Windows 10 Mobile Preview Build 10586 In-Depth Review on Lumia 930

Windows 10 Mobile brings several new features. Photo: Microsoft website

Windows 10 Mobile brings several new features. Photo: Microsoft website

Robert C. Johnston.

 

Some months ago I pulled my old damaged Lumia 1020 out of a drawer and installed the Insider Preview of Windows 10 Mobile. I wanted to test the waters safely, before I risked the new operating system on the phone I currently use and rely on every day, a Lumia 930.

After a few months of installing the updates that came through, I could tell Windows 10 Mobile still wasn’t ready to be trusted. It was just too glitchy. Too unfinished.

In December 2015, with Windows 10 Mobile now out in the wild on the new Lumia 950 and 950XL flagships, I decided it was time to take the leap of faith and install the latest Insider Preview Windows 10 Mobile build on my Lumia 930.

Here is my review of Windows 10 Mobile running on the Lumia 930, having tested it as my daily driver for over a month. I am running Build 10586.63 which became available on the Insider Fast Ring in January 2016.

Let’s jump straight into it.

What I Like

  • The look feels fresh and crisp.
  • Email photo attachments are no longer automatically compressed, which is great. Finally you can email a full size photo. Previously you were forced to email your photos at not much better than SMS quality – it was one of the biggest drawp_ss_20160128_0001wbacks of Windows Phone 8.1.
  • The new Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) seem very good and much more useful. In Word, for example, you can insert and manipulate images so that text wraps around them.
  • The new Edge browser is better overall than WP 8.1’s Internet Explorer. Tabs now open in the background, and it renders pages pretty well. Unlike in WP8.1, it also keeps tabs in their same location when you are switching between them, so you don’t get confused.
  • The Alarm has been updated. There was nothing really wrong with the old alarm, but the new one has the nice touch (which I remember from old Nokia days) of showing how much time there is left before the alarm goes off. It also includes world time, stop watch, countdown timer, and a handy time converter, which actually converts future times of your choice in one location to the time in another location. Very handy, for example, if you were waiting for an announcement to take place at particular time in a particular time zone, and wanted to quickly figure out what time that will be in your time zone.

    Win 10 Mobile's world time clock with handy time converter

    Win 10 Mobile’s world time clock with handy time converter

  • Four rows of Settings toggles are available for quick access in the Action Centre.wp_ss_20160128_0004 (2)
  • The new Photos gallery app finally shows file information/EXIF data.wp_ss_20160128_0005
  • A Start screen background image can now be set from an open photo, and it includes handy crop lines.
  • The new calculator app is more useful and includes conversions, e.g. Metric to Imperial.wp_ss_20160128_0006
  • There is now an integrated flashlight, available as a toggle in the Action Centre.
  • The new Edge browser doesn’t do that annoying thing like in the WP 8.1 Internet Explorer, where if you are panning left or right on a page and you happen to hit the edge, it thinks you want to go to the previous or next page (that wasn’t a bad feature to have – iOS does it quite well because it waits till you swipe from the edge of the screen – but WP 8.1’s Internet Explorer would change pages on a whim, even if you were swiping a horizontal scroll bar from the centre of the screen.
  • The Settings layout is finally organised into practical sub menus.wp_ss_20160128_0007
  • The Photos app finally shows images as crisp as they should be, without blurring them slightly like in Windows Phone 8.1. See my article explaining that here.
  • By workaround you can now edit PNG files in Lumia Creative Studio (it prompts you to first create a JPG copy).
  • Finally, the Calendar live tile bug has been fixed (it showed an tomorrow’s all-day event as being today. It only took the Windows Phone team a few years. Also explained here.
  • I have always had some “phantom” touch issues with my Lumia 930 running Windows Phone 8.1. The screen would inexplicably scroll instantly to another position when you tapped it, causing you to tap in the wrong place. It seems that this problem is not as obvious in Windows 10 Mobile.

