Microsoft almost made a feature phone that looked like Windows Phone

Did you know that Microsoft, even after purchasing Nokia's phone business, never actually released a feature phone under the "Microsoft" brand? The Redmond-giant only ever released a handful of feature phones after the acquisition, all of which remained "Nokia" branded. The "Microsoft" brand was reserved for its Lumia devices, likely to differentiate the feature phones from the Windows Phones.

That wasn't always going to be the plan, however. Based on an early prototype we've got our hands on, the company was building itself a "Microsoft" branded feature phone that borrowed the same industrial designs found in the Lumia 550 and 950, and rocked a feature phone OS built to look like Windows Phone. This is the canceled Microsoft "RM-1182" or as we prefer to call it, the Microsoft Dumb Phone.

Although the existence of this handset has leaked before, as far as I'm aware nobody knew about the work Microsoft had put into the phone's OS to make it look like a Windows Phone. This feature phone has everything from live tiles (ish) to Microsoft Account integration that lets you sync your account data, including contacts and email directly to the phone, just like on a Windows Phone.

Windows Phone lookalike

This handset was in development throughout 2015, meaning the OS was skinned to look like Windows 10 Mobile. The main menu looks familiar to the Start screen on Windows 10 Mobile, with a grid of tiles that can be rearranged to your liking. You can even customize the background and accent color used throughout the OS, and all the app icons are using Microsoft's MDL2 design language. The live tiles are semi-live, being that they will display the number of missed notifications from an app, but won't show much more than that.

The phone comes with several built-in apps, including the usual Phone, SMS, Contacts, Photos, Camera, Alarms, Files, and a web browser, all themed to look a little bit like they do on Windows Phone. Also bundled are a bunch of other Microsoft apps, including Outlook Mail and Calendar, GroupMe, and OneNote. Unfortunately, those apps don't function in 2018. It even has an Extras menu, found only Lumia Windows Phones, with a bunch of extra utilities in it.

It also has a quick action center which also takes design inspiration from the Notification Center and its quick actions on Windows 10 Mobile, only accessible from the Settings app. Speaking of the Settings app, it has your usual feature phone options, with the addition of Microsoft Account setup. It comes with all the sounds you can find on a Windows 10 Mobile device too, and even has a unique boot up sound that's very Windows Phone-y.

In typical Windows Phone fashion, the phone also comes bundled with some Gameloft games, including Spider-Man Ultimate, Asphalt, and a few others.

Pretty average hardware

For a feature phone, the hardware is okay. It's a small phone, with a 2.5-inch low-quality display, plastic shell, a 1.92 MP camera on the back, and a 1200mAh battery. Most feature phones have excellent battery ranging from days to weeks, and it looks like this Microsoft feature phone is no different.

Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain the back shell along with our prototype, but we know what it'd look like thanks to that earlier 2016 leak. It has a Microsoft logo on the back, just like the Microsoft Lumia devices did, matching the branding found on the front on the handset.

My question is what was Microsoft planning to call this device? Would it have been a Lumia handset? The Microsoft Lumia 150? Who knows. It's likely Microsoft was merely going to call it the "Microsoft 150" or something, omitting the Lumia brand entirely. Or maybe Microsoft was planning to use the Asha brand, or an entirely new brand for Microsoft feature phones.

