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Windows Phone

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Windows Phone
Windows Phone 8 logo and wordmark (purple).svg
Windows Phone 8 StartScreen.png
An example of a custom Start Screen on the latest Windows Phone release, Windows Phone 8
Company / developer Microsoft Corporation
Programmed in C, C++
OS family Windows
Working state Current
Source model Closed-source
Initial release
  • NA November 8, 2010
  • PAL October 21, 2010
  • EU October 21, 2010
Latest stable release Windows Phone 8 (8.0.10211.204) / December 20, 2012
Available language(s) 25+ languages
Package manager Windows Phone Store
XAP on Windows Phone 8 and later
Supported platforms Qualcomm Snapdragon (Based on ARM V.7 or later)
Kernel type

Monolithic ( Windows CE) ( Windows Phone 7)

Hybrid ( Windows NT) ( Windows Phone 8)
Default user interface Graphical ( Metro UI)
License Commercial proprietary software
Official website

Windows Phone is a series of proprietary mobile operating systems developed by Microsoft, and is the successor to its Windows Mobile platform, although incompatible with it. Unlike its predecessor, it is primarily aimed at the consumer market rather than the enterprise market. It was first launched in October 2010, with a release in Asia following in early 2011.

The latest release of Windows Phone is Windows Phone 8, which has been available to consumers since October 29, 2012. Microsoft also has a new version, code named "Windows Phone Blue" (previously "Windows Phone Apollo Plus"), in the works, which will either be named Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows Phone 9. With Windows Phone, Microsoft created a new user interface, featuring its design language called the Modern design language. Additionally, the software is integrated with third party services and Microsoft services, and sets minimum requirements for the hardware on which it runs.



Work on a major Windows Mobile update may have begun as early as 2004 under the codename "Photon", but work moved slowly and the project was ultimately cancelled. In 2008, Microsoft reorganized the Windows Mobile group and started work on a new mobile operating system. The product was to be released in 2009 as Windows Phone, but several delays prompted Microsoft to develop Windows Mobile 6.5 as an interim release.

Windows Phone was developed quickly. One result was that the new OS would not be compatible with Windows Mobile applications. Larry Lieberman, senior product manager for Microsoft's Mobile Developer Experience, told eWeek: "If we'd had more time and resources, we may have been able to do something in terms of backward compatibility." Lieberman said that Microsoft was attempting to look at the mobile phone market in a new way, with the end user in mind as well as the enterprise network. Terry Myerson, corporate VP of Windows Phone engineering, said, "With the move to capacitive touch screens, away from the stylus, and the moves to some of the hardware choices we made for the Windows Phone 7 experience, we had to break application compatibility with Windows Mobile 6.5."

Launch and expansion

Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 was announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on February 15, 2010, and released publicly on November 8, 2010 in the United States.

Microsoft released an updated version of Windows Phone 7, Mango (also referred to as Windows Phone 7.5), in May 2011. The update included a mobile version of Internet Explorer 9 that supports the same web standards and graphical capability as the desktop version, multi-tasking of third-party apps, Twitter integration for the People Hub, and Windows Live SkyDrive access.

A minor update released in 2012 known as "Tango", along with other bug fixes, lowered the hardware requirements to allow for devices with 800 MHz CPUs and 256 MB of RAM to run Windows Phone.

In January 2013, Windows Phone 7.8 was released. It added some features from Windows Phone 8, such as an updated start screen, doubling of the colour scheme options to 20 and the option to have the Bing image of the day as the lock screen wallpaper. Windows Phone 7.8 was intended to prolong the life of older Windows Phone 7 devices, as these were not upgradable to Windows Phone 8 due to hardware limitations. However, not all users have received the Windows Phone 7.8 update yet.

Microsoft has announced that Windows Phone 7.8 will see further future updates and as both Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 will coexist for sometime, to support devices in different price ranges.

Windows Phone 8

Three high-end Windows Phone 8 devices from left to right: HTC 8X, Lumia 920, Lumia 820.

On October 29, 2012, Microsoft released Windows Phone 8, a new generation of the operating system. Windows Phone 8 replaces its previously Windows CE-based architecture with one based on the Windows NT kernel with many components shared with Windows 8, allowing applications to be easily ported between the two platforms.

