Screenshots from the latest Windows 10 Tech Preview build for phones.

I briefly installed the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones on my Lumia 1520 today, but has to revert to 8.1 because the OS has no MMS settings yet, rendering my handset useless. Here are a ton of screenshots I snapped before blasting the OS off my phone. Keep in mind, this is more of an alpha than a beta, and much work remains to be done. A few universal apps make an appearance, but NFC payments (zNFCPayments) is missing from this build.
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Screenshots from the latest Windows 10 Tech Preview build for phones.

Google and Pebble troll Windows Phone users.

CaptureIf you use a Windows Phone, you were trolled today. Twice.

Imagine, if you will, Microsoft suddenly yanking Minecraft from Google’s Play Store. They offer no public explanation, the apps are just gone and there’s no refund either. It’s a $10 app! This would be Microsoft saying, “Fuck you too, Google.”

Okay, this isn’t going to happen, ever. But something similar it is about to happen on the Windows Phone Store, with Google playing the role of the dick waving lunatic.

softcard

Google hates Microsoft. They hate Windows Phone even more. Their refusal to allow Microsoft to make an official Youtube app, and refusing the write one themselves, is the finest example of this. They don’t mind trolling Windows Phone users.

This week, Google, realizing that Apple Pay is a threat, bought the “technology” behind Softcard, an NFC wallet app for Android and Windows Phone, which only debuted in late 2014. Google is wasting no time rolling that infrastructure into its existing Wallet app, which is available on both Android and iOS. Softcard, as a company, still exists, but just what it’s doing is anyones guess at this point.

It was revealed today, as part of that sell off, that Softcard will be removing its app from the Windows Phone Store and also from the Play Store, because the best of the app and its backend are being merged into Google Wallet. This isn’t an issue for Android users, as carriers will now stop blocking Google Wallet as part of the deal, and the iOS app will benefit from these new additions as well.

On the Windows side however, this is a major middle finger. Getting the Softcard app already involved several hurdles. You have to have an Enhanced SIM. You also need a third-party app installed on the phone to act as the NFC wallet.

Microsoft’s native Wallet app has technically supported NFC payments since the launch of Windows Phone 8 in 2012, but it’s never been implemented because Microsoft saw the carriers blocking Google Wallet when it appeared on the scene. Microsoft opted to wait for Softcard, which didn’t arrive until late 2014.

In fact, other NFC wallet apps, like Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and CurrentC could function on Windows Phone, but those apps are not coming. Softcard, made by the carriers, was the only option for American users.

Once the Softcard app is gone, Windows Phone users will once again be without an NFC wallet solution. They won’t be tapping to pay for the foreseeable future. With the success of Apple Pay, perhaps Microsoft will just raise its middle finger to the carriers on this one and build out its existing Wallet app to support NFC. We can only hope.

Pebble

But, the trolling didn’t stop there. Several people, myself included, reported that a Pebble app may be coming to Windows Phone. This was hours before the Softcard announcement, so technically, Pebble got the first and last lulz of the day.

Shortly after the Softcard announcement, Daniel Rubino published a bombshell of a story on Windows Central. It’s really a must read. He reported that Microsoft wrote an app for Pebble, with Pebble’s blessing. Not just an app, but they wanted to partner with Pebble just like they have recently done with Fitbit. There are Fitbit bands in every Microsoft Store, on their webstore, and Fitbit bands are even being given away with Lumia phones.

Imagine the surge in publicity the already moderately known Pebble would get. Their watches would be on TV, at AT&T, in Microsoft’s stores.

Microsoft was even offering to update and maintain the Pebble app, on their own dime, like they already do for Facebook’s app on Windows Phone. Mark Zuckerberg likes Microsoft though. He likes them a lot. Microsoft even invested an obscene amount of money into Facebook back when it was basically just another wouldbe Myspace killer. Facebook had no qualms with Microsoft doing as they wished with the Facebook app on Windows Phone.CaptureSo, Pebble was going to get the Fitbit and the Facebook treatment from Microsoft. How could they say no? All Microsoft wanted some preferential treatment, so maybe some Pebble updates and apps arrive on Windows Phone first. No big deal.

