Live Apps - Microsoft’s new language for apps with Live Tile functionality [Updated]

Live Apps, Microsoft's new marketing language

Yesterday we ran a story with some new marketing material for Best Buy that focused on Windows Phone 8. What caught our attention was the use of the term ‘Live Apps’ and even more so the description on how to view them (swipe up, down, left, right).

The idea as the time was that this might be some new feature—possibly related to multitasking e.g. mimicking how Windows 8 handles multiple apps. The other was that this was just Microsoft’s rebranding of Metro apps to Live Apps (due to that trademark issue).

This morning, we can share a lot more information on this that has come forward. Some good, some disappointing.

The bad news is no, Live Apps are not some new feature. Earlier in the year, Microsoft sought advice and feedback on some new language to describe certain features in Windows Phone. One of those was how to describe apps that have a Live Tile. It may seem odd at first, but there are plenty of apps e.g. Office or games e.g. Contre Jour that do not have Live Tiles. On the other hand, some apps are practically defined by them like stock or weather apps.

So that’s all it is: apps that have their own Live Tile.

We can, however give you some related news in regards to multitasking.


One pet peeve that many users have with Windows Phone concerns how apps multitask. Specifically, if the app has already been launched. If you use the hold-back button method, you can go back to your app right where you left off—brilliant.

But, if you were to tap the app’s Tile it effectively re-launches the app, even though you already have it running. It’s an odd behavior as sometimes that Tile is faster than cycling and switching apps—it’s just not intuitive.

We have now heard from a good source that this behavior is now fixed in Windows Phone 8. Launching an app that is already running will bring you to where you left off, not restart the app. In fact, if you scour some hands-on videos out there, you can on occasion see this happen (the Pictures Hub is one instance). Combined with the ability to have up to eight apps running (as revealed in an earlier video) users should hopefully be happy with the new changes.

Update: We have some more clarification on the the resuming/re-starting issue. In Windows Phone 8, first party apps can do this e.g. Pictures Hub and Email, etc. But third party apps cannot officially do this behavior, unless they do a trick. The trick is for developers to mark their apps as "GPS apps", which can then take advantage of running in the background. What is not clear is if regular third-party apps that do this will pass certification. The good news is that apps like Nokia Drive or anything that does use GPS can take advantage of this feature.  -Thanks to another unnamed source for the info

So while Live Apps may be a bust for a secret feature, hopefully that other bit of info will make up for it.

