Of Windows 10 Mobile and Low-End Windows Phones

Posted on August 26, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Windows Phones with 0

Of Windows 10 Mobile and Low-End Windows Phones

Windows phone users have had a tough year. But recent rumors that Microsoft would not allow low-end Windows phones—those with just 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage—to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile should be viewed in context. In other words, nothing to see here.

I suspect everyone is well versed in the disaster that is Windows phone. So rather than reiterate that mess, let’s just move to what’s happening as we move past Windows Phone OS to Windows 10 Mobile.

As you may know, Microsoft was testing Windows 10 Mobile through the Windows Insider program alongside Windows 10 for PCs, and that testing has continued after the RTM release of Windows 10 for PCs. In fact, the latest build, 10525, was delivered to Insiders just two weeks ago and is quite mature despite some temporary bugs.

One of the big questions during the testing process has been which phones will get Windows 10 Mobile. Indeed, this has been a source of contention within the prickly Windows phone community from the start: the initial Windows 10 Mobile Insider release only ran on a weird subset of low-end Lumias. And while subsequent releases added a number of higher-end devices, some Lumia and most third-party device models have never been added to the list.

Earlier this month, bloggers spotted a Windows 10 coming soon to Lumia smart phones page on Microsoft.com, which noted that “the Lumia 430, Lumia 435, Lumia 532, Lumia 535, Lumia 540, Lumia 640, Lumia 640 XL, Lumia 735, Lumia 830, and Lumia 930” would receive a free upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile when available, setting off a new round of complaints. But Neowin asked Microsoft about this and the firm offered the following response, which includes a new bit of information:

“This is an initial list of in-market devices to receive the Windows 10 update,” a Microsoft representative wrote. “It is our ambition to bring Windows 10 to all Lumia devices running Lumia Denim software, noting that some features will vary, based on the hardware specifications.”

Hm. All Lumia devices running Lumia Denim, which is a comingling of two things, really: Windows Phone OS 8.1 and the Denim firmware update.

That should be most modern Windows phone handsets, but it isn’t. Just here in the United States, that leaves out plenty of 8.1-based phones, including the Lumia 1320 (Cricket), Lumia 520 (AT&T), Lumia 521 (T-Mobile, MetroPCS), Lumia 530 (T-Mobile), Lumia 635 (T-Mobile), Lumia 820 (AT&T), Lumia 920 (AT&T), and Lumia 925 (AT&T). To be fair, these phones are, for the most part, low-end phones or old phones.

This past week, however, another mini-controversy arrived. A similar Windows 10 coming soon to Lumia smart phones page, this time on Microsoft.com Germany, whittled the list down even further. A translated version of the page reads as follows:

“We are working hard to make Windows 10 available for all Lumia smartphones. But here is a list of Lumia smartphones which will get a free upgrade: Lumia 435, Lumia 532, Lumia 535, Lumia 635, Lumia 640, Lumia 640 XL, Lumia 735, Lumia 830, and Lumia 930. Functions may vary depending on the device. 8 GB internal memory required.

It is that last bit—8 GB internal memory required—that is raising hackles. And that’s because some low-end Windows phones, like the Lumia 530 (which is a miserable device), HTC 8S, BLU Win JR, BLU Win JR LTE, and some others no one really uses at all, come with only 4 GB of internal storage.

Seriously. Who cares?

What I mean by that is that there are real issues facing Windows phone and its users, and there are non-issues. This is the latter. The experience of running Windows Phone OS on a 4 GB system is laughably bad, and I do not, nor have I ever, recommended such a device to anyone. And when you use such a resource-constrained system, you’re just hurting yourself. Expecting to get a free upgrade to a major new OS version isn’t just silly, it’s probably something beyond the scope of whatever such a customer would expect anyway. This is a non-issue.

Now, Microsoft may eventually make the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade available on 4 GB Windows phones, just as it eventually made Windows 10 for PCs available on 16- and 32 GB laptops and tablets. Guess what? The experience is terrible on those devices too, and of course requires microSD or other removable storage just to do the upgrade.

Put simply. Nothing to see here, no matter how this turns out. It just doesn’t matter.

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