Home Your Tech Mobility Windows 10 Mobile seen in the wild

Windows 10 for phones has been renamed ‘Mobile’ (W10M). It has been seen running on a Lumia 1520 ahead of the software technical preview slated for later in February. Initial reports say that it is a “steady improvement on what’s already a compelling mobile device operating system.”

Let’s give the iOS fan boys and Droids some fodder to chew over first. As a business user I absolutely prefer Windows Phone as a mobile operating system (OS). I have used it in various incarnations since the early 2000s and let me be clear – it has gone from good, to better (8.0), to best (8.1) as a stable, secure, reliable, well designed, easy to use OS. Its two greatest failings are that it really is not a ‘little brother’ to Windows full fat OS – it is not consistent or integrated enough with Windows on tablets or PC, nor does it have the range of consumer apps that iOS and Android rely on as their unique selling propositions.

Windows 8.1 Phone has had a dramatic increase in popularity in Australia. Kantar WorldPanel ComTech data (Dec 2014) reports it has reached 9.2% (up from 5.2%) sales share. At the same time iOS recorded a 10.3% increase to 45.1% and Android plunged 13.8% to 43.7% sales share. There is no doubt that the iPhone 6 and Plus are great pieces of kit and that Android’s excellent staple – the Samsung Galaxy S5 – is now on the descent until we see the S6 in a couple of months. Such is the see-saw/race that starts with the flurry of new models after Chinese New Year.

Before Windowphobes comment that sales share was due mainly to cheaper Lumia’s - this data is for Australia. My retail sources report that the new 830 has been the star performed offering most of the flagship 930 features at a slightly lower price point (RRP $447) than the Lumia 930 at $597. Technically it has very similar specs to the iPhone starting at $999 or the Galaxy S5 starting at $795. Yes the 4G Lumia 635 at under $200 is also popular for first time prepaid users and corporate fleet buyers.

So what can you expect from Windows 10 Mobile?

For starters a consistent user interface called Continuum across phone, tablet and PC. It is simply more intuitive and easier to use if you use Windows 10 devices elsewhere.

Next – and this is the biggie that will take W10M well past its rivals - are Universal apps that run on all devices, offering total and seamless integration between all Windows 10 devices. Yes – just like iOS and Android - you need to use the cloud (Microsoft’s OneDrive in this case) to achieve this. It is the first OS to truly enable working on a file on the office PC, to pick it up during the work commute on W10M, and finish it on a tablet at home etc.

Then there is the complete compatibility of Office productivity software – in its various guises as touch, and mouse/keyboard driven. No more corrupted layouts, lost fonts, and demolished tables as you switch from iOS and Android substitutes. This includes Outlook as a mail client that now runs on iOS and Android as well – it now supports native viewing of tables and full text formatting for attachments.

One of the new features is a simplified phone keyboard that you can set for left or right hand use. The phone below from a Chinese site shows this. It also heralds larger Lumia’s – phablets for release at Mobile World Congress from 2-5 March, 2015.

The Settings screen – presently a long scrolling screen – has been grouped into folders (also a new feature for the start screen – a folder can contain files, other apps, music, pictures, contact details and more). The Notification screen gets a more comprehensive set of – well notifications.

With Cortana – your personal voice activated assistant - comes new functionality built into the OS. Things like a new recording app that allows you to send recorded files via email – no it won’t record a phone call for privacy reasons. And Microsoft has preserved privacy by letting the user control what Cortana knows about you via an easily editable notebook entry.

Nokia’s excellent Camera app becomes the heavily upgraded Lumia Camera and is part of the OS – it will come with any Windows Phone from any manufacturer.

Skype and SMS are also fully integrated into the OS – and synced to any other Windows 10 device.

Finally, for Lumia branded handsets, is the Zeiss PureView camera (easily the best in any smartphone), build quality, and the underlying code revealing a commitment to Qualcomm and its new 8XX (and beyond) ARM processors. This means 4K video recording (now in W8.1P Denim update) and a substantially improved ‘world modem’ for 4G.

Add to that Lumia’s mapping, traffic, transit and GPS - frankly equal to any standalone in-vehicle system - are standard.

Opinion

I have written in the past that I believe Windows 8.1 Phone is the best for business where security is paramount and the 1M plus apps touted by iOS and Android are not the consideration. Windows 10 Mobile addresses both issues – the first by a VPN (that is part of the W8.1P Denim update) and the latter by Universal App. Sure that will take some time to become as substantial as the competitor’s app stores – but the buy once, and use on all devices is compelling and a lot lower cost!

Interestingly is the take up by Australian consumers with Lumia’s becoming ‘requested’ at Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi. My sources say that publicity about the Surface Pro, and better education for in-store demonstrators, has seen a marked uptake.

In addition – although highly subjective – they are hearing more people saying “I love my Windows Phone” – with far, far less support questions than with Android or iOS (although the latter are usually directed to the excellent Genius Bars at Apple stores). If you don’t believe then search for “I love windows phone’ – you will be amazed at the 173 million results.

The reality of a unified OS across all devices is coming – far faster than Apple or Google’s Android could ever imagine, yet alone deliver. Microsoft may have dropped the ball but it has picked it up and is firmly in possession.

The reality of Microsoft failing (as it has memorably done under Steve Ballmer with Windows Vista, RT, and Windows 7 Phone) is very low. New management (Microsoft has not done anything wrong under Satya Nadella), new declarations of openness and transparency (way ahead of Google and Apple), new support for its OEMs (open to other manufacturers), a new ‘cool’ status among the Millennials, as well as deep pockets and very aggressive pricing (free Windows 10 OS upgrade for Windows 7/8.x users and flagship handsets selling 30-50% below Apple) really shows the Microsoft has its mojo back.

You can become a Windows Insider and see Windows 10 Mobile here.

Disclaimer: I have owned, reviewed and used all manner of smartphones including extended periods with iPhone 5/5S/6/Plus, Samsung Galaxy 4/5 and a host of other brands/devices. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and comparisons are odious. I happen to ‘love’ my Lumia 930 Windows 8.1 Phone (soon to Windows 10 Mobile) and always feel relieved to come back to it.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

 

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