Windows Phone is the smartphone platform and OS from Microsoft. Like Google does with Android, Microsoft only makes the software, allowing various hardware manufacturers to make the phones that run Windows Phone. Windows Phone replaced the older Windows Mobile (Professional and Standard editions.) Windows Phone competes directly with iOS and Android, offering most of the same OS features.
Microsoft and Amazon today announced a new partnership that will allow Windows 10 users to access Alexa via Cortana, and Echo users to access Cortana via Alexa. The tie-up lets people use one personal assistant to open the other. For example, people who own Windows 10 PCs will be able to say "Hey Cortana, open Alexa" and then speak queries to Alexa through their PC. Conversely, people who own an Amazon Echo device will be able to say "Alexa, open Cortana" to set reminders, check appointments, and make other requests of Cortana. Microsoft says this capability is available to Windows 10 PCs first, but it will come to Android and iOS devices later this year.
Microsoft recently withdrew its WordFlow keyboard application from the iTunes App Store. WordFlow was one of many Microsoft Garage projects, which are chiefly apps that target Android and iOS devices. WordFlow for iOS was a version of Microsoft's capable swipe-style keyboard that was originally found on Windows Phone. On its own web site, Microsoft calls the WordFlow experiment "complete" and suggests people download SwiftKey instead. "The SwiftKey product team is frequently building and evaluating new features for SwiftKey and shipping updates," said the WordFlow team. Microsoft bought SwiftKey in February 2016.
Microsoft has totally re-envisioned its Skype messaging application and, in the process, made it more like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. To start, Skype offers more personalization. For example, users can tweak colors and more easily add animated emoji and reaction icons to conversations. The app now supports what Microsoft calls a Highlight Reel, which is a Snapchat Stories-like compilation of videos and photos. Microsoft says people can create Highlights by accessing the in-app camera, or by pulling in content from their phone's photo gallery. People can then react to Highlights or use them as a starting point for a new conversation thread. Bots are headed to Skype, too, via the new Find tab that's built into the app. Users can take advantage of the bot-enabled search tool to find concert tickets, see what's trending across social networks, and more. Microsoft expects third-party developers (businesses and brands) to create their own add-ins and bots for Skype over time. Skype still supports one-on-one and group conversations, video calls, audio calls, and other legacy features. Microsoft says the new Skype will reach Android devices over the next few weeks with the iPhone to follow in a month or so, and Mac and Windows desktops to follow later this year.
Microsoft today improved its Cortana personal assistant, which can now remind people to take care of tasks they've promised to do via email. The tool is available in Microsoft's Office 365 and Outlook.com email services. Cortana will scan emails and when users tell someone they'll complete a specific task (such as file a report) Cortana will automatically suggest a reminder to help people follow through. Microsoft says machine learning is behind the new tool and it will learn from user behavior over time. Moreover, these reminders will automatically be added to the action center so they are visible outside of the email app. Users will need to ensure they are signed into their Microsoft account and have granted Cortana the proper permissions. The tool is being made available to Windows 10 devices first, but Microsoft plans to expand it to Android and iOS in the weeks ahead.
Microsoft this week released the Project Rome SDK, a tool for developers that will let Android devices control Windows devices and vice versa. Once fully enabled, third-party apps will be able to see Android and Windows devices when they are connected to the internet. For example, a Windows PC may see a music app on a connected Android handset and open it remotely. The remote app service lets people not only open, but control apps from afar. For now, the SDK only permit Windows devices to access and run apps on Android devices, but Microsoft expects to make expand the SDK so Android devices can control Windows apps. Developers can download the SDK from Microsoft's developer console.
Alcatel today made its Idol 4S with Windows 10 smartphone available unlocked from the Microsoft Store. The Windows Idol 4S has a 5.5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C. Other features include a wide-angle 8-megapixel selfie camera, 3,000mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. The Idol 4S with Windows is compatible with Continuum, which enables it to act like a full PC with the proper accessories. The phone is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 costs $470.
