The number one request I get behind the scenes on AAWP is to compile a directory of the best applications for the platform - given the amount of rubbish in the official Store, despite my rantings over QA over the years. So, with another big update for the end of November 2015, here's our directory of the very best of the Windows Phone (and Windows 10 Mobile) world. If you or someone you know is just starting out on the platform then look no further for suggestions.
Security is very much in the news recently, whether physical, in terms of terrorism, or personal, in terms of hacked servers, potential ID fraud, and so on. Then there's the raft of security holes found in various versions of Android, arguably the dominant OS on the planet at the moment. Regardless of other factors, including the 'app gap', you have to wonder whether security should be a factor when choosing which smartphone platform and ecosystem to invest your time and money in? I contend that it absolutely should be.
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.
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?
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...
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.
I'm sure most of us have been through several hard resets over the years, not least when messing around with Insiders Preview builds, but we're now close enough to the firmware that will be shipping in the Lumia 950 and 950 XL that I thought I'd not only reset my Snapdragon 800-powered Lumia 930 (trying to get close to the 950 spec) but also set it up from scratch, mimicking the new user experience and documenting it as I went. How close are Microsoft to an OS that will work first time for the Lumia 950 newbie? Very close, with just a few loose ends to tie up.
With the Lumia 950 XL, Microsoft has caught up with the pack in terms of smartphone specifications, as you'll see below. But has it done enough to tempt users from other ecosystems by virtue of sheer hardware and integrated brilliance? Time will tell in a month's time, when the first reviews hit, but in the meantime we can get a great idea by looking at specs, features and expectations.
One of the most popular requests here on AAWP has been to apply a little rigorous benchmarking to both 'old' and 'new' versions of Windows on phones. In other words, if a user of, say, a Lumia 925 (a flagship phone in its day) were to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile from Windows Phone 8.1, would they see speed gains overall, or experience a slowdown? The results are shown below - on older devices, Windows 10 Mobile is significantly slower, though with the caveat that newer, Snapdragon x00-based devices don't seem so badly off.