Thanks Trazer and our unnamed source for the info

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Live UI then, yeah.
  • They need to get away from this "Live" brand like they did with Zune. They're both worthless.
  • Says only you
  • Microsoft thinks so too.
  • Live Tiles is not a brand it's a feature of the UI.  Different scenario.
  • I agree to some degree, but it'll leave people confused not knowing the difference between "Live" ".net"--remember that? I don't think Microsoft even knows what live and .net passport etc are
  • Watch your mouth! :'( some of us ares still Zune users. My Zune HD is awesome and it's sad to see the name go away after seeing it dragged through the mud for years.
  • Still proudly using my 30gb and my 32gb Zune HD.
  • I agree Zune is a great device and service but the brand has been unsuccessful. They're doing a good job with the Xbox brand and tying the music service into that brand is a great idea. What exactly is the difference between Live Tiles and Live Apps and why would normal users even care? Simplicity is key--lots of technical jargon doesn't win consumers over especially tied into an already failed brand. And I would argue that even live on Xbox is a failed brand. Non gamers know what Xbox is but they dont know what live is.
  • In this context it's not a brand, but a description of the type of app.
  • Yeah, cuz Xbox LIVE totally isn't popular at all...
  •   I'm slowly sliding towards android
  • Me too..
  • BYEEE! lol
  • +10
  • Go ahead, nobody stopping you! I'll stick with WP8, thank you!
  • Have you used Android before? It is slow clunky and takes forever to open any app, take a picture, etc. if you like slow OS, then please go for Android...
  • Why are you here then???
  • Yay! This has been a maddening problem with Nokia Drive.
  • That's what I figured Live Apps are, no disappointment there. This multitasking change presents a new problem: how do you restart an app now that using the Start screen doesn't relaunch it?
  • may be there will be an option to close the app currently running...
  • Exit the app with the back button as opposed to the windows button.
  • Go to the task switcher, tap on the app you want to close and hit back twice as it zooms into view, same as WP7. I'd love a simpler swipe down from the switcher though.
  • I would think that it only suspends 8 apps at a time.
  • Definitely not a new complaint... People have been requesting a way to kill apps for the past year if not 2 (since launch). That sparks a whole debate about how tomb-stoning works, how one half don't see any need for such functionality and the other half insist that it's necessary.
    I feel the best option is to at least allow people to lock certain apps in the app list to prevent them from being terminated automatically. Anyway, the debate has been done to death already...
  • +1 . Users here are never satisfied.
  • I think users are satisfied when the OS isn't missing features. I love WP7 but it's still needs improvements. People complain louder when the same functionality is on other platforms already.
  • I actually use the Start screen to "restart" apps that have hanged. I hope WP8 will have some form of task-killer.
  • +9999999999 I usually just keep pressing the back button.
  • Pretty much what I predicted.
  • If multi tasking actually works as described, it will be a great leap forward. I hope there is a way to EXIT the app if you no longer want it in the multitasking list. That way you can keep open the apps you want running in the background.
  • Yay the that freaking resume time finally! Bring me that new Lumia 920 soon! This wait is feeling longer than losing my virginity!! :D
  • I actually didn't mind that apps restarted when tapping from the start screen. It helps kill an app that's froze but the OS is still running. When apps freeze there's no way to back out of them, so restarting them was a way to unfreeze it and killing it in the background. Unless there's a way to close them on the multitasking screen, we will be force to restart the phone just to kill a frozen app even though the OS is still running
  • That's what concerns me. 4th and Mayor seems to randomly open with no UI controls and hang, not responding to the Back button either.
  • I doubt that very seriously, let wait until MS reveals all features on the 29th
  • Maybe when you hold the back button it will have a little "x" in the top corner to kill apps
  • Agreed. AND it's proper UX. This stuff drives me nuts.
  • If its proper UI then tell us where else in wp7 you find an x to close something...?
  • IE Tabs.
  • Yep!
  • LOL Wyn6, dead right. An x would work nicely and isn't out of step with the IE UI. That would be intuitive and a neat way of doing it.
  • Does it really have to happen at least twice to be called "proper UX"?
  • Swipe down to close
  • +1
  • Wouldn't Microsoft probably have to license from HP or since webOS now open source...
  • +1
  • X or swipe down to close would work for me
  • Opening an app where you left off has been a hassle in Windows 8.  Whenever I launch a news app, it takes me to the last story I was reading, rather than to the main news page.  Sometimes that means that it loads an article from days earlier.  I don't look forward to the same annoyance on Window Phone 8.
  • Exactly. Microsoft really shouldn't allow people that know absolutely nothing about UX dictating their UX strategy. It will be a disaster and is precisely why people that don't understand this stuff should just use what's handed to them. Unfortunately, much of the community input for Windows Phone has been things like this that hinder more than help. I'm very afraid of what the industry is going to turn into from all of this "help". Lol
  • That annoys me too about Windows 8. Even after I close an app, it takes me back to the last thing I was looking at.
  • A more important question, perhaps:
    Does this only apply to the 8 running apps?
    Let's say I open Office, and start working on a spreadsheet; I stop doing that to search for something on the internet, and 5 min later, next thing you know I now have launched a bunch of other apps. I then remember I had an unfinished excel project and, of course, I can't launch it form the task switcher as I have already ran more than 8 apps after first opening Office.
    Will going to the start screen and trying to open Office directly from there actually bring me back where I truly left off?
  • That's what I think will be, but for office without a live tile it may open office directly but save your excel file where you left like in 7.5
