Windows Phone 8.1 custom Start Screen backgrounds images leaked

A few weeks ago, rumors hit the Internet that Windows Phone 8.1 will allow for users to customize their Start Screen so they can install their own background images for the Live Tiles in the OS. Now there's actual screenshots that show off how this new feature will look.

Windows Phone Italy posted up the screenshots, which were originally found on a Weibo account in China. As you can see, the Start Screen allows desktop wallpaper-like images to be placed in the background of the Start Screen. That's because the screen can be set to offer a transparent look, which allows for any image to be put behind the Live Tiles.

While there's an outside chance that this feature might not make it to Windows Phone 8.1 (the OS has yet to reach the RTM stage) we think that it will be included in the final package and that it will be a welcome addition for Windows Phone owners. Microsoft has still not confirmed anything about Windows Phone 8.1 but the company is expected to make the update official as part of its 2014 BUILD conference announcements in early April.

Source: Windows Phone Italy via WPCentral | Image via Windows Phone Italy

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I like the look of the images above, but I have a reservation.

WP Homescreen is as long as you want it to be (as many tiles you have pinned), so what happens at the bottom of the image? does it just keep on scrolling OR does the image stay static and the tiles move 'through' the image, I think that would look nice.

Or maybe some proportional movement of the image, so screen = 50% vertical size of image, meaning 50% is off screen. the size of your homescreen is 100% and as you move down through it the image moves along and matches the % location of the homescreen, so right at the bottom = 100% your at the bottom of your image.

This great for Windows Phone. I can't imagine anyone who can be against this feature... this needed feature. It's about customization and choice.

I could see it looking really sweet on most phones but then you get the people with no ascetic taste (having malformed sports logo's , stretched out animals and pictures of their children like I have seen on so many desktops 128x128 images stretched out or centered) too bad it Windows won't include a feature like "Sorry Windows has decided you have no taste please choose one of these images instead"

It looks like Launcher8, a launcher available on Google Play that makes Android look like Windows Phone. I think it can do home screen backgrounds in this way.

It's nice. I'd prefer a proper background image though, but at least we're getting something. The interface is in desperate need of some aesthetics improvements.

No, it's not in need of aesthetics improvements. It looks great.

Some functional design improvements would be welcome though - such as how apps such as People or Games have the name of the app taking up more than a third of the screen even on large screens. So much wasted space. Home screen is great though.

There was a reason that they did not do this originally, because it's a horrible ugly mess!

Remember when Windows Phone was first announced? Remember all the pure design intentions about being minimalist and giving you a very designed experience? So when the phone did not sell they threw all that out the window and now they have this awful horrible designed by committee mess to try and sell.

derekaw said,
There was a reason that they did not do this originally, because it's a horrible ugly mess!

Remember when Windows Phone was first announced? Remember all the pure design intentions about being minimalist and giving you a very designed experience? So when the phone did not sell they threw all that out the window and now they have this awful horrible designed by committee mess to try and sell.

Windows Phone can still be minimalistic, the key word here is CHOICE. And lets be honest the minimalistic design is boring for most consumers. It requires a very specific taste to be enjoyed. I liked it innitially but even I make sure to strategically place some different colored tiles throughout my startscreen so that it doesnt look too monotone. Yet people can still choose to keep the design looking like it at the start. So whats the problem?

The problem is the lack of vision, the the lack of direction, the lack of commitment and the throwing away of the original design ideals.

This is happening with both Windows Phone and Windows 8. It says to me that Microsoft has no idea and are scrambling to add any feature in the hope that they will finally gain traction and acceptance. A company the size of Microsoft and with the history of Microsoft should have a well defined road map and they should be sticking to it because they should already know what people want, not finding out on the fly and making so many u turns and reversals.

Edited by derekaw, Mar 2 2014, 9:17pm :

derekaw said,
The problem is the lack of vision, the the lack of direction, the lack of commitment and the throwing away of the original design ideals.

I don't agree that they lack vision. I for one think Windows 8 is a great operating system that took the design to a new level. Carefully balancing the design intentions with user requests.

And this option is something users requested. You call it an ugly mess but people have described Windows Phone 7 similarly. So who is right? Nobody is, it's all preferences. I agree that Microsoft should make the default style in line with their design principles.

But offering options tucked away in the menus is a good thing. Most users won't touch them but powerusers who now complain will be able to find them. They can customize it to their heart's content and make it as uninspiring as Android. But it won't hurt your Windows experience.