What could be better

  • Although I must say the “feel” and smoothness of Windows 10 Mobile has improved substantially since earlier builds, it is still sometimes very laggy. Some major problems are listed below in the bugs section.
  • Currently it seems you cannot add your search engine of choice to the search bar in Edge, you are stuck with Bing.
  • It would be good if the Start screen could rotate into landscape view.
  • While it is SO much better that photos are no longer compressed when attaching them to emails (a ridiculous restriction Microsoft left in Windows Phone for years, until now), there are some occasions when you don’t want to send a large file, so hopefully the Windows Phone team gets the hint and includes options to send photos in original, medium, or small file sizes. iOS does this quite well.
  • Fortunately, there is no longer the Calendar live tile bug for “all day” events, but the Calendar live tile is still far too useless. This is covered in my previous article.
  • Microsoft Edge takes too many taps to get to your Favourites list.
  • The Microsoft Edge Favourites list needs to have a section at the top where you can choose (choose – not auto!) your frequently used bookmarks, because the list becomes very long over time.
  • A long held annoyance of exploring the Windows Phone file structure when connected to a PC (and that has still not been addressed in Windows 10 Mobile) is that file folders are left to grow to an enormous size. For example, my Camera Roll folder sometimes has about 20 gigabytes of photos inside. When opening this on a PC it takes a long time for the thousands of thumbnails to populate. As I have written before, it would be far better for a new folder to be automatically created when the existing one gets over a certain size, and named logically by date (unlike iPhone’s ridiculously impossible to decipher folder naming structure).
  • The new integrated Flashlight cannot be pinned to the Start screen, unlike third party solutions. If you need a torch quickly, tapping a flashlight icon on the Start screen is faster than having to swipe down on the Action Centre.
  • Saving a picture in Microsoft Edge now painfully takes 6 taps, when it used to take one. There should be the option to “Save” as usual (straight to Saved Pics), as well as the option to “Save AS…”.
  • Unfortunately like in WP 8.1, you must still have Bluetooth turned on in order to have it listed as a sharing option. This means you have to interrupt what you were doing to turn it on. Rather, it should always be listed as an option, regardless of on/off status, and then prompt you for permission to turn it on when you tap it.
  • The extra rows of settings toggles in the Action Centre are good, but it would be more user friendly to have an option to choose how many rows you want to see as the “collapsed” version. E.g., I would prefer two rows. It’s currently just a bit fiddly having to tap expand/collapse so often.wp_ss_20160128_0008a
  • The Camera app has a new look but is still basically the same and is still not as intuitive as it should be. It should have frequently used settings as toggles on the viewfinder, for example resolution and aspect ratio, and a quick “lock rotation” button. See my other article for more info.
  • The “Crop,Rotate, Auto-enhance” editing tool has been updated, but not in a good way. The “Auto enhance” feature does not give as pleasing an exposure result as the previous WP 8.1 version. It now also takes new liberties when auto enhancing and actually auto-rotates the photo, usually when you don’t want it to – it is easily confused by angular objects and ends up making the photo crooked.
  • Panning the image during crop in the new “Crop, Rotate. Auto-enhance” tool is very counterintuitive.
  • The Lumia Panorama app is still the most pitiful panorama app I have ever used and 95% of attempts are a waste of time.
  • There are some unusual design elements in the new Photos gallery, for example in the “Albums” tab, your existing albums/folders (Camera roll, Saved pictures, Screenshots, Favourites) are crammed into a little space up the top, and there is more than half the screen blank for where you can add new albums. I may only ever add one or two other albums. Why should they get so much extra real estate compared to the albums I use every day? I can scroll along to the “Folders” tab instead, but the photos therein are sorted showing the oldest photo first, so I have to scroll through to the end. I accept that this is only still a Preview build, but this sort of thing highlights ongoing frustrations with the Windows Phone team: a lack of consistency and inadequate polish to their product, ongoing since the inception of Windows Phone in 2010.
  • Existing photo editing apps should be consolidated into one, and also include an option to resize images, crop in 21:9, adjust sharpening (not just clarity), and adjust colour saturation (not just vibrance).
  • Lumia Play To still does not rotate photos taken vertically and is still arranged from the oldest item first, so you have lots of scrolling to do to cast photos onto a TV (the vertical photo problem seems to be an issue with how Lumia Camera saves the photo). I would like to see a “Project/Cast to…” option natively integrated into Photos, Music, Edge, and in the Office Suite.
  • Reader Mode in Edge still has usability problems. If you have started reading an article, then click Reader Mode, it will take you to the top of the page and lose your spot. If you rotate the screen when using Reader Mode, it does not rotate to the same spot so you have to try to find where you were up to.
  • The new Calendar is ok but the event “repeat” function is a separate option – it works well enough but it is just a bit fiddly tapping into it every time when creating multiple recurring entries such as birthdays and anniversaries.
  • The new Calendar live tile needs options. There is so much wasted space it is ridiculous, Microsoft has left it like this for years. To be actually useful, the live tile should have the capability to show in that space about 6 upcoming calendar entries in the next two or three weeks etc, instead of only being able to show one event happening today or tomorrow. What if I have five things happening tomorrow?
  • When editing photos, “Save a Copy” is fine to have, but restrictive if it’s the only option. Users also want “Save” and “Save As…”. Those options have been around for so long on PC because they’re the most useful.