  • Why on earth would anyone think NOT starting a new instance of an app when opening an app not from a currently running process would be preferable? It's just people that don't understand proper UX whining about what THEY want, not what's right... This is not proper UX and more confusing than anything. I hope this isn't the case.
  • Because this isn't a desktop OS, and its also not the way iOS works (admittedly I don't know about Android). If I didn't specifically close the app, I don't want to restart the app. It doesn't feel right on a mobile OS.
  • This new behaviour could be problamatic for built-in apps like Messaging or Mail. Sometimes I have multiple concurrent conversations and so I open up a messaging thread with one person, tap the Start key to return to the home screen and then launch Messaging again and open a 2nd thread. Then I use the Back key to switch between the 2 ongoing threads. It's pretty effective and efficient.
    This new approach might prevent me from getting to that 2nd thread if the 1st thread is simply resumed when tapping the live tile.
    However, if it's only for 3rd-party apps (since they can't do multiple instances anyway), that would be a welcome change.
  • I don't see how... Opening an app from a new instance should do just that. Users should be presented with the same screen / experience EVERY TIME. Not whatever article, story, or screen you were last on. That is a nightmare.
  • Why is the keyboard bold in the Outlook app on that multitasking image? Is that a really old build of WP7? The timestamp color on the Messaging app looks pre-7.5 but multitasking wasn't available until 7.5.
  • High contrast mode?
  • The "switch" and "voice" buttons are missing from the Messaging hub. I think all of the screenshots in the image are from 7.0.
  • What strikes me most about those screens is how uniform design grid in the apps in the switcher appear.
  • Sigh, yet again MS picks the most generic name possible. This time reusing one that never caught on the last time they used it.
  • IMO tapping on the live tile will only bring an app already in the Task switcher to the point where it was left suspended. Opening an app not in the Task switcher will open the app as it currently does i.e. a new instance. I do not believe that all apps when opened will open from where a user left off previously unless it is already in the Task switcher.
  • Let's all just wait and find out together... ;-)
  • Deleted.
  • Great news!
  • One thing I always thought was pretty cool was when you are in the process of typing up a text message you can hit the windows button then hit your messages tile and draft up a new message or select a thread and respond while the original message you were working on is still running back in the tile that never closed down... Hope that function will stay the same
  • Nice! I have a problem with having mutiple Messeging instances open every time I use the tile. I know this might be useful for some but it presents a situation where a game I was playing closes out when I reach the maximum number of tombstoned apps.
  • This is too too annoying... And Microsoft has not fixes it yet...
  • Well let me explain... It only opens a new instance of the messaging interface if the other instance or instances are in the status of viewing a text... Next time you read a text and decide not to reply or finish replying hit the
  • Lol
  • BACK button instead of the windows button and you should be ok.
  • A win for logic. It would be nice to have an option to close apps like how you can close tabs in IE.
  • Gees I have seen this a bunch of times in hands on videos and never realized it lol.
  • Once you are on the app switcher, they should allow for the simple gesture of swiping an app up/down to close it.
  • As WP is at the minute apps you see there aren't actually running until you click on them.
  • Incredible... Microsoft have not fixes the restart issue when press on the live tile while the app is already opened.... Microsoft what are you waiting for!?!!?!?????
  • exactly.. when we pin an app from the list, we are essentially pinning the app to its start state.. it SHOULD restart.. There is nothing wrong with that. We need both a way to have our particular apps open and this restart functionality to persist!!!
  • Defending Microsoft bad choice you seems only an apple user... This it's not practical! You should be able to close an app via taskswitcher and if you want to restart it you can close it and then press the Live Tile! It's annoying check everytime if the app it's already opened in the taskswitcher! It contains only 5 apps and the app you want couldn't be there anymore! So you have to come back to the start screen and then press on the live tile... Comfortable!! There are plenty of better solutions! (sorry for my english)
  • "It's not an issue" *for you*
  • If the multitasking isn't fixed in WP8, I'm going to be upset.
  • It's a very bar solution right now...
  • There are many things wrong with it. For example: Open a music app or something to run in the background, play some music, open 5 other apps, try to switch back to the music app - oh wait you can't because it's vanished! You now have to open the app from scratch just to stop the background process.
  • When I saw live apps I thought it would be related to the live tiles tbh. I thought it would be a more standardised format for live tiles. I am glad they've grouped these apps together though, its always something I like to know
  • A easy fix for this would be just to put a X on top of ea open app when u press and hold the back button. This way you can close apps manually and restart them when u click on them on home screen again.
  • I think it's more of an issue with toast notifications.  If I receive a message say from whatsapp, I don't want it to reload everytime I click on a toast notification, it just takes too long to load up.
    However, If native apps start up much faster, I guess it won't be much of a problem.
  • I dont understand whats the deal here. I mean the app should restart when you tap the live tile because most of the time people have pinned the start state of the app. If you pin a particular section, it will open that part.. This is simple and as stated. We need both this restart and the ability for apps to be resumed!!! 
  • the deal is when you are unlocking you phone to check a messega  like me  for the the whatsapp app .... i always have to wait for it to load and then go in to the thread i want instead of the open one ............