Hardware support

Windows Phone 8, while adding a number of software improvements, also brought support for updated hardware. This included support for multi-core processors and high resolution screens. Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 were often criticized for a lack of high end hardware support, but Windows Phone 8's new hardware gave Windows Phone the ability to better compete with Google and Apple smartphones.

Partnership with Nokia

On February 11, 2011, at a press event in London, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced a partnership between their companies in which Windows Phone would become the primary smartphone operating-system for Nokia, replacing Symbian. The event focused largely on setting up "a new global mobile ecosystem", suggesting competition with Android and iOS with the words "It is now a three horse race". Elop's reasoning behind settling on Windows Phone over Android involved the realization: "the single most important word is 'differentiation'. Entering the Android environment late, we knew we would have a hard time differentiating." While Nokia would have had more long-term creative control with Android (note that MeeGo as used by Nokia resembles Android more than it does Windows Phone 7), Elop enjoyed familiarity with his past company where he had been a top executive.

The pair announced integration of Microsoft services with Nokia's own services; specifically:

  • Bing would power-search across Nokia devices
  • integration of Nokia Maps with Bing Maps
  • integration of Nokia's Ovi store with the Windows Phone Store

The partnership involves "funds changing hands for royalties, marketing and ad-revenue sharing", which Microsoft later announced as "measured in billions of dollars." Jo Harlow, whom Elop tapped to run Nokia's smartphone business, rearranged her team to match the structure led by Microsoft's VP of Windows Phone, Terry Myerson. Myerson was quoted as saying "I can trust her with what she tells me. She uses that same direct and genuine communication to motivate her team."

The first Nokia Windows phones, the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710, were announced in October 2011 at Nokia World 2011 event.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in 2012 Nokia announced the Lumia 900, featuring a 4.3-inch AMOLED ClearBlack display, a 1.4 GHz processor and 16 GB of storage. The Lumia 900 was one of the first Windows Phones to support LTE and was released on AT&T on April 8. An international version will launch in Q2 2012, with a UK launch expected in May. The Lumia 610 is the first Nokia Windows Phone to run the Tango Variant (Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh) and is aimed at emerging markets.

Despite the partnership with Nokia, Microsoft has promoted HTC's Windows Phone 8X as the flagship device for Windows Phone 8 during the 2012 holiday season, instead of the Nokia Lumia 920.


User interface

Windows Phone features a user interface based on Microsoft's Windows Phone design system, codenamed Metro,and was inspired by the user interface in the Zune HD. The home screen, called the "Start screen", is made up of "Live Tiles", which have been the inspiration for the Windows 8 live tiles. Tiles are links to applications, features, functions and individual items (such as contacts, web pages, applications or media items). Users can add, rearrange, or remove tiles. Tiles are dynamic and update in real time – for example, the tile for an email account would display the number of unread messages or a tile could display a live update of the weather. Since Windows Phone 8, live tiles can also be resized to either a small, medium, or large appearance.

Several features of Windows Phone are organized into "hubs", which combine local and online content via Windows Phone's integration with popular social networks such as Facebook, Windows Live, and Twitter. For example, the Pictures hub shows photos captured with the device's camera and the user's Facebook photo albums, and the People hub shows contacts aggregated from multiple sources including Windows Live, Facebook, and Gmail. From the Hub, users can directly comment and 'like' on social network updates. The other built-in hubs are Xbox Music and Video, Xbox Live Games, Windows Phone Store, and Microsoft Office.

Windows Phone uses multi-touch technology. The default Windows Phone user interface has a dark theme that prolongs battery life on OLED screens as fully black pixels don't emit light. Alternatively, users can also switch to a white background manually. The user may choose a light theme instead, and can also choose from several accent colors. User interface elements such as tiles are shown in the user's chosen accent colour. Third-party applications can be automatically themed with these colors.