I've been wondering if this is the way to go since it's been revealed. I'm all for options. While I welcome this, since i'm currently using Skinery Tiles to do the same thing, it is limiting in that you can only use certain apps. These of course do not include the system apps... ones I use most often and would like to incorporate on my start screen.

I've come to the conclusion that I like it, however, I want the option to have a background image too. I want both. This would be the ultimate unified experience using the same Onedrive for alternating backgrounds on W8.x and syncing the same for phone. This needs to happen now. It's the only way and why Windows will soon be awesomely one.

Like this posted above.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6P-uXwG-18

The bottom line is that IF it's implemented it's an option. It's not mandatory. Add option for people that might like it. Keep the old school look if you like it. Add an option to give the tiles a slight gradient. More options and flexibility means bringing more people over to the platform. As long as the overall experience remains the same I'm fine with whatever crazy options they add.

good it's there as an option, although I personally won't use it. Would be great if it included a slider to blur and/or fade the bg image so it doesn't take away the focus of the tiles. (Sure, I can do this in PS before I pick the bg image)

Edited by DerAusgewanderte, Mar 2 2014, 6:25pm :

while i don't like that much im glad they add it for people who want it it differentiate wp from other platforms
the thing i didn't understand is they want to unify windows and windows phone but this feature takes windows phone further away from windows

agtsmith said,
Although very nice, it is also VERY inconsistent with Windows 8.

Great minds think alike

It would have been great if they offered this AND the Windows 8 background styles on BOTH platforms.

agtsmith said,
Although very nice, it is also VERY inconsistent with Windows 8.

To be fair, Windows 8 isn't very consistent with Windows 8 either.

dead.cell said,

To be fair, Windows 8 isn't very consistent with Windows 8 either.

Unless you mean between the desktop and modern environment then I disagree.

I don't particularly like it -- I think it makes the screen far to busy. But more customization is welcome as long as there's the option not to use it. If this brings more customers to the platform, then it's definitely a win.

Personally, I wish they'd bring back the gutter a bit and allow scrolling backgrounds (at a slower rate) like in Windows 8. THAT I might use.

They don't even need to bring back the gutter. At least in this concept you can see enough of the background image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6P-uXwG-18

True enough they use groups to create space between tiles. But that too would be a useful feature to bring to WP8. Basically makes WP's interface work similar to that of Windows.

I like it. Getting a bit bored of the standard home screen after using WP for over two years now.

And if you don't like it, you don't have to use it.

Finally. The name "Windows" actually means something now.

And a big thumbs up... the butt of those who want to tear customization away from us simply because they don't like it.

First I thought this was the application Shining Themes. It does exactly the same, but then I saw the people application which is not available in Shining Themes.

This will be one feature of Windows Phone 8.1 I will not use.

wotsit said,
Nice as an option

Agreed, If they also include the option to have an image on the background (and Multi-colored tiles like Windows 8) then I'll be very happy.

Just image if they offered that level of customization on both Windows and WP. Some people would have phones that look like Windows 8, others would have the mono-look it currently has and others would have this image skin on their tiles. Nobody could argue that WP lacks customization at that point.

With the right images, I think this will look awesome on mine.
The images used here really aren't that suited to show the feature off.

Am I the only one that actually likes how this looks? Lol. I think it's a unique idea and very fitting for Windows Phone, and, well, I just like it.

I quite like that. While I may not use it for a long time, it certainly has potential with the right image and tile setup.

I get very bored with the stock colours available, so a change of any type is good.

C#Rocks said,
My god. It looks horrible. (And I love Windows Phone).

Why does it look horrible? the screenshot is only an example but it is anyones guess as to what the default colour/theme that Microsoft/Nokia will use with Windows Phone 8.1.

It looks horrible because it makes information on tiles even harder to read, looks cheap and scruffy. They're better focus on adding some much needed functionality to Office, rather than wasting time on useless gimmicks.

I don't think I'll use it but hey, someone else may like it. I like the clean uncluttered visual look the phone offers now.

Mr. Dee said,
You will have to choose specific types of wallpapers for this to look good.

And I wonder the following as well:

1. WIll third party apps immediatly offer the see-through option or will we have huge 'holes' in the image unless we correctly organize or firstparty apps?
2. Will the image move along with the tiles? If so then we'll need VERY long images. If not then I think it will be very painful to look at as the background stays in position while the tiles move.

