Windows Phone 7 – Live Tiles

Okay so the Live Tiles is a nice feature that was their from the onset and really helps with the premise of “Glance and Go”.  With the Mango update came an upgrade to Live Tiles.  A simple one, and maybe it is not Mango specific but I don’t recall it being a feature, is the Pictures Hub Tile.  In the past you could pick a picture to use as the background for the Pictures application and it did become the Live Tile image for the Pictures tile.  While using a picture as the background there is a feature for shuffling the background image.  Turning the shuffle background on, taps into the pictures you have added to your favorites.  The background image now cycles through the pictures in your favorites album.  The shuffling background goes right to the Pictures tile on the phone home screen.  While this might be a useless feature it is pretty cool and a nice demonstration of how live tiles can be used.

Maybe a more useful example then… I mentioned the Groups capability.  Create a group and then pin that group to your home screen.  The Live Tile again comes alive.  The tile will keep refreshing with the contacts photo (which comes from Facebook, Windows Live or the custom picture you may have assigned to the contact in your phonebook).  Additional information that the Live Tile presents is their activity stream posts (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) and if a member of the group has sent you an email it will indicate that as well.

Obvious other uses, at least ones that work well is the Weather Channel application (just wish it updated more frequently).  Maybe to save data usage (I don’t believe XBox on the phone connects to XBox in the background), but the XBox Live tile has some live-ness with it’s animation to occasionally show your XBox Avatar.  I just wish it would show online friends and/or game invites.  I remember back when Halo 2 was the must have game, if a friend invited you to play, you could be notified whether you were online or not via Windows Live Alerts.

I think as more apps get updated or developed for Mango the functionality of Live Tiles will expand but even in this stage it is a nice feature.

Example:  An app that I had looked at previously and found it lacking was recently updated.  One of the updates is the use of the Live Tile.  The app is Hockey Tracker which helps me track NHL scores.  The previous version worked but you had to access the app to see the information.  This version offers notifications for each goal and final score for the teams you select.  Where it is really aligning itself with glance and go is the newly added live tile interaction.  When you pin a team to your home screen, the live tile flashes with the score and the progression (time remaining) of the game.  Now if only Windows Phone provided a screen capture function so I could show how it works.

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