Microsoft has decided to make my job just a bit harder by naming all variants of Windows 10 clumsily, but if you have a phone that runs Windows Phone 8.1 and you want to try the next generation, ‘Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones” is now available to download for Windows Insiders, via the Windows Insider app.
Microsoft’s Insiders program is easy to sign up, requiring only your Microsoft account credentials and a willingness to play around with early software builds, which means bugs and crashes. The new version of Windows for smartphones more closely resembles its counterparts on Xbox One and the desktop, complete with customizable photo backdrops. Notifications now also sync between desktop and mobile, and there’s a much more sensible Settings menu that, even at first glance, seems to be a lot better put together than what Microsoft was offering before.
The biggest new feature for mobile devices might be that it now incorporates Skype chat in messaging and VoIP directly in the phone app, providing the basis for what could become Microsoft’s answer to iMessage in terms of offering a pervasive, system-level tool for communicating via text, voice and video no matter which device you happen to be using. Messaging in the preview build is missing dual-SIM support, search, drafts, voice note and ringtone sharing, as well as a number of other features. Cortana is also English-only in this build.
This is far from a complete picture of what Windows 10 will eventually become for phones, so don’t be surprised if a lot of the new features aren’t active yet. It’s also available initially for a smaller subset of the total range of devices that will get the full version when it gets its official consumer launch. You’ll need to have a Lumia 630, 635, 636, 638, 730 or 830 to participate, but future releases should include broader hardware support.