Garmin this week announced its inReach series of satellite communicators. These standalone handheld devices can also be paired with any Android, iOS or Windows 10 smartphone to provide satellite-based text messaging and GPS mapping on your phone even where there is no cellular coverage. The devices use Iridium's global satellite network for messaging, letting the devices send and receive text messages with any cell phone number, email address or another inReach device. Users can set up the devices to provide regular location updates to a mapping portal, so friends and family can follow the progress of an expedition. An SOS function can let first responders and family know when you're in trouble and exactly where to find you. The base model inReach SE+ will sell for $400, while the inReach Explorer+ adds TOPO maps, compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer for an extra $50. Both models will be available later this quarter.
Microsoft and Qualcomm plan to make Windows 10 run on Qualcomm's next-generation, ARM-based Snapdragon processors. The idea is to enable full PC functionality on cellular-connected devices of varying form factors. Qualcomm said its new chips are fully compatible with the Windows 10 ecosystem, and hardware makers can use them to create phones, tablets, and other mobile devices. The companies say new Windows 10 PCs with Snapdragon inside can support x86 Win32 and Universal Windows apps, including titles such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and even games. Microsoft said these "cellular PCs" will be able to take advantage of eSIM technology, allowing people and businesses to activate and use them on the network of their choice. Microsoft and Qualcomm expect to see the first Snapdragon-based Windows 10 PCs reach the market as early as next year. "With Windows 10 on cellular PCs, we will help everyone make the most of the air around them. We look forward to seeing these new devices with integrated cellular connectivity and the great experiences people love like touch, pen, and Windows Hello," said Microsoft's Terry Myerson.
WhatsApp today announced that it is enabling video calls for all users around the world. Video calling is being added to the Android, iOS, and Windows phone mobile apps over the coming days. With it, users will be able to make encrypted video calls to one another. WhatsApp said it developed the app such that the majority of phones and networks — not just the most expensive and strongest ones — can handle the video chatting client. The app allows users to switch between cameras and makes use of a simple calling button to make connecting easy. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, is late to the video calling party. The service already supports group texting and voice calling, but most of its competitors have already adopted video chats.
Instagram today made its stories feature more fun and powerful with the addition of Boomerang and @mentions support. Moving forward, people using the stories function will be able to record Boomerangs directly within Instagram. Boomerang takes a series of photos and then assembles them into a very short video that loops forward and backward. Further, storytellers can now add username @mentions to their stories for a greater degree of interaction. The app will notify people when they've been mentioned in stories, and people who view stories will be able to pull up the profiles of those whose usernames are attached to stories. Last, a "see more" tool should now be visible in stories, allowing verified accounts to provide links and other details concerning themselves and/or their business. Instagram's new features are available to the Android, iOS, and Windows 10 Mobile apps.
Alcatel today announced a new variant of the Idol 4S with Windows 10 Mobile on board. This handset carries over the chassis of the Android-based model, but changes a number of key specifications. For example, the Windows Idol 4S has a 5.5-inch full HD display and Snapdragon 820 processor, which differ from the quad HD display and Snapdragon 652 processor of the original. Further, the Windows version improves the camera to 21 megapixels and swaps microUSB for USB Type-C. Most other specs are the same. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 has a wide-angle 8-megapixel selfie camera, 3,000mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. The Idol 4S with Windows is compatible with Continuum, which enables it to act like a full PC with the proper accessories. It will be packaged with a set of virtual reality goggles for a limited time. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 hits T-Mobile stores November 10 for $470.
Microsoft today announced an update to its Outlook email app for iOS that should ease the process of scheduling group meetings. A new scheduling assistant built into the app makes it possible to see coworkers' availability when booking new meetings. Users will first need to create an event and set invitees. Outlook will then use color-coded effects to show when invitees are free. Users can drag the time picker around the calendar until it turns green, which signals when all the invitees are available. A few more taps sets the event and sends invites to the other participants. The new tool requires a connection to Office 365 or the latest version of Exchange. Microsoft said this feature will be available to Android and Windows 10 Mobile devices soon. Outlook is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today announced a new 3D Capture app for phones. Using only the phone's camera, it can capture an object's shape and texture for importing into the new 3D tools available in the new version of Windows 10, dubbed Windows 10 Creators Update. The app will be available soon for Windows 10 Mobile, followed by versions for Android and iOS.
