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Would you buy a smartphone with full Windows 10 on ARM?

Windows Phones
Windows Phones (Image credit: Windows Central)

Earlier today, a company called Emperion unveiled details about a smartphone it's building that supposedly runs full Windows 10 on an overclocked Snapdragon 845 processor, that's also able to run Android apps without emulation or dual-booting with Android. It sounds too good to be true, and it probably is, but let's assume this is a product that can be executed on. Would you buy it?

Of course, a smartphone with Windows 10 on ARM has its own issues. Primarily, full Windows 10 is not a mobile platform, and as such, doesn't have a shell that's designed for smartphone-sized screens. Emperion says it's going to build its own shell experience that will run on top of Windows 10, which could help, but that means the experience won't be tailored by Microsoft.

The other issue is that Windows 10 on ARM doesn't have telephony capabilities. That means it doesn't natively support the ability to make and receive phone calls or SMS messages. Those are two essential capabilities for a smartphone. Windows 10 on ARM does support LTE of course, so you could get around this by requiring the user to use Skype instead. But that's still not great.

There are also questions around how exactly Emperion is planning to allow Android apps to run on top of Windows 10 without emulation. They haven't said, but "without emulation" means it won't be taking advantage of software like Bluestacks or the canceled Project Astoria.

I just don't think there's any point in a smartphone that runs full Windows 10 on ARM. Full Windows 10 is not a mobile platform. It just isn't. The only benefit that a smartphone running full Windows 10 has is the ability to dock to an external screen, with a full desktop, and run Win32 programs. But that's it. That's not enough to warrant a smartphone with full Windows 10.

Win32 programs themselves are not very good on small screens, so you won't want to run them directly on the phone. The UWP app situation when it comes to mainstream apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, and more, is bleak. While the ability to run Android apps on Windows 10 would help, there's no word on how this works. If it doesn't include Play Services, most of those apps won't work anyway.

But I digress. We want to know if you'd be interested in buying a smartphone with Windows 10 on ARM. Do you have any use cases for this that we can't see? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

