Back in February, we published an overview of the nine new hardware partners that Microsoft had signed up to its Windows Phone platform. Since then, the ecosystem has grown even further, with over a dozen more companies committing to launch Windows Phone handsets.
Microsoft has, however, also lost one of its partners since then. Huawei – one of the four manufacturers that helped to launch Windows Phone 8 – has now abandoned the platform, as it says that it simply isn’t profitable, and will now focus exclusively on Android.
No loss is good news for Windows Phone, of course, particularly given that it has remained stuck at around 3% share of the global smartphone market for some time. But since Microsoft dropped its licensing fees for the OS earlier this year, it has gained considerable momentum, with many new brands joining the platform.
It’s a bit difficult to keep up with all the new additions, especially when some brands are not well-known worldwide, but still have a strong presence in regions and local markets around the globe. So we thought it would be helpful to put together a guide to the various companies – both old and new – that are now part of the Windows Phone family.
That said, the ‘Windows Phone family’ will soon become much more tightly integrated with the broader Windows ecosystem – as we reported this week, Microsoft is planning to drop the Windows Phone brand completely in the coming months. Nonetheless, whether these devices come to be known as ‘Windows phones’ or ‘phones with Windows’, the number and range of manufacturers continuing to launch these handsets is increasing rapidly.
We’ve focused here on those brands that are offering devices under their own brands. This includes not only OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), but also companies that do not design or build their own hardware, instead purchasing their handsets from ODMs (original design manufacturers), which produce ‘white-label’ devices that others can brand as their own. Among the various ODMs now building or designing Windows Phones for other companies are JSR Technology, Longcheer and – perhaps the most famous example of all – Foxconn, which is best known for its production of various Apple iDevices.
We think that our list below is complete (for now, at least), but given how many new additions there have been recently, we’re not ruling out having missed one (or more!). If you spot an omission, do let us know, and we’ll be sure to update the list.
Here, then, is your A-to-Z guide to the companies who want to sell you a Windows Phone.
Alcatel OneTouch is no longer related to the French communications giant that co-founded it back in 2004, and is now wholly owned by China’s TCL Communication. Back in 2012, the company announced its first Windows Phone – but despite the device being announced shortly before the launch of Windows Phone 8, it was instead released with the dead-ended OS version, WP7.8.
But this week, after a two-year absence, it finally returned to the platform with the POP 2, a Windows Phone version of its identical Android sibling, featuring the Snapdragon 410 chipset, making it the first WP device with a 64-bit processor.
The company also said this week that it intends to offer tablet-sized devices – including a 10-inch slate – running the Windows Phone OS. It seems that the company plans to wait until Microsoft has brought together Windows Phone and the slow-selling Windows RT into a single converged OS, which is likely to happen early next year.
Allview may not have a large international presence, but it’s well known in its home market of Romania. The company has only been in the devices business since 2008, but its range has grown rapidly to include smartphones, tablets, notebooks and other devices.
Neowin editor Vlad Dudau, who is also based in Romania, points out that, while consumer awareness of Allview is pretty high, it's relatively rare to find people who actually own their devices. The company has no carrier affiliations, instead selling directly to consumers via its website. Anecdotally, when it comes to Windows Phone, Microsoft's Lumia 520 seems to be the most popular handset in the country.
Nonetheless, back in June, the company introduced its own low-cost Windows Phones to the market: the Impera i and Impera S, both priced under $250 USD. It also unveiled its first Windows 8.1 device, an 8-inch tablet with an Intel Atom Z3735E processor called the Impera i8.
French company Archos is well known in many parts of Europe, and is still fondly remembered by some for its portable media players and PDAs, in the days before smartphones became more or less ubiquitous. In recent years, it has shifted its focus to Android tablets and, later, to smartphones (with mixed results!). It was also one of only a handful of manufacturers bold – or perhaps mad – enough to release a touch-only tablet for Windows 7, the Archos 9 PC Tablet, in 2009.
After saying earlier this year that it would launch a Windows Phone “when the time is right”, the company recently announced the 40 Cesium, priced at just $99. It will be joined by the 80 Cesium, its first Windows 8.1 tablet, which will go on sale for $149.
And a bit of extra trivia for you: much like computing pioneer Amstrad – named after its founder, Lord Sugar (the company name is a contraction of ‘Alan Michael Sugar Trading’) – Archos is also named after the man that established it, Henri Crohas, albeit in a much more obscure way. While Archos is derived from the Greek word for ‘master’, it is also an anagram of ‘Crohas’.