T-Mobile today listed the "Alcatel IDOL 4S with Windows 10 VR" on its web site. The unique version of the Idol 4S not only runs Windows 10, but sports many of the upgrades available in the related BlackBerry DTEK60, such as the high-end Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C connector, none of which are in the standard Idol 4S. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also includes free VR goggles (for a limited time) for use with "pre-loaded games and videos". Curiously, while the standard Idol 4S includes a Quad-HD display ideal for VR, this version steps down to a full-HD display, according to T-Mobile's specs. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also supports Windows Continuum, which lets you connect a screen and keyboard to turn the phone into a full Windows 10 computer. Other features of the phone include a memory card slot, stereo speakers, 8-megapixel front camera, and 4 GB of RAM. T-Mobile's specs do not mention NFC. Pricing and release date have yet to be announced. Microsoft is
Microsoft today made the Windows 10 Anniversary update available to devices running Windows 10 Mobile. The update is the first major improvement to the Windows 10 platform. It adds features and makes improvements to phones such as the Lumia 650, 950, and 950 XL. Some of the changes impact the Edge browser and Maps app. Unlocked devices can snag the update through the settings menu, but carrier-locked phones will need to wait for the carrier-specific update to arrive. The Windows 10 Anniversary update is free to download and install.
Microsoft has updated Skype for Android, iOS, Mac, the web, and Windows devices and given the communications tool access to more chat bots. Microsoft says it worked with select partners this time around to bring dedicated services to Skype. A bot from Skyscanner lets Skype users search for flights, while a StubHub bot makes it simpler to find event tickets. A bot from IFTTT can deliver alerts from apps, devices, and web sites, while a Hipmunk bot helps book entire vacation packages. Microsoft updated its bot platform last month with support for group bot chats and info cards. The company says more bots and capabilities are on the way. Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, Apple App Store, and Windows Store.
Starbucks today released a new application for Microsoft's Windows 10 Mobile platform. The app, available in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, allows Windows users to find stores, manage account details, and make payments. People can use the app to send e-gifts, check their account balance and transactions, leave digital tips, and track Starbucks rewards. Starbucks for Windows 10 Mobile is free to download from the Windows Store.
Microsoft revealed more job cuts on Thursday as it continues to wind down its mobile phone business. The company plans to reduce headcount by 2,850 employees, primarily in its mobile phone and sales businesses. These cuts are in addition to the 1,850 job eliminations announced in May, also in the phone unit. Microsoft expects to finalize the cuts by the middle of 2017. Windows Phone's presence in the smartphone market has been hovering around 1% for the last few quarters.
Microsoft today said its Skype service will no longer be updated for Windows Phone 7 - 8.1 and older versions of Android and iOS. The company said it wants to "focus on the platforms of the future" which means it "must end support for some devices and operating systems." Skype will continue to support Windows 10 for Mobile, Windows 7, 8, XP, and Vista, Yosemite on Mac, iOS 8, and Android 4.03. Versions of Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android older than those named here will no longer be supported with updates. Skype says its service won't cease immediately on older platforms, but as the company continues to move Skype to the cloud, some features may become broken over time.
Deezer today made its music-streaming service available to anyone who wants it in the U.S. The service was previously limited to Cricket Wireless customers and those who owned Sonos home stereo equipment. Deezer's offering is similar to Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Music in that it provides access to millions of tracks, radio stations, and podcasts to mobile devices. Songs can be streamed or downloaded for offline playback. Deezer is available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. The app itself is free to download, but the Premium+ experience requires a $10 monthly fee.
Acer's Jade Liquid Primo landed in the Microsoft Store today for $649. The device runs Microsoft's Windows 10 platform with Cortana, OneDrive, and Office. The Jade Liquid Primo includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera captures 21-megapixel images and includes a dual-tone LED flash, while the selfie camera shoots 84-degree wide-angle images at 8-megapixels. Other specs include support for memory cards up to 128 GB, 2,870mAh battery, NFC, USB Type-C, GPS, Bluetooth, dual-band WiFi, and a bevy of sensors. The Acer Jade Liquid Primo is available directly from Microsoft's web site, unlocked with support for GSM-based networks (LTE Cat 6), for $649.
