We’ve had a tinker with Windows 10 on our Lumia 630 handset and there’s certainly a lot of promise, but there’s also definite work to be done before the July release date. Here’s our early review and round-up of the best features of Windows 10 for mobile…
At first glance of the dinky Lumia screen, Windows 10 (or at least, the pre-release developer version) doesn’t seem a massive departure from Windows Phone 8.1. The Live Tiles interface is still present and still as usable as ever, with your apps tray just a quick swipe away and the Action Centre still hiding up top. However, we dug a little deeper and found a few nifty little changes.
So far the updates aren’t revolutionary and there’s clearly a little work still to be done before full release – for instance, messaging is missing lots of core features, including search, drafts and a spam filter. But we still love the following tweaks, which promise some great things for Microsoft’s platform when it’s finally released on July 29th.
1. A settings menu that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself
Microsoft has generally tidied up the Windows interface and made things easier to find, and we quite like some of the little tweaks – for instance, your recently installed apps now being showcased at the top of the apps menu. However, it’s the new-look settings menu that we really bloody love.
In Windows Phone 8, the settings menu was just one long, jumbled, confusing-as-Justin-Bieber’s-popularity list. Every time we tried searching for something, we inevitably ended up scrolling through the damn thing for about ten minutes before we either finally found what we needed, or just hurled the damn phone against a wall.
Now, things are broken down into handy segments, cutting down on general frustration. The new arrangement isn’t perfect by any means, with the likes of maps and camera options buried away in system settings for some reason, but we’re sure these little niggles will be sorted for the full retail version and everything will find its logical place.
2. Improved Action Center
Windows Phone was late to the notification tab party, eventually introducing the Action Center so users could see in one go everything that demanded their attention. Just swipe your finger down from the top of the screen and thar she blows.
The old Action Center sported just four shortcut buttons: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Camera and Screen Brightness. However, Windows 10 boasts a new ‘expand’ feature, which drops down two more rows of shortcuts. So now you can quickly activate flight mode, switch off the annoying screen rotation, toggle GPS, access your security options and more.
Notifications have also been improved, so for instance you can now reply directly to messages through the Action Center. Just tap on the message and a box will pop up, ready for you to type out a reply. Your phone’s notifications should also automatically disappear if you tend to them on a Windows 10 PC, although we haven’t had the chance to test that feature out.
Of course, the new Action Center still isn’t ideal. For a start, you can’t customise those extra shortcuts, so you’re stuck with whatever Microsoft gives you, which is a mixed bunch at best. You also now need to expand the shortcuts tab to get the ‘All Settings’ option, which we find ourselves using quite often. But again, this might all change before the final release. At least, we hope it does.
3. A tidy photo album – and a step towards better integration?
Photo management and editing has also been improved, so it’s easier to find the shot you’re after and then spruce it up before sharing.
Enter the Photos app and you’ll see that your shots are now organised by date, with the same tiled presentation. Microsoft is working on a new Albums feature which will allow you to group your shots by theme and quickly share with mates, which should be a handy and more private alternative to the likes of Facebook. You’ll also simply be able to arrange your photos into different folders, if you’re obsessively organised.
You’ll also find that your OneDrive photos automatically pop up in the Photos app now, when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. That’s the kind of seamless bringing-together of different media stores that we hoped for from Windows 10, meaning you don’t need to piddle around with different apps.
Now we just need the likes of the Music app to sync with OneDrive too, so we can create playlists using music that’s online as well as on-device. Another one for the final release wish-list.
4. Keyboard nipple
Remember those little nubbin nipple things you used to get in the middle of laptop keyboards, for shifting the cursor around on-screen? Well, Microsoft has pushed a virtual one onto the Windows 10 keyboard and it works pretty well for repositioning the cursor in a message without jabbing frustratedly at the dinky display.
Just poke the nipple and it turns into a virtual D-pad, with arrows pointing up, down, left and right. You can then slide your finger around to move the cursor a character at a time, which is an easier way of getting it exactly where you want compared to stabbing the screen over and over. However, it is still quite fiddly, so will probably take some getting used to.
5. R.I.P IE, say hi to Edge
The Windows 10 preview unfortunately sticks with Internet Explorer for web browsing, but the creaky IE is going to be replaced in the full Windows 10 by Microsoft Edge. Edge is a whole new minimalist browser with deep Cortana integration and a modern design, and we can’t wait to have a play come the final Windows 10 launch.
We’ve got high hopes for a smooth and effort-free browser which can quickly find you the exact content you need, based on your browsing habits and general phone use (which is where Cortana comes in). Whether we’ll be satisfied come launch day is another matter. Check out the full skinny on Microsoft Edge.
Don’t expect revolution with Windows 10 for phones, at least not in this early guise. The changes are mostly little tweaks that need improving to be truly useful, although we’re still hopeful that great things can be achieved come the full roll-out on July 29th.
For a start, the fresh new Photos app boasts smart integration between device and cloud, something we’d love to see extended to other apps. And the new Action Centre could be a winner with a few more changes here and there.