As one would expect for a heterogeneous syndrome like schizophrenia, at the individual level the course of symptoms and disability vary widely. Mindful that the definition of recovery/remission varies widely between studies, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis reported that the proportion of those with schizophrenia who recover on both symptom and functional outcome is modest (approximately 14%). A 10-year follow-up of the English multicentre AESOP incidence study provides more ‘fine-grained’ insights into the time course of symptom fluctuation for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. We highlight selected findings from the new study and speculate on the role of different outcome domains for future study (e.g. symptom, occupational/functional, cognition, physical health, patient-nominated outcomes). Because recovery is a multifaceted process, we need to develop a panel of practical and operationalizable criteria for remission and recovery.