I don't like it. Choice is good but seems to me they should have also included the option to make it look more like Windows. For me the reason to get a WP was the synergy from having Windows on Phone, tablet and PC. So far it hasn't lived up to my expectations in that regard.

I would have rather seen something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6P-uXwG-18

I think this will be possible between desktop and RT versions (Start screen syncing) but I haven't heard as much for Windows Phone 8.1

Steven P. said,
I think this will be possible between desktop and RT versions (Start screen syncing) but I haven't heard as much for Windows Phone 8.1

To a large extend it is already possible. But for WP to join the club the apps on both platforms should be identical. Luckily the next step they're taking by unifying the stores.

Which is why I was expecting that they'd prepare for this unification by at least making the two OS's look identical. But this skinery-look places WP further away from Windows than ever before. To me this seems like the wrong direction.

I don't understand how having an image skin on top of the tiles makes it look that much different than the Windows start screen tiles.

Stokkolm said,
I don't understand how having an image skin on top of the tiles makes it look that much different than the Windows start screen tiles.

The two interfaces are already different when we look at the way we interact with the UI. The only real thing they have in common is that they are tile-based. In terms of looks, Windows 8 has Multi-color tiles and has wallpaper backgrounds. WP8 is yet to adopt an wallpaper, currently the background is black. Should they choose to have an image skinned on top of the tiles and keep the background black then it it's a step further away from the look of Windows 8.

If they want to sync the UI across devices then a first step will need to be to a similar looking UI. I'm all for choice so if you dont want to sync your startscreen across devices then thats fine. But I would like to have one startscreen that syncs between devices. And for that you can't have backgroud image on one device and image skinned tiles on another.

Windows 8 can have backgrounds because the tiles are more spread out. You could sync that across to WP8, but you wouldn't see the background unless they made the tiles slightly transparent (which I would prefer to overlaying an image on the tiles).

The other problem is that your backgrounds are going to be landscape on W8 and portrait on WP8. That is a bigger inconsistency than the image being behind the tiles or on top of them. It could still be synced, it would just be a difference in how the image is displayed with the tiles.

Have you checked the video I posted earlier?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6P-uXwG-18

As you can see in the video, you still see enough of the image behind the tiles. The video also shows how to change from a portrait interface to an landscape one. The tile interface is actually perfect to solve this issue that has long plagued interfaces on Windows (desktop) and Android.

Ronnet said,
Have you checked the video I posted earlier?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6P-uXwG-18

As you can see in the video, you still see enough of the image behind the tiles. The video also shows how to change from a portrait interface to an landscape one. The tile interface is actually perfect to solve this issue that has long plagued interfaces on Windows (desktop) and Android.


That's pretty interesting. I don't think I would want the charm menu and settings menus from W8 on my phone though.

Stokkolm said,

That's pretty interesting. I don't think I would want the charm menu and settings menus from W8 on my phone though.

The way I see it, there shouldn't be such a sharp divide between phones and tablets. Windows 8 isn't made for 6-7'' and neither is WP. They need to create one UI that changes to whatever platform its running on.

Essentially you already have two charms on your Phone (search + start). You also have share and settings, only they're usually within each app. The device button is something WP could also use (would be awesome to print from WP or share screen with monitor). Maybe on WP the charmbar should be on the bottom but I think the charms are very useful and should be part of Windows, whether its on a large Phone or a small tablet.

Ronnet said,

To a large extend it is already possible. But for WP to join the club the apps on both platforms should be identical. Luckily the next step they're taking by unifying the stores.

Which is why I was expecting that they'd prepare for this unification by at least making the two OS's look identical. But this skinery-look places WP further away from Windows than ever before. To me this seems like the wrong direction.

Well, it could be that Metro 2 will offer an option, emphasis on option, to make the Start Screen look like this. Personally I would like to have all the tiles in WP adhering the Theme color. Too bad that MS itself is the worst offender with all its tiles (Office, Music, OneNote etc.) using different colours and no option to use the Theme one.

Fritzly said,

Well, it could be that Metro 2 will offer an option, emphasis on option, to make the Start Screen look like this. Personally I would like to have all the tiles in WP adhering the Theme color. Too bad that MS itself is the worst offender with all its tiles (Office, Music, OneNote etc.) using different colours and no option to use the Theme one.