Pebble said no. Pebble said no even when Microsoft’s own CEO asked Pebble’s CEO, Eric Migicovsky, to enter into this partnership. Eric Migicovsky does not like Microsoft, but he does believe that there must be three smartwatch platforms.

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Minecraft creator, Notch, and Steve Jobs, made it cool to hate Microsoft, and now some people are all too happy to stick it to the software giant.

Microsoft poured thousands of dollars into the Pebble endeavour, only to walk in on Pebble dick riding Apple and Google.

And it’s only safe to assume that Microsoft went through similar hoops to woo Snapchat onto the platform, only the catch Snapchat in the act of dick riding too. At least Nokia was able to drag Vine and a beta version of Instagram to the maligned OS.

Need some salve? Ello, that plucky upstart that had everyone talking last September, has expressed interest in making a Windows Phone app. Yeah, I just trolled some of you, sorry.

More trolling.

Oh yes, there’s more. Several media outlets, including Yahoo! have been loudly pounding the nails into the Windows Phone coffin over the last two days, and some even have latched onto Windows 10, declaring the mobile version of the OS dead on arrival, even though it’s hardly a beta yet. Windows Phone just can’t catch a break. Not from the media, and not from dick riding CEOs. And standing between Microsoft and the hail of bullets? Windows Phone users.

Google and Pebble troll Windows Phone users.

Microsoft, for the love of all things holy, please add an NFC wallet to Windows 10!

NFC wallets on mobile devices can hold your credit cards, debit cards, transit passes, loyalty cards, and other items as well. They are pretty handy, assuming there is an NFC terminal present when you make a transaction, and of course have an NFC enabled phone.

The NFC wallet was unleashed to the masses with Google Wallet in 2011. Initially just an NFC wallet which contained debit and credit cards, it expanded into a payment service shortly after.

Apple appeared to be late to the game, making their own NFC wallet, Apple Pay, public in 2014. The Apple approach is more secure than Google’s, generating single use codes for transactions. Apple Pay debuted both as an NFC wallet and a payment service.

Microsoft on the other hand has left the implementation of an NFC wallet up to individual carriers. There has been an app called Wallet in the OS since Windows Phone 8, but it’s just that – a wallet used for Store and in app purchases. It also has some Apple Passbook compatibility, though I am unfamiliar with the full extent of this functionality.

Under the NFC settings on Windows Phone, there’s a toggle for turning NFC on or off, and another toggle for NFC payments, with a disclaimer that an Enhanced SIM is required to use this feature. A third party app, SoftCard, is required to act as an NFC wallet, further complicating and hobbling this feature.

I live in a rural area, and I use a regional carrier. An Enhanced SIM is impossible for me to obtain from my carrier, and the carrier only recently completed its upgrade to “4G” (enhanced 3G) and has no plans for LTE, let alone VoLTE which also requires an Enhanced SIM. I have a feeling that most of Microsoft’s target markets, developing nations, are in a boat not too different from my own, so only a small subset of Windows Phone users even have a chance to use SoftCard, or a similar app.

A good friend of mine is fortunate enough to have SoftCard and an Enhanced SIM too, in a Lumia 925. However, he has not been able to make it work properly for a single purchase. That experience, in addition to the extended wait for the Lumia Denim update, helped prod him over to iOS this month.

I have tweeted to a few Microsoft employees and the Lumia US handle as well for comment about the possibility of adding a native NFC wallet to Windows Phone or Windows 10 on phones, but have not received a response.

With Apple Pay now being okayed for National Park admission fees and the depositing of Social Security benefits, I hope Microsoft sits up and takes notice of the NFC wallet phenomena soon, or I too might be migrating to an iPhone.

Microsoft, for the love of all things holy, please add an NFC wallet to Windows 10!