64 Comments
  • What's the MS Destructive Update process going to be for the trickle down from an MS that doesn't even seem to get the much larger desktop patches right to a phone that is admittedly going to need a vendor designed layer to make Windows 10 even marginally usable in the small form factor? I'll keep a separate phone system so I don't get a BSOD on both at the same time.
  • Seventeen fity aight
  • No. I have one phone and need it to work well. Haven't yet recovered from the WP, WM10 fiasco.
  • my thoughts too.
    the entire way microsoft positioned it self, one once but multiple times during the windows based phones was really bad. they can't be trusted to try again, and i don't say that with a light heart. i was just thinking last night how much i miss my windows phon with the tiles giving me all my information i needed in one glance. instead i'm looking at my android phone that looks like a dumb brick with just annoying notificaions of stuff i really don't care about.
    it's a real shame microsoft flopped, but i don't think having what would be a windows pc running windows apps in my pocket on small screen would be very good as a 'smart phone' it'll just be a awkward to use laptop with no keyboard and annoying small screen that's under powered to do anything, but yea it'll make calls for all the good that'll do in the smartphone market where most people don't even use the phone to make calls anymore.
  • Yeah. No for me too. THIS^
  • Those worked well for me, just didn't have the app support.
  • Without full support from Microsoft, we would be left with Emperion for support. IF they disappear 2 weeks after release then we'd be in the same boat as people holding onto their WP10 devices. As much as I'd love another Windows based phone, to get it from a 3rd party seems like a bad call. (no pun intended)
  • I am still using my L950XL DS. Have another Note9 in my other pocket for WhatsApp and Photos. Using the Network Tools and Edge browser is a pleasure
  • I envy you
  • I will not carry around 2 phones...
  • Same but with a mid range android phone. I still don't really like Android all that much so I am happy I haven't paid much for the phone and live tile is still too useful for me for pinned notes.
  • Heck yes I would!
  • They should run Windows 10X instead with support for Android apps.
  • Right I was thinking the same thing.
  • Yes they should
  • They probably would if 10X supported ARM and Microsoft weren't limiting it to dual-screen devices right now. I would imagine that, if the idea survives to a second or third generation, we would see just that.
  • It's a matter of time before Windows 10X will support ARM. I am pretty sure that it will be the next generation of Windows since the modular concept behind it sounds like the logical thing to do. Microsoft realized that it is impossible to launch 10X for all formfactors at once and that it is better to perfect the system on the Neo first, while gradually align classic W10 with the next generation.
  • With the impending release of Windows 10X, I don't see the point building a full windows 10 phone. I'll rather buy a phone running Windows 10X. Hopefully Microsoft will create a shell for 5 to 6 inch screens
  • I wonder if that is a backup plan for them if they can get access to 10X. Because they would still need the basic phone UI regardless and it should run on 10X without many changes.
  • This is WhartonBrooks/Cerulean all over again. Until Microsoft themselves release a phone powered by an ARM Windows 10X I'm keeping my Android one.
  • It isn't really. Firstly, that was running Windows 10 Mobile after even Microsoft had pretty much given up on it. This device is ahead of the curve (assuming that there will be a curve to be ahead of) rather than well behind it. The fact (assuming that it turns out to be a fact) that Microsoft have had a helping hand in getting Windows 10 running on this device is also in stark contrast.
  • I want to say yes, but even just focusing on the few core apps I use, it would be such a step back from what I'm now used to on Android. Really I'd only want Windows on a phone so I can give the middle finger to Google anyway. Aside from that, honestly, Android does everything I need. I can't see Windows really improving on that or giving me anything I don't already have.
  • I do love using Launcher on Android though
  • Of course I would expect such a device to have an interface to operate in mobile/communication device fashion. I like the ARM aspect because it actually opens the possibility of an Android emulator for side loading Android apps.
  • Oh, boy. Yes I'll buy it. Great, fantastic.
  • Nope. Never. No way. Ship has sailed
  • Right now I'd buy it just because it's not Android (a fragmented mess) or iOS (a walled garden). I'm an I.T. SysAdmin. My company was all-in on Windows Mobile for years. The devices were designed well, and worked with a minimum of fuss. Since we were forced to switch to Android a couple of years ago, it seems I am constantly dealing with phone issue. Buying Nokia devices running the AndroidOne program through a third-party helped for consistency. However, the obnoxious cadence of app updates and the changes they bring is confusing to the 85 end-users with these devices, most of whom are not tech savvy. Since switching to Android for my personal device, I'm also aggravated with the issue of ads chasing me across the internet. I'll look something up on my phone, and within minutes ads for related products starts showing up on my work desktop, my work tablet, AND my home PC. Worse yet, these same ads start showing up on my wife's devices!! This, despite me being as diligent as I can about background processes running, not installing or using many apps, etc. I didn't have to deal with this the entire 6 years I used Windows Mobile. Nearly two years in to Android and I still hate it, and miss Windows Phone. Honestly, short of Windows being an option, if Google would come out with a version of Android that didn't spy on every damn thing I do, but to get that it was a subscription of $10 a month or less to get it, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
  • Windows phone was a fragmented walled garden! The worst of both worlds! With all your worries about ads and privacy, I am sure you don't use Windows 10. It has ads built right into the interface and tracks everything. https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/13/microsofts-windows-10-breaches-privacy...
