We dissect the Windows Phone mobile OS, found on Microsoft’s (and previously Nokia’s) Lumia phones, including who it’s for, the best and worst features and the future of Windows Phone – Windows 10.
So, what is Windows Phone?
Windows Phone is an operating system (OS) developed by Microsoft, purely for use on smartphones. It’s the third most popular mobile OS behind Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, and in Europe Windows Phone is found on roughly one in ten phones.
Windows Phone is easily identified by its iconic ‘live tiles’ design. Your phone’s desktop (the main screen) is filled with resizable tiles which act as shortcuts to your favourite apps, or programs. But rather than just being static icons, the live tiles display real-time information. For instance, an email app tile will show if you have any unread messages, while your photo gallery tile will show a slideshow of your snaps.
Windows Phone is probably the most user-friendly mobile OS, with a simple interface and plenty of built-in tutorials to guide you through each feature, so it’s a great place for smartphone newbies to start.
Read next: What is Android?
A super-quick history lesson, if you’re interested…
Windows Phone was launched by Microsoft back in 2010, with the first version being Windows Phone 7. The OS was popularised by Nokia, who stuck it on all of their Lumia smartphones – handsets which generally offer strong value for money. However, recently Nokia was taken over by Microsoft, so you’ll find that new Lumia phones such as the Lumia 535 all bear the Microsoft branding.
The current version of Windows Phone is Windows Phone 8.1, but this will be succeeded in summer 2015 by Windows 10, which we’ll touch on later.
What are the advantages/best features of Windows Phone?
As mentioned, Windows Phone is a great starting point for smartphone virgins who want a simple way to check their emails and browse the web. Setup is nice and straightforward and the interface is easy to get to grips with and fully customisable, so you can make it as streamlined or as action-packed as you like.
We love the Cortana voice assistant too, which helps you to get your life in order and quickly find information. Check out our Cortana UK review for more info.
Windows Phone is also handy for families. You can stick on kid’s corner if you want to share your handset with your sprogs, which then gives them access only to the apps and features that you want. And you can also set up family ‘rooms’, which allows a family to quickly share photos, calendars and other bits with one another.
And Windows Phone is quite an efficient OS too, which means it doesn’t require a beefy phone to run smoothly. As a result, most Windows Phone handsets offer great value for money. You can bag a 4G handset with an HD screen and plenty of great features for around £100, something you’ll struggle to do with Android – and can forget about with iOS.
What are the disadvantages/worst features of Windows Phone?
The biggest drawback with Windows Phone is its lack of apps, compared with Android and iOS. Admittedly the situation is improving, so you’ll now find the likes of Netflix, WhatsApp and Vine on the Microsoft Store, but the general selection is quite limited, especially when it comes to productivity apps and games.
And if your primary concern is security, then an Apple or Samsung smartphone is going to stand you in better stead.
The future of Windows Phone: Windows 10
Microsoft is hoping to bridge the gap between mobile devices and desktops with its next Windows OS, Windows 10. The overall look and feel is very similar to Windows Phone 8.1, but the likes of the Action Centre and settings menu have been overhauled to make them easier to use.
And we’re expecting OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud solution, to be integrated into more apps – so for instance, any photos you take on your phone are automatically uploaded so you can access them on your home computer.
Check out our Windows 10 early review and Windows 10 features explainer for more info.
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