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Microsoft unveils Windows Phone 7.8 update for current hardware

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.8

The question of what Microsoft would do for those current Windows Phone users who have generation 1 and generation 1.5 devices like the HTC Titan or the highly popular Nokia Lumia 900 for Windows Phone 8 has finally been answered.

Windows Phone 8’s main features involve new hardware like multi-core processors, NFC and higher resolution displays. Phones like the Lumia 900 cannot take advantage of these new features but Windows Phone 8 also brings additional changes to the Start screen which current users can take advantage of.

In able to ensure that current customers have the best and latest from Microsoft, the company is officially offering Windows Phone 7.8 as an OS upgrade. Windows Phone 7.8 will still be based on the CE kernel and won’t enable advanced Windows Phone 8 features like app and games that use native programming, but it will give current users the new Start screen and appearance of Windows Phone 8.

The new Start screen in Windows Phone 8 has three new elements, including

  • Variable tile sizes, including user customizable selection between small, medium and so-called “double wide” tiles
  • Removal of the “gutter” aka “the gap” known as the off-centered space to the right of the Start screen. The gutter was a carry-over from the Zune days but now Tiles will be evenly distributed on the Start screen
  • New tile colors – yes, while the 10 + 1 model of Accent colors for Windows Phone carried us for nearly two years, Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.8 will offer a wider selection of colors

Although not being able to directly upgrade to the new NT kernel of Windows Phone 8 may be a bit of a letdown for current users, the Windows Phone 7.8 upgrade should offer new Windows Phone users nearly the same experience considering their lack of advanced hardware.

Update: Nokia just announced Play To DLNA support, Counters for data information, Nokia Music 3.0 and Camera Extras for all current Lumia phones

Do you think it’s a fair compromise and are you satisfied? Let us know in comments.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • I mean kind of idk
  • Reskinning the UI, BFD.  We need Wallet sans the Tap to Pay NFC stuff (hell bring even that to the 610!)  We need the in app purchasing capability via Wallet so it will spur existing developers to keep updating 7.8 apps.
    I'd like the VOIP capabilities but I suspect they are offloading the call to the other core.
    Basically if it doesn't require dual cores, give it to us!
  • Well I do believe in the keynote they said there's some other things coming in the 7.8 update. But mane I miss understood that part.
    So Microsoft announce another product that won't be available for months. But worse, they announce that none of the current products will be compatible with it. The nascent Windows Phone market is already tiny in comparison with iOS and Android. This is just going to stop it in its tracks until October. Who in their right minds will buy a WinPho now?
    Does Microsoft have ANY commercial acumen at the top at all?
  • Incidentally, I actually quite like the 'gutter'. Removing it makes the WinPho look much more akin to an iOS device.
  • Dude, you always complain about the most retarded things! Go learn a trade and quitcherbitchin... =/
  • Wow.. Relax....
  • A common reason for announcing a product before it's ready, in spite of the negative impact to near-term sales, is the long-term impact on market share. MS has, as you point out, sacrificed the near-term sales in older to generate buzz and keep some current customers from moving to iOS or Android when existing contracts expire, by letting them know there's an updated Windows Phone model for them "coming soon."
    Whether this is better or worse in the long-run for MS is unclear, but I'm sure they weighed the pros and cons. I suspect they considered this and concluded that at their current market share, they have the luxury of having little to lose. They also seem to have gone out of their way to show that current hardware will get the updates that make sense (the non-hardware oriented updates) with Windows Phone 7.8 and still run future software. This will take some of the bite out of the announcement for Nokia and the other hardware vendors who are counting on their Windows Phone revenue between now and Windows Phone 8 and still have existing inventory to sell.
    Lastly, I don't think there's anything shocking in this announcement. We all knew that Windows Phone 8 was coming this fall, so bringing some clarity to the fuzzy future is reasonable and helpful to the consumer side of the marketplace. This may also be the beginning of a steady drumbeat of new information leading up to the release. That's also a standard approach to keep the product in the news for max publicity and market awareness by the time of release.
