Q&A: The new Windows Phone 8 lock screen

Q&A: The new Windows Phone 8 lock screen

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The new Windows Phone 8 Start screen, with its new resizable Live Tiles, colors, and other improvements, has been getting lots of well-deserved attention since it’s debut. Lock screen with callouts showing alarm status, detailed status, and quick status icons.

But Start’s sidekick—the lock screen—also received several juicy upgrades in the new release.

The lock screen, in case you’re not familiar, is the first thing you see when you turn on the phone, and serves to both shield Start from prying eyes and supply key at-a-glance info: things like your next appointment, number of missed calls or unread emails, plus the current time and date.

To get the scoop on what’s new, I turned to program manager Danielle Ellbogen, who walked me through some of the notable changes she and her team made and revealed her own favorite.

Q: So let’s dive right in. How’s the lock screen different in Windows Phone 8?

A: We now let you customize the notifications at the bottom of your lock screen. Before we showed the calendar in the detailed status area. Now you can change that calendar slot to things like your email, your phone, your messaging—so you can see who the missed call was from, or read the first couple lines of a new text message. It’s the same amount of detail you’d see in the large Start tile.

Apps can also register to be on the lock screen. For example, Facebook could show you new comments or if someone posted on your wall. CNN could show you their top story. Skype could show missed calls.

And we made it possible to customize and add new apps to the quick status notification area at the bottom of lock. These are the little icons that show how many missed calls or text messages you have. You can even switch up the ordering of the slots.

Q: That’s cool. Is that all done in the phone settings?

A: Yeah. We figured we shouldn’t be deciding these things for the user because it’s such prime real estate. Users should decide what’s most important to them.

Q: How have you taken advantage of this new power on your own lock screen?

A:  I get tons of work email so that status number just constantly goes up. On the weekend, I don’t want to think about it. So I like to be able to take that icon off.

Q: In Windows Phone 7.5 we added an option to show band or artist images when playing music—a fun touch that I don’t think many people are aware even exists. Anything new on this front in Windows Phone 8?

A: Now we’re allowing apps to set the lock screen background photo for you. So Facebook, for example, gives you the option to display images from your Facebook albums. Every 30 minutes or so you’ll see a new picture. CNN shows you a picture of their top story. And since we have Bing on Windows Phone, you’ll also now be able to see the Bing image of the day—something people asked for on Suggestion Box. People love those pictures, so we made a really big push to get the feature in.


The new Windows Phone 8 lock screen includes lots of new personalization options, including the ability to show the Bing picture of the day. You can also change the order of quick status notifications and add new ones. And don’t forget the option to display band art (right).

Q: A sharp-eyed blogger recently noticed that we addressed another customer request related to the music controls that show up on the lock screen when you’re listening to something. What’s that all about?

A: If you’re listening to music we show you controls to pause and resume the music or skip tracks. But in Windows Phone 7.5, these controls didn’t go away. People thought they persisted too long, and there was the fear of, What if I accidentally hit play in a meeting?

So what we did in Windows Phone 8 is, if you hit the power button, it brings the controls down for three seconds, but then they disappear. This way they’re not always there anymore.

Q: The lock screen can also prevent the wrong people from getting into your phone, by requiring a four-digit PIN to get past it. I hear there’s a new security-related improvement in Windows Phone 8.

A: We made it harder for someone to accidentally erase everything from their phone. Many companies require employees to set up a PIN on their smartphone. If someone taps out the wrong code too many times, some security policies require that the phone be automatically wiped. If your toddler picks up your phone and starts playing with it, you could accidentally lose all your data. Not good.

To help prevent that, we now show you a simple alphanumeric phrase before the final PIN attempt. You need to enter this phrase exactly to try your PIN again. We think this should help prevent people from having their phones accidentally reset.

Q: Was the lock screen fun to work on?

A: It’s nice to work on a feature that people see and use every day—even though you get a lot of grief [laughs]. Because it’s so prominent, everyone sees it and everyone has opinions about it. But to me those are just good problems to have—people talking about your feature and caring what it looks like.

Q: What’s in store for the future? Did you use up all your good ideas in Windows Phone 8?

A: We have a pretty long list! We probably won’t even get to everything we want to do.

Learn more about how the lock screen works in Windows Phone 8.

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  • kcam22
    0 Posts

    The lock screen sucks.  Mine requires an alphanumeric password with 1 uc & 1 lc letter & 1 num or sym.  So stupid.

  • I really really miss the picture password. It's way easier to login than a PIN but harder to peek. And cooler anyway

  • toybook
    0 Posts

    Today marks the arrival of Windows Phone 8 in the United States with AT&T's launch of the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Nokia's Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. The Lumia 920 is available in red, black, yellow, http://www.bankinfoonline.com/

  • I welcome these new features to the lock screen, good job team...... The only complaint I have is why not give us the option in settings to choose whether or not the music controls stay permanently, or disappear in 3 seconds. Some of us would like for music controls to stay permanently, while some of us want them to go away quickly....

