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The Renegade Project Brings Full-Blown Windows 11 To Smartphones

Devs revive and overhaul Microsoft’s Windows Phone dream

The Renegade project Windows 11 on smartphones
The Renegade Project brings Windows 11 to smartphones. Source: Image created by the author.

Microsoft abandoned Windows Phone years ago.

While the lack of developer support killed it for good, its desktop-esque Continuum feature let Windows Phone owners run a limited selection of full-blown Windows apps on an external display. Today’s smartphones play nice with monitors too but Microsoft had bolder ambitions: true Windows on a smartphone. Windows on ARM looked like a move in said direction, despite its iffy x64 emulation support.

Modders have been trying to port Windows to smartphones for years with varying degrees of success.

Getting around the firmware of existing devices and the hassle of device-specific drivers are challenges that sound next to impossible. But the developers over at The Renegade Project deliver on that very promise.

The Renegade Project brings Windows 11 to a small but growing list of smartphones.

The Renegade Project lets Android phone take advantage of Windows 11
Windows 11 visually revamps the traditional Windows experience. Source: Microsoft.

With some work, The Renegade Project lets your phone run Windows 11

With a handy guide, the developers behind The Renegade Project attempt to simplify a rather complicated set of processes. It goes without saying that they aren’t going to be responsible for a bricked device but the chance to run a desktop-grade OS on a smartphone is tempting.

Few consumers are aware of the low-level changes needed to bring over a desktop OS to a phone.

The brilliant minds at XDA-developers try to demystify the process:

“The first step is to build a firmware interface from scratch, for which the Renegade Project developers suggest compiling a Tianocore EDK II image on top of the smartphone’s bootloader. You can find precompiled binaries for select devices under the Releases section of the corresponding GitHub repo. Next, download the ARM64 build of Windows 11 from UUP Dump and prepare the installer. After applying the WIM package from the Windows Preinstallation Environment and slipstreaming the drivers, you should see Windows 11 booting up.”
—Skanda Hazarika, XDA (Source: XDA)

The Renegade Project devs have managed to port Windows 11 to a handful of devices. Some of them like the Nokia 9 Pureview don’t even run Android.

Here’s the official list of devices that have been tested so far:

  • ASUS — ZenFone 5Z
  • AYN — Odin
  • Google — Pixel 3
  • LG — G7 ThinQ, V30, V35, V40
  • Meizu — 16, 16 Plus
  • Motorola — Z2 Force
  • Nokia — 9 Pureview
  • OnePus — 5, 5T, 6, 7, 7 Pro
  • OPPO — Find X
  • Qualcomm — Snapdragon 720G QRD
  • Samsung — Galaxy S9 Plus
  • Smartisan — Nut R1
  • Sony — Xperia XZ2
  • Xiaomi — Black Shark, Mi 6, Mi 8, Mi 8 Pro, Mi 9, Mi Mix 2, Mi Mix 2S, Mi Mix 3, Mi Mix 3 5G, Mi Pad 4, Mi Pad 5, POCO F1, Redmi K20 Pro, Mi 9T Pro
  • Vivo — NEX Dual Display
  • ZTE — Axon 9 Pro, Nubia X
Android apps running on Windows 11 desktop
Android apps running on Windows 11. Source: TheVerge.

The Renegade Project’s success with Windows 11 has a ton of potential

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of these developers, Windows 11 runs relatively well on smartphones. The source code is available at GitHub, where developers are encouraged to contribute. The tech enthusiasts over at Beebom put a Windows 11 smartphone through its paces, noting remarkable performance across the board.

They even tested Portal and Half-Life 2 on it.

While Windows on ARM’s x64 support remains a sore point, bringing Microsoft’s dream to life is a remarkable achievement. It’s not as crippled as Windows RT but it still isn’t quite the traditional OS replacement. But with Windows 11 offering Android app support, there’s no telling what The Renegade Project will add to its string of little wins.

Smartphones powered by Windows 11 make for some tantalizing possibilities.

Microsoft’s Surface Duo lineup of folding smartphones might one day be able to power through desktop applications. And if Windows 11-fueled mobile gaming takes off, there’s no telling what games could morph into, both in terms of visuals and mechanics. Applications like PhotoShop or Visual Studio could help professionals carry their work machines in their pockets.

And if the need for screen estate arises, hook it up to a monitor.

As a longtime Windows Phone fan, it’s impressive to see developers blur the line between desktops and smartphones. The Renegade Project looks promising and I can’t wait to see where they go from here. To learn more, head over to their forums.

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Antony Terence

Antony Terence

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