Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore on Wednesday gave us an early glimpse at Windows 10 for phones and tablets (designed for form factors 8 inches and under). Finally, finally, FINALLY you can set a background image, making your phone much more customizable (and personal); it looks much cleaner than setting a background image for tiles, though I imagine that option is still available.
To be clear: This is a major upgrade, not just a fresh coat of paint. While the customization options are nice, there are plenty of new features to match the Windows 10 experience across multiple form factors. For example, the new Action Center in Windows 10 is synced to the PC, so a notifications you dismiss on your phone will disappear on your computer (or the other way around). And so it goes. Very simple, very elegant.
Belfiore also showed off what the Settings menu looks like, and finally it’s much cleaner and more organized. You’ll actually know exactly where you’re going, making navigation that much easier for users. (Check out the screenshots to see just how much cleaner the Settings menu (and everything) is.)
There are many other features, too: Inline replies during notifications are supported, and you can also move the keyboard around anywhere on the screen, making one-handed operation much easier. The entire experience looks so much friendlier to new (and existing users); it’s clear Microsoft really took a step back to create something that someone would look forward to using. It no longer seems foreign and overly complex.
For messaging, Skype will be integrated right into messages, making it easier to handle all of your communications in one spot. (The new messaging app looks pretty slick as well.) You can actually switch between talking to people over SMS, Skype, and more right within the messaging app. As of now, Skype is the headlining messaging app, but imagine being able to see messages from other apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.
And finally, because Microsoft is putting emphasis on universal applications, the app ecosystem has the potential to be better than ever. So you’ll see Office, of course, and much more, all running perfectly on the smaller form factor.
It all looks pretty terrific, matching the same look and feel across desktop, tablets and phones. If you have a phone running Windows 8.1, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade. Microsoft said the first build for phones will be available in February.