Microsoft today updated its Microsoft Wallet app and gave Lumia smartphone owners the ability to make mobile payments at supporting retailers. Windows Mobile has long included a Wallet app, but until today it was reserved for loyalty cards and other retail programs. Now, people can add their credit or debit card to Microsoft Wallet and use the app for tap-and-go purchases. The app is available to the Lumia 950, 950 XL, and 650, and requires Windows Insider build 14360 or higher. The Windows Insider program is free to join and distributes pre-release versions of Windows 10 Mobile that are still in development. Microsoft says the tap-to-pay feature will be expanded to all users running stock builds of Windows 10 Mobile later this summer. Both MasterCard and Visa support Microsoft Wallet, along with financial institutions including Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, People's United Bank, Fifth Third Bank, US Bank, and others. Microsoft says mobile payments should work at any retail terminal that accepts contactless payments. Microsoft Wallet is free to download from the Windows Store.
Microsoft today said it has acquired Wand Labs, a company that combines human language with machine intelligence. Microsoft said it plans to add Wand Labs' talent to its Bing, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Windows platforms. "The Wand team's expertise around semantic ontologies, services mapping, third-party developer integration, and conversational interfaces make them a great fit ... especially with the work we're doing in the area of intelligent agents and chat bots," said David Ku, corporate vice president, Information Platform Group. Wand Labs was founded in 2013 by Vishal Sharma. The acquisition fits the roadmap unveiled earlier this year by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, which will focus on the "conversation as a platform."
Opera updated several of its mobile browsers today, bringing its ad blocking tool to Android, iOS, and Windows handsets. First, Opera refreshed its main Opera browser for Android. In addition to the ad blocker, Opera for Android also gains support for web push notifications and multi-window support. Further, the browser's core was upgraded to Chromium 50. Opera for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Opera also updated Opera Mini for iOS and Opera Mini for Windows phones (8.1 and 10). Both platforms gain access to Opera's ad blocker. For all devices, the ad blocker is not on by default; users will need to activate it in the settings. Opera Mini for iOS and Windows is available from the iTunes App Store and Windows Store, respectively.
Microsoft today added more women to Skype's supported set of mojis and emoticons. The new moji specifically depict women in a greater variety of professional roles, such as scientist, athlete, teacher, and director. Microsoft hopes the expanded moji selection will help people convey more meaningful messages to one another. People who have the latest version of Skype installed on their Android, iOS, or Windows smartphone will see the updated emoticon picker tab beginning later today.
Facebook today said it has taken steps to ensure all users of its Messenger application enjoy a rich experience. Moving forward, emoji will appear exactly the same across platforms, including the web, Android, iOS, and Windows. Moreover, the company has added a diverse mix of emoji to the app, including more variety in skin and hair colors, gender neutral options, more women in professional roles, and so on. Facebook says once users select a skin color all emoji will default to that skin color moving forward, though users will be able to change it at any time. The new emoji will be available in the expanded emoji keyboard. Facebook said updated versions of Messenger will roll out to users worldwide over the days ahead.
PayPal today said it will sunset its Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon Fire Phone apps on June 30. After that date, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Fire Phone users will not be able to login to or use the Paypal mobile app. PayPay says these users will be able to sign in to PayPal.com via the browser of their device and conduct transactions online. PayPal further said all Android and iOS users of its mobile app need to upgrade to version 6.0 between June 3 and June 30. Version 6.0 of the PayPal mobile app has a fresh design. PayPal said it gave more prominent placement to features its customers use most, such as send and request money, PayPal balance, and transaction history. PayPal is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today said it plans to further streamline its smartphone business, an action that includes job cuts and restructuring charges. The company plans to cut 1,350 jobs from its facilities in Finland, as well as another 500 jobs globally. The company expects to take a charge of about $950 million, of which $200 million will be used for severance packages. "We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability, and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO. "We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms." Microsoft says it expects to complete most job cuts by the end of this year and all cuts by July 2017. Sales of Windows 10 Mobile phones began in late 2015, but the platform has lost more ground since then, accounting for just 1% of smartphone sales during the first quarter, according to Gartner. Microsoft recently sold its feature phone business to a Foxconn subsidiary, and Nokia recently gave that same subsidiary the rights to use its brand on mobile devices. This paves the way for Nokia to make a return, of sorts, to the mobile phone business.
