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.
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.
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):
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.