Many of the changes with are apparent in the Technical Preview of Windows 10 for phones relate to the user interface. As mentioned already, it’s not a massive departure compared to Windows Phone 8 so existing users will have no problems finding their way around but will benefit from the tweaks and improvements listed below.
New tile art
Since smartphones are personal Microsoft has made various improvements to the Start Screen on phones to make it more customisable. With Windows 10 for phones you can select an image which will appear full-screen behind the tiles and the apps menu. Tiles which don’t have a solid colour go semi-transparent so you can see the image behind.
Recently installed apps
The usual apps menu sits to the right of the Start Screen and still shows all of your apps in alphabetical order. However, a new section will appear at the top called ‘Recently Installed’ showing you recently installed apps which is quite handy.
Improved Action Center and Interactive Notifications
We were glad of the arrival of the Action Center on Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft has made some nice improvements in Windows 10 for phones.
It’s a little buggy on our Technical Preview but there are more Quick Actions available so when you pull the bar down from the top of the screen you see the usual set of four but there’s a new expand button which shows eight additional ones when clicked.
Previously there was a simple link to all settings. You can still select which four you wish you be the primary ones.
Action Center is also where you pick up all your notifications and while they are displayed in the same manner, they are now interactive. This means you can do various things straight away. You can dismiss an alarm, seeing images for maps and when it comes to things like text messages so you can reply inline via the keyboard or voice.
The other thing to mention about notifications is that you won’t need to dismiss them twice. If you get rid of one on your phone then you shouldn’t have to deal with it again if you switch to Windows 10 on another device. That’s a real boon and something which we’ve been wanting on iOS and Android.
New Settings menu
Long suffering Windows Phone users will be pleased to hear that the Settings menu has received a much needed overhaul. The existing one it split into ‘system’ and ‘applications – not a bad thing in itself but the massive list of options on the former was extremely difficult to navigate with no apparent order or method.
The new Settings menu is divided into ten sections for things like system, personalisation, accounts and privacy. It makes much more sense and under each heading you can see what type of things you’ll find there. What we’d like is the ability to search the entire menu like you can do with the apps so hopefully this will be added for the final build.
New keyboard with joystick
The keyboard is largely the same in Windows 10 for phones compared to Windows Phone 8 but there’s a new feature which you might not even spot at first.
If you remember the way old laptops (and some still) had a tiny joystick in the middle of the keyboard for moving the cursor – often called a nipple – well that’s exactly what Microsoft had added to Windows 10 for phones in a virtual way.
Rather than sitting in the middle of the keyboard, it’s on the left hand side between shift, z, the 123 button and semi colon. If you tap and hold it a little D-pad pops up and you can slide your finger around to move the cursor – it’s pretty neat.