With the launch of Microsoft’s upcoming operating system, we’ll soon be waving goodbye to Windows Phone. But how do the two compare? In our preview, Chris Martin explains everything you need to know
IInstead of moving to Windows Phone 10 – which would be the most logical choice as far as Microsoft’s strange numbering choices go – the next version of the mobile operating system will be called Windows 10 Mobile. As far as we know, that is. Here, we’ll look at every aspect of Windows 10 Mobile, including its new features, apps and user interface.
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that no-one will be getting the update on 29 July when Windows 10 launches. Microsoft is still very much in the development phase and has only said that it needs “more time to deliver the optimal experience for mobile devices and you can expect Windows 10 Mobile to release broadly later this year”.
It’s also crucial to point out that not a great deal is changing in terms of the interface. Windows 10 Mobile will look and work much the same as Windows Phone 8. There are lots of tweaks and improvements, but the biggest differences will be much tighter integration with Windows 10 on your PC. Part of that is Windows apps – previously called universal apps – which will be available in the new unified Windows Store and will work on all your devices running Windows 10. You can read more about universal Windows apps on page 76.
When you first use the OS, you’ll find that it introduces a number of new options compared to Windows Phone 8.1. These include full-size art for the Start screen, an improved Action Center, interactive notifications, better dictation (and a generally better Cortana) and an enhanced Photos app. The operating system will be a free upgrade for many Lumia smartphones – see page 64 for details of those included in the preview versions. Smartphones running Windows 10 out of the box will arrive later this year, and will include the Lumia 640 and 640 XL.
We’ve been running the preview of Windows 10 Mobile since February, on a Lumia 830, alongside a laptop and Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10. Some things are bound to change in the interface, but here’s how it stands at the moment.
What happened to Windows Phone?
Windows 10 is the first version of Windows built to run on computers, tablets and phones (as well as servers and other devices you probably don’t care about). This means that developers will be able to build an app which will run on everything from a huge TV or projector screen, down to the 4in display on a phone. They can submit the app once to the Windows Store and Microsoft will do the crunching to make it work on any device running Windows 10. Developers will have to decide how the interface should look on a given screen size, but this change should mean that we’ll see more apps than ever available on phones running Windows.
However, just because it’s the same operating system as used by laptops and desktops, it doesn’t mean you can run x86 programs (old Windows software) on your phone. You can’t.
Outlook is one of the first ‘universal apps’, meaning it will run across your PC, laptop, phone and tablet, with the same experience – although with a different interface for the smaller screen of a phone. It will synchronise everything seamlessly. As long as you’re connected to the internet in one way or another all the information will be updated instantly. You could, for example, start replying to an email on your laptop, then finish it on your phone while you’re on the go. In general this is the same for any universal app.
There’s full Gmail support, as well as other webmail services including iCloud. In fact, there’s much better support for all webmail services, so you don’t have to be an Outlook user with an Outlook address to benefit from the stock email app. Calendar will be a universal app and it will be integrated into Outlook, too. As you’d expect, the app will synchronise across all your Windows 10 devices. This means it doesn’t matter which one you enter an event on, it will show up everywhere.
One view in the Calendar app will give you an overview of the week, indicating how busy each day is, with details of specific entries below in chronological order. The updated Photos app will also work across all your devices, and has been improved with better editing and management tools. This makes it easier to find the image you’re looking for and give it a few tweaks before sharing it. The app automatically enhances photos and removes duplicates, too.