web search results.

Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.