So I’ve had 4 months on the Windows Insider version and the last month with my Lumia 950XL and I’m still learning and finding things out about the Windows 10 mobile platform. I keep a OneNote page pinned to my start screen so as something occurs to me, good or bad, I make a quick note. I’m going to share that list over my next few blog posts.
- Peek Notifications
When I started using Windows 10 mobile, one of the first things that jumped out to me is how it puts messages right out there for you regardless of the device state. No matter what, if you are in a game or the phone is on the desk and dark, if a text or Skype message comes in, you are treated to an expandable curtain or shade that pops in. At the bottom of the notification is a tiny “handle” you can grab and pull it down like a curtain. The result is you get a few more lines of text and an input box in which you can respond. This allows consumption and response without opening up your device, logging in, and opening the app. Very useful.
The much anticipated arrival of Microsoft’s bio-metric authentication method has arrived on the 950 and 950xl. We have a few Surface Pro 4’s at work and with policies that lock our screens after 10 minutes of inactivity, the feature of the hardware scanning and identifying your face in place of an 8 character complex password is invaluable.
In relation to mobile devices that sync with Exchange Active Sync, we have a policy that requires a pin be set in order for mobile devices to connect to Exchange mail. So authentication is required on any device per policy and much time can be spent repetitively logging in if the device is closed for 10 minutes. Hello looks to get at this effort by providing a zero effort way at authenticating. The method on the phone differs from its PC counterpart by using Iris mapping rather than full facial recognition. In practice I have had good results using Hello. I have run it through training half a dozen times each with and without glasses. There is an initial awkwardness when using it. The phone does need to be situated at eye level and I’ve found I have to do this slow head nod or phone tilt motion as it seeks to find its target. Still, not having to tap that pin in a few dozen times a day has potential. It also needs an increased target distance from the user. It needs to see me from arms length and not 6-8 inches from my face. It is still marked as being in Beta so Microsoft isn’t done with it yet and I’m eager to see who they will optimize it.
- Messaging across devices
So our friend Cortana seems to be working for us behind the scenes as well as being out in front waiting for us to say “Hey, Cortana”. Now when you get a text message or a call on your phone and miss it, a notification shows up on your Windows 10 desktop, tablet or Band 2 and you can reply (well text messages anyway) from the device you are at and not have to pick up your phone . You need Windows 10 on the desktop for this to work but when it does, its very useful.
- Device Encryption
So pull down from the top and go to All Settings. Tap on System and the Device Encryption. Slide it on. Done! I am anxious to find out how/if this can be controlled/enforced through Group Policy or MDM (mobile device management). It does need to be more explicit. Is it also encrypting my SD card, what level of encryption, what about data syncing to the cloud? A simple On or Off isn’t quite enough information but I’m glad its there as an explicit setting.
- MS Office
Microsoft has updated its version of Office that ships with Windows 10 Mobile. These Office mobile apps maintain full compatibility and fidelity with their desktop and 365 companions. Microsoft has done a stellar job with converting these apps into their mobile form. If you get an Office document via email or download and open one on your device you will see it just as it was created and have all the basic functions to perform simple edits on your device.
- Converged Messaging
I’ve not had much experience with this one yet. What I can tell you is when I get a Skype chat message it shows up in my “text” messaging stream. The Skype message shows as a different color than the text messages and I can respond from there without opening Skype. I imagine there is the capability for other messaging apps to tie in similarly and be able to exchange messages without opening a separate app. This is just conjucture so don’t take that as a confirmation! And to this point, we also use Skype for Business at work and those IM messages DO NOT appear in the messaging app stream.
The Lumia line was known for its camera under the Nokia brand name. Fortunately Microsoft not only continues this tradition, it enhances it. The photos from the device are amazing and the videos sharp. You can still launch the camera from an unlocked device by pressing the dedicated camera button and sync everything to the Cloud with OneDrive. A few editing apps are now built in to the camera that previously were downloads and many of the apps from the 8.1 mobile days are still in the store and functional with the device.
- Edge Browser
So remember the App Gap issue with the Windows Phone platform? Well, my way around that has been by using the browser to access sites or resources that haven’t been developed for the platform. I don’t have an app from my bank on Windows Phone so I pin a shortcut to my Start screen and just use the Mobile site. The use of responsive design and HTML 5 is rapidly turning websites into apps that respond accordingly when they detect a mobile device. So a modern browser is just what’s needed on this platform and Edge is Microsoft’s new generation browser. Favorites and the Reading list function across the mobile and desktop versions. So I have pinned access pages for my bank, my hospital health portal, my EHR mobile rounding site, my internet provider, WordPress, my credit card account site and Food Network. What? I like Food Network. There are features on the desktop version that haven’t made their way to the mobile version such as putting the site on edit mode and editing and sharing a page, but here’s hoping those features are coming soon.
So without a doubt, the biggest/riskiest new feature of Windows 10 is the capability to connect your “phone” to an external screen and use the device in a desktop mode. This seems a key pivoting point in Microsoft’s vision for phones of the future. It is the fruition of the Pocket PC. As part of the deal with ordering my 950 XL I was able to order one of the new Continuum docks for free. I have hooked up the dock and the phone and sat down a few times and used the phone as a desktop. It works fine for some basic tasks like email and Office document editing and web browsing. I’m just not sure of the use case. Am I going to set up a station at home or work for the purpose of using my “Pocket PC” this way. No, I wont. There is simply not the demand and there are too many limitations to make it compelling. So how can this be useful? I have a Microsoft wireless adapter connected to a second TV at my home. I have connected my 950XL up to it and streamed YouTube for the kids while the adults watched other shows on the main TV. I streamed Pandora over the holidays. My business use case for this feature is actually with a wireless miracast connector in a meeting room with a Qi wireless charger and bluetooth keyboard mouse combo. I had to bring nothing with me (well, the phone!), I can connect to resources, project to an audience, be productive and disconnect and go. That kind of immediate, impromptu ability is valuable. you still have to set up your rooms in advance or outfit each one with the needed gear but its pretty low cost and easy to do.
So that’s my Good list so far. What do you think? Is Microsoft on the right track, can they make this a viable platform by building on these features and stabilizing the platform? What new ways do you find you are using Windows 10 desktop or mobile. I’d love to hear about it and see what I might be missing.
Tune in next for the Bad and the Ugly list as Microsoft has some work to do on this release and I’ll share what I found that has been making me crazy (hint does the color blue mean anything to you?).
Thanks for reading and be blessed my friends!