Having already looked at the zoom facility in the new Apple iPhone 7 Plus, compared to the PureView zoom in the existing Lumia 1020 and 950 smartphones, the next logical (and, seemingly, much anticipated) comparison is to look at photos taken without using the small aperture telephoto lens. In other words, does the regular iPhone 7 camera trump that in the existing world champion, the Microsoft Lumia 950? The raw physics and specs suggest that, even though it's newer, it's going to have a hard time.
Recent Features - Hardware
Although at first glance this is something of a mismatch, at least in terms of mindshare in the mainstream, with a little bit of a trailing wind and some update-love from HP, the Windows 10 Mobile-powered Elite X3 could well be a contender, albeit not in the High Street for consumers. But this is AAWP and as a Windows 10 Mobile enthusiast you're probably not bothered about buying your next phone in a shop? In which case here's my hands-on head to head with these two latest high spec offerings - the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and the HP Elite X3.
With the Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020, the way of the future was set in terms of handling zoom on a smartphone - do it digitally, whether by smart cropping into a high resolution array as on the Nokia pair, or by using a high dynamic range sensor and some really smart interpolative zoom, as on the likes of the recent Samsung Galaxy flagships. But along comes Apple (with some ex-Nokia help) to break the rules, using a two-lens, two-sensor solution in the iPhone 7 Plus - one of which is a 2x telephoto. Gulp.
Having complained about the limited capabilities of the HP Elite X3 camera in my initial tests, and having wondered where the claimed '16MP' camera resolution was, a little hardware delving reveals that this hardware may be constrained by the optics specified by HP. Or you could just say that the original figure was exagerated - though I do have a well known precedent for this!
I've done numerous pixel-level image quality features in the past on AAWP - but I look at images at 'social' resolutions much more rarely. In this case, a family day out to Hughendon Manor, taking both the established Lumia 1020 and the newer Lumia 950 along for the ride. The mission? Not to shoot images and look at pixels, but to quickly capture a wide range of subjects and lighting in the most pleasing manner at the Manor. (Ahem - I'll get my coat....)
As an industry watcher, the world of smartphones has never been more competitive or better value. It's also duller than ditchwater. And, apparently, growth has now stopped and sales are in decline... With IFA 2016 just over in Germany, where yet another batch of almost identical 5" touch slabs were announced, I'm tempted to suggest that now really is the time to look for character in our smartphones. Where are the USPs? Are they now relegated to older, almost retro, devices, while new products fall over themselves to stay anonymous?
Now, don't get your hopes up. Either for a long, in-depth test or for the Elite X3 to do particuarly well. Because a) this is just a couple of minutes, and b) the X3's optics and lack of OIS rather let it down. Having said that, there's still content here that's worth commenting on, plus (yet again) video capture is a long way from the X3's raison d'être. A really long way...
When I emailed the article "Hello Android... but not goodbye Windows!" to Steve, I casually remarked that maybe I could pen an article comparing the Galaxy Note 7 to the Lumia 1520. Steve did not bat an eyelid and quickly snapped up the offer. I then stared at myself in the mirror and muttered, "What did I let myself into?" 14 days on...
Microsoft's plan to retrench from the consumer market and leave Windows 10 Mobile, across the world, to partners and licensees, hasn't been working out too well. Plenty of companies have signed up, but many of them are 'bringing their 'B' game', not their best efforts. In most cases, the Windows 10 Mobile handset is just a tweaked version of a company's 'A' product running Android. Even the mighty tech giant HP's Elite X3 is proving a bit underwhelming. I do realise that a 'Surface Phone' is tied to the timings for 'Redstone 2', but it still can't come fast enough to reassure enthusiasts that there's high-end hope in a world of premium and more capable Android devices and iPhones.
As I've said already, the device isn't ready for the prime time yet - it's desperately in need of optimisation, of new firmware, of the Anniversary Update, due in two weeks time. Now, we borrowed a unit from Clove (nice people, go check them out) and so are cheating slightly - the Elite X3 is meant for businesses over the next 6-12 months, as part of a larger deployment solution, by which time it'll hopefully be working properly. Still, there's enough in this early peek to be able to draw conclusions as to the X3's strengths (literally) and weaknesses.