  • True, but if you're savvy enough, at first launch of an install, disable all of that stuff, turn off background apps, etc, the world. Yeah, shouldn't have to be that way but if MS uses the data it collects as they should for "error fixing", I do have to admit it's one of the smoothest OSes put out so far. Android/Google I feel is more for ads and revenue generating more so than fixing our improving... At least that's what I tell myself to sleep at night
  • As much as I LOVED Windows Phone 8.1 (and later 10), I'm doing just fine with a Pixel 3a and the Microsoft Launcher. We don't need this phone, sadly. The integration of Microsoft's ecosystem, within this launcher, is just short of incredible. I have my To-Do tasks, Outlook, and the remaining Office 365 product suite, and Windows sticky notes, all beautifully stacked on my home screen. It truly is the evolution of the live tiles and I encourage anyone that loved the platform to pick up a cheap android device and give it a go.
  • Nah. If Microsoft managed to get win10x to run Android apps, maybe.
    I like the approach MSFT is taking with the Neo and the Duo.
    Keep your phone a phone and Android does that well.
    Have a dual screen device for productivity which the Neo should do well.
    Combine them with the Your Phone app.
    If those two devices really play nice together (and I see no reason they wouldnt) that's all I need.
    No need for full windows on a phone, really.
  • After being burned by MS so many times (Windows Phone, Band, cortana, etc) in just don't trust them to give any consumer product (other than office and maybe xbox) long term backing. Would love to have a phone with Windows again, but will stick with my Android with Launcher 10 until MS actually decides to commit to consumers. Burned too many times sticking my neck out and getting excited about one of their consumer products only to get it chopped off.
  • But, honestly, trust them, they wouldn't lie for the umpteenth time, running, would they?
  • I wouldn't necessarily buy this phone, but it does give a little hope for Windows 10X on a device like this. Since 10X is supposed to be built from the ground up to work better with touch interface, I wouldn't be opposed to it, especially if they can get Android apps to run on it, as well. The issue here will be whether or not Microsoft will be in it for the long haul. Right now, it sounds like a pet project and Microsoft will have to stand firm on this, if they want OEMs and Carriers to take this seriously. If not, Microsoft can forget doing anything phone related for another 5 years or more.
  • Sounds like someone has convinced another person to drop a bunch of cash on a project that is doomed to fail. Either that or its some sort of covert intelligence operation to figure out how to infiltrate windows computers.
  • I could see this being useful only if you can "connect" it to a portable monitor and keyboard to have the full Windows 10 desktop experience on the go..and then when you're finished, you switch back to Android and use those apps, but right now my Surface Go and LG G7 fulfill those two needs just fine, so this device is sort of an "I don't know"...I'd have to see an actual review of the unit.
  • I have been a Microsoft lover my whole life. That being said, i wouldn't touch a new device with any version of windows with a 10 ft pole. Their past history of repeated abandonment has me completely jaded! I will stick to their services. Office, edge, onedrive, i'm all in on. I have just about completely given up on all microsoft OS'es.
    Every single year you hear about some abandonment of something or a change in some integral part of something. They have no concept of persistence.
  • Support for Windows 7 ended a few weeks ago, and corporations/individuals willing to pay will still get support. Repeated abandonment? Not a single other service provider gives such extended OS support as MS does on Windows. You cannot blame MS to alter their OS in case the market doe not accept their proposal. Btw Win8.1 is still supported until 2023.....
  • *** yeah! Android is as buggy as anteater poo, and I'd rather eat Rubino's sweaty shoe than use IOS. I do agree that 10X would be ideal though.
  • I would buy a smartphone with Windows 10 on ARM or Windows 10X (which I think will be developed into a full-fledged replacement for W10 - i.e. there will be Windows 10X Pro and Enterprise versions eventually) without any hesitation. The only things I would like to see beside that OS is a foldable display or a dual-screen setup together with an overlay keyboard like the Surface Neo paired with an external display that runs Android with the ability to "mirror" it in a window on the internal one. I.e. the device is a computer when opened and a smartphone when closed or both (Android in a window). Such a device would be a suitable replacement for the Nokia Communicator and could be an excellent laptop replacement (the portability of a smartphone with apps paired with being a full blown computer that can be docked). Creating a "Performance Dock" with a faster CPU and GPU paired with the ability to run the OS on the device one (Snapdragon) and third party software on the external ditto (x86-64 et al) would be great. It would take care of "performance issues" in desktop mode and thus alleviate concerns about "ARM not being fast enough for application X". Traditional Android and iOS phones feels like overpriced toys with a lot of carrier BS nowadays so even a regular formfactor smartphone with full Windows 10 for ARM together with Android would be a major step forward - especially if it is fully unlocked and sold through computer retail channels (i.e. no carrier BS stores).
  • I've had to provide remote computer support for people, using my phone screen. It's doable, but gets frustrating after a few minutes. So, what's the point? If you really need to be able to run desktop apps from your phone, just remote into a home computer from your phone.
  • No. The windows on phones ship has sailed. Partner with Samsung or another OEM to offer native integration similar to what Apple has on their devices. I’m not rebuying apps, media and completely switching ecosystems again. It’s too late for that. Windows on mobile is dead to me.
  • For what? So they can just ditch it again in 2 years? No thanks
  • My opinion, Windows 10X on a phone with the Win32 subsystem. However, only when docked is the Win32 subsystem available to use. When not docked, basically using the device as a phone, the Win32 subsystem is completely disabled preventing any installed legacy programs on the phone from being launched. Since the Win32 subsystem is completely containerized in Windows 10X, re-imagining continuum to work this way is now possible.
