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Teased in Panos Panay's hands late last year, the Surface Duo (Surface Phone, as we knew it) has finally been officially launched by Microsoft. See the quotes and details below. To no one's surprise it has emerged as a device for business and the enterprise rather than a consumer offering, with an emphasis on productivity and remote management by IT departments. The 'perfect fit for the modern workplace'. Which will disappoint a few here - ditto the pricing, which 'starts' significantly north of £1000/$1000. The Surface Duo ships on September 10th (2020).
Something of a triumph of design over materials, these Tribit ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) headphones were sent in for review and end up being terrific value for money, with a number of thoughtful touches. Given that many ANC headphone sets, including those best thought of, come in at well over £200, to have these in hand for £60 is rather impressive. Especially so since these charge via USB Type C, i.e. your usual phone charger and not cheaped-out microUSB. Add in being almost infinitely adjustable, being able to use the ANC without even powering on the main Bluetooth circuits, and even plug in ye olde 3.5mm cable, and these are definitely worth a review.
The original Microsoft vision was to bring as much of Windows to phones as possible, even extending phones to Continuum desktops to run 'as' PCs. Sadly, they gave up on Windows 10 Mobile and had to shift to plan B. Or C, depending on how you're counting(!) Regardless, Microsoft has been pressing forward with their 'Your Phone Companion' (Link to Windows) software for a couple of years now, buoyed up by a developing partnership with Android phone manufacturer Samsung. With the launch of the latter's Note 20 range yesterday, extra integration features were announced - see below for some interesting animations, demonstrating how it works.
Here's the refreshed/latest news and comment on applications and services on Windows 10 Mobile - the OS itself has now had its very last security update, but it still works on the whole. This feature will summarise what's broken and what's not, along with workarounds where possible. Details and links have all been updated throughout. Note that I've kept the URL the same, so the last four months of comments are all still here.
Four months on from the previous update, here is the Summer 2020 update (two additions, two apps removed, several links tweaked) to the AAWP directory of curated UWP applications, those with native Windows 10 UI and which support different orientations, Continuum and even use on laptop or tablet. Do please get involved in the comments to let me know of anything which has stopped working.
One of the most important phone features for a Lumia owner that needs replicating in the wider world of Android and iOS is the camera, of course. And I've established that if you pay a lot of money (e.g. £1000 for the iPhone 11 Pro) then you can match and exceed even the Lumia 1020 and 950 XL. But what if you're a bit strapped in this crazy world of lockdowns and redundancies? The new Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro is in for review, with a (nominal) quad camera setup including a 64MP main sensor and it's only £249. It's great value for money, but can the camera set-up get close what a Lumia owner might expect? i.e. can you really save money and still take great photos?
It's inevitable that technology will drop in price as time goes on - Apple introduced the original TWS (True Wireless Stereo) AirPods at around £150, but we now have vastly cheaper alternatives with better sound quality at under a fifth the price (or a seventh, compared to the in-ear AirPods Pro, which are a better comparison). I've been reviewing these with my Lumia 950 XL and my iPhone 11 Pro and was impressed. Obviously, the materials used are a cut below Apple's and there are less 'joined up' software bells and whistles, but the Realme Buds Q are £30. Cheap plastic, whatever, these are damned good value.
The Surface Duo (Surface Phone) has been a long time coming. A very long time, and will arrive with Android at its core and not Windows 10, after an OS change in 2018. But it's still of interest because of its innovative hinged form factor. True, its specs are going to arrive a little dated, but at least there's not much longer to wait. News reports and titbits linked below indicate that the Surface Duo should become available in the next month.
Camera 'angles' are an odd thing. Back in the day (2005-2015), all a phone camera needed to do was shoot a single, standard (90° or so) photo of a scene, as well as possible. Job done. Various smartphones experimented with zoom (notably the famous 808 and 1020 pair), and from 2015 smartphones with extra telephoto lenses started to appear. But LG went in a different direction with its G5, building in a 130°+ wide angle camera as the phone's 'secondary'. And the idea caught on, with as many dual camera phones coming out in 2020 with 'main and wide angle' as 'main and telephoto'. Could it be that I, for one, underestimated the appeal of a true wide angle camera?
Almost six months ago I came up with four suggested replacements for a Windows phone, at various price points and with suitable caveats and observations. All of which are still decent shouts in late July 2020, but I wanted to go further and deliver an overview of the entire smartphone world this time round, at least as seen from a Western (UK) perspective. What do I think of the ever increasing brands and models?There has never been so much choice, one might argue, but I'd also point out that there's a huge amount of commonality as well, and that anyone buying in mid-2020 needs a decent degree of discernment.