Windows Phone was COOL!

Edwin Chabuka Avatar

I have with me a Microsoft Lumia 640 XL. Yes, it has seen better days but regardless this has to be the most user-friendly smartphone OS to ever be created. Better than anything during its time. Dare I say, still better than current offerings and this is why.

Runs smoothly on any hardware

Windows Mobile was undoubtedly the most efficient OS on the market. Efficiency being it ran very smoothly on even the most inferior of hardware. Phones with less than 1GB of RAM and a dual-core CPU still put out smooth animations.

Because it was so light it made it compatible with quite a range of devices with varying hardware specs from these 1GB RAM budget phones to the top-of-the-line 3GB RAM flagships in the Lumia 950s. Also isn’t it crazy that just 7 years ago flagships had 3GB of RAM and yet now the standard is 8. 

But this aspect of the Windows Phone did something pretty interesting. It made the experience of every Windows phone the same. For day-to-day use, you could not tell between a 180-dollar phone and a 650-dollar one. They all worked in a very similar looking and feeling manner. And that was the Windows Phone experience.

User friendly

It didn’t end there. The windows phone collected heaps of style points when it came to the design of its UI. They arranged menus and buttons in an entirely different way from what Android and iOS did. A fresh new take on user experience.

Of course, we had live tiles that gave a glimpse of information from certain apps. And these were also quite customizable in how you could move them around and resize them. They looked cool.

The whole list of apps was a swipe to the left and you would just scroll down to find the app you need or search for the app in the search box right at the top. The physics when live tiles are animating or when scrolling again was just a fluid and pleasurable experience. Remember this here is a phone with 1GB of RAM and a bottom-tier Snapdragon 400 CPU but look!

The UI focused on reachability and so if you needed a button for something it was placed at the bottom close to your thumb. You can see this in the browser where the search bar and tab switching buttons are on the bottom, same with calendar options like adding a new event and even the menu options in the photos app. All the necessary buttons are placed at the bottom where they are easy to reach without any hand gymnastics.

The messaging app is the highlight for me and I think every messaging app must really consider this design choice. When you enter a chat you get a column on the right of the screen with thumbnails of all your chats. The genius in this is you could with just one tap jump into a different chat rather than a tap to hide the keyboard, another to exit the current chat, and a third to enter a different one. Honestly, this is very brilliant thinking and design.

Something that a few people including me noticed is how nice the Microsoft keyboard was to use. It did and probably still does a better job at making you type with the least amount of typos. And this is before autocorrect kicks in. Just accurately detecting the letter you clicked on.

It was desirable. A different take from what Android and iOS were offering at the time. Something fresh and unique and for a new player in the mobile OS market they had hit hard. Windows phone was cool. 

So why did it die?

If the Windows Phone was this great new mobile operating system then why did it die such a rapid death? We can look at the early days of Windows Phone 8 and Zune, which was essentially the iTunes of Windows Phone.

Windows phone was trying an ecosystem-style of approach to managing files on windows phone. Something that may have had some traction if the Windows Phone was marketed as a premium product. 

With how music is a fundamental part of the smartphone experience, Zune added a very complicated step towards making music portable; this made Windows Phone difficult to use and tough to recommend in its earliest days. Zune was eventually killed off with the introduction of Windows Phone 10 but some confidence points had already been lost there.

And like the iPhone, the early versions of Windows Phone had no bluetooth file sharing. Bluetooth was only available for connecting to bluetooth accessories like wireless headphones and that’s it.

But the biggest nail in the coffin was apps and the expectation of more from the biggest software company in the world. There was a big assumption from a majority of the population that since the phone ran Windows it meant that all the apps I can run on my Windows computer can work on Windows Phone. And Windows has plenty of executables available for PCs

As a result, a majority of people bought Windows phones thinking it’s a Windows computer that can fit in their pockets. Which it definitely was not. Of course, you had popular Microsoft apps preloaded on the smartphones but that was as far as windows pc apps went on Windows Phone.

And then, on top of that big disappointment, we started seeing that a majority of the apps on iOS and Android were nowhere to be seen as well. And so without good app support, the Windows phone became undesirable, compounded by the fact that app developers were not able to bring these more popular apps fast enough to the Microsoft store.

So in the end Windows phone failed to excel at being the pocket-friendly computer that it was thought to be as well as being a competent alternative to iOS and Android. A case of amazing execution of the UI but a terrible experience just from a lack of app support.

I have to say I did and still do appreciate the work Microsoft put into the Windows Phone software. It’s an absolute joy to use both in aesthetics and function. It was so good I remember downloading a Windows Phone skin for my Symbian-based Nokia 603 back in the day. A testament to how much I appreciated the work put into the Windows Phone UI.

Did you own a Windows Phone? If so, what did you love about it and why did you end up leaving it?

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  1. Munya

    Yes, I owned Microsoft phone. In fact, my best phones back then were Blackberry, for their security and Nokia especially the symbian series, and then the coming of Windows phones. Back then they were user friendly and fast. Compared to Apple and Android etc. But their failure, I suppose, to maintain them led me to switch to Samsung family.

  2. Kurt G

    I was a die hard fan of windows phone. I used the lumia 610, lumia 910, my favorite of all time lumia 920 and finally the lumia 930. Unfortunately i had to quit and move to Android. It was hard but im happy now. I have been using Galaxy S series phones ever since just as a way of trying to keep the premium feel. I don’t like iPhones at all though, that’s why i never moved to iOS

  3. Core95

    I changed 3 Lumia devices ( L650 and other 2 i cant remember) and i can say the experience was awesome.

