Saturday, April 11, 2015

So Much For That…

A while ago, as part of the overall Technical Preview program for Windows 10, Microsoft released a Technical Preview of the phone version for Windows 10 to those brave souls willing to take the risk of "bricking" their phones in order to test and help improve the latest mobile offering from Redmond.
However, due to an issue with the size of the install partition - a boring technical issue that I won't get into - only a limited number of phones were eligible to run the pre-release OS.
My phone was not one of them.
Recently, they announced that they would be releasing a new build that would be available for a wider range of phones, including mine, and provided a release date and time of April 10th at 10 AM PDT.
I decided to give it a shot - in the worst case, it would brick my 2+ year old phone and I'd pick up a cheap, low-end Windows Phone off-contract to tide me over until MS finally releases a new "flagship" phone later this year along with the official release of Windows 10.
Having gotten distracted by something else, it was a few minutes after the launch went live before I fired up the Windows Insider app to start the update process.
I was promptly greeted by a server error.  I tried again off and on for a while, and checked online to see if this was a known issue and if there was a fix in the works.  It was, and there was, and some hours later I was able to get the ball rolling and the update downloading.
It took a lot longer for the update to install than any other update I've done on my phone, but eventually the phone rebooted and I was greeted with the new look of the Windows 10 UI.
I was not, however, greeted with much in the way of actual functionality.  Most apps would immediately crash upon opening, and the battery was draining at a pace that would make Barry Allen say, "Slow down, Turbo."
It's worth noting that one of the few apps that I could get to work properly was the Photos app.  I found this amusing because on the PC version of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, the Photos app is the least usable app an can barely be said to function at all.
The new Outlook Mail app would open and bring me to a "Getting Started" screen to add accounts, as it didn't appear to carry over any of my existing e-mail accounts.  I attempted to add my GMail account, and it went through all the steps, including bringing me to the screen from Google asking me to authorize the app's access to my account.  At that point, however, a message popped up saying, "Oops!  Something went wrong!"  It then sent me back to the "Getting Started" screen, which had become unresponsive and would not allow me to try again until I closed and reopened the app, which would result in the same error when trying to add GMail, and no error message, but a return to the unresponsive "Getting Started" screen if I tried adding any other type of account.
I decided that a reboot was probably in order.  However, upon starting back up, the phone indicated that there was no SIM card present (there was), and that no wireless networks were available.  Another reboot did not solve the problem.
Before running the recovery software to attempt to go back to the previously-installed OS, I decided to do a hard reset, which would wipe all the data on the phone and give me a fresh start.
Once the reset was done, it attempted to restore some of my data.  Mostly preferences - account information, Start screen layout - etc. but there were several items that couldn't be restored because they depended on features that are no longer supported, or required files that were no longer present.  A particular folder of photos that I had pinned to the Start screen couldn't be restored, for example, because the photos it contained were wiped from the phone's storage.
I wasn't terribly concerned - there was nothing on the phone that was irreplaceable - particularly given that it was now recognizing my SIM card and was able to connect to my wireless network.
Additionally, upon launching the Outlook Mail app, I saw that all of my existing accounts were in place, though I did have to log back in to each of them.
With the Technical Preview up and running, I can share my initial reaction to some of the changes and new features, as well as some of the bugs I've encountered.
Let's start with the Pros:

Outlook Mail and Calendar - The two apps can be accessed separately, but are directly linked, and they look great.  Evidently they leaned heavily on the look and functionality of the recently-acquired Accompli in designing the apps.  I love being able to swipe to delete a or flag a message.  Not thrilled about the "hamburger" menu, but that's a battle that I think users have lost at this point, unfortunately.
Project Spartan - It's still extremely rough around the edges, but just the fact that Microsoft's next-generation browser is included in this build at all is a good thing.
Action Center - There have been multiple improvements here, including the option to Expand and see additional actions and settings.  Also, the ability to interact with notifications inline - being able to reply to a text from the notification without having to switch to the Messaging app, for example - is pretty damn cool.
Messaging - It's a nice - if long overdue - touch to actually show the contact picture for the person you're communicating with in the view of Conversations.  Also, the individual conversation threads themselves look somewhat more modern with the changes to the message balloons.
Settings - Being able to pin individual settings to the Start screen is a handy feature.
Bluetooth Keyboard Support – Another “about damn time” feature.  Of course, I wasn’t able to get this to work; while it attempted to pair with the one Bluetooth keyboard I had handy, much like Jon on a date* it wasn’t able to seal the deal.  Of course, that may have been a user error problem (again, much like Jon on a date).

...and I'm not going to list the Cons, because just a little while ago the Technical Preview bricked me.
Fortunately, I was able to roll back to 8.1 using the Lumia Recovery Tool, but making my phone completely unresponsive is the biggest Con there is, so no point in listing the other issues right now.
In fairness, it is an install-at-your-own-risk piece of pre-release software, so I can't complain too much, but until they provide a more stable build, I don't think I'll be making any further attempts at using it any time soon.
That said, I did have the opportunity to provide some feedback (which is what the Technical Preview is for), and to at least add my own to the chorus of voices calling out for some specific changes and improvements.
In the meantime, I'll keep using the PC/Tablet version on my Surface Pro 2 and providing additional feedback there.

*Though the fact that it was even able to attempt to pair puts it well-ahead of Jon on that front.

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