New features in Mango’s Music + Videos Hub

I was at my daughter’s softball game when I received an email alert (on my Windows Phone, naturally) that Microsoft had posted some new information about the Music + Videos hub in Windows Phone “Mango.” (This is my excuse for the lateness in posting this.) You may recall that Microsoft previously said at its Mango announcement—which I fully cover on the SuperSite—that it would subsequently divulge more information about this release over time. This is the first of those new revelations.

First, a note. One thing that Microsoft executives (which is sort of shocking) and Windows Phone users routinely get wrong is the way things are named on Windows Phone. For example, the Games hub is routinely described as the “Xbox hub” or the “Xbox LIVE hub.” Likewise, the Music + Videos hub is often called “Zune” or “the Zune hub.” So? Go look at the name of the post. It refers to the Music + Videos hub as … yep. Music + Video. No “s”. Sigh. Microsoft really needs to work on this. (Related pet peeve: Microsoft will refer to the Start screen as “Home” or the “Home screen.” Pick a name, guys.)

So. What’s new? This post includes information not found in Microsoft’s description of these feature.

On-device podcast support. This was supposed to make the cut in the original version of Windows Phone but it’s here now. If you’re in the United States, that is: In one of those all-too-familiar, dagger-in-the-back moves that the Windows Phone team is uniquely capable of, this feature, inexplicably, will not work outside of the US. Yes, seriously.

Podcast support shows up on the device in various ways. First, there’s a new Podcasts menu option in Marketplace, which includes Top, New, and Genre pivots.

mango_podcasts_01

Some notes from the post:

When you subscribe to a podcast series, you control how many episodes you want to keep and what order the episodes play back. To save your battery life, new podcasts are downloaded only if your phone is connected to a power supply.

Your existing subscriptions won’t be affected when you update to Mango. But you’ll now have the option of managing those subscriptions on your phone instead of your computer. (To make things as simple as possible, we don’t allow both the computer and phone to manage subscriptions.)

Smart DJ. This feature has been kicking around in Zune (both the devices and the PC software) for years, and it’s coming to Windows Phone now too. It’s basically Microsoft’s version of the Genius feature in iTunes, a way to dynamically generate a playlist on the fly using an album, artist, or song as a starting point. The big differentiator between Smart DJ and Genius, of course, comes if you have a Zune Pass subscription, because the generated playlist can include music from that service, too, not just your own locally stored music.

mango_podcasts_02

From the post:

We’ve sprinkled the Smart DJ feature all over the Music + Videos Hub: It’s available from artist cards, the music player, and every artist, album, and song in your collection via the tap-and-hold menu. Since we have a hunch that you’re really going to like Smart DJ mixes, we’ve add them to the History pivot and made them pinable [sic] to the Start screen, so you can quickly find favorite mixes again.

Marketplace search. If you’ve ever searched the Marketplace, you know it’s a mess, and while NoDo did include some improvements, Mango should answer the remaining complaints.

Now when you start typing in the Marketplace search box, you’ll see search terms appear. Search results are also now organized by content type (apps or games, music, or podcasts). We make it even simpler to find what you want by indicating exactly what each search result is—artist, album, song, or playlist, for example. Marketplace search is also context sensitive. Start a search from the podcast Marketplace and you’ll land right into the podcast results pivot. Same goes for music.

Marketplace will also add a Related pivot to artist search results, so you can find new music more easily.

Faster playback. A new Play button has been added to the bottom of the default Music + Videos hub pivot (“Zune”) so you can more quickly get to the point. The post suggests this is a moved “Shuffle All Music” control, but it’s hard to tell from the provided shot (in the current version, this button is on the left, near the top of the list):

mango_podcasts_03

Improved History and New.

These areas are designed to make it easier to find and play content. But usability studies taught us the horizontal layout and 8-item limit slowed people down. So in Mango, we’ve gone vertical— and added room for 25 items.

Mini-playback improvements. When you tap one of the volume hardware buttons on your phone, the mini-playback control appears as an overlay at the top of the screen (portrait mode only). According to Microsoft, customers were having trouble tapping the small buttons in the overlay, so they’ve been resized. Additionally, this overlay now provides more information about the currently playing track, including the artist name and what’s playing. And you can tap that information to launch the full music player and access additional options such as Shuffle and Repeat.

New Lock Screen capabilities. When audio is playing, playback controls will appear on the Lock Screen so you no longer have to remember to tap a volume button to access the mini playback control. Optionally, you can use imagery of the currently playing artist (as in Now Playing) as your wallpaper on the Lock Screen. (It’s optional because there is a battery life hit when this feature is enabled.)

Playback improvements. The Zune player has received a number of tweaks as well, including larger playback controls, better artist imagery, more playback information, a Repeat All/Repeat One toggle on the Repeat button, on-device playlist creation (including saving a Smart DJ playlist), an onscreen indicator when you’re streaming Zune Pass music (because that can impact battery life), a full-screen toggle for video playback, and video scrubbing capabilities for supported video types.

In these shots, you can see that the playback controls (Back, Play/Pause, and Next) have been moved from the bottom of the screen to the top, the Favorite, Shuffle, and Repeat buttons are now visible (in v1, you have to tap the album art to see them), and there’s a new Command Bar that reveals three new options (Play Smart DJ Mix, Share, and Save as Playlist) when tapped.

mango_podcasts_04

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21 Responses to New features in Mango’s Music + Videos Hub

  1. blkballoon925 says:

    “(To make things as simple as possible, we don’t allow both the computer and phone to manage subscriptions.)”
    Well, that’s disappointing. Does that mean if I choose to use my phone to manage subscriptions (and where is that setting?) that the Zune software can’t manage podcasts anymore?