  • Comments like yours should not be allowed. It was well thought out, reasoned, good grammar and punctuation, informed, and a pleasure to read. Only comments that appear to be written by someone whose head has been slammed repeatedly by his knee can post here.
  • But will it run Crysis?
  • No
  • At least we weren't forgotten
  • Exactly. Im satisfied now
  • Exactly.  I have owned my phone for almost 2 years so I cannot complain as tech/phones change constantly and would hinder the growth of WP's if they had to continue to cater to older, my phone, in general.  I am more than happy to get the new start screen! 
    Give me data/memory transfer so when I buy a new phone I can continue my games...that is what I care about most.
  • Yep. My 900 is only 2 months old, and I am ok with this. It would be nice to have wallet, and VOIP, but I understand that it may have limitations on current hardware.
  • Nice job Microsoft! This is still a nice way to offer costumers a Windows Phone 8 experience!
  • I will be selling my 900 considering it sounds like we are gonna be left out of some apps....color me disappointed...
  • Make that two
  • Make that three
  • Make that four. (waiting til September then getting rid of it)
  • umm... Five.. But yeah tech industry.. I don't really care too much though until I start getting messages like "umm.. Dude you need two cores for this" When that times comes color me disappointed but if that time is when my contract is up I won't mind at all :D
    For those Nokia Lumia 900 owners, who just have decided to sell your Lumia 900 because of this announcement, I am more than happy to buy the Lumia 900 from you. Let me know, when you are ready to sell.
    Of course, one lucky winner.
  • Yeah, I mean, I figured that the single-core Lumia 900 using an old Snapdragon wasn't going to be able to run a lot of the new stuff... but I'm still disappointed at the reality of it.  Oh well.
  • You knew when the 900 came out that Windows 8 was coming in the fall. Don't be disappointed when you could have very easily held out a little longer for what's coming. I like the 900's myself but held back so I could take advantage and get the OS upgrade and a new Nokia when they become available.
    ......and maybe one of those new Surface Tablets as well
  • I agree.  I understand being bummed out, but it was known wp8 was going to be introduced and there is no way current tech would on par with 'all' of wp8.  Lumia 900 is a sweet phone and the update to 7.8 is great, imo.  Shoot, I have an ipad2 and I knew apple will shoot out another ipad every year and I will miss out on applications because of this.  This is how tech world moves.  Shoot, I have some games on my ipad that I cannot update because the update uses tech for the new ipad3. 
    I guess what I am saying is each year we should expect changes and not all of them will coexist with our current hardware.
  • Selling my five months old Omnia W. Doubt I will be getting another WP.
  • Of course they just de-valued it, whose gonna buy a device that can't di everything
  • Considering you're not that smart, LOTS of new stuff is coming for the current Lumias, you're whining for nothing at all! Stuff a sock in it... =p
  • Make that six
  • Not exactly happy considering the fact that developers will jump on the native code bandwagon to take advantage of the performance, so there's a problem IMO.
    Still, it's the best they can get now.
  • Now tell me how this is gonna play out. As a developer you want to write an app and make money from it. Are you gonna write it such that at least 20 million people give or take has access to or just, well, zero?. Trust me most apps are still gonna work with current devices for at least another year.
  • Exactly.
    People are so damn stupid sometimes.
    Do you REALLY think developers are all going to run right out and make a bunch of apps that only run on WP8 when WP7 apps will run on BOTH WP7 AND WP8 and the installed base of WP7 phones is 20 million plus and WP8 will take YEARS to reach that?
    It makes absolutely no sense. 
    It will be at LEAST a year before you see any significant number of WP8 only apps and even then it will be a slow start. 
    So by all means, race out and sell your WP7 phones and buy new ones and hurry up and wait for that avalanche of WP8 apps which is going to take a minimum 12-18 months to arrive. Or sell your WP7 phone in protest and go buy a buggy Android. Whatever.