    Because of that ginormous volume bar I can't see the ginormous building about to fall onto James Bond in the Spectre trailer.

    Because of that ginormous volume bar I can’t see the ginormous building in the Spectre trailer about to fall onto James Bond.

  • The Volume bar is WAY too chunky and always gets in the way. It has no valid reason to take up so much space.
  • PowerPoint is great but takes a little getting used to because there are a lot of “icon-only” menus – it takes some trial and error to figure out what all the buttons do. Unlike on PC, you can’t just hover your mouse over the icon to see the text name pop up.
  • Windows Phone users will know that there are many, many occasions when we press the Back button, expecting, for example, to return to the previous layer within an app, such as the previous webpage, or back to our email inbox after looking at an email. But instead, the Back button takes us back to the Start screen. So then we have to go back into the app we were working in. If we wanted to go to the Start screen, we can press the dedicated Start screen. It would be better to keep the Back button for going “back” within Now that we can also close apps in the multitasking switcher, we no longer need the Back button to do that.
  • There should be crop lines when you are setting a photo as the Photo live tile.
  • Another limitation continued on from WP 8.1 is the lack of upload/download progress counters. For example, when downloading an email attachment, the only indication are useless little dots floating in a circle. Users want to know that the attachment has not stalled.
  • Still unaddressed since WP 8.1, if you are typing something in the internet browser search bar, then switch out temporarily to a different app, when you return to the search bar it has deleted what you had been typing.

Bugs I noticed

  • Notifications are often not showing up in the Action Centre.
  • There is a serious bug affecting OneNote. When jotting down notes for this review on my phone, using the new OneNote app, I was surprised to see my network carrier text me to say I had used over 50% of my 3GB monthly limit. I have never had that warning before, but thought it must have been because I had been away over the holidays. Then not long after, I received another text saying I had used 85% of my download limit. I immediately realised something was playing up with my phone, and quickly switched off Mobile Data. Looking in the “Data Usage” section in Settings revealed that OneNote had inexplicably used 2.75GB of data. I have now turned off all the “auto-syncing” options I could find in OneNote, but all my notes are nothing more than a few kilobytes of text so syncing should never have been a problem in the first place. This is a worrying issue considering that not noticing those warning messages could have resulted in a hefty phone bill.
  • Panning around zoomed photos is glitchy.
  • Annoyingly, as a result of the update, all the email addresses that had been auto-saved from previously sent emails were lost. The only addresses that would show up were the very few I had actually added to my address book.
  • Miracast/Project Screen does not seem to be available.
  • Often when tapping an app in the Start screen, it would take you across to the full Apps list, instead of into that app.
  • Often when attaching pics to an email or message the app crashes to the Start screen. Upon returning to the app, the message or email would be found saved in the Drafts folder with the pic attached.
  • There is a new “one-hand operation” feature, which is activated by long-pressing on the Start button. It essentially deactivates the top half of the screen to make it easier for your thumb to reach around. This could be useful, but it often comes on when you are just hovering your finger around the Start button a moment too long. And, it is also broken – when it is activated you cannot scroll down the Start screen properly.
  • When selecting “Close all tabs” in the Edge browser, it sometimes does not close them all and leaves a couple of stragglers.
  • Live tiles are a little slow to clear their notifications when you return to the Start screen after those items have just been addressed.
  • Lumia Camera has for a while not imprinted photos correctly to allow other apps to understand that it should be displayed vertically.
  • OneDrive on the phone is often very unreliable, namely when uploading from the Photos app, but also when downloading from within the OneDrive app. It is often very hard to tell if upload/download progress is being made.
  • “Rotation lock” greys out in the Action Centre toggle, but it sometimes does not deactivate unless you restart the phone.
  • When you save a new picture in Lumia Creative Studio, upon returning to the previous photo in the Photos gallery, you can’t simply swipe across to see the new photo, you need to go back out to the gallery view so the app can refresh and show the new photo.
  • You cannot set a PNG image as the background if it is zoomed a particular way.wp_ss_20160128_0010
  • The Camera app does not seem to focus on close objects as easily as it used to.
  • Sometimes after tapping Send on an email, the Outlook logo fills the screen and will stay there for ages, as if the app is trying to resume what it should be going back to. The email sends ok, but sometimes the app just hangs there with the Outlook logo.

