30 Jan 2012
By Dan Michael

HOW TO: Get more out of Windows Phone


I have been a fairly passionate supporter of the WP7 platform since it launched October 2010 for a couple of reasons. It’s different, and it’s fast.

I’ve read a stories about high consumer returns rates due to the UX (User Experience) being not what they wanted, which makes me think there might be a lack of understanding about the OS (operating system) and given the first 2nd Gen handsets were released last week that I thought I’d try help out with some simple tips for getting the most out of Windows Phone quickly.

Start fresh.

You have to forget about your other smartphone experiences and try and start fresh. Look at it with fresh eyes, have a clear head and give yourself a good honest week with your new phone.

Windows Phone is entirely different from anything Windows Mobile before it, and definitely unique from its major counterparts in Android and iOS – ultra competitive smartphone territory. From the minute you turn it on and see those Live Tiles to understanding the People Hub or how it brings to life Social networking, it is like nothing else on the market. It’s a bit different.

So there are a few things I think you need to know straight up, and these things will help many people adjust to this new UX, one that I found changed my view and helped me get around some of those key differences.



Shortcuts rule on Windows Phone. They open up the simplicity of access and will help you realise just how fast and responsive it is. This shortcut shows you what screens lay underneath your active screen (dormant, in waiting, on hold, standby however you look at it) which is commonly referred to as fast switching*.

To see and select an active app at anytime from an active screen, press and hold the Back arrow button for a few seconds.

Many people don’t know this, and it is extremely handy if you take a look at the way Windows Phone handles multitasking.

Let’s say you are playing a game. And for whatever reason you need to navigate away to let’s say check email; Windows Phone pauses the game and allows you to do your business. When you’re ready to pick that game back up, press and hold the back arrow for a few seconds.

The display shows what applications are open, you simply tap to select. The game will automatically pick up exactly where you stopped to get that email out. This is called Fast Application switching in Windows Phone and it makes the OS feel smart, fast and fun to use.

The next one is about music, which is a key component of owning a smartphone today. Here’s the kicker; if you are a Mac user ensconced in iTunes land then Windows Phone Connector software is freely available to download and synchronises beautifully with WP7. So don’t let that deter you from tyring this mobile OS. Windows Phone Connector features a very clean UX which is simple and allows you to sync music, movies, TV shows, podcasts and pictures from your iTunes library.


But importantly another shortcut many people miss, and one that makes WP7 really fast to do stuff that is important to you – accessing music quickly. I want instant on music right at my fingertips and here’s how you go about it with Windows Phone.

To continue a paused song, press the unlock key once and voila.  From your unlock screen, without unlocking, is the last song you played and the rewind, pause and fast forward keys ready to resume playback.

If you haven’t used the Zune player for let’s say two hours or so, then the mini player may not be visible, but from this screen if you press either Volume Up or Volume Down it appears along with the Vibrate or Ring function.


And lastly in my top tips for new WP7 users is how seriously quickly you can take a photo on your device.

Most devices require you to unlock, enter passcode or press a button before swiping around to find your camera app and take that spur of the moment happy snap, but not on Windows Phone.

Press and hold the dedicated camera key and within a few seconds the camera will fire up and you can simply press that button one more time to take a happy snap. Or you can tap the screen to auto-focus and take a pic. Either way, it’s fast.

Start fresh

New users of the OS would really benefit from taking a fresh approach to the OS. Pretend you’ve never used a smartphone before. If you pick up a Windows Phone handset and click a few live tiles expecting everything to instantly come to life, you may be disappointed. I urge you to get a Windows Live ID organised before you start as this brings many features to life.

Other features

Also, spend the little time it takes to create Groups out of your contacts, the time invested is minimal and the payoff is huge.  It’s really a key part of making the phone a fast sophisticated way to manage different streams of people with different interests on your phone.

Try it out!

If you are still not convinced, why not try it out on your iPhone or Android device for yourself. You simply type into the browser on your phone and try it out!

For more top tips on using Windows Phone 7 check out some of the related links below or watch some of these great videos from CES 2012 or even better, be the first to find out when the new Nokia Lumia 800 is available by registering your interest with us here.

Related links

*Editors note: Amended from multitasking to fast switching with thanks to WP Down Under our Windows Phone guru.


