Microsoft Begins Windows 10 Rollout for Windows Phone 8.1

Many, but not all, owners of older Windows smartphones can finally upgrade their handsets.

Microsoft Windows 10, mobile

Microsoft has begun rolling out Windows 10 Mobile to select Windows Phone 8.1 devices, the company announced yesterday. "Select" is the operative word.

Not all Windows Phones are eligible for the upgrade, according to Michael Fortin, corporate vice president of the Windows and Devices Group Core Quality unit. Essentially, the mobile operating system (OS) runs a little less than satisfactorily on some older hardware, even if it's supported on some Windows 10 Mobile Insider builds of the software.

"As Windows 10 delivers significant new innovations, many older devices are not able to successfully upgrade without an impact on the customer experience," Fortin stated in a March 17 announcement. "Our goal is to only offer the Windows 10 upgrade to devices that we are confident can continue to deliver a good customer experience."

Microsoft is encouraging owners of Windows Phone 8.1 devices to download the Windows 10 Upgrade Advisor app, which will tell users if the upgrade is available for their smartphone model. The Windows 10 Upgrade Advisor app is available in the Windows Store app marketplace.

Currently, the list of supported devices is as follows: Lumia 1520, 930, 640, 640XL, 730, 735, 830, 532, 535, 540, 635 1GB, 636 1GB, 638 1GB, 430, 435, BLU Win HD w510u, BLU Win HD LTE x150q and MCJ Madosma Q501.

Once updated, some features may no longer work, cautioned the software giant in an online support document. For example, the "Hey Cortana" command used to summon Microsoft's virtual assistant may no longer work on some devices.

Some phones may lack the specialized hardware components required to run some of Windows 10 Mobile's hallmark features. For example, Windows Hello facial recognition, which allows users to log into their devices with their faces, requires an illuminated infrared camera sensor that is not standard issue on most Windows Phones.

Meanwhile, Microsoft released a new Windows Insider build (14291) with updated Maps and Alarm & Clock apps.

The Maps app, in particular, has been thoroughly revamped. Observing the one-handed app usage patterns of smartphone owners, Microsoft moved the app's navigation controls to the bottom of the phone, making it easier for users to access its functions. Cortana will provide turn-by-turn directions on handsets with the virtual assistant enabled.

Microsoft is also making it easier for users to get to their destination using public transport with turn-by-turn directions that tell bus riders when they're approaching their stop. For drivers that rely on the Maps app to get around town, Microsoft has tweaked the interface to improve on its "glanceability" and replaced the existing landscape mode with a new, more user-friendly layout.

Favorites can now be accessed offline, enabling users to access them with their offline maps. Overall, the company's improved mapping algorithms will help the app deliver closer and better results, Microsoft claims.

Finally, the updated Alarms & Clock app features a new inline time picker. Other interface enhancements include an updated alarm and timer editing tools.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...