    This often fills the screen indefinitely, after you send an email.

    This often fills the screen indefinitely, after you send an email.

  • The Email app sometimes doesn’t say “Last updated at…”. Also, it may say “Last updated 12 minutes ago”, so you then tap Sync, but it will just say “Up to Date” and not refresh, unless you tap Sync a couple more times.
  • Occasional lag means you might tap something, and then tap it again because you thought you hadn’t, but then it activates the button twice because it was still catching up.wp_ss_20160128_0011
  • In the new Photos app, if you are viewing a photo that is lower resolution than that of the phone’s screen, it does not scale up to fill the screen.
  • The Photos app sometimes freezes when you delete a photo you are viewing.
  • Sometimes pages do not load properly in Edge (it goes to a white screen) until you close the page and restart the app.
  • When reviewing a Rich Capture photo, it often says “Adding final touches…” and takes a long time to show the finished product.
  • Microsoft Word occasionally crashes when inserting images into documents.

Other general observations

  • Some directions for swiping (e.g. the camera roll in the new Photos app, and the task switcher) have
  • I have tested Minecraft which seems to work fine on Windows 10 Mobile.
  • The Weather live tile is useful on the Start screen.
  • On the Lumia 930 the new Camera app no longer seems to give you the option to create two JPG versions simultaneously, only one. For JPGs you have to choose between full sensor or PureView. You can still create a JPG and original DNG simultaneously.
  • Not necessarily a Microsoft problem, but when I first installed Shazam on my Windows Phone a couple of years ago, I liked how the app’s live tile would show the actual album cover of the most recently Shazamed song title. But for some time it has not shown the album cover, only text. I really miss the added “art” it once added to my Start screen and hope Shazam brings it back.
  • Battery life did not change noticeably.
  • The animation style of the Photos live tile is different, when photos change. I am not too fussed but some people may prefer the old way.
  • Digital zoom in the still camera goes further now, past what would be optimised for PureView.

Summary

Windows 10 Mobile certainly brings improvements to a phone such as the Lumia 930 previously running Windows Phone 8.1. The new Office Suite is a plus. And finally being able to email photos without the limitation of them being automatically compressed is a long overdue fix. There are other nice touches, like the new calculator including conversions, more Settings toggles available in the Action Centre, a more customisable Start screen, and logically organised Settings menus.

But while it is relatively stable overall, Microsoft still needs to iron out quite a few bugs. OneNote inexplicably using 2.75GB of mobile data in barely an hour is a massive red flag. Glitches in the Mail and Photos apps need to be addressed, and although I love OneDrive in general, its integration into Windows 10 Mobile is still difficult to trust.

Should you try the preview of Windows 10 Mobile on the phone you rely on every day? It’s definitely a risk, so it’s up to you.

One can only hope that long-griped-about limitations of Windows Phone will be addressed in Windows 10 Mobile. The Windows Phone team has let early adopters languish for years, forcing once loyal customers who had long given Microsoft the benefit of the doubt to seriously consider Android and iOS alternatives. Microsoft needs to look into why it takes the Windows Phone team so long to deliver. The opportunity for success with Windows 10 Mobile is not yet out of reach, but the clock is ticking.

Comment on Twitter @johnstonrobertc

 

All screenshots by Robert C. Johnston.

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