    Always loved being the person with a different phone mukombi , the tiles and their customisability. Maybe its just me but i always thought they were durable. Once dropped mine in the middle of a tarred road(mind you i am 1.88 m tall) , picked it up hoping for the worst case scenario, all i got was a dented corner. One device went from windows 7 to 8.1 without a hiccup.

    Once the news filtered in of them ditching the phone business i decided to move on to Android with a Samsung. This year i got a Nokia device and HMD are doing some justice to their Nokia devices with the android one project
    Maybe i will use an iPhone one day but for now i can’t afford one( the new ones not refurbished)

  4. Amon

    windows phone was great, i love it. i still have one, the lumia 640.

  5. Tigu

    My htc hd2 running windows is still kicking but battery rama1.. my lumia 630 ndoyandiendesa kumusha ahipere moto zvekumhanya…..and my first ever phone yandakatenga irimubox my nokia ×2 😊😊😊 though not windows but I love it

  6. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    I think Windows phone was one the worst mobile OSes, amongst those with a high user base. Sadly, their efforts to force the growth of their OS resulted in the death of Nokia and its smartphone Symbian OS. Though Android and iOS have grown, at the time they had nothing on Symbian. The death of Windows Phone was good riddens for me. The there was Maemo, which was supposed to be Nokia next-gen OS, you’ll be missed 😢

    1. Tawanda

      Windows phone was a gem, the zune was out of this world. I would say this was one of the remarkable pieces of technology. No iPod can come close

  7. Tawanda

    Windows phone was a gem, the zune was out of this world. I would say this was one of the remarkable pieces of technology. No iPod can come close

  8. Tkt

    Well, I too remember owning one one of this master piece series aLumia625,it was a wow. With mine we separated after she had SIM reading problems nanhasi ndinayo mumba I’ve been to various guys in Bulawayo, all have failed to change the SIM-reader kusvika yakuto tambiswa nevana. Ndakambo tanga ndichati siyai fon iyoyo dzamara ndango nyarara
    Does anyone know a shop that still has these phones especially the 900 series ndisvikepo kotora one for my museum

  9. Home schooled

    I owned a lumia phone, wow i loved the way it took phones, zvekutoti ana Itel cameras hatitotaure kkkk. The way the windows OS was built i felt proud owing my windows phone, it was sad parting away with it.

  10. Luminas Lumian

    I still want to collect a lumia 930 running denim one day. That phone was my gadget equivalent of ‘love at first sight’😂

  11. The Nerd

    “Did you own a Windows Phone? If so, what did you love about it and why did you end up leaving it?” Edwin asks.

    Back in 2013 I bought my first Windows Phone device—Lumia 920. There was much hype about this phone on All About Windows Phone website. On the site, I read lots of articles by Steve Litchfield (his name reminds of litchis fields of Matanuska, Burma Valley, Mutare).
    Using Lumia 920 was to me a pleasant experience with its simple UI and live tiles. I took stunning photos and videos with it. I loved the optical image stabilization (OIS) that counteracted my hand shake. My highlight was using it at a dinner gathering at Cresta Lodge in August of 2014. That was an exciting moment for me a shutterbug. At the time, I was a Windows Phone freak.

    In October of that year I upgraded to Lumia 1020 for more stunning, vivid photos. With its 32-megapixel camera boasting Zeiss lens, Corning Gorilla glass protection and 32 gigabytes of onboard memory, I walked 10 feet tall!

    But there was one caveat: A dizzying lack of app support. As you have mentioned in your article, app devs were slow in creating applications for us Windows Phone users. My favorite Bible app was made available for iOS, Android, and Windows in early October 2013, but I had to wait for almost a year to get it for my Windows Phone device! Anyway, it was worth the wait.

    Having been “indoctrinated” by Steve of AAWP, it took me many years to shed my Windows Phone skin. Well, today I’m on Android telling you this epic story. I’d like to say my hats off for well-researched articles you post on this website. I started reading your stories when Noman Kabweza was featured and in recent years, Edwin Chabuka, Leonard Sengere and Garikai Dzoma. Many thanks for helping us keep abreast of tech stuff.

    The Nerd

  12. Tanaka Gunika

    Windowe phones were easy to use and they were also efficient

  13. Chordbreaker

    Big fan of the Nokia Lumia phones used them from the 520s to 930, no doubt was the best phones I ever have and to be sincere Nokia with windows OS was far much better than these new Android Nokia phones

  14. Garink

    Window phones worked well and were simple to use. Try to experience fast feeling with geometry dash lite, you will definitely be addicted by it.

  15. Anonymous

    Then there were s the pocket pc phones by HTC and Samsung…. Complicated to the last but possessing awesome cameras…. Nokia was a good hit and break from those… Simpler and less cumbersome… But oh what a dread they just died a very disappointing death… No support… Wish they could revive them… Hope Huawei doesn’t follow in the footsteps of its ancestor Nokia…. BTW if anyone has a Samsung omnia I am willing to buy it if u have it lying around… D

  16. JamesAnderson

    Early smartphone users certainly remember the design of the early Lumias. roller baller

  17. Lauryfriese

    So in the end Windows phone failed to excel at being the pocket-friendly computer that it was thought to be as well as being a competent alternative to iOS and Android. A case of amazing execution of the UI but a terrible experience just from a lack of app support. Candy Crush

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