I installed the leaked Windows 11 build so you don’t have to.

It gives us a sense of direction for Windows, but no clear context.

Just a few days ago, Microsoft’s revitalization of Windows dubbed Windows 11 leaked online in a flurry of hype and humorous irony. Nearly 10 days before the OS would be formally introduced by Microsoft, and people were already beginning to install it on their PCs just to mess around with it.

If you’re a geek like I am, I’m sure you’ve been tempted to install it on your own PC or an extra one you have laying around. But who wants to install a leaked build of an operating system that, for all you know, could fry your whole motherboard? Maybe it’s just an ISO loaded with ransomware or a corrupt file that’s only designed to run on select machines. On the outside, there’s no way to know, so you definitely shouldn’t install it unless you want to run the risk of ruining your perfectly fine desktop or laptop.

But those screenshots on Twitter, that new Start menu, the hot new wallpapers, those fresh animations, the improved multitasking experience, – it all seems like too much to avoid for very long. Suddenly, you find yourself desiring to be like everyone else. You also want to partake in the excitement of installing and using software that hasn’t even been announced yet. Temptation grows stronger and stronger and stronger until…

…this happened. Yup, the other night, I caved and installed the leaked build of Windows 11.

I’d like to just say that I don’t think just anyone should install this version of Windows. For one, you only have to wait another week at this point for a chance to (potentially) try a proper beta version of the software. Second, you should know how to get yourself out of sticky situations where you might have to restore your PC from recovery media of some type. Third (and this one’s important), you should install it on a secondary machine so if something goes wrong and you don’t know how to fix it, you still have your main machine to fall back on.

I always have multiple laptops at my disposal (the life of a tech reviewer, I suppose) so I wasn’t very worried about the install of this leaked build of Windows 11. I also know my way around a recovery USB and are familiar with BIOS settings to go deep and screw with whatever needs to be screwed with. Plus, I’m a tech reporter, so I probably should install the software anyway so I know what I’m talking about when I write about it.

I installed Windows 11 on the laptop I do most of my writing on, and my main concern was general buginess. I hate random crashes and inconsistencies with apps when I’m working, so I was prepared to use my iPad to type up yesterday’s newsletter.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. I have yet to run into a bug that causes me a great deal of inconvenience or sparks a desire to go back to ol’ reliable Windows 10.

This has let me explore some of the new stuff in Windows 11 without much of a headache, and let me just say that this build probably isn’t the one you wanna focus on if you want the most accurate representation of what Windows 11 will ultimately come with once it’s shipped. There are a lot of old UI elements, more than you probably expect. If Microsoft is gonna completely overhaul the interface with its Sun Valley project, this build doesn’t do it justice.

That being said, you get the general vibe of the new OS from this build. It comes with the revamped Start menu and search interface, a slightly tweaked look for notifications, and new animations for windows. You can now right-click on the minimize/maximize button to get quick access to alternative split-view interfaces, and Task View gets a revamp with a more consistent bird’s eye view of everything you have open. Multiple desktops are also easier to access with this change.

Some of the starkest changes come in the form of updated iconography. Nearly all of the icons in Windows 11 have received a revamp, including the minute ones in apps like Device Manager. File Explorer is familiar but different thanks to added white space, and everything feels a bit more friendly with the rounded corners and more bubbly approach to the system’s general UI.

I didn’t go too deep into every little thing you can find in Windows 11 (I’ll leave that to the professionals), but that wasn’t the point of me installing the early build. Rather, I wanted to get the vibe for what Windows 11 might feel like once people start using it.

So far, I’m digging the direction Microsoft’s going in. Clearly, they want to offer a consumer-friendly experience that’s more in line with what you might expect from Apple’s macOS. There’s clear intent that Microsoft doesn’t necessarily want you to see the cruft and feature shove-ins it’s required to include because subsets of their users “still use/need them.” Microsoft obviously wants you to open your laptop or turn on your desktop and get to work, no matter what you’re doing.

That being said, it’s still very much Windows. You’ll still be installing drivers, you’ll still be editing your registry, and you’ll still be hunting around in Task Manager for that rogue app eating up all your memory.