Google today said its Chrome operating system will soon have access to the Google Play Store and the Android apps therein. ChromeOS will support all Android phone and tablet apps, including games, productivity apps, and social networking. Android apps can run in three different window sizes in ChromeOS and users will be able to move the windows around and multitask as needed. Keyboard, mouse, and touch input will all work together within Android apps, and Android-based notifications will be pushed to Chromebooks as well as phones. Moreover, users will be able share files seamlessly between Chrome and Android devices through a new Files app. Google says developers can add admin-level network support to their Android apps for Chrome so businesses and schools can control options such as Bluetooth and WiFi. Android games should run very well on Chromebooks, according to Google. Google Play for Chrome will be available to developers on the Asus Chromebook Flip, Acer Chromebook R 11, and the Chromebook Pixel with a wider launch expected later this year. Google says it will add support for Android apps to more Chromebooks over time. ChromeOS is Google's light-weight, browser-based operating system that runs on inexpensive laptops.
Microsoft has decided to remove the WiFi Sense feature from all versions of Windows 10, including mobile devices and PCs. The feature was pulled from the most recent preview build of Windows 10 for PCs; it will be pulled from phones, too. WiFi Sense allowed people to share their WiFi logins with social network connections, as well as connect to public WiFi networks with less hassle. "The cost of updating the code to keep this feature working combined with low usage and low demand made this not worth further investment," explained Microsoft. Microsoft said people who leave WiFi Sense running on their phones will still be able to connect to open WiFi hotspots that are already in Microsoft's shared database. Microsoft recently released a new preview build of Windows 10 for handsets. Build 14332 mostly targets bugs and makes refinements to the user interface of select apps. The next preview build for phones will likely strip out WiFi Sense.
Facebook today announced three new apps for the Windows 10 platform, including a proper Instagram app for phones, and dedicated Facebook and Messenger apps for desktops. The Instagram app for Windows 10 Mobile includes features that have long been available only to the Android and iOS apps, including Instagram Direct, videos, the Explore tab, and more. Further, the Live Tile for Instagram now shows photo updates on the home screen. Instagram for Windows 10 Mobile will reach the Windows Store later today. Facebook said it plans to port the new Facebook and Messenger Windows 10 desktop apps to smartphones later this year.
Microsoft recently added the Acer Liquid M330, a low-cost handset running Windows 10 Mobile, to its U.S. web store. The M330 includes a 4.5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and is powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and support for 64 GB memory cards. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras. The rear-facing camera includes autofocus and a flash, while the front-facing camera is fixed focus. It includes a standard batch of radios, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi, and limited LTE support including bands 2, 4, 7, and 12. This makes it somewhat compatible with the 4G networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The M330 supports two SIM cards. The phone is available directly from Microsoft for $99.99 It is sold unlocked.
Microsoft is looking to clear inventory of the Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 smartphones, which means consumers can buy one at full price and get the second one for free. The deal is available via Microsoft's U.S. web store. Specifically, people who purchase the 950 XL at $649 will receive a Lumia 950, valued at $549, for free. Both devices are being sold unlocked with support for GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The promotion is available while supplies last through May 2. Microsoft reported shipments of about 2.3 million Lumia phones in its most recent financial documents, which represents a steep drop from the 8.6 million it shipped in the year-ago period. The company admitted it is sitting on a lot of excess inventory of its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices. Moreover, the company expects "year over year revenue declines to deepen as we work through our Lumia channel position." Cricket Wireless is expected to launch Microsoft's mid-range model, the Lumia 650, early next month. Microsoft has recently pushed a significant update to its Windows 10 Mobile platform and updated core apps such as email, Groove Music, and the Edge browser.
Cricket Wireless today announced plans to sell the Microsoft Lumia 650. The prepaid carrier will offer the phone beginning May 6 for $130. The phone runs Windows 10 Mobile and features a metal-frame design with a 5-inch HD OLED display, 8-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and removable battery. Cricket says people who switch from another carrier will be eligible for a $50 bill credit. T-Mobile customers who switch to Cricket will be eligible for a $100 bill credit. Cricket's prepaid plans start at $40 per month.
