Skip to main content

The new Windows Phone 10 preview includes Project Spartan and a ton of new apps

Windows Phone
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Things are looking up for Windows Phone, at least on the software side. Revamped Office applications will come to Microsoft’s tenacious smartphone OS soon, and Android app compatibility may very well be on the way. But dovetailing with those developments is the inarguably more exciting Windows Phone 10 Technical Preview, Microsoft’s very first beta for mobile. The program, which launched in February, has seen new firmware release at a steady clip, but the version released today is a step above. As detailed on the official Windows blog, Build 10051 includes Project Spartan and a bevy of refreshed apps, among them Mail, Calendar, Phone, Messaging, and People.

Project Spartan, for the uninitiated, is Microsoft’s ambitious reimagining of the default Windows browser. Positioned as a definitive replacement for Internet Explorer, it trades the company’s legacy skins and rendering engines with a modernized framework that will eventually support extensions, Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana, and a paired-down “reading mode” interface. This is the first we’ve seen of Project Spartan on mobile, and it seems a lot like its desktop counterpart — the streamlined UI carries over, as does the bookmarking Reading List feature. It isn’t replacing IE11 just yet — it’ll exist alongside the older browser for now — but Microsoft suggests pinning it to your Start Screen from the All Apps list for faster access.

Beyond Project Spartan, there’s the panoply of new apps to consider. The universal Outlook Mail and Outlook Calendar applications that rolled out to Windows 10 earlier this month are present, sporting fresh UIs and usability enhancements. There’s now a toggle between Mail and Calendar within each app, and customizable swipe gestures for Mail. Mail’s also gained formatting capabilities — you can insert tables, add pictures, and use bullets.

Messaging has gained a fresh coat of paint or two, as has People, Phone, and Maps.  You can now switch easily to a phone conversation with your texting partner, and Maps has been upgraded to the universal app found on PC.

Another change to note is the App Switcher. Pressing and holding the back button will invoke a list of recently used apps, and it now has support for a new grid layout and landscape orientation for large phones like the Lumia 1520. Plus, for multitasking pros, the number of recently used apps has been increased to 15.

Interested in trying out the update for yourself? Be warned: It has a long list of known issues. Unless you can put up with more than a few rough edges, it’s probably best to hold off for now.

For those who missed the first Technical Preview release, Windows Phone 10 introduces a ton of improvements over the departing 8.1. Speech recognition is substantially better, you can customize your Start Screen background, Action Center has new toggles for hardware and actionable notifications, and the apps and settings panel is much simpler. You’ll find all of these present in the newest firmware, of course.

If you’re brave enough to forge ahead, you’ll be pleased to know the list of compatible handsets has grown. Devices with smaller storage were left out of earlier updates because of the partition size required for installation, but the Windows team implemented a “partition stitching” fix that works around that limitation. Check out our Windows Phone 10 compilation post for a handy step-by-step guide to get up and running with the newest release.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
Google Chrome has a secret feature to make it match Windows 11’s new design
Google Chrome opened on a laptop.

One of the signature features of Windows 11 is the new rounded corners and glass-like mica effects. Usually only found in Microsoft and select third-party Windows apps, these design elements are now making their way into Google Chrome but are still hidden secret behind a flag in Chrome's settings.

Once the secret flag is enabled, Chrome on Windows 11 fits in better with the rest of the new operating system. Right-click menus in Chrome change from squared off to more rounded, and also pick up the modern mica effect. In addition, Chrome's pop-out settings menu changes to a more rounded shape, fitting better with native Windows elements like the Start Menu and Quick Actions pop-out.

Read more
Windows 11 hits more devices just as the Windows 10 November 2021 Update deploys
Windows 10 refresh features.

Microsoft just made two big announcements related to Windows 10 and Windows 11. For those who aren't ready for Windows 11, or can't upgrade, the Windows 10 November 2021 Update is now rolling out. And for anyone who is eager to upgrade to Windows 11, the new operating system is now more broadly available for download on more eligible devices.

The Windows 10 November 2021 update isn't as major as previously released featured updates. Microsoft has focused it on productivity, management, and security. Yet the update is still being released using the same measured approach in the past to ensure a smooth rollout. You won't be missing much if you can't download it as the new features are focused for IT administrators.

Read more
We just got a preview of what Android apps on Windows 11 will look like
Android Apps on Windows 11

The ability to easily run smartphone/tablet apps on PCs and laptops is something that many users have been longing for, and it seems that Microsoft may be working on implementing just that. Screenshots showcasing Android apps being run on Windows 11 have surfaced, giving insight into what this feature may look like.

Although Microsoft has previously stated that Windows 11 will support Android apps, the operating system launched without that feature. It's likely that Microsoft is still piloting it and only allowing a select circle of users to try it out via the Dev channel of the Windows Insider Program. However, even upon completion, this is likely not going to be released as a mandatory part of a Windows Update. The leaked information suggests that Microsoft is instead planning to make it optional via the Microsoft Store.

Read more