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Rumor: Windows Phone 8.1 to ditch back button, increase screen size support past 7-inches

Microsoft guru Paul Thurrott is reporting on some new information regarding the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update aka ‘Blue’. He notes that the info comes from a single source, though he has confidence in the information revealed.

What’s discussed isn’t so much the superficial UI changes or new features but rather core user experience deviations that should cause a stir amongst the Windows Phone faithful.

We won’t recapitulate all of Thurrott’s revelations, but we will highlight a few of the more interesting ones.

  • Universal Binaries – Windows Phone 8.1 looks to have 77% overlap with Windows RT, up from the current 33%.  That will allow developers to more easily (and still optionally) write apps for both platforms going forward. That could have profound implications in the long run for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.
  • Multitasking – Though vague it notes that currently Windows Phone “notifications and background processes are a mess” and this will be fixed in 8.1.
  • Back button is going – Probably the biggest surprise is that the Back button will be eliminated from the hardware requirements. Metrics have revealed that users don’t “get” the logic behind it and that they just use the Windows key most of the time.

Other changes mentioned in the article include Microsoft pushing high-end hardware to get those higher profit margins and bigger displays heading into the 7-10 inch range. Right now, the focus is on low end devices including the Lumia 520, but Microsoft is now evidently going to try for that luxury, boundary pushing gear.

Obviously that’s a lot to chew on and it certainly raises some interesting questions. For instance, if Windows Phone runs into the 7-10 inch display range, what does that mean for RT devices? There has been a lot of talk that RT and Windows Phone would merge and those display resolution changes may be the first move into that category.


Old concept for Windows Phone 8.1 Notification tile

We’re not sure how we feel about the back button being phased out—we’re actually big users of it, but we’re very likely in the minority. If accurate, we’ll have to defer to Microsoft’s metrics on this one, much like how they changed the Search key from context-aware to universal for Bing in Windows Phone 7.5.

Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to be announced early in 2014 with a co-launch of new devices from their OEM partners. Details remain mum on all the changes, but a new Notification Center, ‘Cortana’ voice assistant, app-list sorting, actionable-notifications and other new features are reportedly on the list of major new additions.

Head to Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows for the full scoop then come back here to discuss. 

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Reader comments

Rumor: Windows Phone 8.1 to ditch back button, increase screen size support past 7-inches

574 Comments

Please add support for qHD (960x540) this will get some good mid range displays.
and please bring in more device makers. LG and Sony should join this party
also added support for notification lights
imagine the Xperia U style colour changing bar with the live tiles.

So if that button is no longer functional, what will it do in Windows 8.1?  Will future handsets have just two buttons?  Maybe the 3rd button will be used for searching the internet for porn.

I use the back button mainly to navigate through apps, WPcentral's app is a good example of how to design for it (nice job Jay). However IE used it very poorly, and it is a bit annoying to use the back button to close apps or when it does close an app when I didn't mean to. I for one welcome our backless WP overlords.

Well, I for one am in favor of keeping the 'BACK" button unless there will be a software back button. Besides isn't the back button an easier way to close out apps?

The gf uses the windows button and if i need to use i press the back button closing every app that's ever been opened! I always close everything

Same here fella. Really annoys me when the wife has used my phone and 10 apps are still running. Cant believe this news.

Awesome! Ditching the backbutton is a wonderful idea! Opens up new possibilities. Gestures... Actually it makes a lot of sense. Why use the backbutton? Its only purpose is to navigate back. Pressing the back button accidentally happens to me a lot! I hate it the way it is. Better let devs implement a software back button.

I always use the back button. But that's because the app require me to do it when I want to navigate backward. So if the back button is gone and the apps updated to use virtual back button or gestures, I think I just need to adapt into it. It's that simple :)

If the devs still supporting their apps, high chance are they will update it. If not, they either pulled their app (if they decide to not renew the dev subscription) or we won't have good experiences on it (no update means no bug fixing or whatsoever). So they will update apps that they put their lives to support it.
Take a good example of iOS7. That overflow status bar is giving a headache for us as developers. And yet we still putting effort to update our apps to comply with it.

Live is constantly changes. All we have to do is adapting into it. It's that simple.