Posts: 47


  1. Sheeds says:

    Great post Dan!

    Thanks also for the links. The Samsung Omnia W launch post and review on Telstra 3G (linked in your first paragraph) is approaching 2K reads in it’s first week -- so interest is definately high on this little pocket rocket of a Windows Phone!

    It’s also fantastic to see competition in Gen2 handsets arriving, in the launch of the Nokia Lumia 800 soemtime in March -- which should be a real shot in the arm for Windows Phone here in Australia. People should register their interest on your link for more info as soon as it is available!

    The #smokedbywindowsphone CES video’s are a MUST SEE for anyone considering a replacement or new smartphone. Don’t just buy what you have always had -- take the time to see something new; powerful -- yet easy, and rethink your phone experience!

    We are entering an exciting time for Windows Phone in Australia -- and the vocal community here appreciate your continued support and interest in the platform, and I personally want to say thanks for the hand you reached out to me at WPDownUnder.

    Cheers mate.

  2. Louie says:

    Yer I was a fairly vocal supporter of WP7 too. 12 months ( 3 hardware replacements and an endless amount of hours spent in the T-Life store) later, I now wish I had never bought one.

    Combined with the ridiculously bad Telstra support + customer service it has been the worst mistake of 2011.

    Buy anything but HTC or WP7

    • GCrane1982 says:

      Louie, everyone has the right to make thier own judgement and opinion on mobile handsets and operating systems however I don’t think that your comments provide quite enough context to justify your recommendation of “buy anything but HTC or WP7″.

      If you have had a bad experience with a particular device or a particular part of the OS then come out and state exactly what it is so that other people can make an informed decision.

  3. Peter Murphy says:

    A good look at the OS, without going over the top. Bringing the Lumia range will be a winner, for both Telstra WP and Nokia, and hopefully the infusion that the OS needs to be a bit more prominent down here. It’ll be exciting to see how amazing everyday translates here.

  4. Ronald says:

    Finally! Some support for WP7!…really can’t wait for the Nokia Lumia 800 to come out -- I’ve used both the HTC Mozart and HD7 from Telstra now. :) Would love to get my hands on a Lumia 800!

    @Louie It might have just been bad luck for you, I have 4 WP7 in my household and all have been working amazingly. It is a bit overarching to say ‘but anything but HTC or WP7′ based on a sample size of one person. It is a different platform that works extremely well and easily -- particularly if you’re well connected and are online all the time.

    • Louie says:

      It might be unfair to blame HTC or Microsoft for be getting a lemon. I probably would be as frustrated with it if Telstra didn’t insist on making you return it over and over again and then make you make 2 weeks every time they repair it.

      I went to pick up my phone for the third time yesterday and waiting 30 minutes in the repair line to find out my phone actually hadn’t arrived.

      Maybe a more accurate statement is buy a HTC WP7 if you put absolutely no value on your time.

  5. Louie says:

    Also has ever actually worked? I’ved used it all 3 times using the phone number, imei and repair number and never seen it find any results.

  6. Pete says:

    I was interested in a WP7.5 handset but all my research indicates that it is extraordinarily difficult to sync Tasks & Calendar to MS Outlook on a home PC (not via MS Exchange).

    Hello.. MS? These are two platforms from the same company and they don’t sync properly? You gotta be kidding!

    In fact, even though Apple’s sync process leaves a lot to be desired, it is increasingly looking like it is easier to sync tasks on an iPhone with MS Outlook. Maybe Apple have moles at MS working on WP7.

    If anyone has got Calendar AND Tasks on a WP7.5 device to sync to MS Outlook quickly and easily please let us know.

    • DaveG says:

      @Pete, Syncing with Outlook is specifically NOT supported for good reason. This phone is not meant to be an extension of your PC. It’s a WHOLLY online experience. Everything should be in the cloud. I think MS only included music/video syncing (with Zune) because the files are too large to sync to the cloud (no doubt that will come).

      So no -- syncing to Outlook not meant to be there.
      Syncing to hotmail (in the cloud), gmail (in the cloud) and exchange (again..) is MUCH easier on WP7 than I’ve found on any other platform.
      I’m surprised that many people are that tethered to Outlook that they don’t have their email/cal/tasks in the cloud already.. must be a bit of a pain for backup/remote-access/etc.

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