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Windows 10 Mobile review: Small fixes show this plucky phone OS won’t give up

Mark Hachman | Sept. 1, 2016
A new Wallet app and wireless Continuum are good improvements, but the future hangs on just a few phones.

Otherwise, many of the capabilities within Windows 10 Mobile are duplicated from Windows 10’s Anniversary Update. You can ask Cortana, for example, to set a reminder with a picture attached. Edge is still the default browser, naturally, and like its counterpart on the desktop version of Windows 10, is surprisingly smooth. Microsoft’s worked hard to improve Edge, and that work has paid off.

Third-party universal apps continue to be added, now including banking apps like Wells Fargo in addition to other big names like Audible, Box, Candy Crush Saga, CBS, Facebook (finally!), FitBit, NASCAR, Shazam, and Twitter, to name just a few. The Store app neatly organizes them all, among the music, movies and games that Microsoft sells.

The bottom line: Has Microsoft lost the mobile battle?

Let’s face it: While Windows 10 on the desktop is on the rise, Windows 10 Mobile continues precipitously downward. Recent figures put Windows Phone’s market share at under 1 percent. Developers still prioritize Android and iOS first, with Windows as an afterthought.

Microsoft’s plan to encourage developers to port iOS and Android apps to Windows hasn’t yet come to fruition. Microsoft’s Android-to-Windows developer effort, Project Astoria, has failed, but Islandwood, the program to port iOS apps, is still alive. Both roads lead to the same destination. If Microsoft can succeed in convincing app developers to port their apps to Windows, that will add additional credibility to the mobile platform for both consumer and developer alike. But Microsoft’s Lumia phones are essentially dead, and it’s up to the Acer Liquid Jade Primo and HP Elite x3 to carry the torch until the fabled Surface Phone debuts—or not.

That’s the key to Windows 10 Mobile’s future viability. We wrote last year that Microsoft needed to unearth what made a Windows Phone unique, and capitalize on it with a flagship phone. My verdict for Windows 10 Mobile’s Anniversary Update is still a passing grade.

But the fate of Windows phones, I think, is out of Microsoft’s control. The company has done so much to entice consumers to Windows phones: previews, incorporating consumer feedback, free upgrades, universal apps, Continuum, you name it—and yet its market share continues to decline. Microsoft’s hardware partners will either carry Windows phones forward, or Windows 10 Mobile will eventually be reduced to a collection of services on Android and iOS phones. 

 

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