After few failed attempts at trying to crack the social networking nut, search giant Google, last month unveiled Google+, their most ambitious project to date in their quest to go after the social networking giant, Facebook. The service received high praise from the tech community and they positioned it as a real threat to Facebook and twitter, citing reports of high audience engagement and rapid user base growth now reportedly approaching 20 million.
One of the new highly touted features in Google+ is Circles, a method by which users of the service organize all their contacts by default in circles. While it seemed like a great idea in theory, a lot of people are finding them not really practical in real life in that, our relationships are hardly static apart from family and a small set of close friends. Read this article here and here which show why trying to categorize contacts in neat little groups is impractical in real life. Mark Zuckerberg alluded to this when asked about what he thought about Circles during the Facebook video call unveiling. He said people rarely use lists on Facebook which are akin Circles. He said that more people preferred groups which are dynamically created by users.
This now brings us to Windows Phone Mango with the groups feature. With this new capability, I think Windows Phone Mango comes closest to Fred Wilsonâ€™s idea of a Micro social network (which based on the people on you phoneâ€™s address book) that he thought was the next evolution of the social network. The groups feature excels at this in my opinion. However, even though you can chat with the group or send a group SMS, Iâ€™m not sure though if you can post something just to that group on Facebook since as far as I know (I stand to be corrected), the groups on the phone do not sync with the groups or lists on Facebook when it comes to wall posts. I hope that gets fixed if it hasnâ€™t already.
Windows Phone 7 also excels at pulling in updates about your friends. As I wrote earlier, Windows Phone 7 turns your contacts into friends by pulling in their information from Facebook as opposed to Google turning your contacts into friends with Circles. Mango introduces Groups to club contacts.
I started the post with image sharing services and it is obvious with WP7, Microsoft has focused on image sharing. Right from the (now copied by Apple) quick-image taking to sharing these images and to see images shared by your friends, Windows Phone 7 does all this beautifully and natively. Similarly for text updates. Seamless switching between IM networks (Facebook, Live Messenger) and SMS to chat makes communicating continuous and fun.
Needless to say, Microsoftâ€™s strategy to aggregate social networks and make communication easier for users trumps efforts by competitors. A Google+ app for Android or iOS isnâ€™t the same as communicating with friends using Facebook natively on WP7.
Windows Phone 7 is a lot more social than iOS and Android, a capability that has received less credit than it should.
Facebook overhaul- Mango brings FB chat and it respects the list settings on FB, very important. Because I have annoying people that I have in my â€œNo talkingâ€ list and then I have â€œpotential prospectsâ€ list (potential prospect is always on for chatting, btw FYI) See, I donâ€™t need Google+. I am already using it to my advantage. You can see these people in your messaging â€œhubâ€ not app because it is doing more than one thing i.e. regular text message and internet messaging in one place. The coolest thing happens when your phone contact logs onto Facebook and the conversation is automatically switched to Facebook chat and likewise if he/she logs off, the conversation is turned to normal texting mode.
The â€œPeopleâ€ hub is also revamped. You can create groups now for family, close friends etc. and pin them to start, so you get their Facebook feeds, uploaded pictures, comments etc. and not the normal garbage of the other 1000 friends you donâ€™t care about. When you pin these groups, a really cool â€œtile-flipâ€ happens where you see tiles circle through their current profile picture, status and recently uploaded picture for all the people in that particular group. Up Yours Google+ with your circles.
The Me hub is also more important than ever. I can post status message. Check into the â€œrestricted placesâ€ and disclose my location to the world and set my IM status to invisible, available or away (IM status for FB, Windows Live and possibly Skypeâ€¦sorry no gtalk). The Me tile when pinned to the start flips through my profile picture, current status and new notification (yes new notification. I no longer have to keep checking my Facebook).
For all the social-centric and more specifically FACEBOOK users, Windows phone is the phone to get. No other phone comes close in terms of the Facebook integration.
I have read more articles whereby the authors say how much more they are using Facebook with the new groups feature and now with the functioning Twitter and Linked-in integration in the latest developer build, it will more than likely grow. As we users try to organize the ever growing number of people in our social networks, Windows Phone stands out as the best OS to manage our strong ties and weak ties. It facilitates a micro social network that is personal to us while still allowing us to engage in the overall/macro networks through the people hub or the individual apps.