Due in September, Microsoft's (news, site) Windows Phone 7.1 update brings it firmly back into the smartphone race.

A Fruity Future?

With the NoDo update finally out of the way, offering cut-and-paste and other practicalities to Windows Phone 7 users, we can now concentrate on the first major update that will offer more functions and better features for Microsoft-powered mobiles.

Mango was unveiled to the press yesterday and offers around 500 new or updated features or components to kick the MIcrosoft mobile OS firmly up there with the likes of iOS and Android. Sure, it is easy to moan about why it took Microsoft so long, but look at how much work it took Apple to get cut-and-paste and multitasking. The point is, Microsoft is catching up fast.


Flesh Out the Features

On the broader scale, the Windows Phone 7 update will feature a number of new languages, allowing the phone to sell in more territories. Microsoft's big unique feature, the tiles, will get a makeover and be able to offer more information to users.

But Microsoft's big sell is in unified communications by making it easier for users to get in touch and share their information. Mango helps in this respect by concentrating on the person you want to get in touch with rather than the barrage of different apps and ways of sharing information. So users can switch between text messaging, Facebook chat and other services, all within the same conversation, depending on what the users are doing.

Integrated messaging combines your social sources

Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now integrated into your contact cards, and the Mango update includes integrated Facebook check-ins and new face detection software that makes it easier to tag photos and post to the Web. Multiple email accounts can be tied into one inbox, helping streamline your mail.

Also Starring...

Hands-free messaging is another feature with voice-to-text and text-to-voice support for hands-free texting or chatting. Apps have undergone some work to make them more useful, including appearing when needed by certain data or information, so music files will launch the music player and so on.

Multitasking will help the phone compete as a big must-have feature while Internet Explorer 9 will improve the mobile browsing experience, and offer hardware acceleration.

Finally, there are some features that could be really big in the future. For example, Local Scout will offer search results limited to your area, while Bing will allow search using photos, music or your voice.

As Microsoft and Nokia plan their future phones together, this update will help prepare the way and it looks like Nokia's first phone will be running this version (with versions already in the labs). Then, the fun will really start.