Founded in 2009, BLU has quickly expanded its portfolio to include a large range of low-cost feature phones and Android handsets. Within less than five years, the company says it has sold over ten million devices in over 40 markets, including the United States and much of Latin America. The company claims it is “one of the fastest growing mobile phone manufacturers in the world”, and its extensive network of retail partners and carriers will no doubt make it a valuable addition to the Windows Phone range.
The fact that its Windows Phones offer such a compelling mix of fun design, decent specs and low prices will no doubt help their chances of sales success too.
Celkon's first Windows Phone, the Win 400, was revealed in mid-September - and like many other brands, it is targeting the low-end with its debut device. The Indian company already offers a selection of Android handsets and tablets, along with ultra-low-cost feature phones, but the Win 400 marks its first venture into Windows Phone territory.
Priced at around 7000 INR (roughly $115 USD), the device will compete in the hotly contested Indian market, in which fellow domestic brands XOLO and Micromax have already released their first Windows Phones.
Like a few others in this list, Cherry Mobile is not well known around the world, but in the Philippines, it’s quite a different story. The company has a large network of self-branded ‘concept stores’, mini stores and retail kiosks across the country, selling its diverse range of handsets.
From ultra-affordable feature phones to its Cosmos Z2 Android flagship – which features a 1.7GHz octa-core processor, 18MP camera and 5-inch Full HD display – Cherry Mobile is well-established in its home market, and its range is now growing to incorporate Microsoft products too.
The company has shown off two Windows Phones - one of which may well be the most affordable in the world, priced at just $69 - and it is also releasing two Windows 8.1 tablets aimed at the budget-conscious buyer.
Headquartered in London, Fly distributes its handsets across multiple markets including Russia, Ukraine, India, and parts of the Middle East and Africa. Until as late as 2012, the company specialised in ‘classic’ feature phones, but its Android smartphone range has quickly grown to incorporate multiple price points, from the most affordable devices, right up to its octa-core EGO Art 2 flagship.
At the end of July, Fly’s first Windows Phone was uncovered, and it has now gone on sale. Like many other companies new to the platform, Fly is targeting the entry-level with its first device, the ERA Windows IQ400W, which is now available for just over $100.
Gionee has hit global headlines twice this year, and both times it was for the same reason. In February, it unveiled what it claimed was the world’s thinnest smartphone, the Elife S5.5, at just 5.55mm-thick. Then in July, it appeared to beat its own record, as an even thinner device – known only by its model number, GN9005 – was spotted, with an astonishingly sleek 5mm profile.
The Chinese company claims to be “one of the world superpowers in quality mobile phone manufacturing”, and boasts a strong presence across China, large chunks of Asia and as far afield as Russia and Nigeria. It says that it exports more than one million devices to overseas markets every month.
The company’s plans to launch devices with Microsoft’s mobile OS have not yet been announced, but we’re sure that many potential buyers would welcome the prospect of a 5mm-thick Windows Phone.
Hisense is a true electronics giant, with operations and production facilities across the globe, including in Europe, the United States, Africa and China. Its range of products is enormous, from household appliances and broadcast equipment, to telecommunications infrastructure and, of course, mobile devices.
Its range of handsets is similarly diverse, and until this year, it had focused exclusively on Android devices. That all changed back in June, when it announced its first Windows Phone, the Mira 6, aimed at the entry-level of the market, but still featuring a 5-inch HD display.
HTC was one of Microsoft’s original partners for Windows Phone 7 Series back in the day, and it was right there at the launch of Windows Phone 8 too, with two handsets which were described as the ‘Signature’ devices for the OS. But after that, HTC’s commitment to the platform seemed to fade, and despite vague noises about new devices being on the way, almost two full years passed without a new Windows Phone being released (excluding the tepid makeover of the 8X for Sprint).
But HTC returned in style last month – not with an all-new device designed specifically for Microsoft’s OS, but with the next best thing. The HTC One M8 for Windows may have an awkward name, but the WP version of the company’s much-loved Android flagship has been warmly welcomed by reviewers and tech fans alike.
The new device has also won praise from some, for demonstrating that the Windows Phone version – with exactly the same hardware – enjoys superior battery life to its Android counterpart.
K-Touch – part of the snappily named Beijing Tianyu Communication Equipment Company Ltd – claims to be the third largest mobile phone manufacturer in China, and proudly boasts of having 700 research and development staff, located in centers around the world.
In its home market, K-Touch also has partnerships with China’s leading domestic carriers, including China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. Its Android handset range includes some rather striking designs, although the specs of its devices tend to be fairly middle-of-the-road.
