Windows phone is dead. This time, it's not figuratively dead, as the narrative has often been. As of today, Windows 10 Mobile version 1709, the final version of the OS, is no longer supported. The last update arrives today as part of this month's batch of Patch Tuesday updates.
Windows Phone began its life in 2010, or at least in the modern form. Windows Phone 7 was, of course, preceded by Windows Mobile, Zune, Pocket PC, and Windows CE. The company celebrated by famously throwing a mock funeral for the iPhone.
In April 2012, Nokia released the flagship Lumia 900, proudly exclaiming that the smartphone beta test is over. By September of that same year, Microsoft released Windows Phone 8, Nokia released the Lumia 920, and the Lumia 900 never got the update, just like the rest of the Windows Phone 7 lineup.
The Lumia 920 seemed to have a hot start, being called Engadget's 2012 Smartphone of the Year. It introduced a PureView camera to the Windows Phone ecosystem, with optical image stabilization. Of course, Windows Phone 8 was probably in its prime when Nokia released the Lumia 1020 in July 2013, which had a 41-megapixel PureView camera, introducing the idea of oversampling. It took the 41MP image and oversampled it down to 5MP, and it kept that big image as a backup, in case you ever wanted to crop it without losing quality.
Later that year was when the Lumia 1520 was announced, and it was the first smartphone with a quad-core processor. Up until that point, Windows Phone has only supported dual-core processors, namely the Snapdragon S4; meanwhile, Android handsets had been using the quad-core Snapdragon 800 for months. That launch event was also where Microsoft announced games like Temple Run 2 and Asphalt 8 were coming to the platform, games that were seemingly past their prime even then. And it also announced social media apps like Instagram and Vine; however, Instagram would never come out of beta until much later, when Windows 10 Mobile launched and it produced a UWP app.
The new quad-core minimum specs on Windows Phone were a precursor to Windows Phone 8.1, which launched in April 2014. The supported chipsets were the Snapdragon 200, 400, and 800. It was just months after Satya Nadella took over as CEO from Steve Ballmer, and the same month that Microsoft finalized its acquisition of Nokia's device's and services division.
Windows Phone 8.1 saw another wide array of devices, most of which were made by Nokia (now Microsoft, although the phones were still branded Nokia for a while). There was also the HTC One M8 for Windows, which was in itself a somewhat exciting handset, since it was the first to have identical hardware to an Android counterpart. For the first time, consumers could walk into a store, choose a device, and pick the OS they wanted.
It was that September when Microsoft announced Windows 10, except it didn't announce a version for phones. This might have been the first writing on the wall that the platform was doomed, that Microsoft would forever prioritize the desktop over mobile, in a world where Apple and Google were willing to do the exact opposite.
At a January 2015 event, Microsoft went more into detail on Windows 10, finally announcing Windows 10 Mobile. Moreover, it promised that Windows 10 would be a free upgrade for anyone running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1. Naturally, many were excited to hear about the upgrade path that they were denied from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8.
Except it didn't happen like that. Windows 10 for PCs launched on July 29, 2015, but every other Windows 10 platform, such as Xbox and phone, was promised for November. Windows 10 version 1511 was going to be the true Windows 10 release. That October, Microsoft held a big hardware event in New York City, where it announced the Microsoft Band 2, the Surface Pro 4, the first Surface Book, the Lumia 550, the Lumia 950, and the Lumia 950 XL.
Those three handsets were the first three Windows 10 Mobile devices, and they launched that November. At that point, the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 devices seemed imminent, but it wasn't. Windows 10 Mobile upgrades didn't actually begin shipping until March 17, 2016.
What made matters worse is that it was for a small subset of the devices that Terry Myerson had promised onstage. Essentially, any device that still had a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor wasn't supported by the new OS. Microsoft hadn't warned anyone that it would break its promise of an upgrade for all Windows Phone 8.1 devices. It simply published a list that very day.
Unfortunately, this update didn't just roll out either. You had to download an app to your Windows Phone 8.1 device and opt into the upgrade. No one ever got a notification that Windows 10 Mobile was available to them. You had to find out about it on your own, and then seek it out on your own.
The next update was the Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update, which shipped in August 2016. For those devices that came from Windows Phone 8.1, this was the final feature update, with the exception of the Lumia 640 and 640 XL, two devices that were championed as being "built for Windows 10", despite having a Snapdragon 400 chipset and 1GB RAM like the Lumia 635, 735, and 830.
At this time though, Microsoft was still announcing new features. While the Lumia 650 that launched earlier in the year was the last Lumia, it was going to be incumbent on third-party OEMs to make devices, rather than Microsoft drowning its own ecosystem with first-party handsets.
HP had taken the wraps off of its Elite x3 earlier that year at Mobile World Congress, and it shipped that fall. Heralded as a "superphone", it was meant to be a three-in-one PC, that could be your phone, a laptop, and a desktop, using Microsoft's Continuum feature and a range of accessories that HP sold. It was also the first Windows phone with the Snapdragon 820 chipset.
On November 1, Alcatel announced the IDOL 4S with Windows 10, and that ended up being the last one. The Snapdragon 820-powered handset actually came with a virtual reality headset, along with a glass back and a metal frame.
Up until early 2017 though, fans still believed that Windows 10 Mobile was still happening. A company called WhartonBrooks tried to crowdfund a Windows phone, the Cerulean Moment, but the plan ultimately failed in a big way.
Then came the Windows 10 Creators Update, or version 1703. It was actually the last full feature update for Windows 10 Mobile. After that, Insider Preview builds started coming from a new 'feature2' branch. Many expected that after a time, it would be merged with the Redstone 3 branch like its PC counterpart, or that Windows 10 Mobile was simply skipping an update, thinking that Microsoft had something bigger and better planned for Redstone 4.
That wasn't the case though. Windows 10 feature2 ended up being version 1709, and it was the final feature update for Windows 10 Mobile. In fact, it wasn't until around that time that Microsoft actually said that it wasn't focusing on phones anymore. But it never came through an official channel, only a tweet from Joe Belfiore. This news came just two months after Belfiore also tweeted about how much Microsoft loves Windows phones.
That final version of the OS is getting its final update today, and if you're still using it, it's time to move on. Microsoft is still going to be making phones; after all, it just announced one. However, the dual-screen Surface Duo runs Android, and it's coming in the holiday season of next year.
Moving forward, your device will still work, and in fact, it will actually be as secure as it would normally be until next month's Patch Tuesday. You can even still upgrade your Windows Phone 8.1 device to Windows 10 Mobile, at least for the next few days. As noted above, you do need an app to do it, and the Windows Phone 8.1 Store will be shut down on Monday, December 16. While the Windows 10 Mobile Store will continue to work, it's only a matter of time until apps' minimum requirements are higher than the build number of Windows 10 Mobile version 1709.
Microsoft also recently announced the end of life dates for its Office UWP apps, which will continue to be available until January 12, 2021. Obviously, Office for iOS and Android will continue to work, since those are really the platforms that you should be using at this point.