I think this is good- they need to move away from the capacitive buttons to software buttons (like some Android phones).  There are a few benefits to this, my favorite being larger screens while keeping the phone size down (see Moto X vs HTC One).    
I still want WP to keep the dedicated camera button!

You're using it wrong. The back button "only" takes you back to the previous page or app. Trying to use it when you exited and entered will only work if you entered the app through multi tasking.

I use the back button a lot, but if devs build in software buttons the lack of back would be mehh e.g USA today app, I read an article then go back to main stories column, I don't read go to start then reopen the app so long as there is SW or hw button im all good, don't need both.

How about the background picture? Will it come to Windows Phone 8.1 too as it comes to Windows 8.1?

WOW, so now all applications will have to add virtual navigation buttons. The navigation stack DEPENDS upon a hardware back button.. this is stupid, I use the back button so much. To remove focus from the keyboard, etc. Especially Navigation in IE.
 
Horrible decision on microsofts part.

Noooooo I use the back button constantly!!!! Why so dumb bs..its a phone not a damn tablet, its operations need to be quick for going back, not going to the start ND reselecting to start from scratch...

Glad they are removing back button. Terrible functionality. They need to put close buttons (x buttons) in apps instead of the back button crap. They need to pick up the pace! No wonder windows phone is behind in the race for smartphone king. KEEP UP! Update more often instead of 2-3 times a year. Doesn't cut it. I want to see this phone and its software flourish! C'mon Microsoft!!!!

Does that mean the back button will be like iOS and have to be wasting screen real estate? Boo to that. I think it just needs an instructional video for people who aren't so tech savvy. My girlfriend just got a Lumia 925, I showed her what the back button does with all its glory, and now she multitasks like a pro.

Unless you incorporate swipe to compensate for the back button, the whole UI falls apart. The UI works because you can navigate between apps without lose, unlike the iPhone.

It will mean a lot of apps will have to be updated to include a software back button. But having universal binarys for phones/Windows RT will be an advantage.

Wth?! If there thinking of getting rid of a button, get rid of the silly search button that i NEVER use. I use the back button all the time! Id be lost without it.
Don't make it more like the terrible iphone ui please!

They should take the back button, and move it in the middle.  Take out the start button and search button.  Make the back button round without an arrow.  They should add a sensor to it with a glowing round ring around it.  This will be the new back button of the future.

So if im playing a game and accidentally hit the search button I have to go back into games hub find the game and launch it again? I just hit the back button now and im back in the game.

That's my thoughts too. Maybe the Windows key will have more functions. Or with a 7" screen I guess the assumption is that you have everything pinned to your home screen.

If they are really merging with RT then I'm excited to see the Search button used for everything on the device as well Bing.

I use that back button all the time, a lot more than the Windows key. So how will I quickly access the task manager, short of them consuming a ton of on-screen real estate with new tools.

And is Windows Phone 8.1 going to be compatible with existing devices? I'm starting to get the sneaking suspicion that at some point we're going to learn that this update is not compatible with existing devices.

I have to say, it's difficult to have confidence in Windows Phone when they seem so comfortable with such drastic revisions to user experience. So either they didn't think things through properly the first time, or they're too fickle in their commitment to a consistent user experience.

I can only imagine the amount of bloat and inconsistency that could arise with this sort of approach. I welcome significant improvements, but I don't want to see arbitrary changes simply because some manager's grown bored with current functionality.

i hope back button is used, and this is more like the removal of the camera button requirement (there was one windows phone that lacked it). Meaning, devices with a back button will use it, while devices without will use an alternative control scheme.
 
also, no back will severely dissrupt the symetry of a windows phone. itd look weird with the logo in the middle, search on the right, but nothing on the left, and making start left and search right will look lopsided. A windows Phone really needs a back button, if not for function, then for symetry and design.

So all hundreds of thousands of WP apps that use the back button as part of internal navigation will no longer work. [Grabs a huge bucket of popcorn to watch this show.]

Every app will have to be remade with back buttons put in if it gets taken away, that would be horrible. I quite enjoy having a back button that's always in the same place.

So... This tells me existing WP with the back button are not getting 8.1. Were now the WP 7.8 folks! Why would u update the OS with this function and leave us with a dead button?

