Here, for October 2020, is 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 seven months of comments are all still here.
Recent Features - Windows Phone 8
I last gave some smartphone choices in February 2020, but a lot has changed in the last seven months! I've pitched this as my top picks for smartphones to replace a Lumia 950/930 or perhaps an IDOL 4 Pro or Elite x3, going forwards into 2021 as Windows 10 Mobile is now long unsupported and as services gradually start to wind down. I've tested just about everything on the market and here's my updated verdict in terms of functionality, future viability, and value for money. Four of the five are new from the last selection!
In the fourth 'gentle hacker' guest post from Nico, from Italy, he switches away from flagships and looks at older and lower end Lumias which struggle with the latest Windows 10 Mobile builds - WP8.1 is no longer practical, but what about a halfway house? What about sticking with 'Threshold', the very first W10M build from the end of 2015? It turns out that there's a sweet spot here where more apps and services work for these less capable devices. But as usual, put on your geek hat for best results!
Guest writer Nico brings us a retrospective specs and user experience comparison of the three Windows 10 Mobile 'flagships'. My favourite was the Alcatel, despite some imaging misses, because I just love the screen contrast and colours, and the stereo speakers - but here's Nico's take, borne of personal experience of all three (I - Steve - don't have an Elite x3 anymore, sadly)... Which of the three (or four, depending on how you count) is/was your favourite?
Drawing on guest contributor Nico's experience, here's our guide to where each Windows Phone (8.1) and Windows 10 Mobile smartphone should end up. No, not Microsoft's official 'end of support' branch for each, but where an enterprising geek like yourself might take them with the aid of the usual interop tools and phone ID spoofing.
I've been a long time proponent of Qi wireless charging, starting with the Lumia 920 back in 2012 and then spreading through other Lumias out to the Android world (notably Samsung and LG) and then even to iPhones in the last three years. And it's still ultra-cool and more or less a must-have on any smartphone over about £500 these days - pop your phone on a wireless pad and bingo - it's (trickle) charging away. But many people are now arguing that we have to be careful - if three billion people end up using Qi as their primary charging system then the undoubted power inefficiencies inherent in the technology may become a big problem at that worldwide scale.
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.
The arrival of genuine homescreen 'widgets' in iOS (see the screenshots below) has prompted more thought about the concept and about which mobile OS has mastered them, if any. Symbian and Android both had home screen widgets in 2009, while Windows Phone reimagined the idea completely for its 'live tiles' in 2010. And, a decade later, the iPhone joins the widgets party. But have any of these mobile OS really delivered? I say no. Or at least, not yet, with iOS 14's new implementation looking promising for the future.
I get asked every so often to condense my years of (ahem) photographic wisdom into digestable form - and set against the background of phone camera hardware and software which is constantly improving. It has been six years since I did something along these lines on AAS or AAWP, so let's put that right now. Your typical 2020 smartphone camera system will take pretty good photos in full 'auto' on its own, but what can you do to take the next step?
The arrival of the Realme X3 SuperZoom, another smartphone with much hyped zoom camera system had me scurrying for some zoom favourites of yesteryear for AAS and AAWP readers, plus I also threw in the current champions, the iPhone 11 Pro and Huawei P40 Pro, for good measure. Six contenders then and I'll throw various zoom and low light use cases at them. Note that it's not all about extreme zoom, as I contended in an editorial last week, sometimes it's about zoom versatility.