    My suggestion to the engineers is throughout the OS instead of changing a feature one way or the other permanently, let us choose how certain features act by giving us more options in settings. This way everyone is happy, no complaints, and it saves you guys from having to spend time deciding on which way is best... Please leave that up to us.

  • robble
    4 Posts

    Yeah this is cool but how can I back up and restore ALL of my current Windows Phone info (including SMSes and savegames) onto a WP8 phone? Why does it feel you're doing your best to drop your existing userbase? We're the ones who gambled on you, and currently it feels as though we lost.

  • More than one Meeting ahead is not possible to display...I often have 2-3 per day. Would be nice to see them too. Just 2 to 3.

    Business features....please, think also about us using the Phone 9 hours / day for business and 2 for leisure. Or so.

  • haen
    0 Posts

    Would be great to have the ability to select a particular notification and launch straight to that app from the lock screen. This only occurs in 7.5 if you immediately unlock the screen upon receiving a notification and does not allow for user discretion when faced with multiple notifications from different sources (text/email/phone).

    Also would like the ability to launch applications from the lock screen, regardless of notifications. Could use particular gestures or starting points to identify the app to launch. The lock screen would have so much more functionality. My ideal lock screen would essentially be my start screen with a single hardware, not software, input to toggle between lock/screen off and unlock/screen on.

    Hope you enjoyed the read. Thanks for your time.

  • toybook
    0 Posts

    On its blog on Friday, Microsoft explained how it came up with the revised start and lock screen for Windows Phone 8; new features like Resizable Live Tiles help make the platform more customizable for users... http://www.bankinfoonline.com/

  • Well, i think Microsoft did not enough to make WP8 more personal or to allow OEMs just a little more customization. I think there are just some very few features Microsoft could have implemented without losing it's own style. Here are some suggestions:

    - Allow videos/animations on the lock screen (e.g. Sony Xperia backgrounds or Bing video wallpaper)

    - Allow customizable transition effects from lock screen to start screen

    - Over the time the start screen gets full of pinned tiles and you have to scroll down a very long list. This makes it very hard to capture important informations from all these pinned tiles. Maybe it's better to implement multiple home screens. I really have to say that even android is more closer to Windows 8' home screen than WP8, because you can horizontally scroll. It would be much better if you could horizontally scroll through your tiles on Windows Phone like you can do in Windows 8. The advantage of an horizontally list is that you don't need to add all tiles from top to bottom. Instead you could simply add some very few tiles (large or small) to you screen, so that everything looks neat and clear. If you want more tiles without making it bloated you could simpy swipe left or right to show more tiles.

    This would also give you the possibility to use backgrounds for your start screen, because there are fewer tiles on a home screen. Sure, you should still allow the user to add tiles from top to bottom, but simply give him the option to use more home screens.

    And if i am talking about Windows Phone, i have some more suggestions:

    - Why is this very ugly multitasking window still unchanged? Really, this fixed size horizontal list of apps is just ugly and very chaotic. Why not making it more like Windows 8? The Sony Xperia T provides a very Windows 8 like multitasking bar.

    - The application list is also not really user friendly. I would suggest that you collapse the whole application list. Instead show the last used apps on top of the list and provide some more icons/buttons for filtering (e.g. show all, alphabetical). Additionaly you could allow the user to create application groups where he can group it's applications.

  • Looking forward to the new update, and I wish the Nokia 920 was coming to my network.  Sigh.

    Are there any plans to allow customization of the lock screen's player controls?  Personally I would really love it if the lock screen supported swipe gestures for skipping back and forth, like on the Now Playing screen.  Trying to find the teeny little Next button is a real pain when the phone is in my pocket.

  • m1o2
    0 Posts

    could we have another security options ? besides the 4 digit PIN numbers ? what about the Windows 8 pictures PIN ? or at least a PIN that have more than 4 characters.

  • m1o2
    0 Posts

    could we have another security options ? besides the 4 digit PIN numbers ? what about the Windows 8 pictures PIN ? or at least a PIN that have more than 4 characters.

  • Is the new lock screen and the music controls optimization available in Windows Phone 7.8?

  • abm
    268 Posts

    Thanks Michael, and thanks for the insights on behind-the-scene.

    Please provide us a migration tool OR back-restore app which collects the list of third party apps, their settings, their data, phone settings, personalization, IE favorites etc. and restore it on the new WP8 device. On Android they offer many apps for this purpose. One of them (perhaps the best) called "Titanium backup", which take *complete backup* of your device, zip it and give you option to store it on phone-memory, cloud (dropbox and google-drive) or PC. You can even take backups from multiple devices and on-restore, it shows list of apps by device. From there, you can restore any app on any device (in case its not compatible with the current version of OS, it will disable that particular app in the list).

    Unfortunately we, the WP users, are confined to text-messages, pictures and phones to sync with cloud.. Please create such app with hand full of options and customizations (granular approach; select what to backup and estimated space required), so people can have true freedom in Windows Phone ecosystem.