Text input

Users input text by using an on-screen virtual keyboard, which has a dedicated key for inserting emoticons, and features spell checking and word prediction. App developers (both inhouse and ISV) may specify different versions of the virtual keyboard in order to limit users to certain character sets, such as numeric characters alone. Users may change a word after it has been typed by tapping the word, which will invoke a list of similar words. Pressing and holding certain keys will reveal similar characters. The keys are somewhat larger and spaced farther apart when in landscape mode. Phones may also be made with a hardware keyboard for text input. Windows Phone 8 adds a new "Word Flow" keyboard, which includes features such as allowing the user to add accents to letters by pressing on an individual letter.


Windows Phone utilizes "Threads", which allow conversations to be held among users through multiple platforms (such as Windows Live Messenger, Facebook messaging, or SMS) within a single thread, dynamically switching between services depending on availability.

Web browser

Internet Explorer on Windows Phone allows the user to maintain a list of favorite web pages and tiles linking to web pages on the Start screen. The browser supports up to 6 tabs, which can all load in parallel. Other features include multi-touch gestures, a streamlined UI, smooth zoom in/out animations, the ability to save pictures that are on web pages, share web pages via email, and support for inline search which allows the user to search for a word or phrase in a web page by typing it.

Users are also able to stream YouTube videos straight from the Internet Explorer browser.


Contacts are organized via the "People hub". Contacts can be manually entered into contacts or imported from Facebook, Windows Live Contacts, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and Outlook. A "What's New" section show news feed and a "Pictures" section show pictures from those social networks made by the contacts. A "Me" section show the phone user's own social networks status and wall, allow the user to update his status, and check-in to Bing and Facebook Places. Contacts can be added to the home screen by pinning them to the start. The contact's "Live Tile" displays their social network status and profile picture on the homescreen and the contact's hub displays his Facebook wall as well as all of the rest of his contact information and information from his other social networks.

If a contact has information stored on multiple networks, users can link the two separate contact accounts, allowing the information to be viewed and accessed from a single card. As of Windows Phone 7.5, contacts can also be sorted into "Groups". Here, information from each of the contacts is combined into a single page which can be accessed directly from the Hub or pinned to the Start screen.


Windows Phone supports, Exchange, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail natively and supports many other services via the POP and IMAP protocols. For the native account types, contacts and calendars may be synced as well. Users can also search through their email by searching in the subject, body, senders, and receivers. Emails are shown in threading view and multiple email inboxes can be combined or kept separate.


The "Games hub" provides access to games on a phone along with Xbox Live functionality, including the ability for a user to interact with their avatar, view and edit their profile, see their achievements and view leaderboards, and send messages to friends on Xbox Live. The Games hub also features an area for managing invitations and turn notifications in turn-based multiplayer games.


Microsoft's hardware requirements stipulate that every Windows Phone must have a dedicated Search button on the front of the device that performs different actions. Pressing the search button while an application is open allows users to search within applications that take advantage of this feature; for example, pressing Search in the People hub lets users search their contact list for specific people. This has been changed in Windows Phone 7.5 however – as the search button is reserved for Bing – so applications that previously used this feature (such as the Marketplace) now include soft search buttons.

In other cases, pressing the Search button will allow the user to perform a search of web sites, news, and map locations using the Bing application.

Windows Phone also has a voice recognition function, powered by TellMe, which allows the user to perform a Bing search, call contacts or launch applications by speaking. This can be activated by pressing and holding the phone's Start button.

Bing is the default search engine on Windows Phone handsets because of its deep integration of functions into the OS (which also include the utilization of its map service for location-based searches and queries). However, Microsoft has stated that other search engine applications can be used.

Aside from location-based searches, Nokia Maps provides turn-by-turn navigation service to Windows Phone user and Local Scout shows interest points such as attractions and restaurants in the nearby area.

Bing Audio allows the user to match a song with its name and Bing Vision allows the user to match barcodes and tags with the product online.

Office suite

The "Office hub" organizes all Microsoft Office apps and documents. Microsoft Office Mobile provides interoperability between Windows Phone and the desktop version of Microsoft Office. Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile, OneNote Mobile, and SharePoint Workspace Mobile allow most Microsoft Office file formats to be viewed and edited directly on a Windows Phone device.

Microsoft Office files from SkyDrive and Office 365, as well as files stored locally on the phone, can be accessed through the Office Hub. Office files are sorted by tiles: Word documents (blue tile), Excel spreadsheets (green tile), PowerPoint presentations (orange tile), PDF Files (red tile) and OneNote documents (purple tile).


