So... the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is in for review. With 108MP giant main sensor and 9-to-1 oversampling. Sound familiar? And then there's the use of PureView-like smart cropping to provide zoom on both the main and telephoto systems. Loads of Lumia similarities, even if the tech is much faster now, and I couldn't decide which Lumia to do the comparison against. So I picked both of them, the 1020 and 950. And threw in the champion iPhone 11 Pro for good measure!
Recent Features - Windows Phone 8
The more time goes on, the more I appreciate what Microsoft and Nokia did all those years ago. In a big update to a previous article, I'm still amused that the tech industry is falling over itself in the modern era to embrace concepts that were commonplace back in the early days of Windows Phone - from well over seven years ago. For every naysayer that slams Windows Phone for its weaknesses, remember that it also led the world in several ways, not least UI responsiveness, dark themes, offline maps, augmented reality mapping, and social integration!
One month on from the previous update, 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. Note that I've kept the URL the same, so March's comments are all still here.
The really interesting thing about Windows 10 Mobile is that it's fully backwards compatible with old Windows Phone 8 software. Even for games. Which you really wouldn't think after browsing the Microsoft Store, since many of the classic titles aren't there anymore. But that's no reason to be disheartened, especially if you're prone to a little installing and unzipping, since there are archives of classic WP8 games online and it's the work of moments (once you've got everything in place) to 'sideload' these titles to your Lumia 950 or similar in the current day.
This is somewhat obvious if you think about it, but it's worth expanding on anyway, since it almost caught me out yesterday. There are a number of readers with older phones - Lumia 640/XL, 730/735, 830, 930 and 1520 is a good (though not definitive) list - which started out on Windows Phone 8.1 but which were offered Windows 10 Mobile, at least via Microsoft's Upgrade Advisor utility. And have been running W10M smoothly. But now in 2020, in the event of problems, don't even think of using long time stalwart utility WDRT (Windows Device Recovery Tool) to restore your phone's original OS in order to 'rebuild'. Let me explain...
Late last year I posted about hacking the Lumia 920 and 1020 (from 2013 era) up to Windows 10 Mobile in order to keep using the phones, with working Store, and more. But as part of the hack, pretending to be a Lumia 950, it turns out that the later Windows 10 Mobile branches (1703 and 1709) were over the top for these old processors and even meant that some basic functionality (mainly Maps) was lost. At which point I wondered what would happen if the hack was adapted and shortened slightly, to leave the 1020 and 920 on branch 1607 (i.e. from late 2016), giving many of the benefits of W10M but retaining a working Maps sub-system?
I speculate regularly in prose form on reasons why people may have chosen to go down the Windows Phone (and W10M) route in the past, even staying with the platforms until 2020, but I thought it would be both fun and useful to gather your thoughts in poll form. See below - what has been most attractive to you? [Updated with results]
It's an obvious trend that smartphone processors get faster with every year's new launches. True, their operating systems also grow in size and complexity, but usually at a slower rate. So, overall, things get snappier. Back in the day, Windows Phone 8.1 was itself very fluid and snappy, but the move to Windows 10 Mobile introduced a more heavyweight OS and a more sluggish experience - I wrote about all this here, back in 2015. We haven't had new first party hardware from Microsoft since early 2016 and then third party hardware later that year - so how does Windows 10 Mobile on 2016 phone hardware compare, speed-wise, with the best of 2020?
The question is a tantalising one. How would someone get on setting up a Windows 10 Mobile smartphone from scratch... in 2020? i.e. a starting point of up to date security but no more updates to come - ever, plus a patchy set of mainstream services. I keep the latter tabulated and up to date here, but I also thought it worth documenting how everything comes together (or not) on a freshly factory reset Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro, certainly the slickest and shiniest (and boy, is it slippery) Windows phone ever made.
With some social applications, comms apps and Microsoft services being phased out as time goes on, I thought a ready reference table of where Windows 10 Mobile stands would be useful. And I'll revisit this every month to update each section as needed. In summary, there's likely to be little disruption to 'normal' activities this year but a few more caveats in 2020, now that Windows 10 Mobile is out of official support. [This is the January 2020 update, a month on from the previous one.]