In the landscape of mobile operating systems, Windows Phone did not exist very long (2010-2017). It was never very popular, but Microsoft gave it some cool new ideas. Some of these ideas ended up being ahead of their time.
Windows Phone 7 eventually became Windows Phone 8 and then Windows 10 Mobile, but the same issues followed it with each iteration, like where were the third-party apps? It still had a serious impact on the mobile industry.
If there’s one area where Microsoft was unquestionably ahead of the curve, perhaps even responsible for starting the trend, it’s Windows Phone’s minimalist design.
The first version of Windows Phone was released in 2010 and it looked like what you see in the image at the top of this page: very minimalistic and flat; white icons on solid color tiles. Meanwhile, Android 2.3 Gingerbread looked like this and iOS 4 looked like this.
It doesn’t take a degree in software design to see that these Android and iPhone designs haven’t aged well, while the Windows Phone user interface could easily pass for a modern operating system. Apple and many Android device makers embraced more minimalist and flat designs in the years that followed.
Applications in the form of widgets
Speaking of minimalist design, one of the standouts of this design was the Live Tiles. Android had been making widgets for a while and the iPhone was a few years away from adding its own. Live Tiles existed somewhere in between.
The Live Tiles were an amalgamation of the icons and widgets typical of home screen apps. Rather than having separate app icons and widgets, Windows Phone Live Tiles was both. A live tile can be a small static icon or expanded into a large widget with dynamic information.
Apple has somewhat adopted a similar idea with its widgets, which were introduced in iOS 14. They’re still separate from the home screen app icons, but visually they look like extended app icons. . The app name label is even still displayed below. It wouldn’t be crazy to see Apple finally embrace the Windows Phone implementation.
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Light and dark mode
Both Android and iPhone now have full dark and light modes, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, they both added it back in 2019, when it had been included as a Windows Phone day one feature since 2010.
The system-wide dark and light themes we see in Android and iPhone these days work very similarly to Windows Phone. Many UI elements and even apps supporting the feature would adapt to the system theme. Microsoft nailed this nearly a decade before Apple and Google.
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Adaptive color themes
Android 12 introduced a new theme system called “Material You”. It uses your wallpaper to create a color palette applied to many areas of your phone. Accent colors can be found in the Quick Settings panel, system apps, and even third-party apps that support them.
This is another feature that Windows Phone had since day one. The color you chose for the Live Tiles will also be used in many other areas. It wasn’t just an accent color for the home screen, it was the accent color for system settings and any third-party apps that chose to support it as well.
RELATED: Android 12 has the best Windows Phone feel
Okay, it’s not a huge feature, but Microsoft beat the iPhone and Android for native song identification. Both platforms had third-party apps such as Shazam, but Windows Phone could do this directly from the Bing app.
These days, Google Assistant can quickly identify songs, and Pixel phones can do it without you even asking. The iPhone also has a built-in Shazam button that can be added to Control Center, and Siri can do that. It might be a small thing, but Microsoft did it first.
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Like its fellow mobile operating systems WebOS and BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone had a lot to offer the industry. Android and iPhone are better today thanks to ideas from Microsoft. Competition drives companies to innovate and adapt, but competition also means that someone is going to lose.