WhatsApp today updated its service with full end-to-end encryption. Now, the latest version of the app protects calls, messages, photos, videos, files, and voice messages by default. Users don't need to take any action to enable it. Encryption applies to messages sent to individuals and groups. The company says no one but the recipient(s) will be able to read the messages. WhatsApp itself cannot see message contents. The update covers all versions of WhatsApp, including the Android, iOS, and Windows apps. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, says more than one billion people use the app to communicate. The change follows the widely publicized FBI case against Apple, which ordered the company to unlock an iPhone. Apple refused, but the FBI was able to unlock the device using another method. WhatsApp says the government will not be able to read WhatsApp messages.
Microsoft has made the Lumia 650 available for purchase from its U.S. web site. The phone runs Windows 10 Mobile and features a metal-frame design with a 5-inch HD OLED display, 8-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and removable battery. Microsoft is selling the phone unlocked for $199. It is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile.
Microsoft is giving Skype a boost of intelligence thanks to Cortana and Skype Bots. With Cortana integration, Skype users will be able to do things such as manage their calendar and contacts without leaving the Skype app. Cortana will also be able to interact with bots, which Microsoft said will allow people to perform tasks such as book hotels and order pizza by conversing with the app itself. Bots are available in preview form within the messaging part of Skype, but will eventually be added to audio and video calling, too. A new version of Skype for Android, iOS, and Windows enables the bots. Companies will be able to create their own bots for Skype via Microsoft's developer program. People will be able to add the bots they want to their contact list. Microsoft revealed the bots are part of its larger vision for voice-activated computing.
Microsoft today charted a new course for its Skype platform as realized on mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and PCs. Late last year, Microsoft announced its intent to offer a universal app for PCs and tablets, with separate apps targeting Windows 10 smartphones. After digesting feedback over the last few months, Microsoft has had a change of heart and will offer a universal app for all platforms. This will let people invested in the Windows ecosystem enjoy the same experience across different form factors. However, the company still intends to offer the separate mobile apps for calling, messaging, and video because it says phone users often prefer task-based apps. Microsoft will release the universal Skype app for Windows 10 PCs soon, with a version for phones to follow later.
Microsoft has made a new build of Windows 10 available to mobile phones and PCs alike. Build 14291 makes significant changes to several important features. First, the Edge browser now supports extensions. Though this feature is limited to PCs, it makes the browser more competitive with Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari. The Edge browser also makes it possible to pin tabs within the app to anchor specific web pages, and adds more options when copying and pasting URLs. This Windows 10 update also heralds big improvements to the Windows Maps app for handsets and PCs. Maps is now more consistent between phones and PCs, and has a lightweight user interface. Some of the features added to Maps include one-tap access to search and directions, Cortana turn-by-turn directions, and quick access to cities rendered in 3D. Microsoft says the new Maps lets users view multiple searches and directions at the same time, minimize search results and directions during navigation, and see labels more clearly. Turn-by-turn navigation is easier to understand at a glance, and now supports landscape orientation. There are a number of other changes to the platform, such as a revised alarm clock app, support for various Japanese text entry modes, and the addition of the Feedback Hub for Windows Insiders to share their thoughts about Windows 10. This build is available to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring for the Lumia 550, 650, 950, 950 XL, Xiaomi Mi4, and Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL. Microsoft says these devices are on deck for more previews in the weeks ahead.
Microsoft has begun making Windows 10 Mobile available to older smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft first expected to release the platform in November or December of last year, but pushed the update to the first quarter. The new operating system is available to the Lumia 430, 435, 532, 535, 540, 635, 640, 640 XL, 730/735, 830, 930, and 1520. Owners of these phones must first download the Upgrade Advisor app from the Windows Store and accept the terms and conditions of the upgrade. Once this proactive step is taken, the phone is prepared for Windows 10 and Microsoft will deliver it as an over-the-air update. Microsoft hasn't said if handsets other than this initial batch will be able to install Windows 10 Mobile. There are some significant omissions, such as the Lumia 520, 920, 1020, 1320, HTC One M8 for Windows, and the Lumia Icon. The refreshed platform makes improvements to Cortana and Office, and puts the mobile experience in line with Windows 10 desktop machines.