Multitasking in Windows Phone is invoked through pressing the "back" arrow, which is present on all Windows Phones. Windows Phone 7 uses a card-based task switcher, whereas Windows Phone 8 utilizes true background multitasking.


Windows Phone 7

Zune Software manages the contents on Windows Phone 7 devices and Windows Phone can wirelessly sync with Zune Software.

Windows Phone 8

Syncing content between Windows Phone 8 and Windows is provided through the Windows Phone App, which is available for both Windows and Mac OSX. It is the official successor to Zune software only for Windows Phone 8, and allows users to transfer content such as music, videos, and documents.

Users also have the ability to use a "Tap and Send" feature that allows for file transfer between Windows phones, and NFC-compatible Windows 8 devices, through NFC.


According to Microsoft documentation, software updates will be delivered to Windows Phone users via Microsoft Update, as is the case with other Windows operating systems. Microsoft had the intention to directly update any phone running Windows Phone instead of relying on OEMs or wireless carriers, but on January 6, 2012, Microsoft changed their policy to let carriers decide if an update will be delivered. The software component, called Windows Phone Update, exists both on the phone (for smaller updates, over-the-air) and in the Zune Software for Windows PCs (for larger updates, via USB connection). Users will be notified to attach their phones to a PC if such an update is required. Microsoft has said that in the future, all updates, both large and small will eventually support over-the-air downloads. Charlie Kindel, Program Manager for the developer experience of Windows Phone, confirmed that the update infrastructure system for Windows Phone was available and that Microsoft is "in a position where we have the systems in place to effectively and reliably deliver updates to (Windows Phone) users".

Microsoft plans to regularly ship minor updates that add features throughout the year, and major updates once a year.

All third-party applications can be updated automatically from the Windows Phone Store.

Advertising platform

Microsoft has also launched an advertising platform for the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft's General Manager for Strategy and Business Development, Kostas Mallios, said that Windows Phone will be an "ad-serving machine", pushing advertising and brand-related content to the user. The platform will feature advertising tiles near applications and toast notifications, which will bring updating advertising notifications. Mallios said that Windows Phone will be able to "preserve the brand experience by going directly from the web site right to the application", and that Windows Phone "enables advertisers to connect with consumers over time". Mallios continued: "you're now able to push information as an advertiser, and stay in touch with your customer. It's a dynamic relationship that is created and provides for an ongoing dialog with the consumer."


Windows Phone supports the following Bluetooth profiles:

  1. Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP 1.2)
  2. Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP 1.3)
  3. Hands Free Profile (HFP 1.5)
  4. Headset Profile (HSP 1.1)
  5. Phone Book Access Profile (PBAP 1.1)
  6. Bluetooth File Transfer ( OBEX) (from Windows Phone 7.8)

Windows Phone BTF support is available from Windows Phone 7.8, but is limited to the transferring of pictures, music and videos via a 'Bluetooth Share' app.


The Windows Phone Store is used to digitally distribute music, video content, podcasts, and third party applications to Windows Phone handsets. The store is accessible using the Zune Software client or the Windows Phone Store hub on devices (though videos are not downloadable through the store hub and must be downloaded and synced through the Zune software). The Store is managed by Microsoft, which includes an approval process. As of March 2012, the Windows Phone Store is available in 54 countries.

Music and videos

Xbox Music offers 30 million songs up to 320 kbit/s in DRM-free MP3 format from the big four music groups ( EMI, Warner Music Group, Sony BMG and Universal Music Group), as well as smaller music labels. Xbox Video offers HD movies from Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, and other studios and also offer television shows from popular television networks.

Microsoft also offers the Xbox Music Pass music subscription service, which allows subscribers to download an unlimited number of songs for as long as their subscription is active and play them in current Microsoft devices.

