Microsoft has made it clear by this point it’s sticking to its guns, and aims to bring a connected experienceto all Windows devices — making each of them more fluid (and less frustrating) than before. That apparently extends to the mobile side of things as well.Microsoft dropped Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview Build 10136 last week, bringing with it some commendable changes. Could the latest update answer the desires of many a Windows Phone fan? Let’s find out.
A new one-handed-use mode lets owners of 5+-inch devices slide the contents at the top of the screen down to the bottom for easier access. This accomplishes the same goal as Apple’s “reachability” design in the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus’s UI, and also utilizes the home button on the devices in question. The 5.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S5 has its own similar feature, but you must swipe at the left or right of the screen to access it instead of tapping the home button.
Cortana improvements: alerts, tracking, pertinent info, interface
Cortana, Microsoft’s voice command assistant and Siri and Google Now rival, has proven speedy and impressive in video tests between the three competitors. Now, with Windows 10 on the horizon, Cortana will have a dark theme by which to further customizeand utilize the OLED display on the Nokia Lumia 928, as well as the LCDs of the Lumia 640 XL and Lumia 1520, among others. Dark themes conserve battery life, and Cortana’s dark theme may prove one of Microsoft’s best upgrades; it’s also adding the same thing to the Window Phone Store.
To add to Cortana’s improved interface, alerts, tracking, and other daily info will be available as well. Email notifications or reminders you receive about special events will be incorporated into Cortana’s knowledge so that she’ll remind you when the time comes. Flight tracking and package tracking are also incoming, and if you want to inquire about the weather, the stock market, sports games, what time your new favorite movie is showing at the local theater, and so on, Cortana should prove reliable.
Photos and camera
The new Windows 10 Mobile camera app will deliver 1080p and 4K video recording, but Microsoft has added 1440p video recording alongside of 4K for the Lumia Icon (a Verizon Wireless exclusive), the Lumia 930, and the Lumia 1520. There are a number of newcustomizations to create the perfect shot (such as Rich Capture). If you want to know how to get your hands on the new camera app, it’s available now – and is known as the Lumia Camera app. It’s available from the Windows Phone Store at the Lumia Camera app link above. In addition, the Photos app in Windows 10 Mobile will now allow you to find shots according to a Monthly label.
UX icons, fonts, and layout
Microsoft says that it’s been working on a lot of UX changes, with improved transitions that serve to create a more effortless and “flowing” experience in Windows 10 Mobile. Among these are an upgraded PIN pad that “slides over the lock screen instead of displacing it,”the company says. Subtle changes are part of the Windows experience overhaul, with thecompany’s aim to create a more contemporary experience. New fonts and redesigned icons will serve the same purpose.
Microsoft’s Edge browser update
One of Windows Phone 8.1’s major drawbacks was that it didn’t present websites very well. Designers needed to use extra code to optimize pages to “cooperate” with Windows Phone. With multiple devices and screen sizes, Windows webpages didn’t necessarily work well on large-screen devices.
Microsoft aims to change that with its new Edge browser, and the company says it’s made some major changes, including swapping the backwards-compatibile MSHTML (Trident) engine to an interoperability engine called Microsoft EdgeHTML.
Microsoft is also getting rid of ActiveX (what the company calls “legacy IE-isms), and is instead utilizing WebKit, which the company added to its IE browser in 2014. That nets popular features such as media capture and HTTP/2, XPath, ES6, and Motion JPEG support. Microsoft says that this has become the best approach for the company to move forward with its cross-device operating system. “…Microsoft Edge [browser] matches ‘WebKit’ behaviors, not IE11 behaviors (any Edge-WebKit differences are bugs that we’re interested in fixing). In our experience Microsoft Edge runs best on the ‘WebKit’ code paths in these sites,” the company stated.
Ambient Light Events, a Battery Status API, Beacon, Clipboard API, Fetch API, FileWriter, MediaRecorder, ES6 Modules, Push API, Vibration API, and others are also under consideration.
Background downloading, browser extensions in the works
While all of the above changes are welcome for Windows 10 Mobile, there are still more on the way. The company confirmed background downloading will come to the mobile OS, although it won’t be ready when Windows 10 Mobile arrives on the market in the near future. Browser extensions are in the works as well.
While we don’t have much of an idea of what to expect from subsequent Windows mobile builds, some leaked notes regarding the Windows 10 desktop experience may provide some insight. Among the leaked notes for Windows 10 desktop build 10147 are a new password manager, the right to disable search suggestions, and a revised “Hub” (downloads, reading list, history, favorites) icon, among others. Microsoft’s commitment to unifying its desktop and mobile experiences as much as possible could mean we’ll see some of these new desktop features arrive on Windows 10 Mobile.