Windows Phone Secrets: Fast performance, long battery, and more get detailed in this retro-podcast

What you need to know

  • A new video podcast goes behind the scenes of the heyday of Windows Phone.
  • The podcast features Sue Loh and Ben Rudolph, who both worked on Windows Phone back in 2010 and beyond.
  • Learn about how Microsoft prioritized memory, performance, battery life, and more.

Despite being the year 2022, people are still talking about 2012, precisely when Windows Phone reached its more critical phase. In a new podcast by Misty Hays, a senior program manager working on Visual Studio talks to Sue Loh and Ben Rudolph about the now-classic phone OS, the push to challenge Apple and Google, and what made Microsoft's efforts so unique at the time.

While not long at under 40 minutes, the video does hit many high notes that made 2010's Windows Phone 7 one of the most fun mobile operating systems to date. Whether it focused on optimizing memory on the first phones or how the Smoked by Windows Phone campaign started, it's quite the trip down memory lane. Ben and Sue also talk about their favorite phones and what made that OS so good at the time.

Source: Dell (Image credit: Source: Dell)

For those who don't remember, Windows Phone 7 did a lot of firsts at the time. There was a dedicated button for the camera and the famous "Me tile," which had all your social networks under one account so you could see updates as well as cross-post to them with a single click. That was all in addition to the Live Tile and "Metro UI." Both were unlike anything seen at the time or since.

The Live Tile concept was simple: Give users all the information they need with a glance. As Ben notes during the interview, Microsoft was already pushing back on "smartphone addiction," where people would turn on their phones and stare at them endlessly.

Of course, there were issues, too, like updating phones was a bit more problematic, which is why the Me Tile was phased out (changing APIs by the social networks could "break" things quite easily). And coming back from behind against Apple and Google was too little, too late (something ex-CEO Steve Ballmer later lamented). Most consumers never gave Windows Phone a fair shot as the market was already becoming established, something that worsened as the years went on. The so-called war for apps began (remember when companies bragged about how many apps were in their respective stores?) and was forever a thorn in the side for Microsoft.

Windows Phone 7 later turned into Windows Phone 8 (and the ultimate version, Windows Phone 8.1). Still, even that was problematic as all those Windows Phone 7 devices could not upgrade to the new OS due to shifting the architecture and kernel that formed the basis of Windows Phone 8. Instead, those phones got Windows Phone 7.8.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

In 2015, Microsoft would again reboot the OS with Windows 10 Mobile, but Microsoft's market was already losing ground from its peak in 2014. The best-selling Windows Phone was the $99 Lumia 520, which launched in 2013. But in the higher-end, despite incredible devices like the Lumia 920, Lumia 1020, and Lumia 1520, all of which brought Qi wireless, camera OIS, and always-on-displays to the mainstream, never made a dent against the iPhone or the HTC/Samsung/LG army of Android phones.

Interestingly, the podcast seems to have been recorded quite some time ago, as it ends by asking if the participants would be getting the "new" Microsoft Surface Duo, which came out in October 2020. That phone (and its sequel) has not lived up to the hype, although recent updates have finally made both quite good now.

However, despite the nostalgia, as Wolfe noted, you can't go home again, so don't go head to eBay to buy up an old relic.

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.