My thoughts: (1) I use the Back button religiously to close apps and for going back in web pages, emails, and apps, but if 8.1 had an option to close apps by swiping (similar to iOS7 does now), I'm all for it. (2) I am ECSTATIC that RT and WP8.1 could be combining! This would decrease the dearth of first-party apps immensely on both platforms, just like what Google did with its phone/tablet industry during Gingerbread/Honeycomb days. (3) WP and MSFT rock. The end ;)

No no...the Windows button is huge. Hold it down, speak to it, get answers. And get to the Start screen easily using that one. As for search? Make it so it is contextual to search in the app you're in, not just Bing.

The reason users don't "get it" is because it doesn't work properly. The back button on android is programmed correctly .

Don't worry folks, we all know how the Microsoft approach goes. They give you a feature, especially a button, then they take it away. Next version, they bring it back again. I fully expect context search to come back in 8.1 (or a revision thereabouts) because the current search button is pointless. Doubtless they will make the back button only work for the web browser or some useless idea in 8.1. Next version, back it comes...

I'm waiting for the forward button to come back. Perhaps they'll just make the back button a forward button in 8.1?

Updating Windows is like gambling, the trick us to know when to stop. If GDR3 is best for you, stick. If not, twist. Let's just hope they keep updating WP8 for a while after the new OS is released, like they did for WP7 customers. WP8 GDR 4 or 5 could be the sweet spot I think.

I think they are headed in the right direction but I wish they would have done a lot of this from the beginning.
 

I actually use the back button a lot. Not just to exit an app but to navigate backwards through apps. Not a fan of losing it.

I like the back button.. and bacon.. But what's next? Making us hold the home button while using volume up/ down to scroll?

Easily my most used button on the phone!!! Rarely do I use the start button. Very useful while multitasking. Get rid of the Search button which we don't need and implement search into "Long press on start key!! 

I HOPE, 8.1 is 100% functional on existing devices. If Microsoft does us like they did us with WP 8 with no backward compatibility and the minor 7.8 consolation(which I never got on my Titan by the way) that would be a terrible blow to the Windows Phone ecosystem. The faithful would begin to lose faith, the industry would eat Microsoft alive, competitors would walk all over us.
I HOPE 8.1 is not only compatible, but COMPLETELY COMPATIBLE, in that EVERY feature (barring screen resolution specific features- but given the article yesterday assuring us of varying tile sizes arrangements on current devices after GDR3 and Bittersweet that may not even be an issue ) works on current devices including my recently purchased 1020. If Microsoft/Nokia bring their "A" game via the GDR3/Bittersweet update followed with a strong, massive Blue, 8.1, update, that applies to all current devices, fills most if not all of the gaps, and Cortana actually blows everyone's minds as a killer Assistant, Windows Phone may just finally get beyond being perceived as playing in catch-up mode. Hopefully part of Blues postponement is that Microsoft wanted to ensure they were not introducing incremental updates or progress and are actually going to BRING THE PAIN, with this update. If they miss this opportunity iOS and Android, will be able to stand on the sidelines and say, "Is that all you got." Microsoft, from a dedicated Windows fan, from Windows Mobile days, still have my Cingular 2125's(2 of them), Tilt 1, Tilt 2, Titan and now 1020, bring it with 8.1. Blow our minds!

I love the back button - especially the long press that brings up the last 7 apps. I would really miss that! Hope they don't get rid of it. I have friends who wish their iPhones had back buttons!

Without having all the data my first reaction is to not like the idea...
 
The few times I've picked up my girlfriends iPhone I find myself wishing it had a back button ALL THE TIME!!

No word on other storage clear options? Its so annoying with all these update I haven't heard about them addressing that issue

This sounds like a terrible idea. Seriously, how can someone be too stupid to understand what a Back button does? What does the Back button do in every other worldly scenario? IT MAKES YOU GO BACK. I honestly question if it's not some B.S. excuse to help along the Windows Phone and Windows RT merge or whatever. In that case, I'm OK with it, but just tell us that's the case.

I can't believe you all think Microsoft just woke up and decided to lose the back button. They use windows phones as well, they know what the back button does. I'm sure they will have an answer to all of the concerns above

I use the back button a lot and not just for closing, they should keep this as a requirement and if not I hope the phone manufacturers still implement the back button on their WP devices.

