Multi-Tasking in Windows Phone Mango:
With the last update Windows Phone Mango, Windows Phone was told to have got the feature that users coming from Nokia Background never bothered to even care about; The Multi-Tasking but this is a lot different than we would have seen in Symbian or MeeGo or WebOS, which were been able to multi-task just like our Desktops. Yes! Mango got the multi-tasking but its something like we seen in Apple devices or even Android (more close to Apple model).
The point of manufacturers (other than Nokia, HP) behind such multi-tasking been the fact of limited resources in mobile devices, due to which those shouldn’t be allowed to run things the way Desktops do. Running too many apps is stated to be as bad for battery, RAM utilization etc and these arguments sure do have a point.
But the thing is, as Smartphones got enhanced hardware and came close to replace the desktops even for most of the time in one’s life, then one expect to use them for the uses that was earlier not intended to be done on phones. And not only complex requirements, but many a simple use cases might put a non-multi-tasking phone to shame on Smartphone definition.
Like think of the case, if you are typing a long SMS to friend and in meanwhile get a miss call from some annoying caller, would you like to loose all the characters that you would have typed in this while? Or think about a situation when you are driving with help of a navigation app and wanna call a friend for setting things up before you reach, only to know that you have lost route as was being shown on the phone a min back? Or you opened a Youtube video which is taking time in loading and you want to send a text to your friend in this meanwhile, will you like to loose all the data that might have been downloaded till the moment?
Obviously, no one can rule out the need of multi-tasking in any device that wants to be called as smart, but the next thing about Multi-tasking is the extent up to which it should be allowed, like Nokia where you can run as many apps as you want or there should be some limit or some other implementation? Microsoft chosen the path of Apple, where an Application saves its state before exiting and when you go back to the same app, then it can start the operation from the same place. Reminds you of Apple/Android na?
It might look odd to many but in case of Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 a.k.a Mango, the back button on the devices plays the roll for Multi-Tasking. Tap and hold on back button and you find many of the last ran apps standing there in card shaping waiting for you to tap on them. All these apps are those which are designed\developed to make use of Windows Phone Mango’s Multi-tasking feature (with time, number of such apps are increasing and you find many of the apps taking advantage of this feature).
So, while doing anything if you want to check out something else then you can safely hit the Windows Key, go the new apps, finish the work there and then press and hold the back key and come back to old app you were working upon earlier.
Now how it works technically? As per their MSDN post
In Windows Phone, the execution model is designed to provide end users with a fast, responsive experience at all times. To achieve this, Windows Phone allows only one application to run in the foreground at any given time. The operating system puts an application in a dormant state when it is no longer in the foreground. If the device memory available for the foreground application is insufficient for a good user experience, then the operating system will begin to terminate dormant applications, with the least recently used applications terminated first. A programming framework is provided for applications to manage their state as they are deactivated and reactivated. This helps to create a user experience in which applications appear to the user to maintain a single instance, even when they have been terminated and reactivated.
The execution model also provides users with a consistent navigation experience between applications. On Windows Phone, users navigate forward by launching applications from the installed applications list or from a Tile on Start in addition to other means, such as tapping on a toast notification associated with an application. Users can also navigate backwards, through the pages of a running application, or through the stack of previously running applications by using the hardware Back button. Windows Phone 7.5 adds the ability to switch to a previously running application by pressing and holding the hardware Back button.
Means no matter how the application got closed or terminated, it always saves its state so that you may start working from the same place next time, where you left it. This approach not only keeps the system resources free to provide a smooth user experience, also keeps the user free from worrying about the data loss part.
The users coming from Nokia background may not feel that much satisfied with the same multi-tasking experience but its nothing like non-reliable model or unusable kind of thing and as I have managed to shift from Symbian to Android in past, so can definitely assure you that its NOT gonna be nightmarish for you and works quite well in any kind of real life situations.