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Five Unique Features that Set 'Mango' Apart

Microsoft is a bit player in smartphones, but with Mango the Windows Phone platform is ready to go up against Android and iOS

With the attention on Apple this week and the unveiling of the iPhone 5...I mean iPhone 4S, it is easy to forget about other mobile devices. But, Microsoft is pushing out "Mango" to current Windows Phone 7 users, and new Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" devices will be hitting shelves soon as well--probably about the same time that the iPhone 4S officially launches.

Microsoft has taken a unique approach to developing the Windows Phone platform, but until now the OS was still missing many crucial features. With "Mango", Windows Phone has matured, and now Microsoft is ready to go head to head against iOS and Android.

Here are five key features of "Mango" that make it worth taking a closer look before you upgrade your iPhone 4 to an iPhone 4S, or jump ship to get an Android device like the Samsung Galaxy S II:

1. Office HubWith other mobile devices you have to find apps for things like working with Microsoft Word docs, or accessing data stored online. The "Mango" Office Hub integrates the actual Office Mobile apps--including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and connects seamlessly with your data stored on Microsoft's SkyDrive, or on a SharePoint Server team site. 2. People HubThe People Hub makes it easier to keep informed of what's going on with your contacts, and to communicate with them. You can connect to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and follow the updates from all accounts in one stream under the "What's New" tab. Tapping on an individual contact lets you see just the social network updates from that individual, view the pictures they have shared, and review your own history of communications with that person. Under the contact's "Profile" tab, you can tap to call, text, email, or post to Facebook or other social networks. You can also tap to display a map to the person's location and get directions if need be.3. Me TileThe Me Tile is a Live Tile on the Windows Phone start screen that works a little like the People Hub, but focused only on you. The main Me Tile "Profile" tab lets you post a message to one or more social networks just by checking the boxes of the ones you want to display the message on. You can also check-in at locations, and set your chat status from the "Profile" tab. The "Notifications" tab lets you keep up with Likes, comments, messages, and other details from your social networks, and the "What's New" tab gives you an overview of your own most recent posts and status updates.

4. Message Threads"Mango" lets you continue a conversation across devices and platforms, and lets you use the method of communication that makes the most sense in the moment. The Threads feature in the Messaging app lets you switch on the fly from text messaging to Facebook messaging, to Windows Live IMs. It is a handy feature if you are IMing with somebody on Windows Live, but then they have to leave. You can continue the chat via text messaging without missing a beat5. Voice CommandsThis feature isn't as unique as the rest. Android has Voice Actions, and the iPhone has its own voice command functionality as well. With the upcoming iPhone 4S Apple is raising that bar a tad with the more intelligently conversational Siri personal assistant. That said--the voice commands and level of voice interaction in "Mango" are quite impressive. Just hold down the Windows logo "Start" button on your "Mango" smartphone, or the button on your Bluetooth earpiece, and you can speak to the device to place a call, start a text message, or open an app. You can also use your voice to conduct Web searches.

There are pros and cons to the various mobile platforms, and smartphones. Choosing one is largely a matter of subjective, personal opinion. But, with the changes Microsoft has rolled into Windows Phone with the "Mango" update, you should at least consider "Mango" when checking out new devices or considering a switch to a different mobile OS.

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