Despite Microsoft announcing K-Touch as a Windows Phone partner back in May, the company has not yet revealed its first WP handset. Whatever the company eventually releases, we’ll remain K-Touch fans purely because of its wonderfully silly tagline: “Kiss face Touch heart”.
Karbonn Mobiles will be familiar to friends and followers of Neowin in India, where the brand is one of the country’s leading smartphone vendors. But its reach extends internationally too, as far afield as Africa and the Middle East, and a little closer to home, in markets such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The company’s range of devices is extensive, from old-school feature phones (including some with T9 keypads!) all the way up to its Octane Plus flagship with Android 4.4 KitKat and octa-core processor.
Karbonn hasn’t formally announced its new Windows Phone line-up, but information uncovered in July suggests that the company is planning to launch three new handsets, priced between Rs.8,000 and Rs.15,000 INR (roughly $150 to $250 USD). The company is reportedly planning to give its Windows Phones a distinctly Indian flavour, with highly localized content, including India-focused apps and services.
Established last year by two former HTC executives, KAZAM set out with the promise of a range of devices with “stunning design, robust hardware and intuitive technology, underpinned by outstanding customer service”. The company has since launched a range of ultra-low-cost feature phones, along with smartphones ranging in size from 3.5- to 5.5-inches – all running Android 4.2, so not exactly at the leading edge of technology.
But what KAZAM’s devices lack in specs, they make up for in affordability – in June of this year, the company launched an Android handset for just £40 GBP (around $65 USD) which, remarkably, also includes a free screen replacement service and a two-year warranty.
The same will apply to the company’s first Windows Phone, the Thunder 340W, which was unveiled earlier this month. As an entry-level handset, it features some pretty modest specs, and although its price has not yet been announced, you can expect it to be as affordable as the rest of the company’s range.
Lenovo may not be the first brand that leaps to mind when you think about your next smartphone, but it’s actually one of the world’s largest handset manufacturers. With worldwide smartphone shipments exceeding one billion for the first time in 2013, Lenovo was number 5 on the list, with 4.5% global market share - just behind LG (4.8%) and Huawei (4.9%). With Motorola now part of its family as well, Lenovo has effectively leapfrogged these two rivals, making it the world’s number three smartphone vendor.
And yet Lenovo has still not launched a single Windows Phone (and neither has Moto for that matter, although once upon a time, it did offer some half-decent Windows Mobile devices). Earlier this year, Microsoft confirmed that Lenovo had signed up to Windows Phone, but seven months on, we’re still waiting for news.
The good news – according to the head of Lenovo’s mobile devices division, Lin Jun – is that its first Windows Phone will arrive later this year.
LG is one of two OEMs that Microsoft cited as “new” additions to the platform earlier this year, but which are, in fact, returning to Windows Phone. LG was actually one of Microsoft’s launch partners for Windows Phone 7, way back in 2010, and its Optimus 7 and Quantum were part of the original device line-up.
However, by the time Windows Phone 8 launched, LG had chosen instead to focus on its growing range of (rather impressive) Android devices. Despite the announcement being made in February that LG was returning to Windows Phone, the company has remained somewhat tight-lipped about its plans.
But, as we reported in July, the LinkedIn profile of a Microsoft Program Manager referred directly to work that the company had been doing with LG on the ‘Threshold’ wave of releases of Windows/Windows Phone, including projects involving TV. Watch this space, because that all sounds rather exciting.
Micromax is India’s second largest smartphone vendor, with a diverse range of well-specified and aggressively priced Android handsets. Back in June 2013, it emerged that Micromax was planning to launch its first Windows Phone handset, but it wasn’t until a year later – almost to the day – that its plans came to fruition.
In fact, Micromax became the first Indian brand to launch handsets based on Microsoft’s mobile OS, with the unveiling of two new Windows Phones, which went on sale a few weeks later. Both the Canvas Win W092 and W121 are aimed at the most price-sensitive buyers, priced at Rs.6,500 INR (around $105 USD) and Rs.9,500 ($155) respectively.
Not strictly a 'partner', since this is, of course, Microsoft itself. The company completed its acquisition of Nokia earlier this year, licensing the rights to use the Nokia brand on its Windows Phone handsets until November 2015. However, as we reported this week, the brand is being phased out, with ‘Lumia’ becoming the new primary brand for Microsoft’s handsets.
The recently-announced Lumia 730, 735 and 830 are expected to be the last devices to bear the Nokia name; we understand that future handsets will simply carry Lumia branding (and possibly a Windows – but not Windows Phone – logo), while the full Microsoft logo will be restricted to product packaging, promotional materials and advertisements.
