When we’ll see Microsoft announce a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus remains unclear, but the first release of Windows 10 for phones is drawing ever closer if a new app update for Windows Phone users is an accurate indicator of the company’s plans.
Users who’ve already downloaded the app that’s expected to enable users to get Windows 10 for phones are reporting that they have an app pending in the Windows Store. To be clear, this is an update app update for the Windows Phone Insider app itself, not Windows Phone 8.1. Since users are unable to dive into it, it is unclear what the general changes are. Neowin is reporting that app now goes by another name, Windows Insider. That’s clearly a nod to the Windows Insider Program that lets notebook, desktop and Surface users test the Windows 10 operating system already.
All of the raw plumbing to get the Windows 10 for phones update in the hands of testers seems to be in place. Today, Windows Phone owners can log into this updated Windows Insider app with their Microsoft Account, that’s something users couldn’t do before the update. Once logged in, the app just informs users that there are “no builds” to upgrade to. Builds are what Microsoft refers to different versions of Windows as.
Last fall, Microsoft announced that it would merge all of the different operating systems for users at home into one operating system: Windows 10. Contrary to what most have assumed, Windows 10 is really multiple operating systems built on the same code and with access to the same resources and store. Microsoft refers to the version coming to smartphones and tablets like the iPad as just Windows 10, but really it’s more like Windows 10 mobile.
Smartphones running Windows 10 for phones will get an upgraded Start Screen that sort-of what’s available in previous versions. Significant changes to the Start Screen itself include a new background option that puts Windows Phone backgrounds closer to what’s available on the iPhone 6 and other devices running Apple’s iOS operating system. At a Media Briefing earlier this month Microsoft showed off an updated Action Center that allows users to store even more settings for quick access. The Action Center is a combination of the Control Center and Notification area of iOS 8.
The company also gave attendees of its media briefing a look at some of the updated apps that’ll be included in Windows 10 for phones. That look included an updated line up of Microsoft Office apps that have been standardized across Windows 10 for phones and Windows 10 for other form factors like tablets and 2-in-1s.
As recent earnings reports revealed, Microsoft needs Windows 10 for phones to compete with the iPhone 6 and others of its elk more than it ever has before. Last year, Microsoft purchased Nokia’s entire Devices and Services business. The move effectively gave it a business model similar to Apple’s. Microsoft now controls its own hardware and software. In theory, it’s in a perfect position to do what Apple does, produce its only family of complimentary devices for the living room, pockets and home offices.
Despite that, the company now seems to be stuck in a holding pattern, pumping out low-end and mid-range smartphones that sell well abroad and do nothing to bolster its market share in the United States.
During that same Windows 10 Media Briefing, Microsoft representatives promised a flagship smartphone that would compete effectively against the iPhone 6. This week Apple announced revealed blockbuster earnings. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were responsible for a big portion of that earnings.
Microsoft has confirmed that devices running Windows Phone 8.1 should get the Windows 10 update at some point. The company hasn’t said exactly when that update will come or when it expects new devices with it built in will arrive on store shelves.