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Latest Windows 10 Mobile preview offers more features and bugs

The new features sound cool, but bugs still abound in each new mobile preview release, and Microsoft has to squash them all in time for the final release later this year.

The latest Windows 10 Mobile preview adds some cool features but is still beset by several bugs. Nate Ralph/CNET

Microsoft has released a new Windows 10 Mobile preview build that adds new features, fixes previous glitches but adds some new bugs of its own.

Rolled out on Thursday, Windows 10 Mobile Build 10149 is the latest preview edition for Windows Insiders. To elicit feedback from the user population, Microsoft has been regularly rolling out new previews, or builds, of Windows 10 for desktop and mobile devices. The Windows Insider program allows people to freely install and test each edition and offer their comments, questions and criticisms to Microsoft with the aim of improving Windows 10.

Microsoft has a lot riding on Windows 10, and at this point, the company has a little over a month before the official version launches on July 29. Windows 10 has at least a couple of goals to meet. It has to provide enough of a punch to erase the bad memory of Windows 8. And it has to appeal to PC users and mobile users alike. The phone side is especially critical as Microsoft's share of the smartphone market has been relatively flat at around 4 percent as it's been trounced by Apple and Android. Windows 10 Mobile needs to offer the appeal necessary to start bumping up that market share.

On the plus side, Microsoft has given itself more breathing room with Windows 10 Mobile. Windows 10 for PCs and tablets will roll out July 29. But the mobile edition won't be seen broadly until later this year, Gabe Aul, head of Microsoft's Windows Insider program, said in a blog posted earlier this month.

"We've received questions on the final release date for Windows 10 Mobile," Aul said. "While we're making good progress, we need more time to deliver the optimal experience for mobile devices and you can expect Windows 10 Mobile to release broadly later this year."

So, what are some of the new features in the Windows 10 Mobile preview? In a blog posted on Thursday, Aul described what's new.

Designed as a simpler, faster alternative to the aging Internet Explorer, Microsoft's new Edge browser is now officially known as Edge, rather than by its older tag of Spartan. In this build, Edge displays the address bar at the bottom, a change based on feedback from Windows testers, according to Aul. There's also an option to view websites in either mobile view or desktop view.

Microsoft has also tidied up the overall look of Windows 10 Mobile. In previous builds, many Live tiles pinned to the Start screen would appear blurry. Now the screen is clearer and crisper. Certain controls, such as the volume control, have new icons. Aul also touted the latest build as "more responsive to use." He conceded that more work has to be done but was happy about the progress made in this build.

The Cortana voice assistant sports a few improvements, especially in its Notebook, an area used to store settings and other user information. Using the Notebook, you can now set up Quiet Hours, a feature that sends any incoming phone calls to voicemail so as not to disturb you. You can also now tell Cortana to send an email in one fell swoop by including the name of the recipient, the subject and your message in one single voice command.

Another request made by Windows Insiders was to add a virtual flashlight feature to Windows 10's Action Center. And Microsoft has complied with that request in the latest build, letting you turn your phone into a flashlight. The Photos app has been updated to be more reliable and also now supports animated GIFs. And you can now automatically upload your camera roll photos directly to your OneDrive online storage.

The latest build also contains several fixes, including ones for text notifications, the Podcast app and the navigation bar. But the build also introduces several new bugs.

In some cases, the install button doesn't respond if the battery isn't fully charged. Some users may bump into an error trying to upgrade from Build 10136, an issue that Microsoft is striving to fix. Sometimes the PIN keyboard doesn't appear after you swipe the screen to unlock it. In rare occasions, entering your PIN fails to unlock the screen. A Gmail account set up on the phone may prevent incoming and outgoing messages in the Messaging app, an issue that can only be resolved with a reboot.

Further, in-app purchases of Windows Store apps and games don't work on Windows 10 Mobile just yet. In some cases, the colors of certain apps may appear off kilter. And sometimes the notifications in the Action Center are blank.

To be fair, the latest 10149 build was released on what Microsoft calls the Fast Ring. The Windows 10 Technical Preview has been available to users in both a Slow Ring and a Fast Ring. The Slow Ring builds come out at a slower pace but are generally more stable. The Fast Rings naturally come out at a faster pace but are generally more buggy. So it's natural that the latest Fast Ring will have its share of bugs.

Based on this latest build, Aul seemed confident about the state of Windows 10 Mobile. "We've been using this build internally for a few days and have really loved it." Aul said. "It is faster, more stable, and more polished overall and has been lots of fun for us to see come together."

Microsoft did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.