Keep, change, flip.  No, I’m not talking about dividing fractions, I’m talking about Windows Phone Live Tiles.

These information boxes have been Microsoft’s attempt to differentiate itself within the smartphone marketplace since October 29, 2012 when Windows Phone 8 was released.

If you are an Android or iPhone user that is considering Windows Phone as your next device, this breakdown will tell you everything you need to know about Live Tiles.

Live Tiles are essentially the entirety of the Windows Phone interface.  They are displayed on the home screen of all Windows Phones and make it really come alive.

Every time a Live Tile receives new information from its app, it will animate by “flipping” 180 degrees to show the new notification.  These notifications can be anything from a new text message, weather alerts, missed phone calls, stock information or score updates for your favorite sports team.

Below is an example start screen of some Live Tiles updating and animating.

Animated Live Tiles

These Live Tiles are sort of like a combination of widgets and the notification tab on Android.  When arranged together on the start screen, they are a lot like iOS app icons.  No, Microsoft did not “copy” Android or Apple.  They kind of went about the smartphone interface their own way and I personally love it.  There is just something fun about Windows Phone that I really can’t quite my finger on…well…I can, but metaphorically.

What looks like a cluttered mess at times becomes a diamond in the rough after a few weeks of playing with it.  It almost becomes “artistic” so-to-speak with how many ways you can rearrange the Tiles.  It actually is the inspiration for this website’s design!

Oh and the Tiles can be re-sized too.  The size of the Tile depends on how much information you want to be shown when it updates.  If the Tile is a 1×1 size (the smallest) it will show just the number of notifications you have missed.  Expand it to a 2×2 and you will get a quick preview of the app’s new notification and if you expand it even bigger (4×2), it might show the entire text message that you missed.  Really sleek, really simple.

A few Live Tile sizes

Clicking on a Live Tile will simply open the app that it represents.  It really isn’t the app itself so if you delete it on the start screen it isn’t gone forever (like on iOS).  Say for instance you accidentally delete the Photo Albums Tile.  You didn’t just delete all of your photos and you don’t have to buy a new pair of underwear.  Just swipe left, find your Photos app in the list, and pin the Tile back to the start screen.

Live Tiles are essentially dynamic disposable hyperlinks for an app.

By the way, every single app that you download will have a corresponding Tile.  Every.  Single.  One.  Whether it animates and is a “Live” Tile is up to the developer.

Windows Phone 8.1 brought folder functionality to the start screen so now, like iOS and Android, you can place multiple Tiles within a folder to help organize yourself and get rid of some clutter.

Folders full of Tiles

Finally, Live Tiles can be slightly customized.  They can be a singular flat color, like the green ones above, or be transparent so that a user wallpaper can be applied.  I personally prefer the solid-colored Tiles.

Alright so let’s recap what a Live Tile is:

  • They are flat blocks that flip
  • They show your apps’ notifications
  • They can be infinity rearranged
  • They can be re-sized
  • They can be grouped together in folders
  • They can be customized
  • They aren’t the actual app, so deleting them is fine
  • They make it seem like your phone is alive and pulsing with info
  • They make Windows Phone…Windows Phone!

Hopefully this breakdown helped you understand what Live Tiles are and maybe interested you in a Windows Phone.  If there is anything I may have missed that you still have questions about, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a private message on the contact page!

Recent Penn State grad who loves all things mobile. Has a knack for teaching and enjoys a bit of alliteration.

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