    Some of you are a bunch of impatient, immature children. It's ridiculous. Only an idiot who doesn't have the slightest understanding of how software development works would think WP7 phones are going to magically be left high and dry the day after the first WP8 phone goes on sale. Bunch of overreacting jackasses. 
  • Legacy?  You mean the devices that are selling TODAY for $99/$199 with a 24-month contract?
    Yikes MSFT.  As a Titan II owner, I guess I understand but am disappointed that my phone is already "Legacy."
  • That's very true. You can walk in to At&T and get a brand new Lumia and already be a legacy device? That's not right.
  • "Right" or not, Legacy is a technical term, meaning -- in this context -- "hardware that we built to in our last generation." From the standpoint of WP8, which is still being developed, and is being developed to a new hardware spec, *everything* currently on the market would be considered "legacy."
    This is not a new concept: in every software domain, the moment anyone starts developing against a new standard, the current standard becomes "legacy." It's not meant to be an insult.
  • As someone in the software world, this is very difficult to make a consumer understand..
    just like a car losing value as soon as you drive it off the lot, the phone you walk out the store with is worth less and on a OS that is outdated..
    People expect too much and make alot of demands...
  • I think AT&T is still selling the 3G iPhone if you're looking for an up-to-date phone.
  • You nailed it. Wonder if there will be buyback programs similar to iPhone
  • When did apple have a buy back program for the iPhone?? I work for ATT and I dont remember ever having an iPhone buyback program because a new model came out. AT&T does have a buy back program but that's for any type of phone, not just iPhone.
  • I was just about to say that and doesn't it cost $150? I do know that the apple store direct wants $150 to exchange the iphone 4 to 4s
  • Well it's better than nothing. Too bad I'm stuck in a 2 year contract before I can upgrade. That's ages in technology years!
  • If you haggle w/ your provider, you can prob upgrade after 1yr or 18 months... I do it all the time w/ at&t
  • T-Mo lets you upgrade after 21 but you can argue 19. 
    Good to know I have options now though.  7.8 will carry my DVP until I get a WP 8 device.  I'm cool with that.  Had a good run.  Pre-Nodo, No-do, Mango, 8107, 7.8 is respectable. 
  • I can understand that current hardware doesn't have dual-core SOC's or NFC, but is a DC SOC really needed for Windows 8 kernel/core?  That's something I would love to know.  I hope all of the Windows 8 features they have shown (minus NFC) are coming to Windows Phone 7.8.
  • The answer to that is yes, its hard. Kernels and chipsets are messy business.
  • Well, assume for a minute that Microsoft is so full of awesome that they'd spare no expense to modify the Win8 kernel and all of their code so it can run on older devices. You'd still be screwed, because the OEMs would never agree to rewrite ALL of their chipset drivers to switch from the WinCE driver model to the Win8 driver model. It's just a fundamental incompatibility issue that's not feasible to solve. So I think the fact that Microsoft is committing resources to bring a good chunk of Apollo functionality back to Mango shows how much they do care about their "legacy" customers, and that they are in fact pretty full of awesome. They totally didn't have to do that.
  • Exactly! I am very pleased with what MS has done here.
  • I'm happy for any update MS will give me to look like Windows Phone 8 with customizable tiles and some.
  • Wrong. They had to do that our risk alienating every single customer who's bought into the platform in the last 8 months. I can't imagine how that would register on the Richter scale of nerdrage across the internets.
  • While I understand hardware limitations, I am very disappointed that I will not be running 8 on my Gen 1 device.
  • If wishes were crackers, my daughter would be fed... =/
  • LMAO!