  • Thinking about how Windows phone was treated is like thinking about how you washed your winning Powerball ticket. I'll never forgive Microsoft for this blunder and how they abandoned their customers.
  • The only blunder is the current CEO of Microsoft.
  • Sure.. Tell that to their stock price.
  • cutting off losses to momentarily boost the stock, wont help the company be relevant for long :) ... its just a shortcut to going bankrupt, since that would work only for now, wont help Microsoft in the long run, nor will it help the shareholders, after all you need a whole ecosystem to make a selling product stay relevant to its users, Windows PC requires Windows mobile, not android, cause its not made by Microsoft, imagine being a software company that cant support or make their own mobile system, enterprise wise, not trustworthy. not to mention the updates, how long are users going to wait for updates? what happens when google decides to sc_w you over? I think I'd rather purchase an android that isn't made by MS, just so that I can avoid the obvious. Long term Microsoft will suffer for this, and unfortunately so will we, its sad to see that this is where Microsoft has come to, Windows 11 has been a good example for it, while its engine/new store/android app support, is a great idea, the execution has turned horrible, the lack of features, functions, the UI disabilities, its quite clear that the people in charge dont know where they're heading with Windows 11, heck they didnt even identity their own market before pushing this "UNFINISHED" product , even though their market is mostly the same... at this point , most people in this comment section would be more than qualified enough to replace the head at Microsoft, CAUSE its clearly empty.
  • Great video - brought back lots of memories. Anyone else remember the Mango, then Tango releases in 2011? Had a launch day (Nov 2010) LG Quantum, only because Microsoft Store (Scottsdale RIP) sold out of the Samsung offering. The HTC one with the speaker that slid out was a no-go. Finally got a Samsung off Craigslist for cheap, used it for a couple years. Was a great phone.
    Moved onto the Nokia 920, which was too heavy and had poor battery life, onto the 1020 which was the most perfect phone I've used ever with still the best camera, then to a 1520, then down to a 950 where it all ended because the 950 had poor battery life again. Best thing about the 950 was the virtual desktop dock, MSFT could have made this into a winner. I presented a powerPoint at a conference using only my phone with the dock. Two things doomed the phone:
    1. The carriers didn't support it. When I picked up my first iPad in a BestBuy (march 2012) the Verizon rep had never seen a Windows Phone. Same experience at AT&T in multiple locations - they either had them in the back (no one wants those), or just didn't know anything about them. Many times didn't even have them in stock.
    2. Too many devices - back to my HTC comment, the earlier versions of the phones were all mismatched repurposed hardware, and the later versions focusing on Nokia the numbering system was all off. Big, small, slow, fast, whatever but it wasn't easy to comprehend for the average user. Something else that was a mistake was saying all phones (WP7) were upgradable, and then saying "never mind". Right after the first Nokia 900 came out, they were bricks. Just a few months ago finally got an iPhone, and I'd still trade it all to be able to use my 1020 again with all the apps I need. MSFT really blew a good opportunity. I have little to no interest in the Duo/Duo2 given how much I already invested in the WP stack only to be left behind.
  • Bad battery, perhaps? I can still get about 3 days of stand-by out of my Lumia 950, which I purchased in 2016 and is still my daily driver.
  • What a coincidence! I charged my Lumia yesterday after a long time being in the drawer. And based on the last pic I took, it's been there for more than a year I guess. But it's working as expected. I can still take pics, watch videos on MyTube, chat on Telegram, use Twitter, save articles on Poki to read offline... It's still useful 😁, and I should take advantage of that. I love the OS.
  • Haha! Me too! I pulled my 950 XL out of my bag of old hardware and cables and fired it up. Wow... scrolling through the Microsoft News app was a smooth as butter!
  • Sooo many things were a breakthrough with WP. Something as simple as the search field being at the bottom of the phone, the amazing photo gallery layout. The good ol' days.
  • I agree supported the os from the 1st batch of phones with HTC HD 7 to lumia 950xl. I miss the os for me still the best os I have used. That said I like the direction Microsoft is going with the Duo. Own end duo and live it. Had mine just over a month now and for me not had many issues and adapted well to how the device is to be used and as a IT person fits into my day to day life very well. Still miss windows phone thought.
  • I wish I never parted with the Lumia 920... That was a beast. It would have been awesome if it was supported on Verizon's network at the time.
  • I still have my LG Quantum. My daily driver is an android phone with Launcher 10.
  • The problem with Windows Phone/mobile, is that with the right usage being most users who use their device with love and care, this device would outlive and outlast most other mobile devices. making it a sales blunder for a business that wants users to purchase a new device off them every 2 to 3 years, this could be one of the hidden reasons to why its own creators strangled it off slowly...
  • Microsoft was trying to get into the App Store game which is where the real cash flow is at. Of course, having many people first but into the hardware is the initial challenge... Without a sufficient adoption rate of the hardware, then the App Store would be doomed too.
