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Windows 10 Mobile: What’s new compared to Windows Phone 8.1

WIndows 10 Mobile start screen
Windows Phone Area

Key changes and new features in Windows 10 Mobile

While Microsoft is gearing up to release the Windows 10 Mobile Update to the old Lumia phones, we’ve decided to cover the most significant features and changes in the operating system compared with Windows Phone 8.1 (Denim update).

Windows 10 Mobile’s Production version has build number 10586 which has already received a couple of cumulative security updates – the last one is 10586.164. Microsoft’s next major update of the mobile OS will arrive in Q3 2016 under the codename ‘Redstone’ – it is expected to bring more new features and improvements.

Start Screen

Windows 10 Mobile looks different than v.8.1 in many ways. First of all, it has a more refined and better-looking Start screen. You can now place four mid-size tiles on the Start screen, even on smaller devices, by changing the size of the tiles in Settings.

The Start Personalization page allows you to select a background photo and then choose the style – Tile or Full screen picture. If you select a full screen picture you can adjust the Tile transparency using a slider. ‘Show more tiles’ allows you to place more tiles on the Start. The ‘Colors’ menu lets you choose your accent color, a theme (dark or light) and apply color to navigation bar. The lock screen has a new animation.

WIndows 10 Mobile start screen settings start

Action Center & Notifications

The action center has been improved. There are more toggles you can access by swiping from the top of the screen – Cellular, Note, Flashlight and more. You can also expand the Notification center, and reply to messages if the app supports actionable notifications.

Microsoft introduced ‘private notifications’ – all notifications appear private on the lock screen. Enable the option from Settings → Notifications & Actions.

One-handed more: Press and hold the Start button to slide down the screen – sometimes helps on large-screen devices.

Settings: Microsoft has grouped all settings into sections and the menu now looks identical to that on Windows 10 for PC. On the top of the screen you can find a search bar, and even pin some individual settings to the Start Screen. For example, pin the Data Sense and you will have a Live Tile with consumed cellular and WiFi data.

WIndows 10 Mobile start screen edge

Keyboard: New features are: voice to type; pointing stick to move the cursor; changing the size of the keyboard (for phablets).

Integrated Skype: Windows 10 Mobile groups Messaging and Skype into a single app. The default messaging app allows to send SMS, Skype messages, GIFs, photos and location. You can also search for messages and integrate your phone number with Skype. Skype Video is a separate app that integrates with the Phone app – you can start audio/video calls directly from the phone dealer.

Cortana: an ability to get missed call notifications and send text messages on the PC. This works of you’ve logged in using the same account on PC and phone, and then enable to option from Cortana → Notebook → Settings. Cortana also tracks movies, events, leisure time, and the assistant has been integrated with some third-party apps like UBER.

Store: Windows 10 Mobile includes a brand new Store for universal and old apps, with a hamburger menu, separate pages for apps, movies, music and games, and a new section “Downloads and Updates”.

WIndows 10 Mobile start screen onedrive maps

New core apps: Microsoft completely redesigned the built-in Windows 10 Mobile apps – Photos, Phone, Contacts, File Explorer, Maps, OneDrive, Microsoft Edge, Camera, Outlook Mail & Calendar, Office, Groove Music, Movies and TV, and more. All these apps are Universal and can work in Continuum mode.

Continuum: one of the best features in Windows 10 Mobile. Continuum works only on new hardware and allows you to unleash a PC-like experience when the phone is connected to a monitor, mouse and keyboard. The phone then works as a PC on the bigger screen, but still acts like a phone – you can make calls, send texts, etc.

Keep in mind that this is not a complete list with all features in the operating system but only those we think are significant. Overall, we think that the new OS is off to a promising start and more exciting new features can be expected later in the year.