  • What I am disappointed about is that good ole AT&T withheld my 8107 update thus not giving me a back up point since Mango, In that amount of time I was doomed to loose the messages concerning birth of grandchild with the videos and back and forth on that event. Now don't get me wrong I really have loved my phone, but there is another "but" as when my "Legacy" device had a hardware problem and needed to be replaced under warranty, that is when I found what that 8107 update cost me in not only unrecoverable memory loss but I also found that Microsoft had no regular back up or recovery through Zune I had mistakingly assumed each time I synced to Zune on my computer restore points were being made (thanks to Skdrive and Snapcrowd )I had backed up all photos and music.Now I am unable to reinstall any pre-paid apps and what ever personalization in those apps, but am also out of luck on any of the hundreds of personalizations we all put hours into our phones making lists etc. etc. . The replacement phone is identical to original but there being no recovery or backup I have lost any data such as assigned ring tones groupings text msg strings and on and on, the replacement phone is effectively a do over the day I first walked out of AT&T. You just can not believe how much "tweaking" this involves over many months of using your phone, what have all of the people who have upgraded their phones done about having to start over each time they have bought a new or replacement phone ? Guess I should have figured a way to back all of this up before my device failure, did MSFT provide a way to migrate I was just too stupid to find?
    Truly sorry for the rant but venting some how makes me feel a little less screwed for never getting the 8107 that I think would have saved or at least lessened my data losses.
  • I think this is the biggest flaw in the current Windows Phone implementation. However, one of your concerns - access to paid apps -- is possible. Just go back to the app you bought in the Marketplace and go to purchase it again. The system knows from your Windows Live ID (assuming you're still using the same one) that you've already bought the apps and will not require you to pay again.
    Pictures and music should be backed up in Zune. All your pictures will be in a sub folder in your "My Pictures" folder. They will not automatically be copied back over to your phone, but you can do this in Zune by dragging them back onto the phone.
    But you're right about everything else. All other data, phone and text history, customization, game progress/scores, etc. is lost and needs to be rebuilt from scratch. I had 3 stars on every level of Angry Birds (already repeated from having done that on my previous Palm Pre), and now after re-installing the app (for free at least), all the levels are locked again as if I've never played the game.
    Interestingly, some apps do seem to maintain their data, like the destination list in the GPS directional software. I think this means that the apps themselves could also do something to save your data on their own servers, if they wanted. It's just that almost none of them seem to do that, and they shouldn't have to. MS should do what you said - backup everything each time you sync, especially since that is done by connecting to your own personal computer anyway (it's not like it's taking up space on their servers or eating up carrier bandwidth).
  • Completely fair.  Excited for the update.
  • I agree.
  • Me too.
  • Fair!
  • People whine too much. This is fair by a long shot seeing as how we can't upgrade the hardware. And they'll continue to develop apps for us.
  • I agree. And many people seem upset at HTC and Nokia for releasing phones which so soon are "Legacy", but 1. Nokia needed the money and 2. would you rather we only had our first-gen devices for the year or two that many of us have? It was the logical move, and Windows Phone 8 is going to rock.
  • +1. The reality is most people don't care that their phone doesn't get upgraded so long as it still works fine. What percent of current Android and iOS devices will NOT be able to run the full version of Jelly Bean (assuming this comes out this fall as I would expect) and iOS? I know plenty of people that have said they were waiting for Windows Phone 8 before getting one. Actually, I know more people that were waiting for WP8 than WP7.5 users.
    I bought my Lumia 710 off contract and, until PureView comes to Windows Phone, I see no reason to buy a Windows Phone 8 device. Only the truly die-hard users ever buy all the latest devices. Since most of the world is far from being a die-hard user, I don't think 7.8 vs 8.0 is really going to cause much more than a blip of a fraction of a percent in marketshare with people that refuse to buy a Windows Phone again vs. how many people are going to buy a Windows Phone 8 because it's what they were waiting for or because they were so happy with their Windows Phone 7.5.
  • +1
  • Well said.
  • I agree also.  I am glad they didn't forget us.  Very excited for the update.  My Lumia 900 is the best phone I have ever had, so I am excited about extending it's life.
  • Damn
  • As expected..
    tbh, expecting WP8 to run on  current devices would be much like iPhone running OS X
  • Glad I didn't upgrade... hello windows phone 8.
  • I'm fine with this.  I was going to buy an new WP8 device anyway.  Hopefully with Pureview. 
