A bevy of Skype and Messaging-related tweaks and stories has prompted me to round these up in a single post, for completeness. Takeaways include the 'Messaging+Skype' experiment being officially ended and that Skype UWP now supports animated GIFs 'inline', but there's more below too.
Recent News - Windows Phone 8
In addition to the Fast ring for Insiders, Microsoft has its own internal rings and test releases of the Windows 10 SDKs, meaning that keen developers can sometimes get a heads-up on changes that are heading everyone’s way. In this case, it’s Gustave M., with a screenshot seemingly showing that support for (ye olde) Silverlight applications is being dropped in an upcoming version of Windows 10 Mobile.
Whatever Windows 10 Mobile-running phone you own, whatever its status, the chances are that you have a new OS build waiting for you in Settings right now. This is, of course, Microsoft's regular 'Patch Tuesday', even if they don't call it that, and I've quoted a few example version numbers to look out for.
The Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update is set to roll out from April 25 through June 2017, though there's in fact little to get excited about in terms of timing. 'Production' status regular users won't know it's coming and thus won't care, while enthusiasts reading this can... get it whenever they like, thanks to the 'Release Preview' Insiders ring.
The Microsoft Band 2 was favourably reviewed by me last year, but I'd lost interest in wearing it every day because it didn't do enough for me - yet an update today may just have changed my mind and the gadget is charging up as I speak. You see, the new Explore tile - demoed superbly in the video example below - lets you wander over hill and down dale, tracking where you've been on the Band display itself, giving you detailed positioning and the facility to mark particular spots. For anyone who like walking, hiking, mountain biking etc. to keep fit, the Explore tile could be an eye opener.
PDF reader is, or rather was, Microsoft's first party Acrobat (PDF) viewer for Windows Phone and it had been kept available even for Windows 10 Mobile even though it wasn't really consistent with the UI guidelines. Come July 1st this year though, i.e. in less than two months, Microsoft is retiring PDF Reader for good, feeling that Edge is now competent enough at handling PDF documents.
Although Microsoft never gave an exact date for the start of the official Windows 10 Mobile upgrade for existing Windows Phone 8.1 users, it's fair to say that its hints were originally for late 2015 - which then slipped a little. However, at least Q1, 2016 was achieved, if only by a couple of weeks, with the arrival of Windows 10 (10586.164) for a whole clutch of devices, including the popular Lumia 640, 735, 830 and 930. There's an initial hurdle, presumably to make sure that only keener users get Windows 10, and then this will be replaced by the full 'pushed' update later.
The push from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10 Mobile is about to become more urgent for many people, especially if they're heavy users of HERE Maps and HERE Drive+. The developer, (the ex-Nokia) HERE has announced that further development and non-critical updates of code and data will be stopped as of the end of this month (March 2016). I.e. things will carry on working, but don't expect anything to be improved. Meanwhile, all the HERE data is licensed, available, and updated, in Windows 10 Maps.
In the imminent absence of MixRadio from the Windows world, commercial music (and podcast) streaming service Deezer is stepping up to the mark, with a new, universal application that spans Windows 10 mobile, tablet and laptop/desktop. It builds on the existing Deezer app but offers a unified and 'seamless experience'. And, for MixRadio fans, the 'Flow' feature recommends instant music fixes.
The expected 'Release To Manufacturing' build of Windows 10 Mobile (i.e. being flashed into the first batches of Lumia 550, 950 and 950 XL), build 10586.11 is now available to all the brave souls (like us) on the Microsoft Insiders Programme. Details and a few suggestions below.