Windows 11 users will get several new features in February ahead of its H2 feature update

A public preview of Android apps on Windows 11 call mute and weather on the taskbar and updated Notepad and Media Player are coming in February.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

For the past few months, Microsoft has been including a notification on its Windows Insider blog posts that noted some new features in testing inside the Dev Channel might roll out independently of a new feature update. On January 26, Microsoft acknowledged that this will be happening with a handful of new Windows 11 features in testing and won't be held back until the sole feature update comes in the latter half of this year.

"Next month we're bringing new experiences to Windows that include a public preview of how you can use Android apps on Windows 11 through the Microsoft Store and our partnerships with Amazon and Intel, taskbar improvements with call mute and unmute, easier window sharing and bringing weather to the taskbar, plus the introduction of two new redesigned apps, Notepad and Media Player," said Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer for Windows + Devices in a post entitled "A new era of the PC."

There is no information in the post as to how these features will be delivered. Will they be in a single Cumulative Update? Partially through the Microsoft Store? Rolled out via a Feature Experience Pack refresh? We have no idea.

Update: Microsoft released a preview build of Android apps on Windows 11 to testers in the Release Preview channel today, January 26.

Microsoft originally had planned to make the ability to run Android apps on Windows 11 part of its original release on October 5, 2021, but the feature wasn't ready in time. It has been in testing with Beta Channel Insiders since late October.

The wording on Dev Channel Windows 11 blog posts currently states: "These builds are also not matched to a specific release. New features and OS improvements from these builds could show up in future Windows releases when they're ready, and we may deliver them as full OS updates or servicing releases."

Last year, Microsoft officials said that it is moving to an annual feature update schedule for Windows 11 and Windows 10 starting this year. Microsoft has said the Windows 11 and 10 feature updates will be in the latter half of this calendar year. I'm hearing October is the target at this point.

During the company's Q2 FY22 earnings call on January 25, Microsoft officials said that the company has hit the 1.4 billion monthly active user milestone for Windows 10 and 11 combined. Officials are not breaking out -- at least for now -- how many PC users are now on Windows 11. Microsoft officials said Windows 10 had 1.3 billion monthly active users in April last year.

In his blog post today, Panay said that Windows 11 is beginning to enter its final phase of availability, putting Microsoft ahead of its initial plan of mid-2022. I've asked for more information as to what this means exactly and will provide an update once I hear back.

Will Microsoft continue to prompt Windows 10 users on eligible devices to upgrade to Windows 11, and for how long? Stay tuned.  

Update (January 28): A spokesperson provided the following: "Microsoft is beginning to offer the upgrade to the final group of eligible PCs. , Eligible Windows 10 PCs will continue to receive notifications to upgrade. However, there is an option to dismiss the notifications."

I had also asked if Microsoft was planning to start charging for Windows 11 upgrades once the final phase is over but didn't get a response. Nor did I get a response to a question about whether Microsoft is expanding the group of devices originally deemed eligible for Windows 11 as part of the final phase. 

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