It was a long wait, but Microsoft finally got a flagship Windows smartphone into the hands of consumers. But has the company learned at all from its past failures with its mobile offerings?
The Lumia 950 and it’s big brother are the best Windows smartphones we’ve seen. How good are they? Well good enough to match even some of the best that Android has to offer. We’re given a 5.2 inch quad-hd AMOLED display with ClearBlack technology, and with a ppt of 564 it’s really sharp and really vibrant. Internally the phone is run by a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor clocked at 1.8GHz. That, coupled with the 3GB of RAM kept the phone fairly speedy in normal use. There’s also 32GB of internal storage which is expandable up to 200GB. And powering the device is a large removable 3000mAh battery, something you don’t see very often these days.
Microsoft was among the first to introduce USB C into its smartphones, helping to usher in the newly established USB 3.1 standard. This allows for not only speedy charging, which is surprisingly quick, but also speedy data transfers. And Fortunately Microsoft includes both a charger and C to B data cable in the box.
The camera is nothing short of amazing. The 20MP rear shooter isn’t as robust as the camera found on the Lumia 1020, but I feel as though the picture quality may be on par. That’s aided by the 5th generation OIS, larger f/1.9 aperture, and improvements to the imaging algorithms. Photos usually came out on the warmer side, and were saturated just right to make colors really pop, thanks to Rich Capture. Video quality was also pretty great, and I was always just one click away from 4K video capture.
My favorite part was the front facing camera. The 5MP selfie shooter was the best I’ve ever seen on a Lumia, and among the best I’ve seen in general. Selfies were crisp and clear, and there was even some auto-enhance included (not like I need it). The front camera is also capable of shooting full-HD video, though resolution was capable of going beyond 1080p. You can check out my photos in my previous article or on my Flickr account.
But there isn’t just one front-facing camera on this phone. There’s technically 3! But the other two are reserved for the coolest feature on the 950, the Iris Scanner. As part of Microsoft’s new Windows Hello security feature, the 950 uses an infrared camera to light up your eyes, while the eye scanner captures a photo, granting you access to your phone. It’s neat feature, and works well more than half the time. For more on this, check out my previous article on Windows Hello beta.
I talked about how great the hardware is on the 950, but unfortunately that doesn’t quite register into the design. At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that this is a flagship phone. In fact it looks almost exactly like a reboot of the Lumia 810, which was T-Mobile’s midrange Windows Phone of 2013. The only ounce of thought that seemed to go into any design aspect for the phone is the metal ring around the camera. But that’s it. Otherwise the phone is just a black rectangle made of polycarbonate. Would’ve been nicer if Microsoft sprang for the metal rim à la the Lumia 930…
Windows 10 Mobile
Windows 10 Mobile is a good improvement on Windows Phone 8.1, but that doesn’t mean it’s great. The OS is fairly smooth and there are visual upgrades all around, helped by the shard quad-HD display. But despite that, and some new functionalities, the OS feels quite unfinished, and I kept expecting the OS to crap out every so often. I did experience random reboots quite a few times, and there were some other bugs that I felt with, and while it was nothing major, I couldn’t help but feel like I was still on a preview version of the OS. And on a flagship phone, that’s not how it should feel. There were some nice additions, like being able to switch between a text and Skype conversation in the same thread, the ability to reply from a notification, and the new Edge browser was pretty awesome. But unfortunately the good does not outweigh the bad. Check out my article in the description for more of my thoughts on Windows 10.
It’s not a Windows smartphone review without talking about apps, now it it? Things have gotten better for the Windows Store these past couple years, but unfortunately Microsoft finds itself with the same predicament. There just aren’t enough quality apps on their platform. I love racing games, and the only good one I could find besides Asphalt 8 was a little gem I stumbled upon called Space Racing 3D. Besides that I was pretty much out of luck. And besides the unnecessary amount of beta apps scattered around, the official ones aren’t nearly as good as they are on iOS and Android, especially Facebook, Twitter and Swarm. And Microsoft’s own Groove Music app doesn’t seem to know what “shuffle” means, only shuffling through songs that begin with the same letter or something near it. Shaking my head, Microsoft.