    “When you tap one of the volume hardware buttons on your phone, the mini-playback control appears as an overlay at the top of the screen (portrait mode only)”
    So what happened to the landscape music controls? I really hope those aren’t gone. I used to use those while web browsing in landscape mode to skip tracks.

  2. ejlee2006 says:

    Ey Paul, I’m just curious…. Who is your source?? How come u are always late with breaking news?????

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      My source for what?

      • techESC says:

        Paul;

        His question is accurate and justified. I am also amazed that you did not keep us updated more regularly with the breaking news.

        So? Who won the softball game, what was the final score, and how well did your daughter do?

        If I don’t get some answers soon, I’m off to another blog like
        Daring Fireball where all the cool kids hang out.

        Ugh… did I just type that?

        I, for one, prefer the steady, fair, thorough and accurate Paul Thurrott over a “breaking news” gadget fanboy (girl) hack site that sucks up to get a crumb of (faulty) information.

        Like Sinofsky, when Paul reports he has it, he has it.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        I remain confused. :)

  3. sbussinger says:

    So still no announced support for highspeed audio playback (especially for podcasts)? I’d hoped after they announced TrickPlay for Silverlight 5 that it meant it would be added to WP7 as well. Looks like I’ll still be carrying around my old iPhone 3g as a second device for another year.

  4. vhaakmat says:

    The sad part of all this, is that these nice features (like podcast downloads) are only available in the US. The rest of the world, where at least 50% of WP phones are sold, don’t mean sh** to Microsoft. I hate the third-world treatment Microsoft gives the rest of us. And they wonder why they only sold 4M phones? What sense does it makes to buy a phone and you can’t install apps on it or get the full features this “smart for the US only” phone has. Honestly my last hope for this phone becoming a (worldwide) success is NOKIA. I kinda’ hope they come out with features available only for non-US customers. Maybe then you bloggers will help drive the point home to MS to change the way they treat non-US customers. I mean why make the phone available in my country, so that I can only make calls on this expensive brick.
    Sorry Paul, I had to let it out…

  5. dechah says:

    To say that I am grumpy with this announcement is an understatement. Locking out the entire world with the exception of the USA for built in Podcast support just sends a big FU to the bulk of their customers.

    No Zune Music Marketplace in Australia
    No Zune Pass
    No voice commands
    No Bing local search
    No Local Scout coming to Australia in Mango
    Now we hear that there will be no “inphone” podcast support built in coutesy of Mango, USA only.

    What a bone-headed thing to do to customers who reside outside the USA

  6. banodyne says:

    “It’s basically Microsoft’s version of the Genius feature in iTunes”

    Oww, that hurts! You know better than I that Smart DJ in Zune came out long before Genius in iTunes.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Many people are familiar with Genius. It was a comparison, not an indication of who implemented a particular feature first.

  7. danielsussex says:

    So it wont have podcast support if im in the UK and even if it did, i cant download a podcast on the move? erm…

    Oh well, i was almost convinced on WP’s virtues, but that puts it out of consideration for me. WebOS it is.

  8. gpsarakis says:

    So Paul, what’s the deal with the US only podcast support? There seems to be no damn reason for it at all. It’s not like we’re talking record label royalties or copyrights here, podcasts are free ffs. Can you try to get more info on this, more or less, stupid situation?

  9. I love my WP7 device, but increasingly I think Nokia made a mistake. Backing a platform which has a ton of features not available where Nokia sells the majority of it’s handsets (e.g. Not the US). And Microsoft seems determined to make the list of US only features longer instead of shorter.

    • besharp26 says:

      I think the point of the Nokia deal is so that Microsoft can leverage Nokia’s existing deals/platforms outside of the US to start providing these services to the rest of the world. In return, Nokia has greater input on how to develop the WP7 ecosystem and more latitude in differentiating itself from the other WP7 OEMs who can’t bring those things to the table.

      • Yes, I get that part, what I’m mostly referring to is the at times seemingly random limitations without any explanations of why. Why exactly is a feature like over the air podcasting US only. Why does Bing Audio only work in certain markets while Shazam works wold wide.

        It’s not just WP7, It’s almost every web product Microsoft makes, Why does the US version of Bing work and behave completely different then the rest of the worlds? While just setting your language to “United States – English” enables the features.

        Why does the xbox 360’s Last FM app only work in the US, while Last FM works world wide (or atleast outside of the US). I just wish they would atleast explain things. The list is rather large.

  10. Sheeds says:

    My Aussie editorial on Zune Pass, Zune features in WP7 and regional low priorty:

    Zune Pass Music and WP in Australia – or “I want my Zune Pass too” | Sheeds’ Blog http://bit.ly/ivmrWG

    C’mon MS – who is managing your record company contract negotiations in Aus, Steve Jobs?

  11. archieseb says:

    Podcast only in US: why? Is there a patent somewhere that they can’t do that worldwide.

    In the meantime, Apple is going to annonce iCloud with all the major players in the music industry.

    I won’t talk here that we cannot access the Microsoft Ad SDK in Canada.

  12. I’m seriously so sick of hearing that these features are ‘US only’. Why release the phones to other countries if you are not going to fully support them?

    I’m currently living in Australia, and the only ray of hope we have is that Zune Pass is ‘coming soon’. Something I very much doubt these days.

  13. Pingback: A closer look at Mango’s Games Hub | Windows Phone Secrets

  14. archieseb says:

    For the Zune Pass, I already read what Microsoft did not reach a deal in Canada. The canadian music industry wants a HUGE part of the profits so it is not worth it for Microsoft.

    Apple succeeded to reach a deal here, but probably with its magic tricks :(

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Buying and streaming music are two different things. I suspect that has something to do with it too.

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