[Updated] On an older Lumia Windows Phone? Why you should get Windows 10 Mobile now, how to do it, and what you will lose.

[Update 7/29: Microsoft has now officially blocked this route, pushing the Anniversary Update to the Release Preview ring, and removing support for the older devices.

If you have one of those phones affected and want Windows 10 Mobile, the only option now is to buy a new device, maybe on ebay or auction sites or discount retailers if money is a reason you haven’t upgraded yet. Low end Lumia 550, the 650 in the mid tier and 950/950 XL at the high end are all better devices than the windows phones that have come before them and are designed to run Windows 10, and so will be fully supported, as are devices such as the Lumia 830, Lumia 640 and 640 XL, BlU Win HD LTE and more. A full list is here ]

Windows 10 mobile was promised to all Lumia device owners running Windows Phone 8.1 and unfortunately Microsoft broke this promise with the official update. They did, however, run a preview program including those devices and it seems that the reason to drop those devices was partly based on feedback from users of those phone. That said, I still think users of those devices should get Windows 10 mobile.  This article is aimed at owners of devices such as Lumia 630, 635, 820, 920, 925, 1020 and others of the series.

  • Can my device be upgraded? For how long and what version of Windows 10 will I get?
  • Why should I upgrade?
  • What will I lose and what other reasons are there to not take the upgrade?
  • Will I get Skype?
  • How do I upgrade?

Can my device be upgraded? For how long and what version of Windows 10 will I get?

TLDR: Lumias ending in 20 or 25, as well as Lumias ending in 30 but with only 512MB ram can  though the Windows Insider app (choosing Release Preview), but for a limited time and only to version 10586. Newer devices can get Windows 10 with official support through the Upgrade Advisor app.

The Windows Insider program began with just a few devices, but expanded to include many of the Windows 8.1 Lumia devices.  It was hoped that with this expansion, all the WIndows 8.1 phones would get Windows 10, and indeed that’s what Microsoft had said. As already mentioned, this didn’t happen and many phones running Windows Phone 8.1 were cut off from official releases of Windows 10 Mobile. That said, you could still always join the insider program and get it. The good news is that this is still an option, though it won’t be for long.  The Windows Insider program was set up with 2, and then 3 different levels of risk and they are known as rings.

  • The Fast ring is the latest, greatest versions of Windows 10 but potentially buggiest ring.
  • The slow ring is more stable, and relatively stable releases that are pushed to the fast ring will get pushed to the slow ring after the fast ring folks have had some time using it and given feedback.
  • The Release Preview ring was launched with the launched to push previews of updates and fixes for the current production version of Windows 10 and doesn’t get the fast or slow ring bits until the next production release.

As we approach August 2nd, the date when the next Windows 10 version will begin rolling out for PC and mobile, we should expect that around that date the anniversary update will be pushed to Release Preview. When that happens, we believe the older lumia devices will no longer be able to get that version.

Technically, Microsoft has never said when they would cut older devices out from release preview, but that seems to be a reasonable date to do so, but they could do any time. So in my opinion, you should move fast and do it while you can.

Phones eligible for Windows 10 (redstone) anniversary:

  • All devices that launched with Windows 10 mobile pre-installed
  • Lumia 930, Icon, 830, 640, 640XL, 635 (1GB), 636 (1GB), 638(1GB), 1520,  730, 735, 532, 535, 540, 430, 435
  • BLU WinHD  and WinHD LTE
  • MCJ Madosma Q501
  • Xiaomi M4

Phones eligible for Windows 10 (threshold) production via Release Preview:

  • Lumia 630, 635 (512MB), 720, 820, 920, 925, 1020, 1320
  • BLU Win JR  and Win JRLTE
  • HTC Windows Phone 8X

Why should I upgrade?

TLDR: UWP, office, mail and calendar, notifications, settings, personalization, groove.

Windows 10 Mobile makes lots of small improvements over Windows Phone 8.1. Yes, not every change will be to everyone’s tastes and below is a section about that, but there are many improvements, to the OS as a whole, and to the first and 3rd party apps.

The number 1 most important reason to upgrade in my opinion is the new Universal Windows Platform apps or UWP. This is a new application framework that allows developers to write one application that will run on Windows 10 PC and Mobile (and Xbox, HoloLens, and “Internet of Things” devices). Microsoft and 3rd party developers are focussing their efforts on releasing apps using this platform, mostly due to the approx. 300 Million Windows 10 users they can get. These apps are not blown up phone apps on the PC, or scaled back PC apps on phone (or at least the well-done ones are not).  In general these applications are improvements over the Windows Phone versions they are replacing, offering more functionality and / or an improved layout.  As Windows 10 still runs Windows Phone 8 apps, if the developer hasn’t created a UWP version, you are not missing out. Plus, as this is where the developer focus is, this helps prolong the device and you are not relying on companies to continue to maintain the Windows Phone version.

More on the apps in a minute. What has improved about the OS in general? Well, you get more personalization options, with the ability to choose start screen backgrounds to be in the tiles or behind the tiles, change the font size (this can give you an extra column of tiles on small screens, or help with ease of use on big ones), and more control over the notifications area. There are visual and organizational improvements, most notably in settings which is now nicely organized and more easily searchable, though I also like the larger tiles on the start screen. Cortana gets some more functionality too. The notifications are now allows you to respond in the notification – i.e you don’t need to launch the app. Taking advantage of this is up to the developer but for SMS it’s very useful. There are other small changes all over – another one being the addition of a ‘nubbin’ to the on-screen keyboard to assist with cursor positioning which can help with awkward minor cursor position changes.

