Windows 10 may be old news for PC and tablet users, but they aren’t the only areas Microsoft are looking to overhaul with their latest OS. Windows 10 is also coming to mobile, and I’ve been putting the technical preview through its paces in preparation for a pre-Christmas release.
Note that this hands on used Preview Build 10166 on a Nokia Lumia 830, and obviously stability was at times a major issue.
Microsoft have stuck to their guns with the basic concept of Windows on mobile. The infamous tile based design remains in place for Windows 10. Only this time, it sports a much cleaner, modern feel. The plain block colours of previous Windows versions are gone, with an element of translucency to the entire interface. Users can now upload an image to their background, and give the live tiles a level of opaqueness. The whole interface has been given a much needed facelift, and its new found vibrancy underpins a simple, but more elegant design.
One new feature taken from Windows on PC is the action centre. Swipe down from the top of the screen and a collection of popular settings can be changed with just one tap. Amongst them, you can activate Wi-Fi, Flight mode, battery saver and a VPN. With notifications also stored there (which will also sync across your Windows 10 devices), the tab is actually a really helpful tool for accessing your everyday tools.
Two native apps that have received timely overhauls are Microsoft’s Outlook and calendar. In previous mobile versions of Windows, productivity apps such as these were left woefully inadequate for a device you rely on so heavily. Thankfully, they look much more the part in Windows 10, replicating the apps more thoroughly than they did before. Despite coming in separate apps, Outlook and Calendar can be switched between using an icon in the bottom left, with the change between the two happening almost instantly.
The same can actually be said of most of the apps you became acquainted with in Window 8. The Office suite, News and Sport, Weather and OneDrive all operate in much the same fashion as their desktop and tablet counterparts, as was promised by Microsoft in their “universal apps” drive. Most have received a much needed redesign, sporting a fresher, cleaner and ultimately more appealing look.
All the media storing apps, such as Music, Film and TV and Photos, can also come under the same umbrella as the rest of Microsoft’s built in apps. Cut down in design and syncing to all your devices on the same Microsoft account, Windows 10 has certainly ticked a huge box by getting the basic rights.
One major question mark hovering over the success of Windows 10 will be how well these universal apps translate onto third party apps. Watch this space.
There is one major weapon concealed under Windows’ sleeve when you compare to their rivals at Google and Apple. In personal assistant Cortana, Microsoft could potentially hold the key to overhauling rival A.I systems Google Now and Siri.
Cortana is at your beck and call whenever you need her, completing a set of tasks that the aforementioned systems can’t compete with. Upon every request I gave Cortana, I was given a swift response. Everything from asking what last night’s Arsenal score was, finding local Chinese restaurants and even asking to be told a joke were all done with the minimum of fuss. The only request that wasn’t granted was asking when the next train to London was from my local station- an addition that would be welcome in the future.
Given that you can also email, play music and edit calendars via Cortana, Microsoft are hoping it will break beyond the novel feel you get from smartphone A.I systems and actually grow into a functional feature on Windows 10.
One area of caution to throw out in what has been general optimism so far. Microsoft Edge left me a little cold when I gave the new browser the once over. The only feature carried over from the PC version is the ability to switch into reading mode. Stripping web pages of everything except the content you wish to read, it looked bizarre on the smaller mobile screens. Added to the difficulty finding a site that actually supports it, and the feature didn’t do much to enhance my online browsing.
With a number of other features not carried over from desktop Edge (not yet at least), Edge just seemed a little bare. Work needed.
Considering this is purely a peek into the future of Windows 10 on Mobile, I look forward with a degree of cautious optimism. There was a lot to hate about previous versions of Windows on the smaller screens, but they appear to be on the right track to rectifying those in Windows 10.
Mobile experiences all come down to apps, and the desolate Windows Store was a major factor in the downfall of Windows Phone. Microsoft seem to set the ball rolling with a suite of decent native apps, but their fortunes are likely to hinge on how kindly third party developers take to the new OS.