Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update – a personal view

* UPDATE  20 June 2016 *

In the normal patch Tuesday updates my phone received Windows 10 Mobile update 15063.414, and I after deleting my Garmin devices from my bluetooth settings, Garmin Connect was able to pair with a new device successfully.  The Garmin Connect app itself received an update to version a few days later, and it now appears to be syncing activities successfully once more, and most of the time supports notifications again.  The issues with continuum remain though.

I own a Lumia 950 XL (actually I own two, one needed a screen repair and is my backup).  Neither are currently on an Insider Build so I was excited when Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update came out on production devices in early May, and I quickly updated both devices.  I thought I’d leave it a bit of time to bed in before I gave my view on this update.

The Good

It does appear to be a bit faster, and the Edge has new features which I’m enjoying.  There’s still a flurry of updates to all the core apps, some less welcome than others – Groove has taken a step back with some of the layouts, but mainly it’s positive.  The voice recognition seems to definitely be improved – coping much better with wind noise while cycling when replying to a text message through my Bluetooth headset (quite a challenge to voice recognition).

Subjectively there appear to be a few more occasions where the phone hangs at random – although that may be before I tracked some down to continuum.  Windows 10 has always been a bit temperamental about using the camera from the lock screen, often not responding after taking the photo and viewing it, and I don’t think that has changed.

The Bad – Continuum

I connect my phone to a continuum dock at work, with a standard mouse and displaying on a 24” monitor.  It’s a great way of using Groove to play music, and muck about with playlists of radio 4 podcasts.

As I mentioned above, one of the those more frequent crashes I can now definitely repeat.  It occurs when you phone is connected to the continuum dock, but has locked it’s screen and switched off the screen.  If you disconnect at this point, it is highly likely that the phone will no longer switch on.  If you get it connected back to the dock quickly you can recover, turning on the phone, waiting for the lock screen and then removing from the dock.  If you don’t re-connect to the dock the phone remains blank, and it requires a long power button press reset to get it back.

There is also a further Windows 10 continuum bug.  I suspect that to ‘speed’ up the launching of an app which was running on the phone previously, they are no longer ‘killing’ the original app and restarting but activating straight onto the continuum display.  The issue here, is that the app has no idea that it now has a 24” monitor to play with.  This is especially true with Groove which appears without any sensible master/view layout.  It acts as if it only has a single, albeit, very, very wide display.  To solve this you have to kill the app in the app switcher, and relaunch.  Effectively doing what the phone used to do prior to Creators update.

The (downright) Ugly – Garmin Connect

The other heavy use I make of my phone is to use it to transfer data from a Garmin Vivoactive activity tracker that records my cycle ride to work (250km a week) as well as swims and runs.  Last year Windows 10 received a full UWP app Garmin Connect so I can use the very same app on my Asus T100, Linx 7 tablet or 950 XL to sync the data via Bluetooth.  When connected to the phone it also updates the watch with notifications, calendar entries and weather information.  It’s miles better than the USB cradle sync, as that only synchronises activities, not notifications, and requires you to have a USB cradle with you at work as well as home.  It’s also way better than the iOS version of Garmin Connect which looks old and dowdy in comparison with much harder navigation of the app.

The moment the Creators update was installed I struggled with synchronizing data, and a Garmin device I received back from repair refused to pair with Garmin Connect at all.  That left me with one watch that can sync notifications, and another than can’t, and even the one that can still connect can only support very small sets of activity data, such as swimming.  Any activity with any serious amount of GPS data fails.  Reading release notes and browsing some forums, it looks like the Creator update contained improved Bluetooth LE connectivity.  I suspect they subtly changed the Bluetooth software stick and that broke Garmin Connect.  I suspect it may be getting timeouts as Bluetooth LE might not like supporting long lived Bluetooth operations.

It’s been well discussed on the Garmin Forums here, and there is a Garmin FAQ regarding the issue that leads to a Windows Answers forum post which pretty much says the ‘work around’ is to roll back to Anniversary Update.  I’m not sure that this is even possible now that the production devices are being updated to Creators Edition and I don’t really consider regressing to an older operating system is a real ‘work around’.

So I’m back to synching my data via a Linx 7 tablet at work, and not being able to have the smartwatch notifications (not a big deal, to be honest).

What’s amazing is that this was a known issue on insider builds and everyone still ploughed ahead as if there wasn’t a problem to be resolved.  Microsoft should be giving Garmin some serious help with this as they have produced a solid UWP app that’s best of breed at the exact point that companies like Adidas have pulled their own fab tracking app (they are closing down their entire miCoach service).

The future

Recently on All About Windows Phone Steve Lichfield provided his view on Windows 10 Mobile And The Future – I can only hope he is wrong and we do get a decent update to the 950 XL that can fix the issues I’ve found above with Garmin Connect.  Everyone talks about the ‘app gap’ on Windows 10 Mobile but it’s not helped by cock ups like this.

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