Here are a few pictures for comparison. Both phones pictured are Lumia 635’s.

Improved first party apps are a big part of it – some standouts include Mail and Calendar, Photo’s, Edge, and Groove Music, plus the OneNote and the office apps. All of these have undergone a massive overhaul and the results are very good. The Groove app in particular is leagues ahead of Xbox music and Edge brings improved rendering, capabilities and web site compatibility.

3rd party app improvements have also been noted. For exemple Wells Fargo, as well as some returning to the platform after killing their Windows Phone 8 versions, such as Bank of America.

What will I lose and what other reasons are there to not take the upgrade?

TLDR: Rooms, me tile, some people hub integration, here maps. Also potentially poor performance and unofficial support.

There are some losses of functionality and features, though in some cases it’s expected they will be turned off eventually anyway. For example, the Rooms feature is absent in Windows 10 Mobile and while you can access the shared OneNote, shared photo albums and the contact cards for people, you can’t access the chat’s that were part of the Room.  Microsoft would probably suggest GroupMe as a replacement, though it doesn’t have the same functionality as rooms did.

The Me tile, that allowed you to send a message simultaneously to services like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and also provided notifications is gone. You just have to use the apps for each one instead. In a related change, there is less people hub integration now too.

Here Maps is not available for Windows 10. Indeed, I believe they have decided to cease making pdates for Windows Phone 8.1 as well, but if you have it installed it’s still there. You simply can’t get it for Windows Phone 10, unless it hangs on through an upgrade. That said, the Windows 10 Maps app is generally good, and much improved from since the Windows 10 launch when it was not good.  I do have a few issues with it still, the biggest being that traffic isn’t shown during navigation (it is shown when choosing a route) but I’m hopeful it will be fixed soon.

Lastly, is the reason that Windows 10 didn’t make it to these devices in the first place – it may perform worse on these devices than Windows Phone 8.1 did. I  have been using Windows 10 mobile on 3 devices, the Lumia 635, 925 and 830. The 830 has the fast ring build on and is my everyday phone, but from what I’ve seen on the other two, it’s perfectly usable and has performance is more than good enough, though your mileage my vary. This has improved as Microsoft has continued to release patches to the Release Preview ring and these fixes have made a positive difference to the performance and reliability of the system.

Will I get the new version of Skype?

TLDR: Maybe but probably not.

Skype support detal for Windows Phone
Skype support detal for Windows Phone

Skype has recently let folks know they were running 2 systems side by side and the old system will turn off in October and apps that relied on the old architecture will cease to work. This includes the Windows Phone 8.1 version, but not the Windows 10 version, which is currently in preview. This detailed on the Skype support page.  Being in preview, it’s only available for users on the Windows 10 anniversary fast and slow rings.  This makes it a guessing game as to who will eventually be able to install it once it releases. On the one hand, the Skype support page just says Windows 10 and it’s reasonable to assume that all windows 10 users will be able to get access to this, and when it comes out of preview, it will be available regardless of windows 10 version. On the other hand, it could be that it’s previewed only in the anniversary edition because it uses features only available in that edition.

My hope is the first version of events is true, but my expectation is sadly for the second. It might come, but don’t bet on it.

How do I upgrade?

TLDR: Make a backup, then get the Windows Insider app and follow instructions. Check for updates afterwards.

1.Make a backup of your device by going to Settings -> Backup. Select as may options as you might want to restore later. Also copy any files and folders that aren’t included in the backup  from your devices and it’s SD card to a PC, using a USB connection.

2. Download and install the WIndows Insiders app from the store. in the app, choose the Release Preview ring and agree to the terms. It should finish by saying that updates will be available via the Phone Update settings.

3. Prepare your phone by making sure you have at least 3GB space on the phones main device memory. This may be harder on devices with only 8GB of storage. Deleting music, videos, offline maps and podcasts, or large games should get you most of the way.

4. Go to Settings -> Phone Update and search for updates. You should see a pending update for Windows 10 Mobile 10586.xxx there.  (It may take some time for this to show up).  Choose to install it and be prepared to wait several hours for it to do it’s thing, especially on low end devices like the Lumia 635.

5. Once the update is installed, look for additional patches by going to Settings -> Update & Sercuity -> Phone Update and tap Check for Updates. Repeat this until there are no more (you should now be at  version 10.0.10586.494 or greater). Also open the store and from the menu, choose Downloads and Updates there and then Check for Updates and install any app updates – you will likely see a lot after the initial install.

Lumia 635, 925 and 830 all running Windows 10 showing app list.
Lumia 635, 925 and 830 all running Windows 10 showing app list.

So in the end, it’s do-able and in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the losses. Not everyone will agree with that but I honestly don’t think staying on Windows Phone 8.1 is a good option any more. It may have been 6 months ago, but not now. Of course, one way to change without going through this is just to buy a new phone – Lumia 550, 650, 950 etc, if you like Windows Phone and want to stay with a similar experience. Or there’s Android or iOS, but if you were headed that way, I’d imagine most have already gone.

Are there reasons to upgrade or stay put that I’ve missed? Probably – this has been an emotive topic for many, so lets have the conversation one last time. August 2nd is coming up fast so soon this won’t matter anymore. Or put another way, don’t put this off any longer.

Get the Windows Insider app
Get the Upgrade Advisor app

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