Windows 10 Mobile: everything we know so far

Windows 10 Mobile
Windows 10 Mobile

Windows 10 Mobile is the latest name for Microsoft's phone and tablet operating system and, along with new Lumia phones, it's ready to give you a competent alternative to iOS and Android.

It was formerly known as Windows Phone 10 and then Windows 10 for phones before Microsoft settled on Windows 10 Mobile. It didn't launch alongside Windows 10 itself, though – that's already out in the wild.

In fact, the Windows 10 Mobile release date for existing phones is going to be in December. That's when the update "will begin rolling out", according to Microsoft.

Want to download it sooner? The big news is that W10 Mobile is launching with both new friends, the newly announced Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, and old rivals, like Android and iOS through app compatibility.

Yes, there's finally going to be an easy way for developers to port over their existing code, and that means more apps running on brand new Windows 10 Mobile devices.

All this bodes well for Microsoft's goal of having Windows 10 on one billion devices in two to three years. So far, 110 million Windows 10 installs have been performed in the software's first eight weeks, according to Microsoft.

It doesn't hurt that the company is also planning to offer a Windows 10 Mobile download for free for all W8.1 devices out there. That's going to give it a nice shot in the arm (gladly, not ARM).

Every device running Windows Phone 8.1 right now will be updated to Windows 10 in time.

Windows 10 Mobile

This first builds of the Windows 10 Mobile were just technical previews, and as such contain a sampling of the features we're expecting to eventually see.

As an unfinished build, this Windows 10 Mobile technical preview is liable to be unstable, and Microsoft recommends caution when installing it – maybe on a secondary Windows Phone device rather than your main phone.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next major upgrade for Windows Phone
  • When is it out? November on new Lumias, December to download
  • What will it cost? Nothing, it's a free download

Windows 10 Mobile release date

Windows 10 has now launched on desktop devices and we love it – so we wait with bated breath for the release of the mobile version. Right now, it really depends on your situation.

Microsoft's press conference this month confirmed rumors that it won't launch until November, and that's only happening with the new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL. Downloads for older phones arrive in December.

That doesn't mean you can't download Windows 10 Mobile today. For the past several months, Microsoft has seeded the new platform to developers willing to test it out.

The good news is that when it does fully launch it will be available for a year as a free upgrade to existing Windows devices, including those running Windows Phone 8.1. So if you have a Windows Phone 8.1 handset you should be able to get Windows 10 on it before the year is out.

Windows 10 Mobile features

The key thing to know about Windows 10 Mobile is that while the version running on your handset will be optimised for a smaller screen it's still just considered Windows 10.

Windows 10 Mobile

So apps and features will look similar on your phone to on your desktop. You get the full versions of Office, Word and PowerPoint and they will look and operate much the same as the desktop versions.

Settings screens will also look and operate in the same manner across devices and apps will be universal, so Photos, Music, Videos and more will be much the same on desktop, phone and tablet and you can switch between Windows devices almost seamlessly.

It's all about unity

Speaking of seamless switching, Windows 10 is designed to be unified between devices, not just with a similar look and universal apps, but by having phone and desktop work together.

So for example if you clear a notification from the Action Centre on your Windows 10 Mobile device, it will also disappear on your computer and vice-versa.


You'll also be able to open and edit Microsoft Office documents on all your different devices, as files will be synced in the cloud and a recent docs list will give you quick access.


You'll still get live tiles with Windows 10 Mobile and it doesn't look identical to the desktop version, but it's not far off. A background image will bleed through the translucent tiles, allowing you to personalise the Start screen beyond just changing the colours.


Swipe to the right and you'll get an apps list as before, but now recently installed apps will be shown at the top, so you can more easily find whatever you last downloaded.

Windows 10 for phones leak

There's also a new layout to the settings screen, making it look a lot more like the version found on desktop and tablets. In fact a few leaked screenshots of the Windows 10 Mobile technical preview have emerged, so you can see the settings screen for yourself above, along with Action Center (or whatever it ends up being called this time round).

As you can see there is a wider range of quick settings than on Windows Phone 8 and a different colour scheme, with blue icons.

Keyboard and messaging

The keyboard is getting a bit of a touch-up on Windows 10 Mobile. It's still the Word Flow keyboard from Windows Phone 8.1, but now it can be resized and even moved around the screen, so you can position it perfectly for your device and fingers.

Windows 10 keyboard

Plus you can look forward to in-line messaging, allowing you to switch between SMS and Skype without switching apps and it's rocking some fancy dictation skills, as it can output symbols rather than writing the word and will even head into your contacts list to check how you spell a person's name when you speak it.

Camera and photos

The new photos app will be one of many universal apps and being universal it also syncs your images across all your Windows 10 devices using OneDrive.

Not only that, it also removes duplicate images, automatically creates albums and automatically enhances your photos by removing red eye and the like.

Photos app

If you're not using a Lumia phone then you'll also see some big changes to the camera app, as Lumia Camera is becoming the default app on all Windows 10 handsets. It brings with it auto-HDR, 4K video recording, Rich Capture (which can combine images to create one superior photo) and Dynamic Flash, which takes a photo both with and without flash and then lets you adjust the flash level after the fact.

If you're already using a Lumia then you won't have to wait for Windows 10 Mobile to make use of these features, but the new version of Lumia Camera will also be faster both to launch and take photos than the current version.

Microsoft Display Dock

Microsoft display dock

Microsoft will also be providing a Display Dock that will have three USB ports for accessories as well as HDMI and a DisplayPort. It means you'll be able to use the USB-Type C connector on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL so you can connect it up with a monitor and use it as if it's a computer.

During the demo on stage at the Windows 10 devices event it showed how the screen will automatically scale to the monitor and you can use apps within it.

You won't lose your functionality as a phone though while you're using the Windows 10 apps – it'll just start ringing and you can answer it like normal.

Microsoft Edge

Big things are happening to Internet Explorer as part of Windows 10. In fact it's going to be replaced with a new name: Microsoft Edge. That's the official name that was previously codenamed Project Spartan.

The biggest addition is that on desktop at least you can now mark up web pages with notes and drawings and then share them with other users. Microsoft Edge is confirmed for Windows 10 Mobile, but sadly isn't available in the developers preview we currently have running.

More to come

Not everything about the Windows 10 Mobile platform is known yet, we're hoping to hear more in the lead up to the Lumia 950 and 950XL launches, now that Microsoft's initial desktop excitement has calmed down.

There doesn't seem to be many major feature changes in the new mobile OS and most of the changes are related to the way it interacts with other Microsoft products.

We'll keep you posted with when the updates throughout the day, as Microsoft plans to unveil new Windows 10 Mobile details, fresh Lumia phones and even a Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

James Peckham

James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.