Matt Gemmell

Windows Phone

A guide for iPhone users

Tech 31 min read

Notifications and the Lock screen

One of the most important features of a mobile OS is how it handles notifications. iOS was fairly slow to get a robust notifications implementation, but now it offers a rich set of options for when, where, and how we’re informed about significant events.

Windows Phone has much of what you’ll be used to from iOS, with a few interesting extra options regarding the Lock screen.

The Windows Phone Lock screen is as stark and high-contrast as the rest of the system, by default.

Lock Screen plain

The default Lock Screen

The rectangular icon (with three lines inside it) in the status bar along the top indicates that there are notifications in Action Center.

Here’s a Lock screen with a customised background image, and a Twitter notification in a Quick Status slot.

Lock screen background

A Twitter quick status notification

You can also select one app to provide detailed status information on the Lock screen. In the following case, I’ve chosen my Gmail account. Windows Phone classifies each email account as essentially a separate app (though you can merge them as you wish), which makes it easy to segregate notifications and Live Tiles for different accounts.

Lock screen email notification

Email detailed status

You can also pick Twitter (or many others) as detailed status providers. Calendar events and alarms are also displayed by default.

Lock screen Twitter

Twitter detailed status.

You unlock a Windows Phone by swiping upwards. If you’ve set a passcode, you’ll be able to enter it. Tapping anywhere on the Lock screen will make it subtly bounce up and then drop back down, indicating the direction you should swipe to unlock.

Lock screen passcode

Passcode entry

There are a few options available regarding Lock screen status display. You can choose a background image, of course, and the aforementioned detailed status provider app.

You can also choose up to five Quick Status providers, which are shown as icons along the bottom of the Lock Screen with numerical badges, if the corresponding app has any new notifications for you. All the expected candidates are available, including calls, Skype, messaging, Facebook, Twitter, your email accounts, calendar, WhatsApp, and so forth.

Lock Screen options

Lock screen options

Windows Phone also has a dedicated notifications area called Action Center, available by swiping down from the top edge of the screen at any time. It’s analogous to an iPhone’s Notification Center.

Notifications tray

Action Center

Action Center also contains options that iPhone users will recognise from iOS’ Control Center, and on Windows Phone, they’re configurable.

Notifications options general

Quick Actions configuration

You can choose up to four (on Windows Phone 8.1; more in the upcoming Windows 10 version) Quick Actions, which are shown at the top of Action Center. There’s an extensive list available.

Notifications Quick Actions

Choosing a Quick Action

You can also adjust the system’s two independent volume levels: the one for the ringer and notifications, and the one for media playback and apps. Pressing the hardware volume controls shows a status strip across the top of the screen, which can be expanded to show the relevant controls.

Notifications volume controls

Volume controls

You can also toggle the vibration function from here.