Windows Phone Tango: new features and limitations revealed

We’ve known for some time that Microsoft has been planning a further update to its Windows Phone operating system in the next couple of months, ahead of the more substantial overhaul that will arrive in the form of Windows Phone 8 later this year. But the exact composition of that interim update, known by its codename 'Tango', still isn’t completely clear.

Our understanding is that there are actually two ‘branches’ of Tango: the first is essentially a new variant of the Windows Phone operating system, designed to optimise the OS for entry-level devices with low-end specifications; the second is an update for existing Windows Phone 7.5 (‘Mango’) handsets, which will bring some minor improvements and additional features to current OS installations on mid-range and higher-end devices.

Lower-end handsets with 256MB of RAM, like the Nokia Lumia 610, will face some OS restrictions.

While Microsoft has worked hard to ensure that its OS works well on handsets with low-end specs, there have been some murmurings of ‘restrictions’ that would limit certain functions and features on devices with 256MB of RAM. At last month’s Mobile World Congress, where the first Tango handsets – the Nokia Lumia 610 and ZTE Orbit – were revealed, Microsoft downplayed this, but now LiveSide.net has dug out information from the official Windows Phone website, which confirms the nature of the restrictions imposed on handsets with 256MB of RAM:

App limitations: As Microsoft has acknowledged already, some processor-intensive apps won’t work with 256MB. The company previously suggested that up to 5% of apps currently available on the Marketplace will not work with this amount of RAM.

Fast-app switching: This feature will not work at all.

Local Scout: This feature will not work at all.

Video playback: Video compressed using some of the codecs that Windows Phone supports will not work (the affected codecs are not specified).

Podcasts and video podcasts: You won’t be able to manage podcast subscriptions or watch video podcasts on your phone.

SkyDrive automatic photo upload: This feature will not work at all.


But for owners of handsets with better specs, the news is a bit brighter, as the Tango update will bring a few handy features:

Improved media messaging: Attach multiple images, video files, voice notes and ring tones to text messages or instant messages.

Export and manage contacts to SIM card: Export contacts to a SIM card, and create/edit individual contacts on the SIM card (note: this feature is currently specified only on the Chinese version of the Windows Phone How-To site).

Location awareness icon: A new icon will appear on the status bar (see number 8 in image below) to highlight when an app is accessing your handset’s current location information.


Are the restrictions on lower-end handsets a lamentable sign of fragmentation in the Windows Phone ecosystem, or a sensible measure to expand the range of devices that can handle the OS? And are there any new features that you’d like to see on Tango, which aren’t listed above? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out some of the exciting new features coming to Windows Phone 8 later this year

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26 Comments

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For the market it is targeted to, neither feature will be missed. I know a couple of people that would likely be part of this market who never use fast-app switching, local scout or video, even after I made sure that they know the feature. Removing those features will allow these phones to continue running smoothly on those low specs, which is what it counts for this market.

I'm not sure, but I think MS is going to have two versions of Windows Phone OS going forward. Apollo based Win8 Kernel devices for high end devices (dual core, 720p screens, etc.) and a WinCE (the current architecture) based devices for the low end. Based on how things work with WP OS, apps can work on both platforms without having to be recoded. Its an interesting move that potentially will allow the freedom for high end devices to push the limits with MS pushing up the features and functionality of the OS without leaving the low end emerging markets without a vast majority of the apps. They could even upgrade the low end SW specs later on as higher end components get cheaper. Manufacturers could also make huge investments in mid to high end chipsets and know that they could push those features down to their low end devices in 3-5 years, thus giving the huge buying power for the long run if they know their devices will be popular (Nokia/HTC/Samsung).

We'll have to keep watch to see how this turns out.

TheCyberKnight said,
That's not so bad.
Fast app switching is mainly a power-user feature and you can expect that most of them actually own a capable device.

Agreed. I see that as the least important of the cuts honestly. No biggie at all.

Call forwarding has been on every phone since forever. It's what forwards calls to your voicemail if you don't answer or deny the call.

I'm guessing that option however will show up when you've used "Always Forward" so that way you have a constant reminder that your phone's calls are forwarded.

kravex said,
Be wary, it's usually expensive to do.

Good to know. I appreciate the heads up. Honestly, I don't really see the point personally, but maybe it's useful for other people I guess.

JamesWeb said,
Phone profile is set to bacon.

HAHAHA. I think that's vibrate, but now that you mention it, it does look like bacon.

Cool. You can finally attach multiple images, sounds, and video to text messages... I've been waiting for that for a while. Yay!

I don't expect people to get High Eng phones experience in low end phones just by paying 8K INR.

Pay more to enjoy more and I give kudos to MS for this

fast app switching is the only feature people will miss low end device

Edited by subcld, Mar 7 2012, 4:10pm :

There is no fragmentation.
There is only customization so that lower budget phones experience Windows Phone 7.5 the best way they can for a budget phone.
Customizations include leaving default Skydrive auto-upload off as those emerging markets care for their data and money. Videos of Nokia 610 show that there is actually no sacrifise.
You get the experience of a premium OS, without much money.

manosdoc said,
There is no fragmentation.
There is only customization so that lower budget phones experience Windows Phone 7.5 the best way they can for a budget phone.
Customizations include leaving default Skydrive auto-upload off as those emerging markets care for their data and money. Videos of Nokia 610 show that there is actually no sacrifise.
You get the experience of a premium OS, without much money.

Absolutely.

manosdoc said,
There is no fragmentation.
There is only customization so that lower budget phones experience Windows Phone 7.5 the best way they can for a budget phone.
Customizations include leaving default Skydrive auto-upload off as those emerging markets care for their data and money. Videos of Nokia 610 show that there is actually no sacrifise.
You get the experience of a premium OS, without much money.

Fragmentation to me is when a new OS comes out and 5 months later is installed on less than 1% of all phones, giving developers little to no incentive to use new APIs, and absolutely rule out building an app that requires them.

Or a real world example is that Chrome for Android is only for ICS which most people can't use.

dagamer34 said,

Fragmentation to me is when a new OS comes out and 5 months later is installed on less than 1% of all phones, giving developers little to no incentive to use new APIs, and absolutely rule out building an app that requires them.

Or a real world example is that Chrome for Android is only for ICS which most people can't use.

Agreed. Hopefully Microsoft will continue to push out updates, so no one has to worry about that...

FalseAgent said,
The only real sacrifice I see is fast-app switching and limited video playback, so it isn't that bad.

No, I agree. Especially for the market these lower end devices are targeted at... It's no big deal at all as far as I'm concerned...