History of bungled updates and dropped features for Windows Phone as Windows 10 nears

Lumia Camera on Lumia Denim.
Lumia Camera on Lumia Denim.

Microsoft, its OEM partners, and carriers have a history of stiffing Windows Phone users.

Overly eager to please carriers, Microsoft remains largely hands off with the delivery of updates, while carriers show little to no interest in delivering said updates.

Abandoning devices when updates ship, removing features from the OS and hardware, and leaving NFC wallets completely in the hands of carriers who have no interest in Windows Phone. Maybe this is starting to change, however.

Verizon has done something unusual. It actually is very out of character for them – they released an update provided by Microsoft for the Lumia Icon. This was supposed to occur in January, but better late than never, right? Last year, in December, Verizon also pushed the Denim update to two older Lumia handsets. Verizon did not bother issuing the Cyan update however, so other Lumias were left stagnating on the Black firmware.

AT&T has usually lead the pack in the US when it comes to delivering updates to devices running Microsoft’s operating system, albeit not in a timely fashion, but as of yet, not a single device on AT&T has been updated to Denim. In a recent tweet, AT&T said they’d push the update “soon” but that could mean tomorrow or April. And of course, AT&T has demanded custom versions of Lumia phones, halving storage and stripping out Qi wireless charging.

Verizon remains the only US carrier to have pushed the Denim update to Lumia devices. T-Mobile has only committed to applying the update to the 521 and newer devices, leaving the HTC 8X, which debuted with the 920, on Windows Phone 8. (Lumia Denim only applies to Nokia and Microsoft made devices by the way – it’s a firmware update bundled with an OS update.)

Meanwhile, there has been much speculation that Microsoft will launch the beta testing program for Windows 10 on phones this week, perhaps on Friday.

Lumia Denim is of course not required for devices to run the newer OS – indeed, many Windows Phone users have been marooned on Lumia Amber, or Windows Phone 8 after their device was abandoned by their carrier or phone manufacture, leaving them at the mercy of the Preview for Developers program for OS updates – however, should the Denim update ship after Windows 10 Preview, those devices may have to be flashed via the Lumia Recovery app to grab the newest firmware, forcing users to load the Preview onto their device again, assuming they want the device enhancements, of course.

I happen to want the camera enhancements very badly, and I also would like to be able to use Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 on my 1520. I even bought a new charger in preparation for Denim.

Microsoft is not going to be shipping Denim alongside the Preview – by stating that Denim is not needed for it, they have left the delivery of Denim totally in the hands of the carriers. While it’ll be great to be testing out a new OS, it will suck to not have 4k recording and a better Glance Screen.

I hope Microsoft stops letting the carriers hold users hostage based either on sales numbers or lack of interest on their part for Microsoft’s OS. Apple issues all OS updates directly to their devices, without any input from carriers. If Apple says iOS 9 ships on June 30th, that is when it ships, even if AT&T raises hell. Why can’t Microsoft be more like that?

Apple Pay was not blocked for any carriers either, and they are powerless to remove it. Google’s OEMs on the other hand have allowed carriers to strip out Google Wallet and Microsoft went even further, bending over backwards to leave NFC wallets completely in the hands of the carriers, which I might add have only recently begun to materialize, and SoftCard is horribly buggy, in addition to requiring a special SIM card. It’s 2015, so why can’t I use my Lumia to pay for my coffee? I used my Nexus 7 to pay for my coffee in 2012!

With all of this in mind, I am left to wonder just when the RTM version of Windows 10 will arrive on phones, and whether devices like the Lumia 620 will even see it, due to some carriers opting to leave it on Amber thus far. Will there even be an NFC wallet in the OS? I am hopeful that Microsoft will take steps to correct some of the wrongs that have been inflicted by the carriers, and also by their eagerness to please the carriers.

We will likely find out much more in the coming months.

History of bungled updates and dropped features for Windows Phone as Windows 10 nears

No, there will not be a Windows 10 flagship phone launching in May.

