Why you shouldn't worry if your phone is not on the official Windows 10 upgrade list

Earlier this morning, we reported the news-not-so-news about phones with only 4GB of internal storage not receiving the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade. The revelation also repeated the list of phones that Microsoft states are getting Windows 10 Mobile, a list initially released at the end of July.

For many users, the natural question was What about my phone? For example, many Lumia 1520 users are wondering why they are not getting Windows 10 Mobile. The short answer is you are getting Windows 10 Mobile if you opt into the Windows Insider program.

Why the list?

The list of Lumia Windows Phones that are "officially" getting Windows 10 Mobile is quite lengthy.

Eligible phones for Windows 10 Mobile upgrade (so far)

  • Lumia 430
  • Lumia 435
  • Lumia 532
  • Lumia 535
  • Lumia 540
  • Lumia 640
  • Lumia 640 XL
  • Lumia 735
  • Lumia 830
  • Lumia 930

However, many people are wondering why only some phones are getting the update. Here are a few reasons for the prioritization:

  1. Carriers – Some carriers, like Verizon, are unlikely to want to test and roll out an update for the Lumia Icon, a phone that did not sell well. The carrier has to endure costs, and we all know Verizon is not quick to approve official updates anyway. This reasoning applies to other carriers as well.
  2. Age – The Lumia 1520 will be two years old by the time Windows 10 Mobile is released. In terms of full OS upgrade that pushes the limits of manufacturer support. Indeed, even in the U.S. most users are upgrading their phones every two years and increasingly every year. However, if you bought your phone in the last year it certainly is acceptable that Microsoft would give those phones the higher priority.
  3. Popularity – This point ties into carriers and age as well. The Lumia Icon and AT&T Lumia 830 have not set any sales records. If Microsoft has to prioritize their teams to work on official updates they can either target the largest and newest audience or a small minority. Ideally, Microsoft would have infinite resources and not have to choose but this is the reality of making an OS.

Of course, the real point about "official" updates is as far as we know, they do not matter. For years and years, Windows Phone fans have been clamoring for Microsoft just update phones directly.

The thing is, Microsoft is doing that.

They started doing direct updates with Preview for Developers, and they are continuing it with Windows Insiders.

Windows Insider is your liberator

If you own a Lumia 1520, Lumia 925, Lumia 1020, Lumia 920, or other you can still get Windows 10 Mobile. The only difference is you can get it through the Windows Insider program.

Indeed, official updates can be viewed as upgrades for people who are not Insiders. Not the other way around.

The benefits of being an Insider for Windows 10 Mobile are favorable for many reasons:

  1. Microsoft can still give OS updates even to older phones without carrier interference
  2. Insiders get the "official" build of Windows 10 Mobile before any approved updates go out. This process is similar to how PC Insiders had the final build a week ahead of the official release date.
  3. The Phone Insider program is likely to continue after the "official" update meaning you can continue to get even newer builds of the OS

The one question that remains is firmware. So far, Microsoft has not pushed unique firmware out for their devices. Even here, however, there remain questions:

  1. We do not know if Windows 10 Mobile even needs firmware
  2. Even if firmware comes out, it could be just carrier-specific and not necessarily OS/Hardware optimizations

Looking back at the last firmware Lumia Denim and only recent PureView devices saw any significant improvements with the update. All other phones jumped to Update 2 and did not need firmware at all.

There are only two items I can think of right now that may benefit from firmware:

  1. Hey Cortana – Only applies to the Lumia 930, Lumia 1520 as currently this feature is disabled in Windows 10 Mobile
  2. PureView Cameras – Although the Lumia 830 on AT&T did not get Denim and Rich Capture this feature is present in Windows 10 Mobile. Indeed, so far we have not seen evidence there will need to be a firmware upgrade to leverage new camera features as none have been announced.

Going forward, now that Microsoft is actually making hardware (and not just rebranding Nokia devices), we may see them do direct firmware updates for the upcoming Talkman and Cityman flagships. We are hearing that these phones will be sold directly to consumers in situations where carriers do not offer them. This ability could make Cityman and Talkman more like a Surface than an AT&T branded Lumia 830.

I do not know if this is the actual plan, but Microsoft is in the position to make that happen.

Wrapping it up

The key takeaway here is that the Windows 10 Mobile for Insiders is the same for Windows 10 Mobile "official updates". Sure, carriers may do some customization here and there, but it is the same OS.

If you do not want to beta test Windows 10 Mobile that is fine too. I see no reason you cannot enroll in the Insider program later in September or October, grab the latest bits and then leave the Insider program. This ability is not different from how the Insider program worked for PCs. For PCs, you just go into Settings and press Stop Getting Insider builds. For Windows Phone, the process is similar.

How to stop getting Insider builds for Windows Phone

Your phone is now going to stay on whatever is your current build. If you do this in October or November when Windows 10 Mobile is expected to be finalized, you just got the same update as the official one.

I want to stress that Microsoft is using the Insider program so that you can help shape the OS through feedback and testing. Nevertheless, it is also a way for a Lumia 920 to get still the latest OS without having to rely on the carriers.

Folks, this is what we have wanted, and I expect it to get even better once Microsoft begins the next generation of their Lumia smartphones. If you are complaining that Microsoft does not directly update their phones, I think you are missing the elephant in the room with the Insider program.

Regarding those 4GB phones, it is not entirely clear that remains the final position. Many users have managed to get Windows 10 Mobile on those phones and, Microsoft using the external SD card may be the way to go forward. However, for now, the initial priority remains for those devices with 8GB or more storage.

In conclusion, do not get fixated on official updates. Although they are certainly welcomed, if you are reading this article you are likely a candidate for the Insider program. Granted, Windows 10 Mobile is still rough for daily use but this is only going to improve in the next two months. If you have any of the phones not on the official list, and you have 8GB of storage or more, you can still get Windows 10 Mobile. Indeed, you are going to not only get the upgrade but likely get it before non-Insiders.

Everyone wins.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in comments what you think of the Insider program and what more Microsoft can do to ensure OS updates.

More Resources

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Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.