Microsoft is kicking its holiday season off with a press event in New York City next week. Normally you’d expect the company to announce a couple of devices, but this event is going to be unusually huge for Microsoft. The dream of Windows 10 running across multiple devices is finally coming alive, and Microsoft’s event is all about new hardware for its new operating system.
Read next: The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review.
This is going to be a big event. We’re expecting to hear about Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL handsets, a new Surface Pro 4, Microsoft Band 2, and perhaps some surprises from the Xbox and Surface teams. For all of the details on what to expect — including which of these announcements are guaranteed — we've put together a full preview of the event below. The event itself kicks off Tuesday, October 6th at 10AM ET / 7AM PT. As always, you'll be able to follow along with our live blog for immediate updates on Microsoft’s announcements.
Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL
Microsoft’s event will mark the first time the company announces new Windows 10 Mobile hardware. While the operating system is still, technically, in development, Microsoft will announce two new flagships next week: the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. Both handsets aren’t going to be a huge departure from the existing design of Lumia phones, and leaks have given us a good idea about what to expect.
Windows Hello / Continuum
The most exciting part of these phones could be around new features in Windows 10 Mobile. Both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are expected to support Windows Hello, a new option that lets you log into a phone with just your face. Microsoft is also introducing the idea of Continuum with Windows 10 Mobile, giving owners the ability to transform their phones into PCs.
No Surface phone just yet
It works wirelessly or by using a new Continuum dock. The dock will let you use a keyboard, mouse, and display to extend your phone. Windows 10 Mobile’s apps and UI will scale up for the larger display, making it more like a full PC. Several companies have tried this in the past, but Microsoft’s implementation looks excitingly different.
Microsoft’s Lumia 950 XL is the larger of the two devices, with a 5.7-inch WQHD display and a 20-megapixel camera at the rear. Both phones will have USB Type-C charging and share specifications like 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and the 20-megapixel camera. Most of the differences are in size and processors. The smaller Lumia 950 will include a 5.2-inch WQHD display and a Snapdragon 808 processor, while the Lumia 950 XL will use the faster Snapdragon 810 chip.
Microsoft’s phone accessories are usually limited to boring cases or Bluetooth speakers, but it sounds like the company has some interesting additions to share. Rumors suggest that the larger Lumia 950 XL will include support for the Surface Pen and a new smart cover that has a circular cut out for easy access to notifications. That could turn the Lumia 950 XL into more of a Galaxy Note competitor, and given its large size, the pen addition makes a lot of sense. Microsoft’s Display Dock will be the official name of the Continuum dock, complete with a USB Type-C connector and traditional USB port to connect a mouse and keyboard. The Display Dock will also include a DisplayPort to connect to a monitor.
Surface Pro 4
Everyone has been waiting for a successor to the popular Surface Pro 3, and Microsoft is about to unveil its latest tablet / laptop hybrid next week. Unlike the company’s Lumia phones, Microsoft hasn’t managed to leak its own announcements so there are not a lot of rumors about what the company is planning. Microsoft previously promised that a Surface Pro 3 successor would work with existing accessories like the Type Cover, charger, and dock. That means the design of the Surface Pro 4 can’t alter very much, or can it?
A new display
We’re hearing that Microsoft will squeeze a larger display into the Surface Pro 4, with thinner bezels on the device and a much higher resolution. This could be as a high as 4K or even 5K, suggesting that the display will be a key element of the Surface Pro 4. Alongside these changes the Surface Pro 4 will likely be lighter, and could even be thinner than its predecessor. If there are any significant physical changes, then older docks will still work with spacer attachments.
A better stylus
Apple focused on the accuracy of the iPad Pro stylus, and Microsoft will likely reveal some improvements with the Surface Pro 4 pen accuracy. The software maker acquired Surface Pen technology from N-trig earlier this year, and we’re expecting improved accuracy and better touch sensitivity to be part of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4.
While some machines are shipping with cameras that support Windows Hello, it’s unlikely that the Surface Pro 4 will feature one that’s compatible. Instead, Microsoft may opt for a fingerprint reader on the Surface Type Cover to let you log into Windows 10. Microsoft’s new Type Cover will also include better key spacing, a larger trackpad, and no more pen loop. Fear not, the pen loop will be replaced with an improved way of attaching your stylus to the Surface Pro 4.
Microsoft might have a big surprise ready for next week. While the Surface Pro 4 won’t look hugely different to the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft is also planning a larger model. It’s not clear exactly what this will be named, but its features will make it more laptop-like than any other Surface before it.
Rumors have suggested Microsoft will opt for a 14-inch display in this particular model, complete with a Windows Hello camera for logging into Windows 10 with just your face. If Microsoft doesn’t cancel this device at the last minute (like it did with the Surface Mini) then expect this larger Surface to include more powerful specifications. Up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of space will appeal to the power users that Microsoft is aiming at with this device.
As the size is different, existing accessories won’t work well, so there will be a new dock and Type Covers that have an improved trackpad. This could be the Surface I’ve always wanted.
Microsoft Band 2
Phone and tablets are fun, but wearables is the emerging gadget battle ground. Microsoft’s first attempt was more like a bulky inmate wristband than an elegant fitness tracker. Thankfully, the Microsoft Band 2 is going to improve on the look and feel. Recent leaks have shown that the Microsoft Band 2 will include a curved display and band that curves around your wrist. This looks like a solid improvement from the first Band that felt a little awkward on your wrist at times. Little else is known about the Band 2, but rumors have suggested that it will have the ability to detect and measure the amount of stair steps every day.
Microsoft has always focused on the Health platform and app capabilities of the Band, so we’re expecting to hear more updates on its progress to track fitness data in a meaningful way. Microsoft recently added golf tracking, and true steps tracking could open the Microsoft Band 2 up to new third-party integrations.
It’s also likely that Microsoft will expand the number of countries that ship the Microsoft Band 2. Rumors have suggested that it will launch in Spain, France, Italy, and Germany alongside the UK and US.
Windows 10 and Xbox
Windows 10 has already launched, but there’s no doubt we’re going to hear more about how well it’s going and what’s next. Microsoft has an update planned for November, so we’ll hear more about what will be included and when exactly it will be available. Existing Lumia owners will also be keen to hear about when they will receive the Windows 10 Mobile update, and we’re expecting Microsoft to provide some type of date here.
Elsewhere, Microsoft is also bringing Windows 10 to the Xbox One in November. A dashboard update is currently being tested by a select group, and Microsoft will be showing off more functionality next week. Some rumors have also suggested that the company might be preparing a smaller, or thinner, console. This seems unlikely, but it could be one of the bigger surprises of the event if it turns out to be true.