Amazing how this type of report produces hundreds if comments, for something that is likely inaccurate and won't happen.

I personally will stop getting windows phones if they get rid of the back button thats what makes me mad the most on ios its such a pain..and i like the search button because if you search for a local place it shows the hours its open and the phone njmber and everything with no trouble i love it

The search button is great if you know what it does..you search something locally and it brings up the hours, phone number, etc its perfect if ur in a rush to see if stores are open which i find a pain to do through google so.etimes

NO! the back button on windows phone is more useful than those on Android and IMO increases usability over IOS. They better not get rid of it

Well, I think removing the back button would be a big change for me, since it's the button I use the most, I thought my Lumia 710's back button could've got loose back then..haha

Maybe they are thinking more like BlackBerry 10 which has zero buttons not even a home button. Everything is gesture based. I loved my experience on my BlackBerry Z10 because everything was gesture based and I loved swiping away. On BB 10 a back icon would populate on the bottome of the screen automatically or you could just swipe back to the previous screen. I only left BB and came back to WP for the apps and ecosystem but the user experience on BlackBerry 10 was the best I have ever experienced on any platform and yet they were able to do it without any buttons whatsoever. With that being said I think the way WP is written requires a back button especially when multitasking. It's going to be interesting to see how this is implemented.

I use the back button a lot, I thought my Lumia 710 physical back button could one day got loose back then

MWRGING RT AND WINDOWSPHONE HMMM THEY SHIULDVE DONE THAT FROM THE BEGINNING.. another reason for me to hold on on my LUMIA 900..
As a matter of fact im currently busy buying a 920 on eBay..peace all

I always use the back button but rarely do I use the Start button. It's the same when I'm using my Android (S3) and find that it's an absolute must on a smartphone.
However, I managed just fine without a dedicated back button for a number of years when using Symbian phones, so I guess that applications will have their own back button built into the application or an "X" button to close.

I use the back button consistently. It's an integral part of the WP experience. If the metrics show that people don't "get" the back button, then work on better educating the consumer to the proper use of the WP product. I had to turn on my old iPhone a month or so ago and had two thoughts: why did I ever like the iOS experience and where the "H" is the back button? My daughter feels the same way every time she picks up her iPod.

I like the back button because if you accidently click on an ad instead of scrolling, you can cancel the ad from taking you to a different page on your browser. This is annoying on an iPhone. :P
more options ARE better however.

That's just crazy, I use back button all the time, not to close apps but to go back a page in apps. Why they want to make our OS like iOS? So ppl wwho used iOS will adopt WinPhone? OK, I get that, but what about us? I'm used to back button, been using it for 3 years now, what I'm suppose to do now? learn a new gesture? I hope at least they add back and forward gesture.

I don't get it, how do you use your phone without the back button? Even when not multitasking or using it to force close apps, it's still, for many apps, essential, as they don't have any virtual back button. I also just feel the back button is more convenient. It's always in one place, unlike virtual buttons which can move around at will.

Very interesting. I'm looking forward to the other improvements, but lack of the back button? In addition to just not looking right (only two buttons? Eghck), it just seems like too much functionality would be lost. Hopefully Nokia will stay dedicated to it, as I really don't want to lose this functionality.

I want the back button to stay! I don't want another ultra simplified OS like iOS, and a software back button takes too much space

Looks like almost everyone here uses the back button, including me.  Where the hell is MS getting these metrics?

I love my back button. I don't know how I got around iOS without one. With the back button being optional and Microsoft owning Nokia's hardware division, I don't see it sticking around for long.

To all of you idiots complaining about multitasking without a back button..........you do know they can easily just implement a new way to get to the multitasking screen and if you actually read the article it did say the back button is not required. Never did they say it would be completely eliminated. Learn to read.

So what benefit does it provide by getting rid of the back button? I use it frequently but more than for the back function.. I probably use as often to see my open apps list so I can go t any open app. How do you do that without the back button?
Isn't this MS working on stuff that isn't broken when they should be allocating expenditure in more valuable areas?

