Windows 10 for phones

Today is a holiday in the US, well, technically a holiday, so I do not expect a busy news cycle. Many in the US have the day off, including those in the tech world, so things will likely start off slow.

With that out of the way, let's talk about a few things on my mind as we head into this week.

Windows 10 Insider

Windows 10 for phones and limited Lumia availability

Microsoft last week released the Windows 10 Preview for phones only to a subset of Lumias, infamously excluding the Lumia 930 and Lumia 1520 due to a 'partition stitching' requirement. This is just a temporary restriction though, as Microsoft explained on their blog.

In short, this is how software is made, folks. It is not pretty, but it is quite reasonable to begin testing a new OS on a developer phone, expand to another class, and finally expand to a larger group. In science, we do this all the time to help control variables that could confound testing. So goes for software development. If you want early, this is it.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore hopped on Twitter to ask a legitimate question about the Insider process:

"Should we ship bits EARLY when we can only support SOME phones/countries/features; OR LATER when fewer people would be left out?"

This conundrum is one that Microsoft cannot win, in my opinion. The expression "damned if you do, damned if you don't" comes to mind. Although you could argue that Microsoft could have been a little more forthcoming before the Windows 10 for phones preview release. I think that is fair.

Microsoft did something truly unique here by releasing their operating system mid-development. Besides Linux, I can think of no other operating system that is being tossed into the public realm so early not only for testing, but for feedback to help shape the look and feel of an OS.

From that perspective, I think it is amazing that Microsoft is doing what they are doing. To heap on user demands (or disappointment) at this time seems misguided and self-entitled. Microsoft announced Windows 10 for phones at the end of January and about two weeks later, here it is. This release is a remarkable feat, yet you still have a lot of unhappy campers. Get a grip.

I get it, too. It is Windows 10 – the next big thing. However, I also have the Preview on a few phones and, to be honest, while it is fun to play with, it is not ready to be my daily driver. For all of the changes, Microsoft readily admits there is much more that has to be done.

What I am trying to say here is if you do not have a phone that can get Windows 10 yet, you are not missing a whole lot. Not yet, at least. By springtime, I expect the landscape to have significantly changed, especially as Microsoft begins pushing out updates. For now though, this is still a very early peek at an OS.

This leads me to my next point.

You can 'hack' Windows 10 onto any Windows Phone. You also probably skip it

Over the weekend, a post went up at XDA detailing how you (yes you!) can get Windows 10 on your Windows Phone today. The process itself is not trivial, and there are significant risks. Those risks are exponentially higher for those with Samsung or HTC devices, as they are harder to reflash should anything go wrong. Lumias have some recourse with the Lumia Software Recovery tool found here on Microsoft's servers.

Moreover, yes, things can go wrong.

The trick at XDA works by changing the model number of your device, which then fools the Microsoft servers to delivering the Windows 10 bits to your phone. You are updating your Lumia 930 with Lumia 630 bits. It can work, too.

The problem is, no one knows the long-term risks. Take for example back on Windows Phone 7 and the 'Walshed phones' incident where phones became locked into an OS update, preventing future ones. That problem was an accidental side effect that at the time, no one predicted would happen.

These unknowns are why Windows Central is not promoting or hyping this hack. Back in yesteryear when only the core users read our site, we could get away with posting risky tricks. These days, we are too high a profile to risk recommending this to tens of thousands of users. Should anything go wrong, we would be creating a big headache for Microsoft.

Besides the risk of 'bricking' your phone (and yes, people have bricked their phones doing this), it is not clear what happens during the next update. The supposed Windows 10 restore option (which you can find here) is not working for everyone, even on legitimate devices. So caution here abounds.

Hey, if you have a spare Lumia 930, Lumia 1520 or even a Lumia 520 around, by all means, knock yourself out. Just remember to set your phone back to its original device model after you have done the hack.

Personally, I do not think this is worth the energy, not yet. I am also not impressed with the Lumia 520 running Windows 10 because I fully expect it.

If you really want to get in on Windows 10, your best bet is to snag a budget Lumia 630 or Lumia 635 and just use that for testing. For $50 you can have a dedicated Windows 10 phone with no risks. Keep your real phone beta free, at least until Windows 10 becomes more refined in the coming months.

Looking forward

For the rest of the week, assuming we do not have too many surprise announcements from Microsoft, we have a few things planned out, including:

  • Tablets! Lenovo Yoga 2 (8-inch) with AnyPen, more on my Toshiba Encore 2 Write, and even some thoughts on the ultra-cheap HP Stream 7
  • Dell XPS 13 Core i7 – I've been using this for the last few weeks, and it is time I shared my thoughts. Also, I'll talk about my Core i5 stress test a few weeks ago when covering the Windows 10 event
  • Fitbit showdown – Charge, Charge HR or Surge, which should you get? The winner of that question gets pitted against the Microsoft Band
  • What are my primary devices? Sure, I test a lot of hardware, but assuming I could only keep a few bits of tech, which phone, tablet, laptops and accessories would I pick right now?

We'll of course also have our regular coverage of Windows 10 for phone and PC, Xbox coverage and whatever else happens to be popular. Stay tuned!