(Pocket-lint) - In 2017 Microsoft confirmed what most of us knew already; Windows Phone was officially over. The software giant admitted defeat in its battle against Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile platforms - and it only had itself to blame after years of lacklustre updates to a platform that was clearly worse than its rivals. 

We look back at the lifespan of Windows Phone and detail the important moments that defined Microsoft's mobile software, including those that ultimately led to its death.


1. Pocket PC and Windows Mobile set the standard

Microsoft entered the mobile market long before Windows Phone 7 was launched. Even as far back as 1996, when some manufacturers adopted Windows CE for their portable devices.

However, it wasn't until Pocket PC 2000 was released that things really took off for the company. It sported a mobile version of Office and enabled syncing between portable devices and desktop PCs in a way that hadn't been easy before. It, and the follow-up Windows Mobile variants that followed over the next decade, helped form and expand the smartphone category long before Apple introduced its first iPhone.

We remember also being very impressed by the ability to play Sonic the Hedgehog on a Sega Mega Drive emulator on our O2 XDA IIi. And who can forget the Palm Treo phones that adopted Windows Mobile as an option from 2006. They were much loved at the time.


2. HTC HD2 was the hackers delight

Towards the end of Windows Mobile, HTC released the HTC HD2 which, as well as feature a "massive" 4.3-inch 480 x 800 display, had a quite unique ability to be modified greatly. That made it hugely attractive to those who liked to tinker with their hardware.

It came with Windows Mobile 6.5 on board but could also run a vast number of other systems, including many versions of Android (all the way up to Android 7.0 Nougat, in fact). Modders also successfully loaded it with Ubuntu, MeeGo and even Windows Phone itself in later years.

In comparison with recent devices, especially the iPhone, the customisation talents of the HD2 were a different world.


3. Windows Phone is born

As good as Windows Mobile was for productivity at the time, things really changed when Microsoft announced and released its dedicated smartphone platform, Windows Phone 7, in 2010.

Originally supported by multiple, big name manufacturers, such as LG, Samsung and long-time partner HTC, it offered a different experience to the operating systems from Apple and Google. The homescreen design was based on different-sized tiles rather than app icons and it offered integration with other Microsoft tools and systems, such as Xbox Live and Skype, the latter of which was bought by the company in 2011.

Nokia joined the fun with its first Windows Phone handset in the shape of the Nokia Lumia 800, which launched with Windows Phone 7.5 Mango - the platform's first major update. It both reinvigorated Nokia and gave the operating system a distinctive device that was to be pivotal for its future.


4. Windows Phone is born... again

The first major misstep by Microsoft came about with the launch of Windows Phone 8. Although it featured a similar tile-based design to its predecessor, which the company now dubbed "Metro design", no Windows Phone 7 phone was compatible. Users of Windows Phone 7 devices couldn't upgrade without buying an all-new phone, therefore, which angered many.

Developers could still develop for Windows Phone 7, but many chose to concentrate on Windows Phone 8 instead, rendering the former OS redundant in many ways.

It added many cool new features, such as multitasking, Xbox Smartglass to control an Xbox 360 and, later, Xbox One, and NFC support, but by turning its back on the earlier Windows Phone adopters, Microsoft lost momentum for its platform when compared with iOS and Android, both of which supported many former handsets with each iteration.


5. Coloured shells

When Nokia started releasing Windows Phone handsets with the Nokia Lumia 800 in 2011, it brought a design element that eventually became synonymous with the platform: coloured shells.

When you think of a Windows Phone handset now, you think of polycarbonate casings in magenta, light blue, white and yellow. But before the Lumia 800, Windows Phone devices looked much like Android equivalents.

Few smartphones have since continued Nokia's (and, subsequently, Microsoft's) design trend.


6. Microsoft buys Nokia

After most other manufacturers stopped releasing Windows Phone handsets, leaving just Nokia and smaller OEMs supporting the platform, Microsoft decided to purchase the Finnish firm's mobile arm in order to make its own devices.

It paid €5.44 billion (£4.85 billion) for Nokia Devices and Services, plus the company's relevant patents, in 2014. It included the licence to use the Nokia name for feature phones and Lumia handsets, although it ditched it in favour of its own Microsoft branding just a year later, in 2015.

The last Nokia-branded Windows Phone handset was the Nokia Lumia 735, while the first Microsoft handset was the entry-level Microsoft Lumia 535. A cheap as chips budget option seemed an odd start to a new phase for the Lumia range, to be honest.


7. Wireless charging

Although many adopted Qi wireless charging built into their phones soon after, the Nokia Lumia 920 is widely regarded to be the first smartphone to sport the technology. And while Apple is finally embracing it in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X, which should speed up adoption, the Lumia 920 was released in 2012.

Until then, most wireless charging options came in the form of add-on battery cases for phones. Many smartphones at the time had aluminium rear covers, so not suitable to have the technology integrated.  Nokia's choice of polycarbonate as the outer shell, however, meant it could have a Qi wireless charging receiver inside.

Nokia and then Microsoft also supplied their own branded charging pucks.


8. Nokia Lumia 1020

The Windows Phone 8 sporting Nokia Lumia 1020 turned heads on its release in 2013. Not only did it feature LTE (4G) connectivity and decent-sized 4.5-inch AMOLED display - for its time, at least - it had a class-leading 41-megapixel camera on the rear.

The Nokia 808 PureView also had a 41-megapixel snapper beforehand, but that was on the Symbian OS and therefore didn't have as wide appeal. The Lumia 1020 was, therefore, truly groundbreaking for touchscreen smartphones and was capable of taking better photos than any rival phone on the market.

It also had excellent low light performance - something of a rarity at the time. Since then, all smartphone manufacturers have followed suit with the ability to take great pictures at night and in darker ambience. None have quite gone so bonkers on the amount of pixels on the sensor, however.


9. Windows 10 Mobile

With the advent of Windows 10 for PC, Microsoft made the bold decision to swap its mobile phone operating system for an all-new build again. This time it was to be based on the same architecture as the desktop, laptop and tablet software, with the OS cleverly recognising what type of device it was installed on and adjusting itself automatically to suit.

It could have been a genius move, tying all the different versions together and offering seamless synchronicity. It would also encourage app developers to build applications that would work across multiple devices rather than just one type, especially as the latest Xbox One software experience is also built on Windows 10.

Unfortunately though, it didn't work out that way...


10. Joe Belfiore tweets that it's all over

Two tweets from the head of Windows 10 proved to be the nails in Windows Phone's coffin. While many already thought the system dead - after all, the last Windows Phone handset was released in spring 2016 - it wasn't until a couple of posts on Twitter by Belfiore on 8 October 2017 that we knew for sure.

The lack of support by app developers was pivotal, he wrote.

Best smartphones 2021 rated: The top mobile phones available to buy today

Microsoft will continue to support existing Windows 10 Mobile phones, with bug and security fixes, but there are no plans to release a new version of the software or any new handsets. It's over.

Instead, Microsoft will concentrate with supporting Android and iOS with software.

Writing by Rik Henderson.