It goes without saying that Microsoft’s platform eventually fell by the wayside. It was finally abandoned in 2019. But that doesn’t mean that the failed OS didn’t leave an impression on the industry. So what is there to know about it? What was it like at the time and in 2022? Did it do anything better or worse than Android today? We’ll answer all this and more in this, our Windows 10 Mobile retrospective.
We take a look back at one of Android’s main competitors, Windows 10 Mobile. Since its creation, Android has had a number of competitors, but only iOS has presented a viable alternative to Google’s platform (arriving before Android in the first place). Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, which later evolved into Windows 10 Mobile, was one of the most notable competitors in the 2010s.
2010’s Windows Phone 7 was a new beginning for Microsoft, offering a touch-focused environment with a tile-based UI, departing from earlier ideas that relied on physical inputs. This new interface also integrated the constantly updating live tile UI (serving as an alternative to widgets) and a card-based multitasking screen, as well as a pivoting interface instead of hamburger menu buttons.
Microsoft was no stranger to PDAs and smartphones when it launched Windows Phone 7 in 2010. The company previously produced the Pocket PC platform in the early 2000s and various iterations of Windows Mobile in the mid to late 2000s. However, Windows Mobile wasn’t designed with touch input in mind, as the company took cues from its desktop operating systems and keyboard-toting phones instead. A reboot was needed, and Windows Phone 7 was the result.
Unfortunately, Windows Phone 8 was not compatible with Windows Phone 7 devices. Customers who bought a Windows Phone 7 device months or even days earlier (in the case of the Lumia 900 in the US) couldn’t update to the new software. Microsoft rolled out a Windows Phone 7.8 update for these users, but that didn’t include all the latest and greatest features.
Windows Phone 7 and 8 introduced Microsoft users to a touch interface, FHD displays, and notification shade features we now take for granted
Microsoft followed up with Windows Phone 8 in late 2012, which introduced plenty of basic features that were missing the first time around. Newly supported features in Windows Phone 8 included dual-core chipsets, Bluetooth file sharing, microSD cards, HD screens (with FHD support coming a year later), a driving mode, and a data tracker.
The firm would follow up with Windows Phone 8.1 in 2014, which included some features we wouldn’t consider out of place on a modern handset. New features included the Cortana voice assistant, Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps support to converge with Windows 8.1 for PCs, a battery saver mode, a storage management app, a cool Wi-Fi Sense feature (letting you share your Wi-Fi password with friends without actually giving them the password), and an Android-style notification shade.
The most prominent Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 handsets came from Nokia and Microsoft. These included the Lumia 800, Lumia Icon/930, Lumia 1020, Lumia 1520, Lumia 520, and Lumia 830. We also saw several prominent third-party phones such as the Samsung Focus, Samsung Ativ S, HTC One M8 Windows Edition, Huawei Ascend W1, and Dell Venue Pro. This would also turn out to be the most successful period for Microsoft’s touch-focused platform, gaining a distant third place for global market share. In fact, Windows Phone sales even managed to pass iPhone sales in Italy for Q3 2013, taking second place in the market during this time behind Android.
Microsoft squandered much of this momentum, canceling its Lumia McLaren flagship (meaning no flagship for the second half of 2014) and failing to adequately capitalize on the popular budget Lumia 520, which achieved over 12 million activations. The company had an uphill battle on its hands before Windows 10 Mobile was even out of the door. Microsoft introduced Windows 10 Mobile in early 2015 as part of a public beta before launching the first phones with the software in November 2015. This release saw Microsoft’s mobile software draw even closer to its desktop counterpart.