The most recent figures indicate that Nokia handsets account for more than 90% of all Windows Phone sales – but the addition of so many new hardware partners should change all that (or at least, that’s the plan...).
My Go was not a widely known devices brand until, out of nowhere, the British company suddenly became the most important hardware partner in Microsoft’s Windows Phone ecosystem. A new Windows Phone was spotted from the company and – as Neowin was the first to report – this device appears to be the first public appearance of a handset featuring ‘Windows’, rather than Windows Phone branding.
It has recently emerged that Microsoft is phasing out its Windows Phone brand, and the appearance of the GoFone GF47W with the Windows logo instead seems to confirm that Microsoft is already making preparations for this to happen in the not-too-distant future.
Aside from that distinguishing feature, however, My Go’s Windows Phone handset is a decent offering. But it’s one we’ve seen before many times – as the XOLO Win Q900s, TrekStor’s new Windows Phone, and the Polaroid WinPro 5, among others, which are all identical to the GoFone GF47W.
Did you know that Italy is home to its own smartphone manufacturer? It was certainly news to us, until New Generation Mobile, known as NGM, popped up on our radar as a rather unexpected new addition to the Windows Phone hardware ecosystem.
In fact, NGM is both an OEM and an ODM – it designs its own handsets at its headquarters in Italy, and builds them in its factories in Asia; but it also creates white-label hardware that it makes available to other companies, carriers and manufacturers alike, which sell the devices under their own brands. Its devices are sold as far afield as the US, Mexico, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, India and Russia, while in Europe, its handsets – which include both feature phones and smartphones – are sold under its own NGM brand.
This month, at the IFA trade show in Berlin, NGM surprised us all – not just by announcing a new Windows Phone out of the blue, but by announcing a new Windows Phone with Harley-Davidson co-branding. Suffice it to say that’s one device you have to see to believe, and the good folks over at Windows Phone Central have got a great hands-on with the device that’s well worth a read.
Like many who read the news last week, we were surprised to see that Polaroid had shown off a Windows Phone handset, called the WinPro 5, at IFA. We won’t dwell too long on this because, as WPCentral reported more recently, the company has since clarified that the device is merely a prototype, and no decision has yet been made on whether or not to release it.
In a statement, the company drew attention to its “very popular” range of Android tablets and phones, which it says have been on sale “in Europe and Asia for a couple of years”. We knew about the company’s tablets, but frankly, it’s news to us that Polaroid has been selling Android phones – and evidently news to whoever is responsible for maintaining its website, since its phones are either unlisted or just very well hidden.
Instead, the only reference to handsets can be found under the ‘Mobile Phone Accessories’ section of its store site, which lists “smartphone camera lenses for the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S 3". Not exactly putting its best foot forward in promoting its smartphones, but we’ll have to wait and see if it does a better job with marketing its Windows Phone, if it ever makes it to market.
Headquartered in Cyprus, Prestigio has expanded rapidly over its decade of operations, establishing a presence in 70 markets worldwide. The company’s name may be verging slightly on the pretentious side, but its products are popular in many parts of the world, and it says that it is “increasingly ranked among the most regarded brands in emerging markets across the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) region”.
We got our first official look at Prestigio’s debut Windows Phone at Computex, when Microsoft showed off the company’s handsome MultiPhone 8500 DUO. At just 8.5mm thick, the handset serves up a pretty decent spec sheet for its €128 EUR ($165 USD) price tag, including dual-SIM support, a 5-inch HD display with Gorilla Glass and a two-year warranty.
But Prestigio also has an even more affordable Windows Phone to offer, priced at just €82 EUR. The MultiPhone 8400 DUO is aimed at the most budget-conscious handset buyers, but still includes some rather nice specs, including a 4-inch WVGA IPS LCD, 8MP rear camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera and 2000mAh battery. Not bad at all.
Many of the new additions to Windows Phone are not well-known in every corner of the globe, but enjoy considerable popularity and presence in certain markets. Q-Mobile is the perfect example of this.
The Vietnamese company started out as a regional distributor for devices made by BenQ, HTC and others, but within five years, it had launched its own mobile phone. It is now both an OEM, selling its own devices to consumers; and an ODM, designing and building hardware for other companies. Q-Mobile says its products are now sold across southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, South America and in South Africa.
The company sold its first Android smartphone under its own brand in 2012, and since then, its products have become immensely popular in its home market. Now available in 104,000 sales outlets, it boasts a 14% share of the Vietnam market – not bad for a local player, competing with the much deeper pockets of Samsung and the like.
