For the Windows Phone community – and those interested in the new direction Microsoft is heading with Windows 10 Mobile – there’s a lot to hope for. The two overdue flagships for Windows Phone, the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950XL are currently in the process of hitting shelves (with the 950 already available for AT&T customers, and 950XL pre-orders shipping out just a few short days on November 25th). With their roll out, the first two devices with the final Windows 10 Mobile operating system will finally be available.
However, if you’re not interested in the 950 or 950XL, you’re not an AT&T customer, or you’re not sure whether you’ll like Windows 10 Mobile enough to jump for the new flagship, there are several other options out there that will give you a (pretty significant) taste of what Windows 10 Mobile will be like.
I was curious at how an older model Lumia would handle the changes. I have a Lumia 635 that I’ve used for earlier builds of Windows 10 Mobile, but it ends up performing about as well as you could expect a $40 to run. The Lumia 635 was never meant to be a “flagship”, so it would be unfair to expect it to run like one.
I also still have my old Nokia Lumia 928, a Verizon exclusive device that was released around mid-2013. The device is more than 2 years old, but at the time it was Verizon’s flagship (the only, I believe, until the Icon came along) Windows Phone. So, out of curiosity I decided to install the latest Windows 10 Mobile Insider Preview build on it, which is build 10586.
Many tech bloggers assume that this will be the last build before the official version is released, so I figured it was a safe time to see how things were looking since the last time I checked (admittedly, it has been awhile) things were pretty unstable.
I’ll give the short of it right here: It’s not as impressive as I was hoping, but there are some notable improvements to the platform that I was happy to see. And I will give it the benefit of the doubt that this is still a preview build, so I expect there to be vast improvements made to it when it is officially unveiled.
Now let's talk some details.
I do think that Microsoft was able to enhance what made Windows 8 and 8.1 a sleek and minimal platform in Windows 10 Mobile. The transition animations are smoother, the Start Menu still looks sleek, dark and light themes are still available (which I think every phone should have), and there are more theme colors to choose from. Much like iOS, there aren’t very many things to change about the home screen on Windows 10 Mobile, but there is enough. Honestly, it feels like you have to really try hard to make the Start Menu look bad.
I’ve always fancied the fact that you could remove stock apps you didn’t want in Windows Phone, and the same is true for Windows 10 Mobile. One of the first things I did with my Windows 10 Mobile install was get rid of a bunch of apps I would never use, and boy did it feel good.
Another positive is was how easy it was to put the phone on “One-Handed” use. I held down the capacitive Windows button, and my screen size was cut in half, but the ratio fit the new half-screen so that I could easily reach around with my thumb using one hand. It was nice, and I previously underestimated its usefulness.
The app store received a nice makeover. It’s certainly a step-up from the mess that it was in Windows Phone 8 and 8.1. Of course, the only thing missing is the actual apps, but there’s still a tiny sliver of hope that developers will take interest this time around. Maybe. Hopefully. But the store looks nice, so there’s that.
Unified Skype messaging is pretty neat, too. I don't use Skype much anymore these days, but it exhibits what I like most about iMessage, which is its seamless integration.
Apparently the Lumia 928 (or any older Windows Phones, for that matter) can’t run Continuum, which is kind of a bummer because that’s really one of the main (if not the main) selling point of Windows 10 Mobile. But I bought this phone without Continuum in the first place, so it’s whatever.
That basically wraps up what I liked about it. Honestly, it still felt like the same old Windows Phone; it was just a bit spruced up.
There isn’t really a long list of things I don’t like about it either, but there were a couple of things that stood out to me. For instance, the task manager isn’t my favorite. I prefer to slide the cards away instead of pressing a small ‘X’ in the corner of the app preview. I also think that saving an image is far from intuitive for a phone. I downloaded a Skyrim wallpaper to use as my Start Menu background, and you have to go through a few steps to get it to the right folder. It was like saving a photo to a computer, so I guess in that sense yes, Windows 10 Mobile does kind of do a good job of keeping a unified experience.
There was also some noticeable lag in places and a couple of dreaded “Resuming” screens here and there, but again, this is still a preview build, and… well, the 928 is over 2 years old.
If you have an older Windows Phone at your disposal that you want to use with Windows 10 Mobile, it’s worth a shot. It gives you a feel for the updated platform, and once the final build is released you’ll have a better judgment on whether you think the 950 or 950XL (both of which feature the previously mentioned Continuum, which is kind of a big deal for Windows 10 Mobile, as well as much better hardware specs) is worth the upgrade for you - because honestly, if you're looking to jump into Windows 10 Mobile, the 950 and 950XL are going to be your best bet at this point to make the most of it.
For everyone else, it's an adequate update and adds a couple of useful new features; ultimately, though, it’s nothing mind-blowing that will revive previously dumped Lumia flagships from their graves.