While Windows Phone Tango has been talked about for a long time, Microsoft hasn’t said much officially. Late yesterday, amid all the news of Surface and Surface Pro, Microsoft released the official change list.
The largest new feature? The ability to import SIM card contacts into the Contact list directly on the device.
Why is a 1990s feature the biggest item on the list? Because Windows Phone Tango was never meant to add features to existing devices.
Windows Phone Tango’s primary change, is the ability to support lower-end devices. The Nokia Lumia 610 is the first example of the target audience for Tango, as Windows Phone still struggles in many target markets.
The Lumia 610 hasn’t reached the United States, but that may change soon. The two main target audiences for Tango in the United States are prepaid and no-contract markets. This ranges from Straight Talk and Simple Mobile on the GSM side, to Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile on the CDMA side.
Windows Phone Tango allows Windows Phone 7.5 to operate with only 256 MB of RAM. However, many applications will need to be re-tuned to handle the lower RAM threshold.
The lack of significant improvements, beyond bug fixes, is a good indication of why Microsoft has released hardware manufacturers from the requirement to upgrade Windows Phone 7 series devices to future versions. Microsoft had made all prior firmware releases compulsory, and the move helped homogenize a developing platform. By ensuring all devices would be upgraded to Windows Phone 7.5, developers faced less testing burdens.
The requirement also allowed Microsoft to focus more on improving features like the Windows Phone Marketplace. Microsoft recently halted app sales for all Windows Phone versions prior to 7.5. Going forward, Microsoft (and developers) will have to support multiple versions of Windows Phone 7.
The next major version of Windows Phone, code-named Apollo, is nearing announcement. Current signs point to Microsoft making one more major upgrade to the Windows Phone 7 series, before switching next year to a new generation of Windows Phone, powered by the Windows 8/RT kernel.