Want a Windows 10 Smartphone? How to Upgrade & Compatible Models

Windows 10 is coming, and this new version of Microsoft’s operating system will be able to upgrade your phone as well as your desktop computer or Windows tablet. As yet, the upgrade isn’t widely available, but getting it isn’t too difficult.

All you need is a suitable Windows Phone 8.1 device, a Microsoft account, and a wireless Internet connection.

Is the Windows 10 Technical Preview for Mobile Right for You?

While it might be great to look into the future and get a glimpse of how Windows computing for smartphones will work, this might not be the best upgrade for you at this stage.

To start off with, as with installing the desktop Windows 10 Technical Preview, this upgrade isn’t intended for “live” devices (ones that are used as your main phone). Microsoft has recommended that the preview is only installed on secondary devices at this stage. They also expect you to be ready to give feedback on the preview.

You should also consider that subsequent updates may result in considerable changes to the UI.

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As long as you’re comfortable with the prospect of restoring the original OS version (by way of the Windows Phone Recovery Tool) and backing up data – as well as some troubleshooting – then you should be happy with the preview upgrade.

Will Your Windows Phone Run Windows 10?

Although the original list of devices compatible with the Windows 10 mobile Technical Preview was not representative of devices released, as of April 10th, a huge selection of Nokia Lumia devices will run the Windows 10 Technical Preview, including popular handsets such as:

  • Lumia 63x series
  • Lumia 73x
  • Lumia 83x
  • Lumia 92x
  • Lumia 1020
  • Lumia 1320
  • Lumia 1520

…and many more, even dual SIM devices.

Additionally, Microsoft has announced that the phones – which must all have at least 8 GB of storage – must have Windows Phone 8.1 installed at the time of purchase and be running version number 8.10.14219.341 or earlier.

Microsoft has indicated that other devices will have a version available for them, but as yet there is no public timeframe for release.

To begin installing you’ll need to sign-up to the Windows Insider Program, which you can do with your standard Windows login.

Incidentally, if you bought a Windows Phone 7 device, you can kiss goodbye to any Windows 10 upgrade dreams. Those devices were released 2010-2012 and are unsuitable for upgrading beyond Windows Phone 7.8.

Install the Windows 10 Technical Preview

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After signing up to the Windows Insider Program (which you can do in any browser), you’ll need to install the Windows Insider app from the Windows Phone store. Once this is installed it should appear on your Start screen, but you should find it in the Apps list under “W”.

With the app open, tap Get Preview Builds, which will reveal whether or not your device will accept the update. Sometimes, even if the phone is one of the models above, the update may not be available.

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If you’re successful, your handset will then display two options, Insider Slow and Insider Fast. The first option offers better support for any issues that may arise, as the updates come after they’ve been fast-tracked to bleeding edge users. To get all updates as they’re released, choose Insider Fast.

Following this, a warning message will be displayed advising you of the dangers of running the Windows 10 Technical Preview on your phone. To proceed, tap Accept, and then follow the instructions to exit the app and open Settings > Phone Update.

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Tap Check for updates and Download to begin downloading the update. Once the update is downloaded, connect your phone to the charger, and tap Install. Following successful installation, a second update will be available. You must agree to this, as this is the actual Windows 10 Technical Preview for mobile devices. Throughout the update, the phone will restart several times. Don’t worry about this, it is perfectly normal, which is why we use the charger to keep it powered up.

This walkthrough provides more details:

What Does Windows 10 Bring to Mobiles?

There is more than just a flavour of the future in the Windows 10 update for mobile devices. While the Start screen has been enhanced with the ability to select photographic backgrounds (with the tiles changing colour in coordination with your choice) the Apps list has been given a new “recently installed” section at the top.

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Most important are the changes to the Settings screen, which now resembles the desktop version of the Control Panel, grouping functions by topic rather than presenting them in a rather long list. Joining this is an improvement to the drag-down notification area, where the regularly-used options are prioritised over the full set of choices that can be viewed by expanding the view. There’s also a revision to the Windows Phone keyboard, which now features a small cursor control, activated by tapping a small blue button.

One of the big draws to Windows 10 is the promise of a new browser, currently titled Project Spartan, to replace Internet Explorer, and the same is true of the mobile version. Unfortunately, as far as my Nokia Lumia 920 is concerned, however, the browser isn’t yet ready to be used, falling at the first hurdle by refusing input from the keyboard into the address bar. According to the release notes, it is supposed to be the default browser, but using Search or Cortana results in web pages being opened up in Internet Explorer. Another problem I spotted came in the shape of the default camera app, but swapping to the remarkable Nokia Camera fixed this.

Cortana, meanwhile, is much as you would expect her to be, except she doesn’t seem to have a voice. No doubt this will be resolved in a future revision. She’s certainly as functional as usual, and despite the lack of audio response Cortana retains her sense of humour. Windows 10 for mobile isn’t really where people are looking for Cortana at present, of course – her big desktop debut will come in Windows 10.

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Changes to the Mail, Calendar, and Messaging and People apps can also be found in Windows 10 Technical preview for mobile, but some functions are fixed. Flight mode is currently locked, while data connections cannot be disabled (although Wi-Fi can).

But don’t forget: this isn’t a “live” OS. You shouldn’t be expecting the polish of a finished mobile operating system at this stage. Instead, you get a preview of what’s to come, and the opportunity to try out some new features. All in all it is an impressive revision, although the continued lack of toggle options on the notification area buttons is disappointing (tapping to disable takes you to the menu screen where the setting must be switched off). Interestingly, despite the changes to the UI, it doesn’t feel like the desktop Windows 10; this is still very much Windows Phone.

Start Using the Windows 10 Technical Preview for Mobile

With the upgrade complete, you’ll be ready to start using the Technical Preview, and enjoy the new features of Windows 10 explained above.

Have you tried the upgrade? Did you run into any problems? Perhaps you’ve been running Windows 10 on your smartphone for a while. How do you find it compared to the desktop version? Share your thoughts in the comments, and let me know if you have any questions.

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