This early build of Windows 11 tells us a lot about where Microsoft wants to take the OS in the future, but it’s severely lacking in context and clarification. That’s what events are for, right?

I’ll be covering the June 24th Windows 11 event so make sure you subscribe to get my thoughts and reactions as soon as they go live.

In the news…

LG

Since LG has stopped selling its own phones, we have yet to see someone jump in their grave to claim their market share. However, I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed Apple would be the first to give it such an unapologetic go.

BusinessKorea is reporting Apple and LG are in talks for the former to sell iPhones and other devices in the latter’s over 400 Best Shops in Asia. Apple would set up a space in each storefront to sell its products, with Apple employees to boot. The sales could start at the end of next month when LG is formally out of the smartphone business, so I’ll keep you posted if any other developments surface.

Apple

Apple has announced its Back to School 2021 program which will give students free AirPods if they buy an eligible Mac or iPad. Specifically, the models available are:

Mac

  • Mac mini
  • iMac
  • Mac Pro
  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro

iPad

  • iPad Air
  • iPad Pro

The AirPods you get are the ones without a wireless charging case. While you won’t be able to charge them over Qi, you’ll still be saving $160 if you were to purchase them separately. Right now, the program’s available in the United States, but it’s likely to expand to other regions in the weeks to come.

Apple’s song recognition app Shazam is also in the news as it’s been confirmed the service now registers over one billion identifications per month. It’s also recognized over 50 billion songs total since it launched in 2002. That’s definitely a lot of songs, and it shows how popular the app has become over its lifespan.

Google

Google has officially launched the new Pixel Buds A-Series. Priced at $99, the buds shave a few features off the original Pixel Buds while still offering things like Adaptive Sound. I’ve got a review unit I’m checking out now and should have some thoughts published in a week or two. Stay tuned!

Snapchat

Snapchat is officially getting rid of the speed filter on its iOS app after concerns over user safety were expressed numerous times (via NPR). It tried phasing it out by making it less visible, disclosing you shouldn’t “Snap and drive” right on the filter, and even limiting the speed that it could detect. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep people safe, so they’re just getting rid of it. I assume it’ll be on the Android app for the time being, but likely not for long.

Motorola

Another day, another cheap Motorola phone. This time, it’s the Moto Defy, a phone that capitalizes on durability over a flashy design. It’s got a Snapdragon 662 processor, a 6.5-inch 720p LCD display, a big 5,000mah battery, and four rear cameras. It’s rated for IP68 water resistance, and it received a MIL-STD-810H military-grade rating for durability. The phone is covered in reinforced PCB and even comes with a lanyard so you don’t drop it. It costs £279 and will be sold in select European and LATAM markets (a.k.a. not the States).

Leica

You probably know the name Leica from cameras, but you might not know that they just entered the phone business. Well, you know now. The new Leica Leitz Phone 1 (via Engadget) is their first smartphone, and it comes with all the fixings like a Snapdragon 888 processor and a humongous 1-inch camera housing on the back. You also get a 6.6-inch 120Hz OLED display, 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a 5,000mAh battery, and Android 11. The phone’s a lot more rigid looking than you’re probably used to, and it’ll cost around 187,920 yen (or ~$1,700 when converted to USD). It’s only gonna be sold in Japan for now, but like the Defy, it probably won’t come to the States.

Nvidia

If you own an Nvidia Shield TV, go check your software updates. A new update brings the Android TV device’s UI more in line with what you get with Google TV on the new Chromecast. It has a new “Apps” screen, more rounded UI elements, and large promotional material for content within different apps. Notably, this is not a Google TV upgrade, and it’s not clear if/when that will happen. 9to5Google has a few extra details if you’re craving more Nvidia Shield TV goodness.

Instagram

No, it’s not just you: Instagram just started running ads in Reels (via The Verge). If you use the app’s TikTok clone, you’ll now find 30-second advertisements in between certain Reels with a sponsored label toward the bottom. It’s yet another way for Instagram to provide a versatile platform for advertisers, and it falls in line with another decision from Facebook to run ads in Oculus Quest apps.

Ads are everywhere, people. Get used to it.

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