Either way, this project faded away rather quickly after Microsoft made the internal decision to scale back its mobile efforts. This handset, along with the Lumia 750, Lumia 850, and plenty other Microsoft branded phones, were canceled. The only survivors were the Lumia 550, 650, 950 and 950 XL, before killing the Lumia line entirely and selling off most of its Nokia assets.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • If given the chance I probably would have bought one just for funsies lol
  • Yeah it would be doubly amusing.
  • I bought a Nokia 1050 for that same reason lol
  • I wouldn't have at the time, but these days, I would love a phone like this!
    I'm actively entertaining/researching the purchase of a feature phone.
  • I'm with you. Went back to a feature phone a few years back. The only drawbacks that pushed me back to a smartphone was lack of navigation, garbage camera, and for kicks, no Pandora/Spotify. I thought the new palm phone was finally going to be the awesome feature phone. Then they screwed that one up by making it a smart pocket watch.
    A feature phone with navigation, music, and a 12mp camera for $99 and i would be first in line.
  • Went and bought a feature phone recently. The Nokia 3310 reboot. Had the original way back when. Bought it to see if i could get by on one of these today and the answer not really. Too used to the world of touch screens and navigation apps in the last 6 years i have had smart phones. If you could get used to T9 texting again then this phone would be a good backup phone. Mine has 3G so the calls are spotty. I'm on T-Mobile. When it does get a strong signal calls are clear and strong . Trying to get my Gmail to work is frustrating. It tells me failure to connect or some such thing. The battery lasts a while as long as you don't try using the opera web browser. Even though i get frustrated with the spotty calls sometimes, i still like to use it because it isn't like every piece of slab metal and glass out there. I love the portability and small size and of course the nostalgic factor all plays in as well .
  • lol, Zac, I assumed that is why you asked the question on twitter last week. :)
  • To me it is funny in a strange sort of way, I actually think it would sell today as a feature phone.
  • Given away for free, yes it most definitely would've
  • I would have bought two of these. Instead, my wife and I bought two horrible dumb phones from Alcatel and ZTE. Microsoft Account integration would have been major since the dumb phones available now do not sync with Microsoft, Google or Apple accounts.
  • What exactly is a "feature phone"?
  • Non smartphone. Limited in functionality. No touch screen, basic browser, etc. Basically Phone and SMS.
  • They can do email, too. If I have my Surface Pro, all I'd really need is a feature phone that can also provide a hotspot.
  • Oh I don't disagree. I would love to go back to my MPX200 flip phone.
  • Oh. So its a dumb phone. Sorry, not interested.
  • Symbian with a new skin. Hardly surprising since the feature phone business was more profitable than the Lumia division ever was.
  • ""never actually released a feature phone under the "Microsoft" brand? """
    Uhmn, they did rebrand the Nokia feature phones to Microsoft.
    We had them briefly in South Africa. Check your facts.
  • I would buy this today if it is released (even with knowing that Mobile is not going to get new updates)
  • Do you have a recording of the boot sound?
  • Curious "O" icon as a stand alone tile, and on the store bag. Also, outlook on a feature phone, very interesting. Except when you have some poor fool trying to compose an email using t9 🤣
  • It's the Opera browser
  • Cool find Zac!
  • Nice. I would actually like one of these once my Win 10 Mobile lumia phones cease working.
  • So sad.... All of MS's cancelled phones & devices.
    I'd buy this phone in a minute.
    Add a mobile hotspot!
    It would be great
  • This is basically the now Nokia 230.
  • So glad this embarrassment didn't make it to market.
  • Maybe someone should make something similar, to connect to your sim-ready ARM NBs.
    So you can have your ARM (long lasting) NB in the bag for heavier tasks, and have this lilo one to handle some light stuff e.g. phone call, messaging, check notification.
  • Many of their phones were already dirt cheap. It's astonishing what MS decided to waste money on while nearly completely ignoring consumers needs/wants.
  • Recent article in WSJ on lower than expected iPhone sales in the largest emerging market, India. Apple is getting destroyed by $200-300 phones. Microsoft should own that market. But I guess the Indian CEO couldn't recognize what's going in in his home country market. Pathetic.
  • He most likely axed the mobile division to placate the loudest stockholder critics, after all what lead to Ballmer's ousting was the acquisition of the d and s division from Nokia. It's simple mathematics - reduce your outlay and your profit goes up and Wall street doesn't like risks. They prefer simple and steady cause it's predictable.
  • Nokia was still huge in the dumb phone market - with MS taking over - they could have gotten that market and possibly leveraged a viable smart phone.....? ie. unlike now.
  • Another missed opportunity for MS. Too bad the foreigners with no creativity or vision have taken control of MS and are chopping the company up across all product lines and handing the business over to the google surveillance state.
  • Lol, yet somehow I think I would rather have one of those than an Adroid or ios...
  • I would give serious consideration to a feature phone that looks and operates like a smartphone...minus the Internet access. Having to revert to multi-pressing buttons to compose texts and Emails would be painful.
  • I think Microsoft can gain the smart feature phone market if they release it, because the sole player,Kai OS is unoptimised and works like a hell(Lumia 520 with 0.5 GB Ram works much better than kai OS phones with similar config). What Microsoft needs is their interest to promote the OS and make it easy for app development. And, If there is a support for higher resolution cam and some modern features like face unlock and fingerprint sensor, then feature phones will surely be the most loved communication devices once again.
  • haha that really funny
  • Well, since I needed new phone with Windows 10 I just purchased brand new HP Elite X3