Hear hear! Take the search button and spare the back button. I cant believe MS will really get rid of the back button. :(

They shouldn't ditch the back button but perhaps change its function a bit. I use it a lot but I'm not keen how it behaves e.g. with IE... Sometimes I wish to browse back, sometimes leave current page open and close the browser.
Likewise, they should make the Search button more dynamic so you could use it to search in context, not always open Bing.

Don't do this even a idiot like me knows this is bad take out the dam search button put a notification button instead they need be smarter then this before they make a decision like this lets all make comment chaos before ruin Windows phone with something simple like this! But here's my idea rather than removing back button remove search button turn it to a settings/multi-button button that leaves buttons on screen to go back and forward or search the disappear instantly when your not using it

I use the back button alot.  If my vote counts, I would like it to remain.    Else we have to start doind like iOS and implement back buttons in apps themselves.
To much change,  I think they are trying to do it because Windows RT doesn't have a physical back button.  But they need to find a better way to merge RT and Windows Phone without losing the back button.

My first reaction was to freak out about the back button, but on second thought it's no big deal.  According to this, the back button will no longer be a requirement.  That doesn't mean it won't be on some handsets and won't still be supported by the OS.  And when you think about it, the only purpose of the back button (as far as functionality) is the ability to kill an app.  This shouldn't ba a problem after GDR3 which allows this functionality through the multitasking interface.

No back button?  You're kidding people don't use it or are confused by it?  I have both a Lumina 925 and HTC One and I use the back button more than I use the Win Key and Android Home button.  I have to disagree with that logic.  Let's have an option where the user decides to use or not use the back button.  

Leave back button alone!!
I guess people using internet explorer are confused. In that case fix the damn internet explorer. Another back button in explorer would do the trick.

Removing one button is STUPID idea. I mean there is clearly no benefit from hardware point of view as you will still have to include two other buttons so there is no actual space saving in the point of hardware. (Yes, you do save in hardware production costs slightly, but it's not worth the hassle)
It would be much better to remove all the physical buttons at the lower part of the screen and leave only touch user interface. Nokia N9 is prime example of the ui that does not need any physical buttons. To be honest I'm still surprised apple hasn't gotten rid of the last remaining one already.
P.s. The most useless button in WP in my opinion is search button. I don't like bing really that much and most of the time I press it accidently when doing something so it is more of the hinderance than useful feature.... heck they could have integrated search together with windows button...  

Back button being pushed out?? Existing phones like my Lumia 620 will look ridiculous with a button that can't be used. I used to close running app that way...

My hope is that if the "Back button will be eliminated from the hardware requirements" means not that the "Back Button" functionality is going away (I find it weird to use an iPhone now, without the back button!), just that OEMs don't need to include the key itself - which would imply a solution similar to how Android introduced the on-screen buttons for "back"/"home"/etc.  Maybe a "Charm", maybe some sort of gesture?
It'd be a pain for developers to re-code their apps to put in on-screen back-buttons otherwise... :P
Now - for closing apps it would make sense to have an alternate method that doesn't involve "backing out" of the app, which can be a bit cumbersome if someone's left a bunch open by using the Start key often - the "X to close" (and hopefully 'swipe away' too?) mechanic should solve that.  But I think the "back" function is still very important to keep. :P

I, for one, use the back button all the time. Say it ain't true, Blue, say it ain't true...

I wish Windows 8 were made more like Windows Phone, not the other way around! Terrible idea to get rid of the back button!

Back button = a Gesture, how charming....
You can manufacture and release a WP8.1 device with or without the back button (HTC?)
and any old or new device will still work anyway
Don't be afraid! 
Your trusted old friend will work all the eternity like it used to be
AND you can refuse to buy a new device without a physical button
Also with the gesture you can even use your device in case your button dies because of over usage...charming, huh?
Even if the search would go you could still use yet another gesture
The Windows [#] Button Long Press should bring up 

The phone will look weird with only two button :-\ i like my back button i use it all the time, makes switching to different apps well easy

This is what's scary for me. I need to buy a new phone but I don't want to buy a new GDR3 preloaded phone now and in Q1 2014 the new WP8.1 preloaded phones come out with totally new hardware that makes end of 2013 LUMIAs outdated...