  • Yup. Chicken and egg problem: users don't want a phone with no apps, app developers don't want to write apps for a platform with no users. I had thought MS would solve this by providing a bunch of big name apps and games ONLY on Windows Phone, so that at least it would be a wash in the minds of customers (e.g., "Yeah, Instagram is not on Windows Phone but Halo and Outlook are only on Windows Phone."). But MS refused to make even their own apps run better, well, or even at all in some cases on Windows Phone, ensuring they could never even make that case. In Microsoft's defense on this, they were making a choice to protect the larger products and services like Office 365, by ensuring it ran well wherever its users were. They didn't want to risk losing Office Users to competing options just to try to bolster Windows Phone sales. From their perspective, don't risk a $20B business to help a $1B business. Certainly people could debate the merit of that thinking, but it was not just poor execution, it was a strategic decision they made in prioritizing their business lines. The other big revenue opportunity in mobile is search advertising. If Microsoft had had more users, they would have stuck with it just for that, but without more apps, no users, see above.
  • Right, and then there was the "we have 47 of the top 50 apps, or something equivalent". Users wanted the official app, not a similar one loaded with ads to pay for it.
    MSFT could have, and should have (IMO) paid the companies to develop native apps. Example:
    Delta had a flyDelta app, which was good enough, but no where near as comprehensive as theiw iOS version.
  • I can believe that. Even with my current daily-driving Lumia 950, my old Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 830 re still functioning well. All they need is a brand new screen replacement and a new camera sensor for the 950 XL, and I'm good to go.
  • The Picture hub was so sweet. So sweet. When a friend posted a photo in FB those pictures naturally flowed into picture hub. No words required. Just the photos. Aesthetically, I have yet to find a phone OS as beautiful as WP 7. From the Music App. The 10 free songs per month with a Music subscription. It took me a while before I went to WP 8.x because WP7 was so beautiful. I finally had to give up WP 8.x recently because my cell phone company was shuttering 3G networks. So, what to do? Purchased a Lumia 950XL. I really like that phone. But I'll say 8.x and 10.x don't hold a candle to WP 7.x. I still on occasion turn on my HTC Radar and only wish this OS could be in an updated phone.
  • The Zune/Music app was a work of art, and it integrated soooo nicely with the Zune marketplace. RIP.
  • Do they talk about why WP7 shipped with no copy and paste ability? In 2010? A full three years after the original iPhone? Stupid things like that are why it never stood a chance.
  • The iPhone also didn't ship with Copy and Paste and didn't add it for a long time. I don't recall if it had it before Windows Phone, but if it did, it wasn't by much. I agree that was a problem though -- one of the reasons at the time I preferred my Palm Pre -- a UI nicer than the iPhone (back then, Android's was just awful), with a superior form factor, the messaging strengths of Blackberry (with its amazing slide-out portrait keyboard), and similar app development model to Android. But I jumped over to Windows Phone when Palm fell, because Microsoft, unlike Palm, could afford to fund a competing phone. Microsoft always won in the end, even if they didn't have it right on the first pass. Persevere until dominant was the MS way, right? Plus with those Live Tiles, the Hubs, the camera button, Xbox Live integration, the Kids zone..., it was a better option than iOS or Android. At least that was my thinking at the time... :-)
  • I miss WP soooo much! Android doesn't even come close to how WP worked, functionally or astatically.
  • Great watch, thanks for posting this. Ben's an old friend (he had interned and then worked for me before taking on his impactful role at MS) and probably deserves credit for starting my shift to Windows Phone back at the start. It wasn't immediate, because I was a die-hard Palm Pre user at the time. I was interested in the Dell Venue Pro (the one in the picture above), because it had a similar form factor with the slideout keyboard in portrait mode, but I don't think it was ever available on my carrier. When Palm threw-in the towel shortly after, Windows Phone was my natural destination. I started with some HTC with a landscape slideout keyboard, before moving over to the Lumia phones. Ben and Sue both made great points about the strengths of Windows Phone. I agree with all of those strengths and miss them to this day. One big item I would add to the list, though it was limited to only some of the Lumia models: Glance. There's still nothing as efficient as Glance on a phone. It's crazy to me that with AMOLED screens which would use virtually no battery to display limited info on the screen, we still can't do that. With the DUO line especially, in tent mode, that would be so perfect. And from my Palm Pre, I miss the phone being smart enough to know that when it's plugged in, the screen could automatically have a different display -- clock, mail, whatever. No need to shut off the screen to save battery if it's plugged in (and the Pre had this brilliant magnetic wireless charger, so the phone would snap to it by magnets, always at the right angle facing you, charge and turn on its charging display... Combine that with Glance with a tent-mode Duo sitting on your desk and it would be perfect.
  • Oh, and Xbox Live integration. That was clearly the killer feature that would ensure Windows Phone beat both Apple and Google with the gamers. How could they compete with Xbox Live integration? And while not everyone bought a phone for games, entertainment was obviously important to smartphone buyers in the market for an iPhone or Android phone, or else they would still have just bought a Blackberry, which was still significantly better for the work-aspects of a smartphone in those days. Microsoft clearly had the best combination of work and Entertainment features on their hands. To this day, I wonder why MS so completely dropped the ball on the Xbox integration. It always felt to me like some Windows Phone exec thought that was a throw-away feature and missed the opportunity to at least be dominant among that segment of the market. And without that, there were no other definable market segments who needed a Windows Phone over the other options. I don't know if dominance among gamers would have made a difference, but