Microsoft's next Windows 10 release creeps closer with a cluster of builds
Also: Your Phone gets a bit more useful
Still reeling from The Great Azure Outage Of September 2018? Fear not – new builds, new apps and some slightly flaky Android integration were the order of week.
Windows 10 October 2018 Update creeps ever closer
While developers relying on Visual Studio Team Services (aka Azure DevOps) enjoyed an unexpected day off, the army of engineers working on Windows prepared to fling out a selection of builds to the delight of Insiders.
Still missing the build number watermark and thus keeping the fanboys fevered up with "is this the final one?" speculation, there was little of note in build 17754 as it arrived in the Windows Update of those brave souls on the fast ring.
Insiders would not have long to wait until the next build, 17755, arrived in time for the weekend. While the list of known issues remained unchanged, with just two seemingly innocuous ease-of-access problems still hanging around, Microsoft dropped in a surprise update to the Your Phone app and added the promised SMS functionality.
SMS arrives on Your Phone
The much-vaunted Your Phone app finally made an appearance on Windows 10 after months of speculation to a collective "meh" a few weeks ago. The promised integration of SMS was conspicuously absent and users willing to do battle with the setup were rewarded with, er, just their last few photos taken on their Android phone popping up in Windows 10.
A cynic might point out that the same could have been achieved by plugging in a USB cable.
The app appeared first for Windows Insiders and later became available for users of the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. With the latest fast ring Windows Insider build, 17755, Android users willing to spray their phones with Microsoft's wares can, in theory, now receive and send messages thanks to a refresh of the application.
Your Phone or mine?
The Register took the update out for a spin to see how well it works. The answer is... OK. Kind of. The setup experience remains a little touch and go, and of course you need to go all-in with Microsoft on your Android device (version 7 and onwards only). The Windows 10 interface for messaging is familiar and, as long the phone is on the same Wi-Fi network as the PC, the integration is stable (once the thing starts up).
Microsoft is quick to proclaim that as well as boring old keyboard entry, inking is also possible. For our part, we found the experience quite similar to a very early version of iMessage on macOS. This is no bad thing, and even in preview form, the functionality is a welcome addition to Windows 10. Assuming a user can live with the requirements.
Users in China are sadly blocked from using the functionality for the time being and, of course, this all remains Android-only. Microsoft promises that iOS devices will see similar toys in the future, but don't hold your breath. Perhaps next week's Apple event will see an announcement on the matter (spoiler: it won't).
Skipping Ahead into a glorious 19H1 future after three-week snooze
It has been a while (around three weeks to be exact) but after some teasing, the team at Redmond dropped a fresh build of next year's Windows, codenamed 19H1. As over-eager fanboys clamoured for a refresh, the team urged restraint while they took some time to ensure nothing too nasty and crashy was lurking within the preview code.
Let's talk #SkipAhead! ~3 weeks is a long time without a new build! We've been diligently tackling build bugs. We have a new candidate in the works, but it needs validation. Will share more info as we review internal telemetry. #Soon(TM) pic.twitter.com/mSEG4MIHY8— Windows Insider (@windowsinsider) September 5, 2018
Less than 24 hours later it seemed that things were stable enough to ship and, sandwiched between fresh builds of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, there appeared build 18234.
While still lacking any particular gangbuster new feature, the new build included a few new toys and fixed some freshly broken ones. Most notable for those who need to take the odd screenshot was the making usable of the new "Snip & Sketch" app, which replaced the Screen Sketch app. The app was left with a broken New button in the last release, which rendered it a pain to use. The intervening 21 days have fixed it. Attaboys.
The courageous souls on Skip Ahead also saw the arrival of inking on the ToDo app, allowing handwritten notes to be scrawled on suitable devices. A number of nasty bugs were squashed – the Green Screen of Death problem on shutdown or logout has thankfully gone away. Problems opening Word documents in Windows 10 S have been dealt with along with losing unsent text in Teams after composing an emoji.
Redmond has also lifted the odd 4GB download limit suffered by the Edge browser among the other fixes for the early preview of the OS.
Telegram – a lone encrypted voice in the Windows Phone wilderness
Finally, crypto-chatmonger Telegram continued ploughing its increasingly lonely furrow of Windows Phone support. In a week that saw the fifth anniversary of the disastrous acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft, Telegram continued its support for the platform in the face of a wall of indifference from other messaging vendors.
Version 3.3 of the app supports more data types, including translated versions of documents, and brings a better password hashing algorithm. Users seeking to export their chats are directed to the desktop version of Telegram. ®