In the landscape of mobile operating systems, Windows Phone did not exist for a long time (2010-2017). It was never very popular, but Microsoft infused it with some interesting new ideas. Some of those ideas ended up being ahead of their time.
Windows Phone 7 eventually became Windows Phone 8 and then Windows 10 Mobile, but the same issues followed with each iteration, like where were the third-party apps? It still had a serious impact on the mobile industry.
If there’s one area where Microsoft was undoubtedly at the forefront, perhaps even responsible for starting the trend, it’s the minimalist design of Windows Phone.
The first version of Windows Phone was released in 2010 and looked like what you see in the image at the top of this page: very minimalist and flat; white icons on solid color tiles. Meanwhile Android 2.3 Gingerbread looked like this and iOS 4 looked like this.
It doesn’t take a degree in software design to see that those Android and iPhone designs haven’t aged well, while the Windows Phone UI could easily pass as a modern operating system. Apple and many Android device manufacturers have since adopted more minimalist and flat designs.
Applications as widgets
Speaking of minimalist design, one of the stars of that design was the Live Tiles. Android had already been making widgets for a while and the iPhone was a few years away from adding its own. Live Tiles existed somewhere in the middle.
Live Tiles was a fusion of the typical home screen app icons and widgets. Instead of having separate app icons and widgets, Windows Phone Live Tiles was both. A Live Tile can be a small, static icon or expand into a large widget with dynamic information.
Apple took a similar idea with its widgets, which were introduced in iOS 14. They’re still separate from the home screen app icons, but visually they look like expanded app icons. The app name tag is still displayed below it. It wouldn’t be crazy to see Apple finally adopt the Windows Phone implementation.
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light and dark mode
Android and the iPhone now have full-featured light and dark modes, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, they both added it in 2019, while it was included as a Windows Phone day one feature in 2010.
The system-wide dark and light themes we see today on Android and the iPhone work very similarly to Windows Phone. Many UI elements and even apps that support the feature would conform to the system theme. Microsoft achieved this almost a decade before Apple and Google.
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Adaptive Color Themes
Android 12 introduced a new theme system called “Material You”. It uses your wallpaper to create a color palette that is applied to many areas of your phone. Accent colors can be found in the Quick Settings panel, system apps, and even third-party apps that support it.
This is another feature that Windows Phone had from day one. The color you chose for the Live Tiles will be used in many other areas as well. It wasn’t just an accent color for the home screen, it was the accent color for system settings and any third-party apps that chose to support it as well.
RELATED: Android 12 has the best idea of Windows Phone
Granted, this isn’t a great feature, but Microsoft outperformed the iPhone and Android at native song identification. Both platforms had third-party apps like Shazam, but Windows Phone could do it directly from the Bing app.
Today, Google Assistant can quickly identify songs, and Pixel phones can do it without even asking. The iPhone also has a built-in Shazam button that can be added to Control Center, plus Siri can do it. This may be a small thing, but Microsoft did it first.
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Like its fallen companions, the mobile operating systems WebOS and BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone had a lot to offer the industry. Android and the iPhone are better today thanks to ideas from Microsoft. Competition pushes companies to innovate and adapt, but competition also means someone will lose.