After a frustrating day of trying to get up and running with Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 for Phones, I was finally able to install it on a single device, a Lumia 635. Here’s a quick peek at what this fledgling new system looks like in phone form, with some comparisons to the corresponding UIs in previous Windows Phone versions and to Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 on a desktop PC.
As Microsoft notes, this early build is not anywhere near final build quality, nor is it completely full-featured. So much of what’s available now is just carried over from Windows Phone 8.1.1, which is fine.
The install process itself is fairly brutal: I think this handset rebooted a few dozen times today, installing various updates, and I had to revisiting the Windows Insider app and the Phone Update interface in Settings several times each. But after a few hours—the 635 is very slow when it comes to OS updates, and I had to install Denim first—Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 was finally up and running.
So. Here’s what I see.
Start screen. As promised, you can configure a background image for the Start screen, but unlike with Windows Phone 8.1.1, it displays “around” the tiles (i.e. on the actual background, like it does in “big” Windows) in addition to “through” the tiles (like it does in Windows Phone). Start doesn’t display in landscape mode, and I don’t expect it to on phones.
Action Center. The WTP2 for Phones Action Center looks a lot like the one from Windows Phone 8.1.1. But like its WTP2 for PC equivalent, it can be expanded to show more quick actions. And you can deal with individual notifications (like on email) instead of entire groups (like the Mail app).
All Apps. The All Apps screen was—along with Settings—one of the biggest usability disasters in Windows Phone, but in WTP2 for Phones, it more usable, and shows things like recently installed and updated apps right at the top of the list.
Settings. Speaking of Settings, this interface has finally been divided into logical groups, just like every other mobile platform out there, and mimicking the design of WTP2 for PCs. Indeed, as you dive into individual settings, the similarities to WTP2 for PCs are obvious. And then you reach an actual settings screen and it looks like Windows Phone again.
Lock screen. The lock screen is only subtly different than before, from what I can see. Here is a before (left) and after (WTP2 for Phones, right):
Internet Explorer. We don’t get Project Spartan in WTP2 for Phones, but IE has been updated with an improved rendering engine that eschews Microsoft’s previous goal of being exactly perfect with regards to web standards and instead renders pages exactly like iOS and Android. So the mobile web should finally work on Windows Phone. The basic app UI doesn’t look all that different, though, and that’s to be expected.
Photos app. Microsoft said that the Photos app in WTP2 for Phones was the same universal app that we see in WTP2 for PCs, and sure enough it has the same basic UI—oriented for a phone—and the same missing features (albums and collections). But this app is notable for being the same across platforms, I think, and while I’ll always lament the death of Windows Phone’s hubs, this is a nice direction.
File Explorer. Microsoft’s near-pointless Files utility has been upgraded and renamed to File Explorer. I don’t see the point of this at all, but there it is.
Utilities. A few utilities have gotten a makeover. Calculator, for example, of course looks like the one in WTP2 for PCs. Alarms too. And some others.
Apps that haven’t changed noticeably. There may be some changes I’m missing, but from what I can tell, most of the core apps—Phone, Messaging, Store, Xbox Music and so on—haven’t changed since Windows Phone 8.1.1.