Incorporating the Zune music software into Windows Phone was an idea of genius. Not only is the Zune music and video player completely functional, but it’s also a work of art when compared with the options on iOS, Android and WebOS. On no other platform is the players functions and features as graphically pleasing and functional. Take the iOS feature Cover Flow for example. Cover Flow is a gorgeous-looking feature, but is it really functional at all? In the time where I used an iOS device, I can’t remember using Cover Flow for anything other than to show off a different way to browse through my album art. Apple has always stressed form over function and the chrome that litters iOS is a stark contrast to the chrome-less Metro UI. But I digress…
In Mango, the Zune music and video player has been updated in ways which make sense and as you use the player and hub, you’ll slowly realize that every change in function and feature was done so with purpose.
The playback controls for music have now been moved from below the album art to the top of the screen. This accomplishes consistency in that the playback controls that appear when the volume buttons are pressed also appear at the top, so whether your controlling playback from within the hub or on the lock screen or through the volume controls, they are always in the same place. You’ll also notice that the heart, shuffle and repeat icons have been moved out from under the album art to the right hand side of the album art for easier discovery. (
Switching between a list of songs by swiping the album cover from left to right is no longer an option in Mango) Update: I must have been drunk when I was reviewing this feature because swiping the album left and right does still move between songs in a list. Sorry for the confusion.
Perhaps the most important change in mango in the Music + Videos hub for me is the addition of Smart DJ. This feature allows users to create “on the fly” playlists based on the similarities of a song, genre or artist. You can simply select a song and long press to bring up a context menu and select the SmartDJ option and the device will scan your local music for similar types and create a playlist within seconds. If you have Zune Pass, the device will also select songs from the huge music catalog in the Marketplace at no extra cost.
The Music + Videos hub has also seen a refresh in the Mango update. The ‘History’ and ‘New’ sections of the music hub have changed from listing horizontally to listing vertically. This allows you to store more videos and albums on the hub page for easy access. The random play button has also seen a change. Many were and are unaware that pressing the Play button next to the Music option in the current Music + Videos hub will begin playing your entire music collection in a random fashion, so they’ve updated the hub in Mango to include the play button on a toolbar at the bottom. You may also note a throwback feature called “Related” which appears in the artists pivot screen. The feature finds related artists to the selected artist for better music discovery.
Videos have not been forgotten in this update. The video player now has a scrubbing control for moving around within a video as well as a full screen button for toggling that mode on or off.
Overall, the Music + Videos hub is better than before and continues the Metro look and feel of Windows Phone. The Zune player continues to be the best music and video player available on any platform and makes the Mango update just that much more important.