Windows 10 for phones: Everything you need to know from the first Technical Preview

Windows 10 for phones may just be the best release Microsoft will push later this year.

Microsoft finally released the preview version of Windows 10 for phones, but the OS is only available on a small number of low-end handsets; news that disappointed many early adopters who were exciting to install and test the new operating system.

The first preview that Microsoft is releasing is only available for six Windows Phone models, including the Lumia: 630, 635, 636, 638, 730, and 830. According to the company, “too many issues” with the early build of Windows 10 for phones is limiting the support of more devices. However, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, said that more handsets will be supported soon, including the Lumia 1520, which was the device the software giant used to highlight all the new changes on the operating system.

Windows 10 preview for phone ready for download on these handsets

Supported languages

The company is also adding support for twenty-five languages including: Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Catalan (Spain), Czech (Czech Republic), Dutch (Netherlands), English (UK), English (US), Finnish (Finland), French (Canada), French (France), German (Germany), Hindi (India), Italian (Italy). Japanese (Japan), Korean (Korea), Polish (Poland), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Simplified Chinese (China), Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Mexico/LatAm), Swedish (Sweden), Thai (Thailand), Traditional Chinese (Taiwan), Turkish (Turkey), and Vietnamese (Vietnam).

Start screen

The Technical Preview includes quite a few features. One of the first things Windows Insiders will notice is the new background feature, which adds a full background image in the foreground and Live Tiles now are transparent for more viewing of the background.

Start screen for Windows 10 for phones
Start screen for Windows 10 for phones. (Image courtesy of PCWorld)

However, Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 10 for phones will include both features the “full background” and the “tiles background” as in Windows Phone 8.1.

The preview also includes more Live Tiles sizes, including small, normal, wide, big and tall, but you can only currently try the new sizes on the People app tile – we expect more support on later builds.

https://twitter.com/martinsuchan/status/566202196497534976/

Settings

The Settings has been improved as well, in Windows 10, phones get a cleaner section for settings, which it shouldn’t come as too much as a surprise, it’s identical to the Settings app for Windows 10 on the desktop. Now it’s easier to find settings without having to scroll back and forth to find an specific setting like in Windows Phone 8.1.

Setting Windows 10 for phones
Setting Windows 10 for phones. (Image courtesy of PCWorld)

Action Center

Then, there is the updated Action Center with access for more Quick Actions, which is a welcomed addition to the operating system. While in Windows Phone 8.1 only had a row of quick notifications, in Windows 10 there are three rows.

While in Windows Phone 8.1, you only had access to Wi-Fi settings, Bluetooth, airplane mode, rotation lock, and brightness controls. In Windows 10 for phones there are more including VPN, Quiet Hours, location, camera, and a few more.

Microsoft also showed off the new interactive notifications, where users can now take actions directly like dismissing an alarm. You can now expand notifications giving you more information about a new email or snippet preview, which is an improvement from Windows Phone 8.1, as the toast notifications in the Action center wasn’t very convenient. In Windows 10, you have a new down arrow that you can tap to expand the notifications and get more information.

Windows 10 for phones expand notifications
Windows 10: Expand notifications. (Image courtesy of Windows Central)

Speech recognition

Speech-to-text has been enhanced in Windows 10, now users can dictate on any text field. And speech is smarter to detect the difference between “2” and “too”.

While Windows Phone 8 allows users to dictate text, in certain scenarios, it is not everywhere. In Windows 10, voice recognition for dictation actually works, it will be everywhere adding another level of productivity to the operating system.

Cortana

Another change is that the Cortana tile is gone in the preview build, but the assistant, of course, is present like in Windows Phone 8.1, but now by default is only accessible holding down the search key button. If you want the Cortana tile back, you can pin it back from the apps list to the Start screen. Keep in mind that like in Windows 10 for desktop, Cortana on phones is only available in United States.

Keyboard

The Windows 10 preview for phones comes with an updated keyboard, and it includes precision nub button in the bottom-left corner to quickly move the cursor and replace letters and words. It’s worth pointing out that the nub doesn’t appear everywhere, just in supported apps, such as OneNote. Another feature is the microphone icon on top of the keyboard, which let you dictate instead of typing, and it seems that it works pretty well.

What’s also different in the updated keyboard is the number button. When you press and hold the number button, you’ll get the choice to access the shortcut to emoticons and numbers.

File Explorer

Back in Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft released an app called Files, in Windows 10 for phones, the software giant is making the File Explorer app part of Windows with a completely new look. Now, it’s more users friendly and very useful. The ability to control files surpasses anything we’ve seen before and it’s one of those unique features that will separate the new operating system from Apple’s iOS.

The new File Explorer works great on landscape or portrait orientation and because it’s an app, Microsoft will be able to release updates more frequently.

As you would expect, File Explorer in Windows 10 for phones enables you to browse files inside the device and SD-cards. However, users won’t be able to access the system files, but that is something expected, so you don’t brick your phone accidentally.

Also there is a menu to perform search, change views, create new folder, and to select items. Pressing and holding down an item will bring a menu with options to delete, move, copy, share, rename, and to access properties.

Photos app

The new Photos app works in the same way the desktop version of Windows 10, as it is actually an universal app. The app is far from complete, but it’s headed in the right direction and more features will be unveil in a near future.

New features on Photos include, the ability to browse and view images not only from your phone, but from OneDrive. There is an “albums” feature that can group images automatically by analyzing metadata in the photos, tags, and more, just like the update OneDrive received a while back.

Photos app for Windows 10 for phones
Photos app for Windows 10 for phones. (Image courtesy of PCWorld)

Calculator app

There is a calculator app in Windows Phone 8.1, but it’s very limited to what it can do compare to the new app in Windows 10. Like the Calculator app in Windows 10 for desktop, the new redesigned app for phones is more productive as it enables users to perform a lot more modes, including Standard, Scientific, and Programmer.

In addition, there is a number of converters, such as Volume, Length, Weight, Temperature, Energy, Area, Speed, Time, Power, Data, Pressure, and Angle. (I think Microsoft should have also included a tip mode right into Calculator.)

All the new modes and conversions can be easily accessed by tapping the menu button on the top-left corner of the application.

Windows 10 for phones Calculator  apps
The Calculator app for Windows 10 for phones. (Image courtesy of Neowin)
Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones features

Windows 10 preview for phones: What features are included (video)

While for the everyday user, these may just look like as small improvements to the operating system, these are actually big changes, because a lot of things are also happening under-the-hood that will help developers to easily create new apps and it’s a new way to build an operating system that works across devices.

In Windows 10, Microsoft is finally introducing the concept of writing an application once and run it everywhere. This is a big step as the company has been trying to push this app model for years and now that dream may just come true.

Keep in mind that Windows 10 for phones still in the early stages, until the software maker releases the RTM version, you’ll be taking a risk installing the operating system on your phone. Even though, there is already a way to install Windows 10 on unsupported phones. However, we’re getting an early glance to where the software is headed, and it doesn’t not look bad at all.