If you purchased the Nokia Lumia 900 and live in the US or Canada, you’re going to want to plug it into your PC and install a series of updates that brings this hero phone up to speed with the latest from both Microsoft and Nokia. It’s a slightly painful and lengthy process, but well worth doing.

As a reminder, you can check for updates by plugging your handset into a PC that has the Zune PC software. Generally speaking, it’s best that you do this on a PC for which you have a non-guest sync relationship. That’s because it’s possible that an update could fail and if you’re syncing as guest, you could lose some data.

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What I discovered in installing these updates is that there are three of them: 8773, 8779, and what’s called NOKIA Update for Windows Phone. The first two come from Microsoft, of course, and the third and final update is specific to the Lumia 900 (and varies from country to country).

So what are 8773 and 8779? If you look at Microsoft’s support page for Windows Phone software updates, you’ll see that 8773 (previously codenamed “Tango”) adds the following new features:

Messaging. Now you can attach multiple pictures, videos, audio notes, and ringtones to text messages, instead of just single items.

SIM card-based contacts improvements. You can now export contacts to a SIM card; previously, you could only import from a SIM card. And you can selectively import contacts from a SIM card, instead of just bulk importing the entire contacts list.

Other quality improvements. “Includes many other improvements to Windows Phone.” Whatever that means.

Oddly, the newer 8779 update isn’t mentioned on Microsoft’s support page. I’ve seen it referred to as a “Tango” build, and as a “post-Tango” update. But the Zune software says it includes two changes:

App purchases. 8779 fixes an issue with app purchases in some areas. (I don’t believe this is related to the recent and temporary app downloading issue, however.)

Default sync times for email. 8779 changes the default sync times for email. I’d have to compare a pre-update phone with the Lumia to see what’s changed, but if you’re familiar with Windows Phone, you know that different account types have different defaults for syncing email to the server. By default, EAS-type accounts are synced as items arrived, for example. But you can change the sync style for any account type regardless.

In the US, the new bundled Nokia update includes more useful new features:

Flip-to-silence. This feature will silence the ringer on the phone if you place the handset upside down (screen down) on a table or other surface. That way, when you’re meeting with someone and your phone rings, you can show them who’s more important by glancing at the phone and then silencing it by placing it down on the table. Brilliant.

Camera performance enhancements. While the camera still seems as leisurely as before to me, the good folks at WPCentral claim this update actually improves the picture quality of photos taken with this handset. You may recall from my Nokia Lumia 900 review that this was a major pet peeve of mine. I’ll need to take more photos under a variety of conditions before I can verify this claim, however.

Battery performance enhancements. One of the weird things about the Lumia 900 is that, when you plug it in the to charge the battery, there’s a delay of a few seconds before you hear the charging chime; on other Windows Phones, this is pretty much immediate. I’m not clear what “battery performance enhancements” means, exactly—time to charge?—but it doesn’t fix this issue: There’s a still a pause of about three seconds between plug-in and chime.

Startup sequence performance enhancements. When you reboot a Windows Phone—which you’ll do a lot when installing this set of updates—the phone displays a series of animations that advertise the phone maker (Nokia), the wireless carrier (AT&T), and the operating system (Windows Phone). Presumably, these animations are there so you have something to look at while an actual boot process occurs, but they do seem to go by more quickly now. (I actually noticed this during the multi-update install process and thought I was seeing things.)

If you live in Canada, the NOKIA Update for Windows Phone includes everything from the US update plus additional features: Contact Share app support, proximity sensor performance enhancements, and a removal of the purple hue some have seen onscreen in low-light conditions. (Some of these were previously fixed in the US.) See the Nokia blog post about this update for more information.

The installation process is lengthy. It took me about 45 minutes to perform all three updates over the slow connection here in France. But given the sheer number of updates here, including some “Tango”-era improvements that were made available on other phones much earlier—my Samsung Focus S was updated to Tango about three weeks ago—you’re going to want to make the time.