"Metrics show that users don't get it and just hit the home button" That is the most retarted shit i've heard since the doing away with the start button. What if you clicked on the wrong link or something and just want to click on back to undo?

Just put a gesture area on new devices, best thing webOS had, along with the cards that now everybody is copying... Easy, intuitive, awesome... Old devices can still use the back button

I hope MS read this thread. We all use the BACK BUTTON! Its a huge additional feature over iOS. Looks like we will all be implementing soft back buttons like on win8 apps but we won't have the same screen real estate. Very dissapointing.

"we’ll have to defer to Microsoft’s metrics on this one, much like how they changed the Search key from context-aware to universal for Bing in Windows Phone 7.5."

That explains a lot... I was wondering why the search button wasn't context sensitive any more since I moved from experience with WP7 straight to 8. I thought the context sensitive aspect was a strong point of the search key. To me, get rid of that button.

I am a loyal windows phone user but I if they get rid of my back button I will be devastated. When I use my wife's iPhone or ipad it is torturous that I keep looking for a button that isn't there. The software button is just not as good. Hopefully they will rethink this.

Even though the rumor says the back button is to be removed from hardware "requirements", that is probably to allow phones that are as big as tablets to not have one. While smaller formed phones have the physical back button still. I'm sure the OS can detect the screen size and whether or not to display a digital back button.

I really really hope they do not ditch the back button. That is one of the reasons I hate iPhone. There is no back button on the iPhone!!!!! All you can do is go home. How stupid is that? If people don't "get it" then they need to learn to "get it". Stop developing products for the lowest common denominator. Many of us do use and love the back button!!!!!

This back button thing is really bothering me now. Losing the back button would be a huge step backwards in my opinion. And trusting Microsoft's metrics may be not the best move either. Aren't these the same metrics that said people don't really use the start button? How stupid was that?

Besides, what could possibly be the benefit of losing the start button? Do they need the space for something else? Is it bothering anybody? Is it breaking anything? Is it costing too much money?

How about we just leave it alone.

I am not sure people should get super worked up over this.  He said the back button is no longer a hardware requirement.  That doesn't mean it will be removed completely.  The way I read this is that the back button will be an option for phone makers.  I suspect it will be removed from budget phones, and kept for high-end phones.  After all, it's probably the high-end users that use this feature the most.
 
I will say this, a lot of apps won't navigate properly without some ability to navigate backwards.

Of all things, Microsoft is learning from Apple to remove the Back button?! What???! Why can't MS learn how to put in a good notification center, or grouping of tiles, etc rather than removing the precious Back button????! C'mon MS! Stop sucking up on Apple on the wrong thing! Even Apple is getting smarter now by copying good stuffs from other platforms like Android, yet MS is moving backward!
Oh Please! If this is true, I think Windows Phone will realy reach EOL within 2 years..... Well done MS and now Nokia is gone too.....

Common merge Windows RT and Windows phone 8 already!!! WP8 is awesome so is RT, but both platform lack features that the counterpart doesn't so the merge is absolutely perfect. BRING Swipe from LEFT to change app to WP8 and swipe from top to bottom to close app etc. to WP8 2 or 3 apps on same screen might work well on bigger displays!! WOW i can already see what the merge would like which is AWESOME!!!

They shouldn't ditch the back button I mean how are we gonna close the apps? Even multitasking is in the back button. Never ditch the back button for dumb people who are always touching the Home button to exit apps and then complains that their phone is getting slow and their battery drains so fast. I hope you get my point

They shouldn't ditch the back button I mean, how are we gonna close apps? Even multitasking is in the back button. And also you're ditching it because of dumb people who always use the home button and think they closed their apps not to mention who are complaining about their battery life and their phone is getting slow. I hope you get my point

They shouldn't ditch the back button I mean how are we gonna close apps and do a multitasking? And the reason you're ditching it is because of the dumb people who always use the home button to close apps thinking that they really closed it and not to mention, complaining about short battery life or the phone getting slow. I hope you get my point

Every thing is fine, but I guess most would agree they use the back button more than any other on their WP

How then do we pull up a list of running apps... Assuming that the Windows button will be for the SIRI Killer "Cortana" or whatever they are calling it these days. Seriously softies... Don't call it that. Two-Syllables max. Hell, one even better.