I decided to burst some bubbles, because I noticed some stories popping up on the interwebs today claiming Microsoft will launch a new flagship Lumia phone running Windows 10, either in March or May. No, calm down, it’s not true.

The OS is just being geared up for a Technical Preview launch, which is supposed to happen this month, and I am hopeful that Lumia Denim ships from American carriers before that date. Given that the OS is not even available to public testers, and that all other versions of Windows 10 remain unfinished, it’s safe to say that someone is either just craving page hits, or is conflating reports of a new Lumia flagship with the new OS.

Various outlets and blogs have already reported that the next Lumia flagship will be rocking a Snapdragon 810 SoC, which is a wise choice since existing phones cannot support DirectX 12 unless Microsoft is able to implement a Feature Level of the new API on DirectX 9 class hardware. This new SoC will feature eight 64 bit cores, passive listening support for Shazam and other music/television identification apps, 4k support, an Adreno 430 GPU, and other enhancements over existing hardware.

Yes, it’s entirely possible that Microsoft will put a 64 bit OS on phones which support them, but they have not said so themselves.

So, before I veer too far from the subject at hand, will Microsoft will launching a flagship Lumia this spring? I doubt it. Microsoft has confirmed that they will indeed be launching flagship phones this year, and I certainly hope they have some standout features, but I don’t think they will debut such a device before July, based on past devices. Also, if said device features special hardware, such as a fingerprint scanner, the current phone OS from Microsoft doesn’t support them, so why show off the hardware so far ahead of the RTM of Windows 10?

No, there will not be a Windows 10 flagship phone launching in May.

Windows 10 Preview Hitting Phones Next Week? Maybe.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore demonstrates the upcoming Windows 10 on a Lumia 1520.
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demonstrates the upcoming Windows 10 on a Lumia 1520. (photo source: PC Advisor)

UPDATE: Microsoft released Office for Windows 10 on Wednesday, and indicated that Windows 10 for phones is not going to be released this week.

The Windows Insider app on Windows Phone has received a few updates, a rebranding, and a small UX overhaul since it was published publicly in the Windows Phone Store. As far as anyone can tell, the app is still not usable by anyone outside of Microsoft. Just try to log in with your Microsoft account; the app begins to loop you through its landing and login pages.

So, why does the title of this post imply that the preview is being unleashed in the first week of February? The early launch of Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926 makes up part of the tea leaves I am examining. The other part is this string of updates which we’ve seen of the Windows Insider app on the Windows Phone OS. Lastly, Microsoft has said, and still says, that the phone version of Windows 10 will enter the preview stage in February.

There will be minimum hardware requirements for installing the preview, but whatever these are remain unpublished for now. It will not be surprising to see Microsoft initially restrict the Preview to devices with 1GB of RAM or more, or even to specific devices, such as the Lumia 1520 and HTC One M8.

Don’t get mad, I’m sure additional phones will be added as new builds are released and these unknown requirements scale downward. Also, Microsoft has made it clear that even the lowly Lumia 520 will get the final bits when Windows 10 goes gold, assuming the carriers wish to deliver the update. By that point, the Lumia 520 will be around two years old, whilst the Lumia 920 will be almost three years old. Name an Android phone which is getting official updates at that age. No, please do, I’d like to hear about it.

As I previously said, there will be features which will not hit every phone. This is already the case with Windows Phone 8 and 8.1, and all are related to hardware. If your phone lacks NFC for example, the OS will not expose the NFC settings to the user. On Lumia phones, if you have a low end device, EQ settings are not available because of CPU limitations. And, as I said previously, existing phones will not support DirectX 12 unless Microsoft chooses to  implement a Feature Level on existing mobile GPUs. Nothing has been said about hardware support for DirectX 12 on mobile, but I won’t hold my breath.

So, with these factors in mind, I expect a somewhat limited debut of Windows 10 Technical Preview next week. Of course, I could be completely wrong, but the tea leaves I’m reading indicate an imminent launch.

Windows 10 Preview Hitting Phones Next Week? Maybe.