Is Windows 10 Mobile starting to shape up yet?

We’ve written a few articles about how much of a mess the Windows 10 Mobile preview has been, but now we’re deep into the summer with the desktop counterpart ready to release at the end of the month. How’s the mobile version of Windows 10 shaping up? Well, there have been quite a few improvements in Windows 10 Mobile, but what we’re looking at in build 10166 is still pretty much all over the place. It’s not even close to being on feature parity with Windows Phone 8.1.

First let’s look at some of the major system-wide issues. The most visible problem is when adding a background image to the start screen, you’ll get a big black rectangle on the left side. Other than that the start screen works okay. Not much has changed with the Action Center either. It’s still unusable with one hand since the swipe gesture is at the top of the screen.

Launching apps loads a zoom-in style animation copied from Android. It’s pretty pointless compared to the animations in Windows Phone 7 that actually communicated to you the structure of the “hub” interface designs so that you could more-easily understand how to use them.

Launching apps on Windows 10 Mobile zooms into a blank screen while Windows Phone 7.8 UI elements beautifully fly into place.

Launching apps on Windows 10 Mobile zooms into a blank screen while Windows Phone 7.8 UI elements beautifully fly into place.

Cortana is starting to look a bit better. It’s still unfortunately using a hamburger button at the top which makes the options difficult to access, and the reminders section can no longer be pinned to the start screen.  In terms of the speech interface, some of the most useful features have been removed. You can no longer set Cortana to read incoming text messages out loud to which you could respond “reply” and carry on an SMS conversation completely hands-free. The ability to do that with Messenger and Facebook chat was removed in Windows Phone 8.1 by the way. The announce caller ID feature that actually spoke the name of the person calling is gone as well.

In terms of the new apps, the interface designs are still an inconsistent mess. It’s like there was no plan at all. Some apps have an ellipses menu in the bottom right while some don’t. Sometimes the menu appears above the ellipses, sometimes below. Sometimes the ellipses is at the top of the screen where you can’t reach it. Sometimes there’s also a hamburger button at the top of the screen where you can’t reach it, even though it would make much more sense to put everything in the ellipses menu at the bottom.

Even the Copy/Paste function is broken. Some apps, like Outlook and Office Mobile, use a totally different Copy/Paste interface that isn’t compatible with the system-wide Copy/Paste interface. If I copy something from one program and try to paste it into an Outlook email, the paste button in the keyboard is greyed out. You have to tap & hold in the message body to get a completely different paste interface to show up.  This Office Mobile style paste interface actually has some powerful features, but those should have all been built in to everything on a system level.

Some apps like Outlook, Word, etc. don't use the same Copy/Paste interface as everything else and therefore are incompatible.

Some apps like Outlook, Word, etc. don’t use the same Copy/Paste interface as everything else and therefore are incompatible.

The People app finally works with Facebook and Twitter again, but LinkedIn is still gone and the circle crops still decapitate your friends. The live tile looks ridiculous with polka-dots on it. Groups don’t work properly anymore either. You can pin a group to your start screen, but it doesn’t show a live tile of “What’s new” as those people (or news outlets) in the group post updates.

Circle cropping cuts out important parts of your friends' photos sometimes.

Circle cropping cuts out important parts of your friends’ photos sometimes.

The Photos app is still terrible too. It no longer loads Facebook or Twitter photos, and jumbles OneDrive photos in with all of your device photos which makes finding the photo you want very difficult. It no longer supports “favorite” tags either and you can’t sort images by their ranking metadata or anything useful like that. The worst part is you can’t set the live tile to animate through your favorite photos anymore.

On the plus side, with Windows 10 Mobile everything has been segregated as apps that install and update via the Windows Store. That means major functions can be updated more frequently and more easily than what would be required of a full system update. Additionally, these are all universal apps that run on Windows phones, tablets, laptops, HoloLens, and maybe the Xbox One.  Unfortunately they’re all very unfinished, and most of what made Windows Phone preferable over other smartphone platforms has been removed.

Have you been using the Windows 10 Mobile preview? When do you think it will be ready for prime time?

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!