Hmm. I mean, I bet you could just swipe to the left, or something. I doubt they would ignore us power-users..
Interesting, indeed.

I just dont understand how removing the Back button will improve anything. The Search button is probably going to stay, I don't see why it too would be removed.
Any removal of any hardware button just means more UI clutter, I don't want a back button inside an app, the button is already convinently placed where it is. 

I would like to spare some thoughts on back button. Like other 500 comments said I also say a No-no for removing it, but also I think it should be redesigned.
It will need 2 fixes (one of which we will get in GDR3) it is a close from multitask and taping and activating app while it still scrolls. 
For now it is quite annoying to close apps by tapping 100 times a back button. 
Overlapping with WinRT: I don't want windows on my phone. WP is good enough for me. Just add functions and polish an existing things.  
If they screw it up like Apple did to their iOS, than I will get a simple OS-free phone.

With Windows being unified, the battle is on between whether to add phone features to Windows RT and have RT be the new Windows Phone operating system. Or having the Windows Phone RT OS eventually replace Windows RT. Only one can really survive. A waste of resources to support two separate OS's for ARM. And Thurrott is the ultimate defender of Windows Phone. He praises WP8 at every opportunity and lambasts anything Surface because he is intelligent enough to know that only one can survive and he's put his chips on Windows Phone. The likely winner is most likely Windows RT because its code base is closer to Windows 8.

 

The disappearance of the back button in a future version of Windows Phone lends further evidence to Windows RT eventually winning out. The back button is not a feature of Windows 8 or Windows RT. But the back button is key to how apps interact on Windows Phone. It would make far more sense for RT to be the tablet/phone OS as it can share apps with Windows 8. Windows Phone is too different from Windows 8.  Using Windows Phone OS as their default ARM OS means that Microsoft will have to maintain 2 operating systems which doesn't fit their unification goal.  Going with Windows RT and moving phone features into it does fit their goal.

Why are they gonna break app compatibility again? Hey we don't have enough apps... Lets make the developers make new ones... Again! Ugh! They should've given Windows 8 a back button to start with!

Getting rid of the back button...... That's just stupid. How are we going to switch through windows by holding it and what if i what to keep an open and not close it? Will the windows button now close an app completely removing multitasking?

+1 for thinking its a stuipd idea. Without it doesn't Windows Phone just become iOS with less apps and the apps in alphabetical order.
Back button is central to the whole user experiance.

    I just dont see them dithcing the back button without also ditching the search button, that would create an ugly offcenter button placement. Maybe they will change it into something else, like a menu/multitasking button. I would definetly take this rumor with a grain of salt. 

Use the back button all of the time. Can see ditching it as a requirement, but hopefully, it will retain it's functionality for existing phones.

they should keep the back button, its good to have it and the start button,
 
having windows rt and windows phone merge into one system, im not too sure on that, as i like that the surface is still a full operating system, rather than like android and ios, where it needs a mother system to work with it

"don't get it" ??? Really? It would be interesting to know how many of those that don't get the back button came from iOS devices...

Going the iSheep way!!
MS is getting it all wrong. It is killing the things that makes WP different!
All of us have to bear the brunt of some douchebag users!

 

im just letting Nokia, samsung and MS know...
I will never buy a WP without a back button
 
 
WTF this is one of the features of the operating system I hate the apple system all you can do is go back to start, I dont alr\ways want to go back to start sometimes i just want to go back one page
What a joke
back to designing phones for clueless idiots I see

On a related note, will the 920 and 820 on AT&T ever see an official 8.1 update from the carrier?
Seems like a shaft job, if not.

The back button is only useful because we've gotten used to it! The concept of it MAKES NO SENSE as a universal button.
 
I don't mind if it's kept around, but getting rid of it is a good idea. Much better to have a Back function inside apps that need it. We LITERALLY only need it because we have no other way of really closing out apps - and since we get that now, the back button is superfluous as a system level function. 
I can guarantee that once we get the "X to close apps" function, extremely few of you will ever use the Back button outside of an app again, other than as a way to switch between apps, which could be done with another button (preferably by holding down the Windows button, and moving voice search/command to the Search button instead) or by re-assigning the Back button to work as a menu/switch button.

