The Marketplace has gotten a few tweaks since we last saw it. It’s organized into four main sections –applications, games, music and the Samsung Zone. A fifth section called Updates shows up when one of your installed apps has received an update – there's an Update all button, which will save you the hassle of updating each app individually.
The Music section is actually the Zune Marketplace. Its structure is similar to the Application section. First, there is a featured artist of the week, three more featured artists, a list of new releases, and top albums and genres.
Microsoft is working really hard to increase the number of apps available in the Marketplace. The software giant has been quite successful in courting the most successful developers within its rival OS ecosystems and, currently, the most popular apps for Android and iOS can also be found available for Windows Phone as well.
Maps is a core part of the Windows Phone experience and with the Mango update, it gives you driving (and pedestrian) navigation for free.
Now, it's not quite voice-guided navigation. Here's how it works: first you set up a route and listen to the first instruction, then, when it's time for the next instruction, the phone will beep and highlight it. If you tap it, the phone will read it out to you, but only then.
The Maps app uses a big font with white letters on black background that make reading easy. It still requires you to take your eyes off the road though, so it won't put SatNav apps out of business.
But it can come handy (especially if you've got a co-pilot) and, until Nokia joins the Windows Phone team, it's the best that the newest OS from Redmond can offer (oddly, WP6.5 had voice-guided navigation in the States).
Real-time traffic information is also available.
The app will also locate nearby points of interest with the new feature called Local Scout, and it will even show you indoor maps of malls.
Local Scout has a tabbed interface to sort the various points of interest - eat+drink, see+do, shop and highlights. You can pick items from the "I care about" list to get the relevant options only.
Xbox Live is at the heart of the Games hub. It carries over many features from the Xbox – from your avatar to your scores and achievements. The Spotlight feature is available too (it shows info on new stuff) and also Requests – which shows you game invites from your friends.
The “Xbox Live” branded games, are usually the premium offerings for Windows Phone. In the same fashion as the apps, the most popular titles available on the rival OS platforms can be found here as well. The only unpleasant surprise here, is the high price for the games, compared with the same ones on iOS and Android.
Before wrapping up the review, we must give Microsoft a wave of standing ovations for enabling you to remove the proprietary AT&T apps on the Samsung Focus Flash at your will. This enables you to have a stock looking Windows Phone UI, as well as saves you much needed space on the device.