  • Exactly my thought when I preordered Lumia 900. Plus wp8 update is still months away. I guess I'll be fine for the time being.
  • Yeah by the time it's out I probably want a new phone. I'm never on contracts they are evil.
  • Microsoft had to do something like this otherwise they would be undoing all the good work they have built with WP7. The 7.8 update is a compromise, but im thinking of a the Lumia 900 owners here, they've kind of been cheated in a way.
  • As a Lumia 900 owner, I'm not sure I'm dissapointed.  I would really need to see what features will be available in 7.8 versus 8 (minus all of the hardware features that would require newer devices.)
  • I'm a little disappointed, yet happy.
  • I don't think so. They also showed some nice Nokia-exclusive app upgrades that will be coming in 7.8. Under the circumstances, I think MS really did well with this. It could have been a nightmare disaster (I'm looking at you, Android ICS.) In fact, I'm tempted to pick up a gently used 900 off eBay for cheap when the WP8 devices start rolling out. 
  • You can pick mine up now if you like! Just reply to this message with a means of contact. Mine is very gently used! l
  • I'm a little disappointed that the most recent phones aren't going to support WP8.  Not having native games is a bit of a bummer.  At the same time, I get it.  The hard part is the original WP7 customers will be able to upgrade, but the newest customers get hosed in the long run.
  • So glad I held off from buying the lumia. Took everything I had to keep using this focus.
  • Yes, good job Dickhole! =D
  • i would think that the lack of NT kernel means a halt in new app development? If this is true, then this really sucks because no more new apps will be released
  • But we were expecting native gaming on current handsets
  • exactly!!! :(
  • Guys, lets not blame MS for this flop; I too am a Lumia 900 owner yet I don't blame them. The manufacturers knew all about Apollo and chose to put the L900 & Titan II out with lower specs/screens than Apollo requires (We should pressure them to implement a buy back or something). They knew all about Apollo's Kernel, etc before release these lated devices.
  • I agree about not blaming MS but I wouldn't expect oems to put money into hardware the OS didnt support. Image having a dual core WP7 with HD display and NFC, but never being able to use the features (or if this was able to upgrade to wp8, doubtful, you'd have to wait a while). In the world of technology this makes no sense.
  • I agree it was very short sighted of Nokia to release the 900 with legacy hardware... How cool would it have been if the Nokia guy came out and said and buy the way any 900 user qualify cause we put a DC chip in ;). Oh well, its mostly a good phone. And that start screen look cool.
  • "Fools! That would NEVER work!." ...My name IS...
  • As an HTC Arrive user waiting on a new Windows Phone option on Sprint, I am excited that we will be getting some of the features of WP8 to tide us over. Its not a perfect solution as initially there will be some fragmenting of the market, but it is better than just leaving us legacy users behind. Very excited about the future of WP!
  • I have an Arrive as well. You're right, assuming that Sprint will bother pushing out this update.
  • I think Sprint has abandoned ship, which is too bad since I love the Arrive.  7.8 will be a nice hold over, but as soon as I'm off contract in the Spring I'm grabbing the first WP8 Nokia with a keyboard.
  • I agree.  Not sure why sprint even carried the device since they did ZERO in the way of selling, pushing, or training their employees about the device. 
  • Paul Thurrott is claiming that WP 7.8 will be pushed to all customers by Microsoft -- not the carriers.  Of course, this is the same Paul Thurrott that was adamant that there would be no such upgrade at all, so who knows.
  • Casting my "me too!" in here. It's great we're getting a little something. Can't wait to see it!
  • Just another Sprint Arrive user chiming in. I say, something is better than nothing at all. I'm good with this. I think they're kinda meeting us halfway, and that is a fair shake and then some. But yes, here is hoping SPRINT gets on the ball and pushes this update to us, if at all!!! (not to mention pick up three or four WP8 handsets)
  • Same thing. I've been wanting to switch to AT&T, but by the time my contract ends, Sprint may have WP8 devices out.