BACK button is great invention as most of iOS app has a back button on the top... Why Why Why does MS make it go away. Why? 100% agree on people using Home button that they are noobs/retarded.

Removing the back button wouldn't be smart at all. If a small number of people are confused by a simple idea, then let them skip using it. Don't eliminate it from those who make a lot of use out of it. I personally use the back button every single day. Mostly to make sure the application/window closes when I am done....or going back in a browser. Take that away and it would drive me mad. I know I'm not alone. 

If they get rid of the Back button, I might as well switch to the iPhone. I like the new iOS7 design because it looks more like WP, and having no back button on WP would remove the main UI feature that improves it over the iPhone. I really love WP, but I'm sure the app selection on iOS would help ease the pain. No "back" button on WP would be making my decision for me.
 
Microsoft, please don't fall into the hipster minimalist mentality that wrecked the Gmail Compose redesign and countless other useful apps. These super cool hipsters are doing qualitative analysis but not quantitative analysis. Don't do the same with the Back button.

As a developer, the increase in overlap with RT is awesome news. Speaking to colleagues and freinds that do freelance work, this was one of the main reasons they didn't want to be bothered with the new MS ecosystem. I figured they'd eventually make it easier to create a universla codebase. Glad to see it happening this soon.
 
Fixing the notifications is equally awesome news. It's probably my only legitimate gripe with the platform. Apps like Viber, WhatsApp and Skype are seriously inconsistent with toast notifications and tile updates. Reading the reviews for most messaging apps echo this sentiment. If they can get this resolved there will be a lot more positive word of mouth.
 
Now If they can convince Instagram to get onboard around the tie blue is released WP8 could really takeoff. I've told countless people how great the platform is and so many have mentioned lack of an official Instagram app. 
 

The only problem I have with them removing the back button is that if you hit the back button, you get the previous state of the app you were using while tapping the icon for the app again effectively "restarts" the application. If hitting the app tile would bring you back to the app's previous state (same page or position in the app you were using), I wouldn't care that they removed the back button.

I use the Back button now and again, but if I want to leave an app open & just use another appat the same time, e.g. listen to music while sending a message, browsing, using facebook and Twitter then I just use thew Windows button. I always use the Search Button for Sound Search & reading QR Codes as I've not seen an alternative using IE, I also use the Search Button regularly for doing quick Searches that don't always need me visiting a certain website.  Maybe they should just move the Search & Back Buttons to the left hand edge as physical buttons & have the Windows Button on the front.
Another alternative, Have just the Windows Button on the front, then have a swipe up for Search & a physical button on Lefthand edge with a long press to bring up the Multitasking list & multiple presses to close apps like the back buton currently does, then put the back button in the app menu.
Or change the UI to use the Windows Button to bring up the app list, right to left swipe to bring up the Windows 8/8.1 Right hand Charms Bar, Left to Right swipe to bring up the Windows 8/8.1 Multtasking bar, Swipe up for the Menu bar with Back button in there & Swipe down to bring up the current Notification bar (or whatever it's called) Showing Clock, Wifi, BT, GPS Dot, Vibrate icon, Signal Strength/4G/HSDPA/HSDPA+/3G/GPRS/EDGE connection, then just swipe more central of the Screen to Scroll around apps.
Personally I'd go for the latter if Microsoft want to merge WP 8 & Windows RT as it'd be more intuitive for anyone who uses Windows 8 but not a WP 8 phone to come over to a Windows 8 Phone. This is probably the main reason why Apple keep the same version of iOS on both iPhones/iPod Touch & iPad along with Google Android on Tablets & Phones being identical apart from being skinned differently by manufacturers.  If Microsoft successfully pull off merging WP and Windows RT I can see Apple doing the same by putting OSX onto iPhones, iPads & iPods ( but obviusly modifed slightly to make it usable on small touchscreen devices). Canonical's Ubuntu Touch OS videos show a good way to merge Desktop & mobile Devices into one. Buy a Windows RT Phone get the WP UI, drop it into a docking station to charge and provide HDMI out and USB Ports and you've got an ultra portable device that's also your phone.
Roland 

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