Why is Windows Phone discontinued?

Windows Phone was Microsoft’s mobile operating system, first released in 2010. It was designed to compete with iOS and Android. Despite initial optimism, Windows Phone struggled to gain market share and was eventually discontinued in 2017.

Microsoft’s first attempts at a mobile operating system date back to Windows CE in 1996. This formed the foundation for later Windows Mobile and Windows Phone releases. Windows Phone 7 was launched in 2010 with a completely redesigned interface and features aimed at consumers. Subsequent versions included Windows Phone 8 in 2012 and Windows Phone 8.1 in 2014.

Despite heavy marketing and promotion by Microsoft, Windows Phone failed to attract developer and consumer interest. By 2016 its global market share was below 1%. Microsoft officially discontinued support for Windows Phone in July 2017.


Lack of apps

One of the main reasons for Windows Phone’s decline was the lack of app support from developers. Compared to the millions of apps available for iOS and Android, the Windows Phone store only had around 500,000 apps in 2016 according to Beyond Devices. This lack of apps made Windows Phone less appealing to consumers looking for a robust app ecosystem.

There was a “chicken and egg” problem where developers didn’t want to build apps for a platform without many users, but users didn’t want to adopt the platform without a strong app selection. Reddit users cited the lack of apps as a reason Android was able to surpass Windows Phone, noting “Windows Phone’s lack of apps for a consistently smooth hassle free phone experience probably moved on to the new high quality budget Android handsets” according to this Reddit thread. Without enough developer support to build high-quality apps, Windows Phone struggled to attract and retain users.

Market share declined

Windows Phone reached its peak market share of around 3% globally in 2013 according to research by Statista. After that, its global market share went into a steady decline as Android and iOS continued to dominate the smartphone market.

By 2017, Windows Phone’s market share had slid to less than 1%, according to research cited by Vox. The operating system was unable to gain any meaningful traction against the duopoly of iOS and Android.

The decline in market share after 2013 was likely due to a lack of new app development for the platform, a shortage of new and exciting hardware, and Microsoft’s own shift in focus away from their mobile OS and towards cloud services.

Lost developer interest

As Windows Phone’s market share declined, developers lost interest in building apps for the platform. Windows Phone launched in 2010 and initially gained some momentum, reaching over 100,000 apps in its first year. However, Windows Phone struggled to gain significant market share against iOS and Android. By 2013, its global market share dropped below 5% and continued declining.

With a small user base, developers did not find it profitable to build Windows Phone apps. Many popular apps were late to launch on Windows Phone or never arrived at all. As the app gap widened, it became harder for Microsoft to attract new users. This downward spiral ultimately led Microsoft to discontinue Windows Phone in favor of focusing on services and integrating with Android and iOS.

Lack of Updates

One of the major factors that contributed to the decline of Windows Phone was the slow pace of operating system updates compared to iOS and Android. After the release of Windows Phone 8 in 2012, Microsoft was very slow to release new versions of the OS. For example, Windows Phone 8.1 did not arrive until 2014, a full two years after the previous version. Meanwhile, iOS and Android were releasing major updates on an annual basis, allowing them to rapidly improve features and performance.

According to Update release cycle for Windows clients, Microsoft only provided monthly security updates to Windows Phone, while new feature updates were infrequent. This contrasts sharply with iOS and Android which delivered frequent incremental updates. As a result, Windows Phone felt stagnant and outdated from a software perspective.

The lack of updates meant that Windows Phone was missing out on the latest OS capabilities, which made it difficult for Microsoft to attract both users and app developers. Without major updates to bring new APIs and platform capabilities, developers had little incentive to build apps for Windows Phone. As apps are a crucial driver of platform adoption, this likely contributed to the declining market share.

Microsoft Focused on Services Across Platforms

Microsoft began shifting their strategy in the early 2010s to focus more on delivering services across platforms rather than just on Windows devices. As Satya Nadella took over as CEO in 2014, he accelerated this transition. As Nadella stated in 2015, “We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention”

This services focus meant Microsoft was willing to deliver their productivity apps and cloud services like Office 365 and Azure on iOS, Android, and Mac devices in addition to Windows. As reported by PCWorld, “In Microsoft’s mobile-first, cloud-first strategy, Windows takes a supporting role” (PCWorld). The success of Office 365 demonstrated the results of this strategy shift.

By focusing on services across all platforms rather than trying to limit them to Windows devices, Microsoft was able to continue growing its business even as Windows Phone declined. However, it also meant Microsoft was less invested in trying to make Windows Phone a success.

Hardware challenges

One of the key challenges for Windows Phone was limited OEM partnerships for hardware. Unlike Android which had support from many device makers, Windows Phone relied primarily on Nokia for producing devices. Even as the sole major hardware partner, Nokia struggled to produce truly high-end flagship phones on par with iPhones or premium Android phones. For example, the Nokia Lumia 1020 in 2013 had an incredible 41MP camera but was criticized for lacking in other areas like the processor and screen resolution.

According to an article on The Verge, “Nokia was the only manufacturer that actually tried to do something interesting with Windows Phone hardware, like its Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520 phablets. While other manufacturers largely kept producing generic and bland Windows Phone handsets, Nokia focused on cameras along with large screen devices.”

This lack of widespread OEM support and truly premium high-end devices ultimately hampered adoption and appeal, especially in markets like the US where premium devices from Apple and Samsung dominate.

Integration with Windows

One of the major challenges for Windows Phone was its poor integration with the broader Windows desktop ecosystem. Windows Phone was designed to have tight integration with Windows PCs, allowing seamless syncing of content like photos, messages, and documents. However, this integration was never fully realized.

Microsoft’s own Phone Link service, designed to bridge Windows Phones with Windows PCs, had major limitations. As noted by Microsoft, “Some Android features aren’t supported on Windows” and the experience was inconsistent across iPhone models [1]. Many users experienced issues getting Phone Link to work reliably [2].

This lack of seamless integration with Windows desktop devices further limited adoption. Users wanted their phones to pair perfectly with PCs for a unified experience. Windows Phone’s inability to deliver this vision meant many customers opted for alternative platforms like iOS and Android instead.

Failed to Gain Traction in Enterprise

Windows Phone struggled to gain adoption in the enterprise environment compared to iOS and Android. Despite Microsoft’s dominance in the enterprise with Windows, companies were slow to adopt Windows Phone. According to a 2015 article by BGR, analysts predicted that bumpy iOS 7 adoption could open up an opportunity for Windows Phone in enterprise. However, that opportunity never fully materialized.

Windows Phone’s lack of apps and developer support made it difficult for businesses to standardize on the platform. While Microsoft tried to position Windows Phone as more secure and manageable than iOS or Android, most companies chose to go with the more popular platforms that had robust app ecosystems. Ultimately, Windows Phone failed to gain significant traction in the enterprise environment.


In summary, Windows Phone was discontinued due to a combination of factors:

It entered the smartphone market late, several years after iOS and Android, making it hard to gain market share (Source). Without a sizable user base, Windows Phone struggled to attract app developers, leading to a lack of apps compared to iOS and Android. As market share dwindled into the low single digits, developer interest declined even further (Source).

Microsoft failed to deliver regular OS updates and new hardware quickly enough. Instead, Microsoft shifted focus to developing services and software for rival platforms like iOS and Android. Hardware challenges like lack of key components from suppliers also plagued Windows Phone. Enterprise adoption remained low compared to iOS and Android.

In the end, with such diminished developer support and negligible market share, Microsoft had little choice but to discontinue Windows Phone and exit the mobile OS business.