gamers have driven computer technology advances for decades, so I suspect it would have helped, and maybe that's all it would have needed for MS to not have thrown in the towel a few years later... In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore writes about the importance when launching a new product of identifying a core niche market where your feature set will be the best option to members of that initial group. Build rabid loyalty among that group, then grow it one segment at a time with relevant feature additions to each new segment until you effectively have a mass market product. The key is to find the best combination of strengths that would be relevant to that initial niche. While MS Office was certainly one (and I think MS handled that reasonably well), another was its ability to offer key features relevant to gamers. It started out so well with the simple feature of allowing gamers to add points to their Gamerscore through Windows Phone games and talk of cross play or other features between phone and Xbox, but then MS dropped the ball, punctured it, pissed on it, and then just lost it in the trash. Massive waste of opportunity and poor strategic planning. At least to this outsider's eyes.
  • You haven't been paying attention if you think there is nothing like Glance on phones today. The Android world is full of AoD (always-on display) implementations that are much better than Glance ever was.
  • Not that I've seen in terms of providing useful info on messages to avoid needing to turn on the screen or know when it's necessary to. Part of the problem may just be that Android's notification system is generally a mess compared to Windows Phone's in that there's no way to have differential notifications at a glance for messages vs. non-message app notices, resulting in a numbing information overflow or requiring to turn off notices on everything but messaging, so any AOD that relies on that will have a hard time measuring up to Glance. That said, it's certainly possible there's a third-party app that would blow me away and I'm just ignorant about it. Any suggestions?
  • You guys must be living in some future that I haven't gotten to yet. ha ha Ok, I'm still using windows 7.8 phone on a Quantum LG. Really. (i do have a lumia 650 as my next phone, when 3g goes down).
    And I did get a surface duo1, but only to use as a tablet, since i hate android. so .... to me, i'm not looking back. i'm still using the same windows phone.
    it has never gone away. [i have replaced it twice, with the same model,
    but each time it costs $40-$60 for a used one]. i still love the zune musicplayer, built in FM radio, headphone jack, hardware keyboard
    and replaceable battery. i will miss it later this year, when i have to switch to windows phone 10. later
  • I really miss Windows Phone, I bought more than a hundred apps and games on it but totally lost interest in mobile phones when it ended. I've only bought 1 app since, I don't care at all about my phone anymore. Barring a comeback by WP, I wish cheap Blackberry 7 devices and plans were still an option. My Lumia 1020 was by far best phone I ever had and it will never be beat.
  • Even with modern smartphone's software processing, no one can ever truly beat the Lumia 1020 (and also the 808 PureView)'s true-to-life realisitic image processing. I am so impressed with the whole PureView algorithm that I even sold my Sony NEX-3N Mirrorless camera.
  • Okay but it was never fast. Opening "Microsoft News", Facebook, Whatsapp, messenger.... All of them took 10x longer to open that an android phone of the same era. You had to just sit and stare at the splash screen, then a loading spinner. I have this supposedly flagship Lumia that even came with an HDMI dock/keyboard/mouse for that "desktop experience" and even this best and latest windows phone was agonizingly slow. I still have it I could demonstrate.
  • It used to happen to my Lumia 830 until I increased the virtual memory via Interop unlock. Since then, I really cannot see any kind of lag coming. I also do the same with my Lumia 950 XL and it shows the same thing - absolute no lag when using multiple apps.
  • I got on in the wp8 days, it was so much fun. I've since moved onto motorola with microsoft launcher. Motorola seems like the only company out there that still puts extremely useful, yet simple, features in the same spirit as windows phone. camera and flashlight gestures, among many other things.
  • I used to genuinely love using my Windows Phone. My Android phone by comparison is just a necessary evil I have to put up with.
  • I loved and miss my Lumia 1520, to this day it is the best smartphone I've ever used.
  • Still starting my Lumia from time to time. Think many that tried wp really liked it.
    I own both iphone and android devices but still misses wp..
  • I an using Android since WhatsApp has dropped their official support for Windows Phone since January 2020, but even custom ROM couldn't make it completely replace my Lumia 950.
  • I used to be in the Android bandwagon until I got myself a Nokia Lumia 830 in July 2016. That was my first venture into the Windows Phone and I definitely not regretting it. To see the Lumia 830 with just 1GB RAM and Snapdragon 400 chipset can give a much better overall performance than my previous Android phone is completely mind boggling. Even to this day, I'm still rocking Windws Phone as my daily driver with the Lumia 950 that I bought back in August 2020. All that is left is for me to get the Nokia Lumia 1020 and also the HP Elite X3, and my collection will be complete.
  • It is not often one encounters a collector of Windows phones these days. I have 5 Windows 10 phones myself (4 different models), which I tell myself is necessary should my faithful old Lumia 950 daily driver ever die, or my (main) carrier switches off their 2G network so I'd have to "upgrade" to my HP Elite X3 to keep using dual SIMs. Was none too pleased when Microsoft recently rolled out a new API for their To Do app, an app I use regularly, which meant the To Do for Windows Mobile (last published in 2018) no longer syncs across devices. Now I have to find the time to write my own reminders app on the To Do API. The joys of still using a Windows phone, I guess.