Applications and games


Third party applications and games for Windows Phone are based on XNA or a WP7 specific version of Silverlight. For Windows Phone apps to be designed and tested within Visual Studio 2010 or Visual Studio 2010 Express editions, Microsoft offers Windows Phone Developer Tools as an extension. Windows Phone Developer Tools run only on Windows Vista SP2 and later. Microsoft also offers Expression Blend for Windows Phone for free. On November 29, 2009, Microsoft announced the Release to web (RTW) version of its Visual Basic .NET Developer Tool, to allow development in Visual Basic.

As it shares much of its platform, Windows Phone 8 will support the running of managed code through a Common Language Runtime similar to that of the Windows operating system itself as opposed to the .NET Compact Framework. This, along with support for native C and C++ libraries, will allow some Windows programs to be easily ported to Windows Phone 8.


Registered Windows Phone and Xbox Live developers can submit and manage their third party applications for the platforms through the App Hub web applications. The App Hub provides development tools and support for third-party application developers. The submitted applications undergo an approval process for verifications and validations to check if they qualify the applications standardization criteria set by Microsoft. The cost of the applications that are approved is up to the developer, but Microsoft will take 30% of the revenue (the other 70% goes to the developer). Microsoft will only pay developers once they reach a set sales figure, and will withhold 30% tax from non-US developers, unless they first register with the United States Government's Internal Revenue Service. Microsoft only pays developers from a list of thirty countries. A yearly fee is also payable for developers wishing to submit apps.

In order to get an application to appear in the Windows Phone Store, the application must be submitted to Microsoft for approval. Microsoft has outlined the content that it will not allow in the applications, which includes content that, among other things, advocates discrimination or hate, promotes usage of drugs, alcohol or tobacco, or includes sexually suggestive material.


Windows Phone 7 devices have been produced by Acer, Fujitsu, Nokia, LG, Samsung, HTC, Alcatel and ZTE.

Windows Phone 8 devices are currently being produced by Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei.


Metro UI

The reception to the Metro UI and overall interface of the OS has also been highly praised for its style, with ZDNet noting its originality and fresh clean look. Engadget and ZDNet applauded the integration of Facebook into the People Hub as well as other built-in capabilities, such as Windows Live, etc.

Market share

Windows Phone 7 (2010-2012)

According to Gartner, there were 1.6 million devices running Microsoft Windows Phone OS sold to customers in Q1 2011 worldwide. 1.7 million smartphones using a Microsoft mobile OS were sold in Q2 2011, for a 1.6% market share. In Q3 2011, Microsoft's world wide market share dropped slightly to 1.5%. In Q4 2011 market share increased to 1.9%, and it stayed at 1.9% for Q1 2012. However it should be noted that such reports for Q2, Q3 and Q4 of year 2011 include both Windows Phone and small part of Windows Mobile marketshare under the same "Microsoft mobile OS" banner, and do not make the distinction of separating the marketshare values of the two (except Q1 2011). According to Nielsen, Windows Phone had a 1.7% market share in Q1 2012, and then dropped back to 1.3% in Q2 2012.

Before the release of Windows Phone 8, the low market share of Windows Phone was explained in a study by Bernstein Research that concluded that consumers did not want Windows Phones.

Windows Phone 8 (2012-present)

After the release of Windows Phone 8, Gartner reported that Windows Phone's marketshare jumped to 3% in Q4 2012, a 124% increase over the same time period in 2011.

Kantar released their report and found out that the US market share is at 3.3%. They also reported their key eight countries results that Windows Phone is up from 3.5% to 4.8%.

IDC have suggested that Windows Phone may surpass BlackBerry and Apple iOS, because of Nokia dominance in emerging markets like Asia, Latin America, and Africa, as the iPhone is considered too expensive for most of these regions.

According to IDC, in Q1 2013 Windows Phone shipment has surpassed Blackberry shipment with 7.0 million and 6.3 million respectively, but still below Apple iOS and Android phone shipment with 37.4 million and 162.1 million respectively. Per Year over Year, Windows Phone made significant growth with 133.3 percent growth/year and surpasssed Android phone with 79.5 percent.

Manufacturer market share

HTC was originally making up most of Windows Phone's sales, holding 44% of the market in January 2012. However, Nokia has come from behind, rising at a fast rate and holding 78% of Windows Phone's installed base in February 2013, because of the popularity of the Lumia range. At the same time, HTC's share dropped to 13%.

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