Last month, Q-Mobile added five – yes, five – new Windows Phones to its range. From the ultra-affordable 4-inch Storm W408 ($102 USD) to the massive 6-inch Storm W610 phablet (3,990,000 VND / $188 USD), the company is clearly aiming to offer something for everyone, while ensuring that its devices remain as affordable as possible to price-sensitive Vietnamese buyers.
Like HTC, Samsung was one of Microsoft’s original launch partners for Windows Phone 7, and the company has stuck with the OS ever since. But its commitment to the platform has never been particularly enthusiastic – its most recent Windows devices have simply been reworked versions of last-generation Androids.
Indeed, Android is where Samsung’s focus continues to be, and given its phenomenal success there, who can blame it? Almost a third of the one billion smartphones shipped worldwide last year was a Samsung Galaxy handset with Android on board.
Its latest Windows Phone is the ATIV SE, which launched a few months ago – a decent upper-range handset, but hardly an example of the company trying its hardest. With its grip on the Android ecosystem remaining so tight, it seems unlikely that we’ll see much better from the Korean company on the Windows Phone front.
German company TrekStor is perhaps best known for its range of DataStation storage devices, but its range of products also includes TV set-top boxes and dongles, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, e-readers and Android tablets.
At this year's IFA trade show in Berlin, the company showed off its first Windows Phone, based on JSR Technology's 'I7B' reference design, which many other brands in this list have also used for their WP handsets. The device does not yet appear to have a name, but TrekStor has confirmed that it will go on sale in November, priced between €120-€150 EUR (around $155-$195 USD).
TrekStor will no doubt wish to choose the name of its Windows Phone carefully. In 2007, the company found itself at the center of an unfortunate controversy, after it named the latest addition to its i.Beat MP3 player range the Blaxx. The i.Beat Blaxx.
XOLO first revealed its plans to offer new Windows Phones back in December, and promised that it would be the “first Indian smartphone maker to launch Windows Phone in India”. Ultimately, it was beaten to the market by fellow domestic brand Micromax, but its handset is nonetheless a compelling offering.
The company described its first Windows Phone as “clearly the lightest smart phone available”, weighing just 100g – and indeed, that’s even lighter than Apple’s iPhone 5s (112g) and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini (107g). The XOLO Win Q900s still manages to squeeze some decent specs into its sleek 7.2mm-thick body though, including a 4.7-inch HD display with Dragontrail Glass, 8GB of onboard storage and a quad-core Snapdragon 200 chipset, for just Rs.11,999 INR (just under $200 USD).
XOLO has also launched a Windows 8.1 tablet, featuring a 10.1-inch display, 2GB RAM, 32GB of storage and a microHDMI port, in an aluminium body that weighs just 750g.
Yezz seems to embrace its slightly silly name wholeheartedly, extending the playfulness of its nomenclature to its ‘Andy’ range of Android handsets.
Continuing with this theme, the company also had a bit of fun with choosing the name of its Windows Phones – although thankfully it chose not to brand them ‘Winnie’. Instead, Yezz decided to call its first Windows Phones ‘Billy’, named in honour of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
The company has unveiled two Windows Phones: the Billy 4.7, and its little brother, Billy 4. Like many other brands in this list, Yezz does not make its own devices – indeed, the Billy 4.7 features identical specs and a near-identical design to XOLO’s Win Q900s, which suggests that the two devices are based on the same ODM reference design.
Operating throughout the Americas and Europe, the Yezz brand is all about fun, freedom, luxury, comfort and sleek design, which the company wraps up in the term ‘freestyle mobile’. On a more practical level, it also seems to be about bringing all of these concepts together in an affordable package – the Billy 4.7 will go on sale for $249, while its smaller sibling will enjoy an even lower price of just $139.
The last manufacturer in our list is also the second one to be returning to Windows Phone, having previously launched devices back in the WP7 days. But ZTE abandoned the platform before the launch of Windows Phone 8, and has been steadily developing its Android handset range over the last couple of years (as well as releasing a pretty miserable device running Firefox OS, which we’d rather forget).
Even so, its ill-fated Firefox OS experiment demonstrated that ZTE was undeterred by the challenge of trying to make something good out of a product that many people don’t believe in.
While that experiment was ultimately a great disappointment – largely down to the immature state of the OS itself – this is still exactly the kind of thinking that Windows Phone needs now as it moves into its next phase of what Microsoft hopes will be a period of significant growth for its mobile operating system.
Even so, ZTE said ten months ago that it will launch new Windows Phones - but we're still waiting to hear more about its plans.
This article was updated after publishing to add TrekStor to the list of Windows Phone brands.