  • Eh. Not really excited. I've only had my phone since last November. Now I'm stuck with a phone that's going to miss out on alot of new and exciting apps unless I fork over another 500 - 600 off contract. /sigh
  • Sell it then buy a new one.
  • Yeah that's probably what I'll end up doing. I think my first purchase is going to be a surface tablet though. :)
  • Your wp7 handsets are frickin worthless now, there will be a boat load of suppliers trying to off load them, who the feck is gunna sign up for a two year contract on a dead platform.
  • Not sure how my handset is worthless...I am using it now...seems ok.
  • YOU'RE a freaking dead platform nablor!!! =P Sorry, I couldn't resist...
  • If I remember correctly, cant you buy out of a contract for like $150???
  • They are giving us as much as they can with hardware limitations.  The new layout and other built in features are exactly what we needed. Hardware required things like Native support (New Kernel), NFC ect I wasn't expecting.
  • Agreed.
  • Exactly! I wish more people would understand this!
  • What about migration/backup support for current phones?
  • I doubt there will be any (as much as I would like to see it)
  • I think the compromise is just fine (: im still going to be getting me some new hardware but in the mean time while I save up for a new phone. I still get enjoy some of windows phone 8 features on my titian. :D
  • Its fair, thanks time I'll be more patient. Just like retina mac pro..waiting for 13inch instead of spending 2k. I'll get a wp8 device next year ;)
  • Dunno what I think till we see what the 7.8 fully includes other then start
  • Perfectly fair, I'm satisfied with this compromise.
  • Hopefully Microsoft will still try get games pushed out to WP7 when it comes to LIVE Enabled Titles either way I'm fine with my Phone in the future I think I want to get a Microsoft Surface :P My current HTC Trophy does a fine job right now for when I'm out and about or fancy playing a game!
    Phone Screens are not just big enough to play anything that tries to use Virtual Analog Sticks anyways its a awful experiance!
  • When was this announced? I have been watching the Windows Phone Summit and didn't hear this mentioned. 
    As a Lumia 800 owner I am annoyed.
  • Today... Right now.
  • The press was briefed on this bit of detail prior to the event. The embargo was lifted at 10am so they're sharing this with the world now.
  • I hope you're directing that at Nokia and HTC because both of them knew about Apollo prior to releasing the 900 & Titan II. I appreciate MS making and effort to provide us with an upgrade but hoping cellular carrier offer a trade-in. We as users also know multi-cores and betters screen were coming but we couldn't display a little patience....That a fact, so blame yourself as well!
  • Its a good thing I got my trophy free from that ms store challenge offer or I would be pissed. Hello fragmentation!
  • You're missing the point,we get everything WP8 gets except for native code apps. Can't say the same for Android
  • All we know is we get that new start screen. Native coded programs won't run. It's not clear if important features like the direct skype integration will come (don't think so). They will use a little paint to make Windows 7 look like Windows 8 and then abandon it.
  • Define Fragmentation for me thks
  • Yeah! Define fragmentation for me, too. I keep seeing that word bandied about and after I finish reading their post I'm left with the thought that I didn't know a lobotomy was elective surgery.
  • So MS should freeze their capabilities circa 2010?  This isn't fragmentation, it's evolution.  It seems like non-hardware dependendant WP8 features will appear on ALL WP7 devices.  I can show you Android devices sold less than 6 months ago still rocking Froyo.  This is the opposite of fragmentation, it's the rollout of a new OS, and oh by the way a SECOND OS to give legacy users as close to the new experience as hardware allows.  Google only wishes they could keep their ecosystem this integrated.
  • +1
  • Precisely.
    It's refreshing to see there is at least one person here who knows what the word fragmentation means when it comes to OS's. There are too many clueless idiots throwing that word lately. 
  • I think this is a very fair compromise. Knowing that many of the new features of Appollo are hardware related (i.e. resolution, NFC, multicore support), at least they're giving early adopters some sort of Appollo love and not much of a fragmentation issue.
    Cool! Way cool!
  • Early Adopters..?
    I got my L710 in January and now its old.....
    We are cheated.. :'(