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If I've learned anything in 20 years in the handheld and mobile industry, it's that one needs to have a sense of perspective. Leading me to observe the imminent new Lumia flagships from far enough away that I can see the hill that they may - or may not - have to climb in order to be pronounced a success. Who, aside from AAWP-reading Microsoft (and ex-Nokia) enthusiasts is actually going to buy the new Lumia 950 and 950 XL?
I can't believe that it was two years ago that the Lumia 1520 first became available - it still seems fresh and competitive in late 2015, thanks to the 'leap of faith' design decision by Nokia to go with a 6" display, leapfrogging the phablets of the day. In fact, they aimed a little too high (arguably), though it's evident in a world of ever-growing smartphones that a 6" display isn't as preposterous as it was two years ago.
I've railed against freemium games which, quite frankly, take liberties with their players and their money, though - in fairness - there are also some good examples, freemium done right, as it were. And then you have traditional games like FoxOne Advanced Edition here, where for around $3 (£2) you get everything. And I mean every plane, every weapon, all unlocked through the time-honoured method of playing well. Making FoxOne Advanced Edition a cracking buy and a lot of fun, without any in-app-purchase worries or doubts.
Looking at the form factor, weight and flexibility of the new flagship Lumia 950, I spare a thought below for the original 'budget flagship', the Lumia 830, matching the newcomer in more ways than you might think. OK, so it's horribly outgunned at the end of the day, but commonly just over £200 now, would you accept that it's a bone fide 950 'lite'? Certainly with the replaceable battery and expandable storage it's perhaps a good bet for having a workable Windows 10 Mobile system without breaking the bank?
In AAWP Insight #161, hosted by Steve and Rafe, we start by revisiting Microsoft's recent quota changes to OneDrive, prompted by some listener feedback. We also discuss when existing devices will get the Windows 10 Mobile update, whether you should choose the Lumia 950 or 950 XL (and when they are likely to arrive in shops). The other major topic in the podcast is the Microsoft Band 2, following on from Steve's review of Microsoft's second generation wearable.
The expected 'Release To Manufacturing' build of Windows 10 Mobile (i.e. being flashed into the first batches of Lumia 550, 950 and 950 XL), build 10586.11 is now available to all the brave souls (like us) on the Microsoft Insiders Programme. Details and a few suggestions below.
With imaging being at the heart of many Lumia smartphones, it was important to sort out the mess that was the imaging workflow under Windows Phone 8.1. Rather than a brace of camera applications, we now have just one*, now 98% complete**, plus we have a unified Windows 10 Photos store, available on phone, tablet/hybrids/desktops/laptops, essentially wherever you're signed in to your Microsoft account. Add in OneDrive, to link them all together, and you should have photographic nirvana. Well, not quite. This is Microsoft, after all, and I've got a few questions...
Windows 10 Mobile, for those of us using the Insiders Build, has had broken Rich Capture for quite a while. I say 'broken', but it did work sometimes. And then didn't the rest of the time, usually when you needed it most. To recap, Rich Capture is 'HDR' plus 'Dynamic Flash', the idea being that different exposures (or, in the latter case, one with flash and one without) can be combined 'after the fact' in different ways. That this has been broken for a month has been a major thorn in the side of anyone using the Insiders builds of Windows 10 Mobile and now it's finally fixed.
In a crowded marketplace, it's always good to carve out a niche - and this is what Microsoft did in the wearables space with the original Band, reviewed here. The idea was to do a lot more than a humble 'fitness band', yet stop short of a full smartwatch. As a result, the Band could be a big aid to your life while keeping a multi-day battery life. It was clunky though - and now we have the Band 2, in theory more comfortable, more durable and better in every way. We're well away from 'prototype' territory this time round, and it remains the smartest thing you can hook up to a Windows Phone, in particular...
At the various preview events around the world, including the one Rafe attended, reported on in this week's podcast, people I trust have been handling, nay fondling, the upcoming Lumia 950 and 950 XL flagships and delivering informal verdicts on the form factors. And there's one common thread popping up - that they all say that, of the two, they'd go for the 950 XL. Which is counter to my initial gut feeling, but I can absolutely see why.