This article is the first in a series which will focus on each new release of the Microsoft Teams IP Phone client by highlighting any new or changed functionality in each release. Depending on the depth of a specific new feature or functionality a separate, dedicated article may be posted to cover that topic in greater detail.
Currently Microsoft targets roughly quarterly updates for the array of certified Teams Phones available from multiple Microsoft partners. While each phone manufacturer manages device firmware releases on their own schedule they all still use the same Teams Android applications provided directly by Microsoft. The features covered in these articles will be applicable to all phones once each manufacturer has released updates for their devices leveraging the newest
Historically Microsoft has used simple numeric nomenclature for these updates as “Update #4”, “Update #7”, etc.
Starting with this release though Microsoft is now prepending the update names to include the release year and the numeral will be reset to 1 upon each new calendar year. So, instead of this new release being referred to simply as “Update #8” it is instead referred to as “2021 Update #1”. This terminology is not really all that important, but it is what Microsoft uses to refer to each release in their official documentation.
Considering that these individual client releases are embedded within each manufacturer’s own device firmware releases then it is less important to track the information above. The Teams client itself is not updated as an individual application so one only needs to be aware of the firmware releases provided by their phone manufacturer. Luckily Microsoft makes this easy to manage by providing those officially supported updates directly from within the Teams Admin Center (TAC). Thus, regardless of what releases and update methodologies may be available from a device’s manufacturer Microsoft will post only the correct firmware package for each device into the TAC, which should be used as the authoritative source. Understand that this does not mean that the update must only come from the TAC itself, only that if an alternative update method is used then the exact same version that is listed in the TAC is what should be installed.
As the phone manufacturers prepare their latest firmware version for release Microsoft will post an update on their What’s new in Microsoft Teams devices page. This page does not include the update version nomenclature described above and instead simply refers to the release using the date that the page entry was posted on along with the version number of the Teams Android client, listing any new features and improvements.
Note that the only portion of the Teams client version which ever changes is the last section of numbers which is comprised of the year, month, and day, then ends with an incremental daily build number (2021022403). For more details on understanding the Teams client version numbers and updating Teams phones see this previous article.
While the capabilities of this client update are the same across all device manufacturers the specific release dates of actual device firmware may slightly differ for each. The examples used throughout the remainder of this article leverage Poly phones so the specific release dates and firmware version numbers shown below will be drastically different looking than another partner’s device firmware version. The Teams client included in all currently supported Teams phones will be the same though as each manufacturer is using the same Teams software provided to them by Microsoft.
The 2021 Update #1 release from Microsoft was officially announced on March 26th and the Poly CCX and Trio firmware packages were posted by Microsoft the Teams Admin Center on April 5th. This brief article posted in the Microsoft Tech Community outlines a few of the new features.
Among the new capabilities outlined by Microsoft the following items related to improvements and changes in the phone’s user interface are as follows:
- Improved sign in experience including a new tenant provisioning option
- Multi-cloud sign in options with authentication support for GCC High and GCC DoD clouds
- Microsoft Whiteboard support with Personal devices (UserSignIn mode)
- Meeting enhancements including reaction and improved call controls
- Meeting attendees can no longer add participants to the meeting from the phone
- Calling forwarding direct to Voicemail
- Phone numbers shown on-screen in meetings and contacts can now be tapped to place a call
- New Call Queue settings to allow users to opt out of select call queues
To begin using this release a phone can be updated using the Teams Admin Center to manually push the latest firmware version to a Poly CCX or Trio C60 phone with the version 188.8.131.522 for CCX 400/500/600 models and 184.108.40.2061 for the Trio C60.
For example, after updating a CCX phone the Settings > About menu shows the Teams Android client version (1449/220.127.116.111022403) and the Settings > Device Settings > About menu reports the same client version as well as additional version information including the Poly UCS firmware version (18.104.22.1682).
New Sign-In Screen
The first noticeable change on the phone is the redesigned sign-in screen which appears on a device which is not currently signed into Teams.
Previously the Teams IP phone client would default to asking a user to sign-in by entering their credentials directly on the phone but also provide a link to alternatively sign in from a different device by leveraging the microsoft.com/devicelogin web portal. In the latest Teams client Microsoft has flipped this behavior and now the phone offers the device login method by default, moving the on-phone sign in option to a link on the bottom of the screen.
- To sign the phone in using the device login approach simply tap the Refresh Code button (if a code is not already displayed) and then from another computer or mobile device go to https://microsoft.com/devicelogin and enter the code currently displayed on the phone.
- Then enter the account credentials for the Teams user that is to be signed into the phone to complete the sign in process and close the browser window.
The phone will automatically complete the sign-in process.
Sign-in on Device
Alternatively the Teams user can sign in directly on the phone by using the following process.
- On the main sign-in screen tap the “Sign in on this device” link at the bottom of the screen and then enter the account credentials for the Teams user that is to be signed into the phone
The Settings menu (the gear icon in the upper-right corner) has also been redesigned to include additional sign-in options. The individual phone settings have all been nested under the Device Settings option as two new menu items have been added at this level.
The Provision phone option which is used with the new remote phone provisioning process that Microsoft has recently added. This option is used to enter a provisioning code provided by an administrator using the Teams Admin Center to assist in remote bulk provisioning of phones. A separate article covers this new remote provisioning capability.
The Cloud menu option now allows the phone to selectively sign-in to a supported U.S. Government Community Cloud (GCC).
Microsoft Whiteboard Support
Larger format phone models with a landscape orientation display (e.g. Poly CCX 600) now support the Microsoft Whiteboard when in used in Personal Mode, meaning that the signed-in user account is configured with the default UserSignIn mode. This feature is not available for phones in Meeting or Common Area Phone modes.
The Whiteboard automatically appears on the phone when started by another participant in a meeting. A Whiteboarding session cannot be started from the phone though.
Meeting Participant Controls
When attending a Teams meeting the participant controls have been improved which includes new options to manage audio/video streams and select a reaction, including ‘raise hand’. In addition meeting attendees can no longer add a new participant to a meeting using the phone. (Only meeting participants can perform that action.)
Call Forwarding to Voice Mail
When performing a blind call transfer from a Teams phone there is now an option to send the call directly to another Teams user’s voicemail instead of ringing them on any client they may currently be signed into.
Tap to Dial Phone Numbers
When a recognizable phone number is included in a meeting invitation or on a Teams contact then that number is now an interactive link and can be tapped to place a PSTN call to it.
Contacts Removed from Common Area Phone
In the previous client release contacts were available on a phone when the signed-in user was configured to use the Common Area Phone (CAP) mode. In this new release Microsoft has apparently removed the People app when in CAP mode which no longer allows access to a contact list on the phone.
There does not seem to be any way to control this behavior though, so while some tenants may approve of this change other may not as it removes the ability to quickly call other Teams users/phone without searching. The Search option is still available in CAP mode though and can be controlled via the SearchOnCommonAreaPhoneMode parameter in the *-CsIPPhonePolicy PowerShell cmdlets. (The screenshot above does not show the search button as it was disabled for the user currently signed into the phone.)