Weekly discussion: Microsoft’s smart new Lumia Strategy, Build 10581, Continuity and the future of smartphones

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Microsoft releases Build 10581 to Windows Mobile Insiders

  • For devices upgraded from Windows Phone 8.1 like the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, and Lumia 1520 that had the “Hey Cortana” feature – with this build “Hey Cortana” should work again in Windows 10. To make sure it’s turned on, just go to Settings > Extras > Hey Cortana.
  • You can now select photos for sharing through third-party apps like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Beta, WhatsApp etc.
  • Battery life should be improved in this build. We fixed several bugs impacting battery life.
  • We fixed an issue where you couldn’t choose some apps to show quick status on the Lock screen via Settings > Personalization > Lock screen.
  • We’ve made improvements to text prediction and auto-correction.
  • Video recording functionality has been improved.
  • Visual Voicemail sync should now work properly.
  • We fixed the dual-SIM issues that appeared in Build 10572.
  • We fixed the issue found with Build 10572 where the Chinese Pinyin QWERTY keyboard stopped working after upgrading from Windows Phone 8.1 that our Chinese Windows Insiders reported

Microsoft released its new mobile build to Windows Insiders this week, and it brought virtually no new features. I say virtually because I noticed one new feature, in quiet hours, the new build now defaults to Everyday for automatic rules as opposed to only once (logical improvement that improves the initial set up).  As a result of all the bug-fixes and the removal of Astoria(automatically removed if you manually reinstall it), the latest builds now surpass Windows Phone 8.1 in speed and ease of use. I am 100% confident Microsoft can make it through to the finish line in a week or so. Also, in case any one was counting, we got 3 builds in 3 weeks this time as opposed to once a month. Kudos to Gabe and his team.

Android vs Windows Phone: Software battle

On a mental scale, I weigh up Windows Phone or Android, and the scale tips towards Windows Phone every time. Everyone makes this kind of compromise when choosing a smartphone OS to use, and the key for Microsoft here is I think, to look beyond apps and make something that users could point to as being superior to Android and iOS. It won’t be continuum alone, it won’t be live tiles on their own, not even the tighter integration with Windows. It’ll have to be all those little things put together that combined, mark Windows out as a superior choice and make the breath of apps a sacrifice people are willing to make.

I used two Android Phones as my secondary device for a while, and I didn’t come away impressed. The extended capability of the apps and app store was quite nice and it was great knowing that I could do nearly anything if I set my mind to it, but Windows 10 Mobile works out of the box, has all the apps I need and is nicer to look at. I should warn though that I was not assessing the app gap objectively, just from my subjective experience. People with different needs would have different perceptions of the app gap, which is what the article is playing with. Reviewers who use Android and iOS first would clearly review Windows from the POV of those other OSes, what I did was simply look at the other OSes through what some may call fanboy glasses and found them wanting.

Microsoft gives free Continuum Docks out to Lumia 950 XL buyers

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Good. Continuum is a powerful feature that Microsoft should push in everyway possible- but not at the exclusion of other smaller and less headline grabbing features.

Microsoft’s new Lumia strategy analysed –

We’ve already analysed Microsoft’s new and old Windows Phone strategies, the old one which required Windows Phone to be the red-headed stepchild, and the new one which elevates it to a more important cornerstone of the Windows experience with Windows 10. Now it seems that many others are agreeing with the initial analysis.

Jason from Windows Central calls these new Lumias Microsoft’s new colourful iMacs, he writes the following:

Nadella, I believe, is expecting that the 1 to 3 year-long pent up demand Windows Phone fans have had for high-end Lumia’s will result in a greater rush for these devices than that experienced when the 920 hit the shelves. As I shared in an earlier piece, this could likely generate the largest surge in Lumia sales to date. (With wider carrier support it could be epic.)

For Q4 2015, the quarter in which the devices will be released the data for Windows Phones (when released in the new year) is likely to look very positive. The surge above in Lumia’s running Windows 10 Mobile will likely be accompanied by excited fans engaging the Windows Store in great numbers. Consequently, analytics will likely reveal a respectable number of app downloads to Windows 10 Mobile devices. There may also be increased revenue to developers during this quarter as a result.

Whether that pattern endures or not (which we hope it will), these will be powerful talking points to the industry, consumers, and developers for Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform. As Windows 10 on PC has yielded 6x more store visits and a 4x increase in developer’s revenue, a similar ecosystem boost on mobile will validate Microsoft’s strategy.

This positive messaging in Q1 2016 will likely be on the heels of the push for the Bridges. With a message of increased engagement across its ecosystem, Nadella is likely betting on developers being more inclined to invest in porting their apps to Windows 10.

Steve Litchfield of AAWP also adds in his own take:

Absolutely. We should all be past over-analysing recent Lumia sales now, proclaiming that ‘Windows Phone is dead’ – I’ve heard this numerous times now. Of course it’s dead, in terms of sales and having a future – that’s because it’s evolving into something which is part of a much bigger ecosystem. Almost all current Windows Phones will get their free Windows 10 Mobile upgrade, plus new models will appear from Microsoft and others over the next few months, all running the same universal applications and with much the same interface as on the desktop/laptop/tablet

Let me be absolutely clear on my position here, Microsoft can see the numbers, they produce these Windows Phones, after seeing that their previous strategy was disastrous, they cut its legs off at the knees and moved on to a new strategy. If Microsoft wanted to kill Windows Phones, they have had plenty of opportunities to kill it. Partnering with other OEMs, universal apps for Windows 10 and all the work they put into porting all their apps to Windows Phone (Yes, UWP is mostly relevant for Windows Phone atm) is not how Microsoft slowly kills off Windows Phone. Instead, they are repositioning it as simply Windows-on-your-phone and hoping that universal apps, continuum plus the new flagship phones provide enough of a boost to bring Windows Mobile back to life. It’s not as bold as “The Beta test is over”, but it certainly is something worth thinking about.

Windows phones to gain new continuity like features

Microsoft is essentially planning to introduce the ability to roam apps across your Windows 10 PC and Windows 10 Mobile device. What I mean by this is simple, imagine working on an email on your phone in the Mail app, but you decide you want to continue working on your email on your desktop. Simply open the mail app on your desktop, and Windows will pick up exactly where you left off. Another example is with web browsing with Microsoft Edge on your desktop, opening the app on your phone will bring you to where you left off on your desktop. Pretty neat.

This sounds good in theory. Start something on one device, continue on another, a logical extension of the continuum feature of Windows and probably more potential for utility on UWP apps. If Microsoft can get all of its apps and select partners supporting this, then it should be a great selling feature. Let’s see how long it takes the Skype team to implement this. “Cortana, remind me in 2017…”

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