Got Windows Phone 7.5? We'd like to hear about it

I'm not one of the lucky people who owns a Windows Phone handset, so I'm calling on those of you who do to help me out and your fellow Betanews readers. Today, Microsoft started rolling out Windows Phone 7.5 to most people using a WP smartphone. If that's you, "Mango" is coming soon, as an over-the-air update, if you don't already have it.

If you've got it, please share your first impressions about the software in comments. Or, better, contact me about writing a review. We love reader submissions. Last week, reader Joseph LoRe wrote a first-impressions review of the Epic 4G Touch, Sprint's variant of the Samsung Galaxy S II. Please email me if you're interested in reviewing Windows Phone 7.5: joe at betanews dot com.

Meanwhile, I must heap some well-deserved praise on Microsoft, for doing to Windows Phone what it did with Zune: Put existing customers first, rather than compelling them to get something new. It's very unlike Apple, which pushes customers to the next thing (often with nothing more than clever marketing or introduction of a few new capabilities not backwards compatible with existing hardware).

With Zune, Microsoft released new software that made existing hardware better, essentially rewarding existing customers for their loyalty. Today's update comes out ahead of the first wave of WP 7.5 smartphones going on sale, a big perk for existing customers. Watch to see how differently Apple manages next week's iPhone 5 unveiling.

This is about where some hardcore Apple fan starts writing in comments about how Microsoft's business is different -- it only sells software, whereas Apple primarily profits from the hardware. Bandersnatch! Microsoft sold Zune hardware -- and whoa did it need to sell more against iPod -- and still put the customer first with its software updates. As for Windows Phone handsets, Microsoft needs to see more sales of those, too. How else can it keep WP licensees, when Android is free and doing way, way better? Android's US smartphone OS share is 41.8 percent, compared to Windows Phone's 5.7 percent, according to comScore.

Microsoft shouldn't wait around for new phones to get to market to give loyal customers a taste of the future.

There's another reason to release now and not wait around for new handsets: Marketing. People pining over their seemingly new phones will infect friends and coworkers with their enthusiasm. Those buyers don't need to wait around for new hardware to get the new software.

Well, hell, I thought of one more thing. Next week, the Apple Fanclub of bloggers and journalists will fill the InterWebs with buzz, buzz, buzz (God, get my chainsaw!) about iPhone 5 and iOS 5. Windows Phone 7.5 is better coming out on this side of Apple's October 4th announcement than the other. Hence, there's a bunch of Mango reviews from gadget sites today. If you'd like to be a Betanews star with your WP 7.5 review, don't wait until next week. It will be lost in the iPhone 5 cyclone -- eh, iCyclone 5.

Brilliantly Played

Microsoft's approach to Windows Phone has been remarkably sensible and painstakingly strategic. The company has been playing a shrewd chess game against competitors, sacrificing pieces early on to gain winning position. It's a board strategy that requires patience and stamina -- resisting the temptation to capture pieces now when the long play of exhausting opponents and catching them cocky and unprepared is way of winning the game. From the Windows Phone distribution deal with Nokia to fundamentally different approach to using and marketing the devices, Microsoft is changing the rules of engagement.

The whole "glance and go" approach is sheer brilliance, and I'm convinced will pay off when married to Nokia hardware and its marketing approach. I'm still not buying IDC's Windows Phone forecast for 2015, but do see huge marketing and phone philosophy resonance between Microsoft and Nokia: The phone is a tool for living your life, not for consuming it.

Today's update, going out to all, is part of that phone-as-a-tool approach. Microsoft started the update process at 1 p.m. PDT. The numerical designation for this one is 7720. Some people will get the update fairly quickly, while others will have to wait as much as four weeks. Microsoft's Eric Hautala asks: "Who’s first?" And answers: "This is a simultaneous, coordinated, global update that cuts across carriers, phone models, and countries. This time, almost everybody is going first"

Why is Microsoft staggering the roll out? Hautala explains:

Delivering Windows Phone 7.5 simultaneously to so many phone models and carriers requires the right engineering balance. Speed is a priority -- but so is quality. We’re not just delivering our new operating system but also new software supplied by individual handset makers. This 'firmware' is necessary so your phone -- and apps -- work with all the features of Windows Phone 7.5. But it essentially means that we’re supplying not just one update, but many different ones, given the variety of Windows Phones and carriers out there to choose from.

The process also means, sadly for some existing Windows Phone owners, that they'll wait longer because there's still more work to do. AT&T subscribers are most likely affected. Microsoft has started the update process for WP smartphones on US carriers Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. But on AT&T, "delivery has begun for the HTC Surround, LG Quantum, and Samsung Focus v. 1.3", according to Microsoft. "The HTC HD7S is currently 'Scheduling', while the Samsung Focus v. 1.4 is 'Testing' and the Dell Venue Pro is in 'Planning'". HD7S users will wait longer, Focus users longer still and it's anyone's guess if Venue Pro users will ever get the update. Microsoft works with the phone OEMs, not controls them. Sorry if you're among these unfortunate AT&T WP users. The update process also has started for "all other operators" and for "open market" phones, Microsoft says.

You Don't Have to Wait

But, c`mon, you're a gadget geek. You don't want to wait hours, days, or (gasp) weeks for a bite into Mango. Well, well, WPCentral has you covered. Today the site posted instructions on how you can use Zune software to get WP 7.5 now. Paul Acevedo shares what is surely a common sentiment among WP users about the four-weeks to update everyone: "That’s practically a month. I don’t know about you, but my go-go lifestyle doesn’t allow for that kind of waiting".

Acevedo offers a 10-step process for forcing the update. Sorry, I won't cut and paste them here. He deserves your pageviews; I won't take them away. Obviously I can't test it, but WPCentral commenters confirm the shortcut works. (See, that's another way Microsoft rewards loyal Windows Phone users. What? You think Microsoft couldn't force the update to only be OTA? Those who tinker receive their bounty.)

WPCentral comments show loads of excitement for WP 7.5:

oasis1489: "I just may head out for a mango smoothie in celebration...especially since this update seems like its taking years to install. i guess 500 new features take their sweet time making their magical journey onto my HTC Trophy...Mango is now officially working on my HTC Trophy! And MAN it feels slick! Even the animations when scrolling through the alphabetical app list look awesome! Good luck everyone!"

jchapman01: "This worked great!! First time I checked for an update Zune told me it had the latest version. Then I checked again and immediately hit my WiFi switch and KABLAM!! UPDATE AVAILABLE! Thanks WPCENTRAL! USING HTC SURROUND on AT&T".

Not everyone is having such luck installing Mango, but surely persistence pays.

Okay, now that you've read this far, please follow WPCentral's instructions, install Windows Phone 7.5 and come back and post comments here or contact me about writing that review.

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