I considered their offense a sign that they were going to make WP8.1 look like Windows 8 (Multi-colored tiles). But I agree with you that choice is best, like in this concept: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6P-uXwG-18 But it would have to be the same choice on all platforms. So I'm perfectly fine with this skinnery clone as long as it also is applied to Windows 8 and Window 8's style on WP as well.

Ronnet said,

I considered their offense a sign that they were going to make WP8.1 look like Windows 8 (Multi-colored tiles). But I agree with you that choice is best, like in this concept: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6P-uXwG-18 But it would have to be the same choice on all platforms. So I'm perfectly fine with this skinnery clone as long as it also is applied to Windows 8 and Window 8's style on WP as well.

Indeed, the more options the better....

I think it looks nice!! I would like to see something similar on Windows 8, turn all the tiles the same color and transparent.

With the wrong built-in background, color theme, and all those colorful tiles, the Start screen can look mucho busy.

So take my observation with a grain of salt because it's a little detail that could have changed, but these seem more like mockups to me because of one simple thing: the placement of the wireless connectivity icon (it's more centered in every version of the OS I've used so far).

As WPCentral points out though, even if it's fake, it captures the spirit of a feature that probably exists.

Good point, but that icon may have been moved?

Edit: Wonder if it shows there as connectivity, seeing as there is no sim present either?

Yeah, it only made me skeptical. I haven't been following development enough to know if that's another minor UI tweak, but it seems off given that the rest is and has been unchanged.

Oh, and I should add that I think the feature is nifty. One of those things where you wonder why it wasn't an option initially, so long as it doesn't interfere with live tiles that rely on being able to display more than just simple text. Also draws away from some of the more distinct coloring of tiles for specific apps.

I hope you are right but they did actually move the connection icon. This is for dual-sim support. The network and connection icons for each card are placed closer together.

Kupo-Cheer said,
So take my observation with a grain of salt because it's a little detail that could have changed, but these seem more like mockups to me because of one simple thing: the placement of the wireless connectivity icon (it's more centered in every version of the OS I've used so far).

As WPCentral points out though, even if it's fake, it captures the spirit of a feature that probably exists.

If you mean the wifi icon, it used to be in the center but now they moved it to the left next to the SIM bars. Look at the leaks from the WP8.1 SDK. They have a number of new icons now in 8.1 so they needed to make some room, moved things closer together.

Tom Warren also confirmed that it will be possible in WP8.1 (seen on Twitter a couple of days ago) and since he knows everything, well.. there you have it

Gungel said,
I don't like it either, but the more customization the merrier.

I guess that's why we all have opinions because I like it..

Gungel said,
I don't like it either, but the more customization the merrier.

I like it as well I hope they give people the option to put a background pic and being able to adjust opacity of the tiles.

Kind of figured that this was going to happen, but as Gungel has said, the more customization the merrier. In addition, I can see this being a hit with the ladies.

Steven P. said,
Tom Warren also confirmed that it will be possible in WP8.1 (seen on Twitter a couple of days ago) and since he knows everything, well.. there you have it

yeah but he talked about a background wallpaper.

here, it should rather be called a foreground wallpaper.

I don't think it will look like that. Tiles would be much less readable. And it wouldn't look good with tiles that use fully opaque background (most 3rd party apps actually).

anyway, we can tell these screenshots are fake because the live tile battery indicator at the bottom right of the screen doesn't match the native battery indicator at the top right of the screen. It's just a photoshoped picture.

SekaiStory said,
I don't really like it, it feels like a Chinese Android rip-off, but might look OK with the right images.

Think it completely destroys the "clean" WP interface, I'd rather see the ability to chose any theme colour from a palette or to have a colour selection per tile as some apps already offer which would allow a look more like Windows 8 start screen.

trip21 said,

Think it completely destroys the "clean" WP interface, I'd rather see the ability to chose any theme colour from a palette or to have a colour selection per tile as some apps already offer which would allow a look more like Windows 8 start screen.

You could obviously use a solid colour image to have the tiles any colour you like. Or have a gradient from top to bottom, so the tiles get darker or change colour. Pretty obvious, don't know why you didn't realise this. Either of these will look really good, and if anyone wants a photo or anything else then they already have the option with this.

NoClipMode said,

Pretty obvious, don't know why you didn't realise this.

Why do you think I didn't, it's just long winded as I change my colour profile often.