At its Build developer conference in May, Microsoft teased some features in the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that will allow users to take tasks they started on a PC and resume them on an iOS or Android device, and vice versa. Now, some users can take an early, if limited peek at those phone-friendly features and the cross-device experiences they enable with the release of build 16251 to the Windows Insider program.
A new Phone icon now appears in the Windows Settings screen, inviting users to link their Android smartphones or Apple iPhones. For now, the option only supports Android and is restricted to handing off mobile and browsing sessions to PCs.
"After adding your phone to be linked, you will receive an SMS from us directing you to install a test application called 'Microsoft Apps' for Android that completes the link between your phone and PC and enables one of our first cross device browsing scenarios," explained Dona Sarkar, a software engineer at the Microsoft Windows and Devices Group and head of the Windows Insider program, in a blog post. "After you've linked your phone, just go to your phone and start browsing the web."
While browsing, users can share a website and select the new "Continue on PC" option to resume their browsing sessions on a PC. Users are presented with the option of sending the site to a PC immediately, which causes it to instantly appear on the linked PC, or to continue later, which adds the site to the Windows 10's notification center.
Cortana also gains new abilities in the latest preview build of Windows 10.
When asked a question, the virtual assistant will now display the answer in an extended Cortana pane rather than launch a web browser with the answer. The pane extends automatically for questions involving stock prices, weather, flight information, movies and celebrities. For other types of questions, users can simply click the arrow that appears near each web suggestion to access the information Cortana has collected.
Build 16251 offers users a new way of shutting off their PCs by uttering the "Hey Cortana, turn off PC" command. Similarly, users can lock, sign out or restart their systems with similar commands. Cortana will ask for a verbal confirmation before taking actions like turning off a PC to avoid unintentional mishaps.
Windows' on-screen touch keyboard gets a number of enhancements, including a new one-handed mode that appears larger and features a thicker border to lower the chances of accidentally dismissing the keyboard, which typically occurs when users mistakenly tap the surrounding area. For users toiling away in libraries or quiet offices, the touch keyboard now makes less of a racket. Microsoft has softened the sound made by the virtual keys based on user feedback, said Sarkar.
For the few Windows smartphone diehards left, Microsoft continues to extend a lifeline.
Windows 10 Mobile build 15235 for compatible Windows phones, also released to Windows Insiders with week, includes a new portrait orientation in the desktop-mimicking Continuum mode. Microsoft also issued fixes for a number of issues, including a bug that would sometimes prevent large apps from downloading despite there being plenty of storage space available. The full list of changes and known issues, for both PC and mobile, is available here.