Living with Windows Phone 8.1... in 2017

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I collaborate with guest writer Noel from New Zealand to bring a healthy-ish data point on a classic phone and OS - amazingly, he's still living with Windows Phone 8.1 on his Lumia 1020. He goes into detail below, plus there are some comments from me too in answer to his concerns over updates and security.

His starting point for this feature was the dangers or otherwise of living with a phone with an 'unsupported' OS. For me (Steve), the groundswell of new UWP applications, all requiring Windows 10 Mobile, plus the more modern browser and security/compatibility fixes, are enough for me to have abandoned 8.1 on all my phones a year ago.

Noel has some worries and questions and I'll come to those at the end. Anyway, over to Noel:


I'm a 49 year old dad who doesn't use social media and my phone does all that I want from it (photos and videos of the kids mainly). I know that I will have to replace my beloved Lumia 1020 at some point, but untill then it works for me.

1020 Camera Grip

It's a yellow 1020 with the clip-on wireless charging cover running Windows Phone 8.1 Denim (OS version:8.10.14226.359). Here's what I use (and don't use) on it:

First party applications

  • Phone, People, Calendar, Photos, Messages, WhatsAppLumia camera - these are all in daily use, many times a day
  • MSN News, MSN Weather – used several times a day
  • Cortana (I set my location to 'UK' to get this working in NZ) – I use this for typed-in searches and I have world headlines set as a live tile.
  • Xbox Music – used once a week
  • OneDrive – used occasionally
  • Here Drive- used once a month

Third party apps/shortcuts

  • Podcast Lounge – yes, it still works perfectly, used twice a day
  • eBay, Amazon - I have these set as Internet Explorer shortcut tiles on my Start screen - used once a month
  • Uber – used only twice a year?!
  • Spotify – used perhaps once a month

Local apps/shortcuts

  • Trademe – (NZ auction site) – once or twice a week
  • Slingshot (phone provider), Co-operative bank, Flick (power company) - all set as Internet Explorer shortcut tiles on my Start screen - used once a month

Things I miss

As you can tell from the mention of IE shortcuts above, the main things I miss are dedicated apps for the phone, bank and power companies (as I'd find on iOS or Android). The relevant web sites work in WP8.1 Internet Explorer, but I'm sure I'm missing a good deal of smoothness and speed.

I'd also like to have applications for Wilsons (car parking), Air NZ app, and Plus  there are new applications coming out all the time for other platforms, such as Seesaw (to see your childs progress at school).

Things I'm worried about

  • Current apps may not be updated (although Uber and WhatsApp have in the last month), or may simply stop working altogether.
  • If a vulnerability is discovered then Windows Phone 8.1 won't get a fix.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that 'If it works for you (and you don't use many apps) then why change to a new phone with a new OS?'


Thanks, Noel, for the data point and example set of applications, all very interesting. Your first worry is valid, in that very, very few Windows Phone 8.1 (Silverlight) applications are still being updated and, yes, some have already stopped working. Usually because the server APIs they hook into get changed/improved and only the more modern applications and platforms get adapted to work properly. Still, as long as the services you need are still working from 8.1 then I agree, stick with it.

Just have a backup plan, an alternative OS and phone that you can switch to at short notice. Switching to a more modern Windows phone will get you halfway to future-proofing, but no more than this, since even Windows 10 Mobile is not seeing the applications and service compatibility that iOS and Android get. At the very least, pick up a second hand iPhone or Android phone and install the titles mentioned above as far as you can. Get comfortable with them and then if something critical happens on the 1020 you can switch your SIM over in a heartbeat.

Your second worry is also valid (if a vulnerability is discovered then 8.1 won't get a fix), though you'd have to be pretty unlucky to get hacked. Although generic vulnerabilities for Windows possibly also apply to 8.1, I bet a lot don't, in that the code base is very different, in that even if a hacker 'got in' then there's limited damage that could be done, and in that the attack surface (i.e. someone targetting WP8.1 in 2017) is very small in the first place.

Comments welcome on my advice for Noel. Or for him, based on his usage? Maybe you're still using Windows Phone 8.1 too? What's your 'future plan of action'?

PS. You may remember that I did a piece back in 2016 along the lines of 'Keep your Lumia 1020 on Windows Phone 8.1'? With the 1020's unique camera, there's a lot to be said for keeping it on the OS it was designed for.