Microsoft’s messaging would have you believe that there’s just one Windows 10 operating system arriving later this year to address the concerns of users on desktops, notebooks, tablets and phones. That’s not entirely accurate, there’s another version of Windows 10 being worked on at Microsoft called Windows 10 for Phones.
Windows 10 is how Microsoft hopes to rebuild its desktop and mobile computing dynasty. Windows 10 for Phones is how Microsoft plans to compete directly against the iPad Mini, the iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system. This past Friday Microsoft released Windows 10 for Phones 10051, the latest version of its upcoming mobile operating system.
Here’s what’s new in Windows 10 for Phones 10051 and a few glimpses of what Microsoft hopes will convince users to purchase a Microsoft smartphone instead of an Apple iPhone later this year.
The Start Screen
Windows Phone was the first of the mobile operating systems to focus on flat design and what Microsoft described as “authentically digital” interfaces. In short, Microsoft hoped that plain buttons, big fonts and usability would help its operating system stand out from the rest. Stand out, Windows Phone did. Windows 10 for Phones still looks very different from iOS and Android, but Microsoft is focusing on providing the features users are already fond of.
Windows 10 for Phones 10051 adds transparent Live Tiles for the first time. These tiles are there so that users can see more of the background they choose. Microsoft lets users go back to basic options from past versions of Windows Phone, but doesn’t let users simply choose a background color or set how transparent the Live Tiles are. Now doubt, there are upgrades for this coming because right now Start Screens with backgrounds look terrible.
The Settings app in past version of Windows Phone were a mess. The first version of Windows 10 for Phones that Microsoft showed off gave us a pretty basic glimpse at a better Settings app with easier navigation and categories matching Windows 10 for notebooks, desktops and tablets. This Settings app is present here too.
People & Microsoft Office
The Windows Phone user experience was originally based around the idea that organizing similar tasks would be easier for people to manage on a daily basis. There was an Office Hub for all things Microsoft Office related, a People Hub for looking at contacts, monitoring social media and updating your own status. All media playback sat in a dedicated Music & Video hub.
Microsoft started ditching Hubs with Windows Phone 8.1 last April and in Windows 10 for Phones 10051 it’s completing the transition. The Office Hub is gone entirely, set to be replaced by individual Microsoft Office apps soon. The People app steps in to replace the People Hub in this release.
People still organizes your contacts and the latest social media updates, but it’s less visual than before. Settings are included in the app though. App integration seems to be a big focus with this app update, but there aren’t any taking advantage of it since we’re so early into the release cycle.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is on its way out. In Windows 10 for Phones 10051 its replacement arrives in the form of Project Spartan. Project Spartan for Windows 10 for Phones uses the same code and offers some of the same features as the desktop version. These features include a dedicated Reading View, A Reading List for bookmarking interesting articles.
Windows 10 for Phones 10051 has voice dictation so that users don’t have to completely stop what they’re doing to input text into any app.
Cortana, Windows Phones built-in personal assistant, has a new look to match what’s available on Windows 10 for other devices.
Photos is now an app instead of a Hub and has a new look. Sharing, editing and slide show options are built-in now too.
Alarms & Clock, Calculator
There’s a new dedicated Alarms & Clock that offers timer and stop watch options too. Calculator has a new visual style with dozens of new convertor options and a built-in history of previous calculations.
Other huge app updates include Maps and Messages. File Explorer & Voice Recorder are new. Music and Video haven’t been updated yet.
Outlook Mail and Outlook Calendar
There are a lot of Windows Phone users bemoaning the death of Microsoft’s old way of designing apps for Windows Phone. Those people are somewhat daffy and the new Outlook Mail and Outlook Calendar apps prove that. Today, they’re missing a few options.
Outlook Mail looks terrific, blending the look of iPhone and Android apps with Microsoft’s own design language. Fonts are still legible. There are quick action gestures for scheduling and deleting messages. There are new formatting tools for composing emails taken directly from Word. Outlook Calendar has the same design and finally has Google Calendar integration. These apps are coming to notebooks, tablets and desktop users in a future update too.
All told, there’s a lot new with Windows 10 for Phones 10051. Microsoft plans to refine and add more new features as we get deeper into 2015. Microsoft has a wider Windows 10 “launch” planned for later this summer. Windows 10 for Phones will be a free update for most devices running Windows Phone 8.1. New devices will come with the operating system pre-loaded at or soon after launch, presumably.
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