Interface enhancements, Office upgrades and media options to level the playing field. You’ve been waiting long enough for this, so let’s just jump in. This is the quick guided tour of the 5 cool new features on the Windows 10 Technical preview for phones. Keep in mind folks that this is not a review, since we are dealing with a pre-release technical build and not a finished product. Consider this as a very early advanced look at the few of the new features that will eventually come to Windows 10 for phones.
We will be going in order of coolness or potential coolness according to me, you may disagree with my order so feel free to read other similar hands on previews. For the record am testing this preview releases from a borrowed Lumia 830. You can check here for a list of other supported devices.
1. New voice command input
For literary years Google and Apple have eaten Microsoft’s lunch in voice dictation with a lot of people using it excluding me. This improvement could be huge. Microsoft sticks to its guns and techniques here as you cant manually do punctuation by saying things like period/full-stop, comma, exclamation mark, etc –like you can on other platforms — but at least the parsing seems to be improved. Cortana really doesn’t seem to get punctuation yet, it will just put in periods (full stops) after a long pause but its better than it was on Windows Phone 8.1. And, at least you can pause to think for a second in this version. Also, as I will keep reminding you this is just the technical preview.
2. Action Center changes
Lets be real for a second, not being able to dismiss individual notifications on Windows Phone 8.1 was a pain. And, the limited number of quick toggles on top sometimes felt limiting too. This toggle issue is easily fixed in Windows 10 just by adding an invisible expansion slot and thankfully you can now remove individual alerts just like in Android notifications rather than clearing the whole group.
3. Quick Reply Feature
Android and iOS already have similar implementations in their latest builds and in Windows 10, Microsoft catches up with the quick reply feature. Once you get a text, just swipe down on the notification to call up the Keyboard and reply. It doesn’t work in emails or third party messenger apps like Facebook at the moment, but its possible those will be added later.
4. The settings screen
Remember that endless list of identical looking options with nearly a hint of iconography? Thats gone now and holy hell is it easier to find things. Also, there is more granular control over things like brightness. It might have taken you 5 years, but bravo Microsoft.
5. The Key board cursor
Remember the little eraser like nobs that Dell, IBM and Lenovo laptops used to have that would act like a cursor? Now Windows 10 for phones has one too. This has barely been mentioned in the official talk but its here and its awesome to have and alternative to the tradition tap-directly on the text approach. Which still works on Windows 10 by the way. The execution is just fine on the horizontal movement but it gets a little wonky when you jumping vertically between lines of text. Hopefully this can be attributed to the early preview build.
The other bits and pieces
All these little nuggets deserve further exploration, and in some cases explanation, and you will get them in follow up posts on techjaja. The preview build is obviously an early one, with plenty of slow animations and dropped frames. Thats no surprise and I expect it to get fixed going forward, but there are also big aesthetic inconsistencies. That new settings screen has little in common with the older UI elements like the new photo hub menu and has little in common with anything else on the phone.
Different apps appear to be optimized for different phone resolutions and there is a lot of seemingly random enforcement of white elements instead of black. White in the email keyboard, white in the brightness menu, white on the Cortana landing page, its kind of a mess right now.
Also, while I started off with the same transparent tiles I had on Windows Phone 8.1 after the update, I wasn’t able to get them back after I tried out the new Windows 1o look. Since its obviously possible for 10 to support the old transparent tiles, I hope we are at least given the option to retain that look in the future build. And hopefully the cosmetics will get more unified as we go forward.
Lets not forget the other basis like the fact that the Lumia camera is now the default camera on all Windows 10 phones. Other upgrades like the new browser, new maps, and the new Office and Outlook apps are absent from my borrowed 830. With all this stuff pending in the software at such an early stage obviously its not the times for conclusions of any kind. I had to give the Windows Phone fans a quick look for whats in store from Microsoft.