  • No. Windows far surpasses usability for "apps" with websites and fill blown software, but they lack the mobile spectrum. Having been Effed on Windows Mobile 6.5 to WP7 change, 7 to 8, and then basically 8 to WM10... Just... No. No thank you. Not a chance. No sir. Can't say that I would. I miss amazing cameras, battery life, security, smoothness of motion/scroll etc, and many other things, but I'd need some assurances they (MS) can't uphold. Btw fired up an old MS Lumia 735 and it was like watching 120hz display compared to my LG G6 with how clear text looks while in motion. Android has never been as smooth feeling as WM... 😢 The good ol days...
  • A phone is a tool that has to work, even if it works a little jerkily. MS has shown in too many cases it will drop a product like a hot potato when the Management Team changes. [BTW, sorry but I hit Report instead of Reply, and while reading the prompt it disappeared?]
  • I am sure most people here would be like me who owned, used and advocated windows phone for a long period of time. I still baffles me as to why would MS take a hit of $7bn in one go but not invest that money in exploring ways of running android apps on their phone. It would have resulted in windows competing fiercely with iOS and Android right now, which in turn would have helped MS immensely. Now they are too find behind and have far too many cynics to have another go at mobile OS. Having said all of the above, if they find a way to have android apps running on windows, there is still a chance they will get a fair amount of customers, provided the hardware is good enough to compete with Samsungs and Apples of the world
  • If you want to run Android apps, why not just buy an Android?
  • Even Microsoft is building an Android phone. That tells you everything you need to know.
  • And Apple is making iPhones. What does that have to do with this?
  • As far as I'm concerned there's no real reason why I shouldn't have one, from the get go I expect windows 10 to be available on all devices assisting me access to all the software from one end to another and honestly it's just developers and users that fail me... - _-
  • WhatsApp is Win32 not UWP. Even from the Store.
  • Just upgraded from 19041.21 to 19041.84 via Windows Update. My device is Lumia 950 XL, and I don't yet believe in a better one.
  • Google is the greediest company when it comes to user data collection and privacy concerns. An android device has today a superior mobile store, but, on the other hand, it does not what PCs do. So, such a device wouldn't be pointless.
    The dream of windows mobile was eventually aiming at replacing all our devices with just a mobile one and the related docks. Such a scenario doesn't seem so bad ... I think it is great for users and for the environment:
    much more hardware would be saved, I mean, why should I change my wide notebook display if I burn its motherboard? All PC displays, adapters etc. would stay until THEY get broken.
    That is not great though for consumerism and all the companies that make hardware. Continuum was the best idea back in 2015, why is it the opposite now? I suppose they realized that and made the retrenchment not quite for the sake of users.
    All that said, Microsoft should have combined the shell of w10m with the features of windows 10 on ARM, maybe without destroying the faith in their store. Now that is in the past and we can hope just for a #duoX in the future!
  • Id buy in a heartbeat as noticed a few 6"-8" rugged designed Windows 10 handhelds advertised on Facebook lately so for enterprise there seems to be a market 👍 good luck to them & as many have said mark 2 or 3 if popular could have 10X.
  • If MS was dedicated to support it, yes. I'm currently rocking the SquareHome app on my Android and it's pretty amazing.
  • Not a chance man. Still looking at my Lumia 950 XL
  • I would vote for a version of Windows 10X for single screen smartphones. Windows 10 is currently designed around mouse support but mobile devices like smartphones require a OS designed around touch controls.
  • Full Windows 10 ... will need a 9 megawatt battery... it will include a little red wagon to carry it... Now if they stripped all the unnecessary services out of W 10 to make it light weight and shoehorned Android into WSL2 and developed their own shell that somehow still supported Windows Apps it would still be a massive Kludge beyond comprehension.
  • On the fence. I've always wanted a phone like this but just don't trust MS to support it. They dragged their butts on Windows on ARM for forever.
  • I am interested to be able to wirelessly dock my smartphone (as 2020, it is an iPhone 11) for different use cases like for example : 1. When wirelessly docked on screen, keyboard and mouse —> it becomes a computer 2. When wirelessly docked in a car (Apple Carplay) —> it becomes the car infotainment system 3. When wirelessly docked to a TV —> it becomes a multimedia streaming device (audio, photo, videos) 4. When wirelessly docked for each specific room in the house —> it becomes this specific room automation control remote 5. When wirelessly docked to my hotel room —> it becomes the hotel room automation control remote As much as I would love that my smartphone to be able to become a computer when wirelessly docked to screen, keyboard and mouse (like Continuum with Windows Mobile), as of 2020, a Windows on ARM device would have too many shortcomings for all other use cases compare to my iPhone 11 / smartphone which does not make it a compelling enough device to spend money on it...
  • Under certain conditions, yes. First, I want the Live Tiles. Second, I need the FULL hands-free Cortana capability I currently enjoy with my Lumia. NOBODY gets this right on ANY active platform now.
  • Yes, but no one else will...
  • No. Windows 10 lacks basic features to warrant it on a mobile device. Supporting phone features is perhaps a given.
    I think the OS should be a live tiles default UX. The desktop doesn't make sense to me. Live Tiles functionality could also use a boost. Launcher 10 on Android can do several things better than live tiles on windows 10. Simply weird. For Continuum and tablet mode I'm still missing snapped app rotation between landscape and portrait mode and the ability to naturally snap apps side by side or one above the other in portrait mode. Microsoft has made some weird incomplete feature implementations in Windows 10 that was already noticeable in the early development.