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Microsoft might ditch the back button in Windows Phone 8.1

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We’re still waiting on another round of updates to come in Windows Phone 8(s msft), but that hasn’t stopped the WP 8.1 rumor mill from churning. Paul Thurrott of the reliable Supersite for Windows is reporting a number of new rumors, perhaps the biggest of which is that Microsoft is getting rid of the physical back button in Windows Phone 8.1.

According to Thurrott’s source, Microsoft is doing away with the back button because, quite simply, people don’t use it. Instead they navigate away from an app by pushing the start button, much like they do on iOS(s aapl) phones. Additionally, many users don’t understand the concept of the “back stack.” But while this could make Windows Phone feel more accessible to iOS users, it will undoubtedly upset many current Windows Phone users that like the back button.

Another change said to be taking place is support for bigger screens. Microsoft is expected to introduce support for 5 to 6-inch “phablet” screens in GDR3, the next update to Windows Phone 8, but Windows Phone 8.1 is believed to extend support all the way up to 10 inches. Still, with Windows tablets like the Surface 2 already out there, it is unclear why Windows Phone would need to support such a large spec.

Multitasking is believed to see some improvements as well. While Microsoft will likely introduce the feature to close apps in GDR3, Windows Phone 8.1 could bring a whole Notification Center, which Windows Phone is sorely lacking.

Finally, support for universal binaries could allow developers to create a single app that runs on Windows Phone and Windows RT. We’ve actually already heard that one before, and it’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft goes forward with it.

9 Responses to “Microsoft might ditch the back button in Windows Phone 8.1”

  1. Wouldn’t the best option be to do away with the physical back button and incorporate a swipe-right gesture to go back? That will not only keep the old iOS users happy, but also the iOS7 users (who currently have this function) and the Android users – who simply can not do without the back functionality.

  2. I am for keeping the back button. What about going back to previous web pages? What about going back through previous settings menus? What about when i have to press the back button to drop the keyboard when I don’t want it? Taking it away means every app needs an on screen back button, taking up room unnecessarily.

  3. Dave Fellows

    People don’t use the back button? Since when? I and all the other WP users I know use the back button intensely). It’s one of the things I cherished when moving from iPhone. I can’t help but think of the start button (or lack thereof) in Windows 8!

  4. The arrogant schmucks at Microsoft should have just acted like normal people and made apps for Windows Phone 8 work with those on Windows RT and Windows 8 Metro like the other normal people at Android and iOS from the very beginning.

  5. I use the back button all the time and using it to quickly switch between recent apps is great. Removing it is a mistake. And I have a very hard time believing anyone uses the search button more than the back button, yet it stays?