Each of the major smartphone platforms has its own voice assistant, but which is better for real world use? They're all getting smarter each year, of course, as their back-ends get upgraded, but at this point in 2015 I wanted to conduct a 'blind' test and get a data point or two. Or ten. The winner might surprise you too - Cortana was the early favourite, anecdotally, but an old hand stepped up to the plate in the end...
Recent Features - How To
One of the most frustrating things about snapping photos of family is that anyone under about ten years of age just doesn't keep still. Not that you'd necessarily want them to a lot of the time, since a kid or pet doing something active, caught mid-stride, can be really effective and show off more of their character than an attempt at a traditional posed shot. The same applies to pets, wildlife and even nature itself, but there's a solution if you have the Lumia 930/Icon or 1520, as Rafe and I demonstrate below. (In fact, much of what follows also applies to the Lumia 830 and even the 640/640 XL too, albeit at much lower output resolution.)
Launched yesterday, Hyperlapse Mobile is already proving an interesting video utility, though I thought it worth pointing out some caveats and tips based on my own experiences so far. In short, it's still something of a novelty, but there's a lot of fun to be had and fully edited and polished hyperlapses can be rendered and then stitched/edited entirely on your Windows Phone.
One of the odd omissions on the Microsoft Band, reviewed here, is that there's no media control, unlike on other smartwatches. There's no music or similar tile available, for example. So if you're out running or walking or cycling and you want to pause or change playback, or similar, then you're out of luck, aren't you? Not really.
I reviewed Movie Creator back in November 2014, but the system just got itself a big update to support 4K video, i.e. burst or manually-selected video capture on the Lumia 930/Icon and 1520 - and, no doubt, future devices. In addition, there's now full integration with OneDrive, so the media you include doesn't have to exist on the Windows Phone being used to edit video anymore. Add in a few more enhancements for this new version and the time is right to see what Movie Creator can really do. Here's a tutorial to get you started.
I have to confess to spreading a little casual misinformation about smartphone screens. I was making a point at the time, in fact several times on AAWP and on the podcast, pointing out the advantages of 'full RGB' screens over 'pentile' displays. Not that I was entirely wrong, I was just exagerating, but I thought it worth pointing out in print that pentile displays are not as horribly flawed as you might think. It's all about sub-pixel rendering, you see....
One of the side effects of the arrival of Lumia Denim and Lumia Camera 5 to the likes of the Lumia Icon, 930, 1520 and 830 was that a bizarre auto-rotation issue crept in for many users. I've included a video below to show the problem - up to five seconds to switch between portrait and landscape. It wasn't a complete showstopper, but was frustrating on a day to day basis. However, it turns out that this is an artefact of upgrading from Lumia Cyan/Windows Phone 8.1 and that a careful backup/reset/restore cycle fixes the issue for good. If you too are affected, time for a spring clean?
Mentioned in passing in all the Windows 10 Insiders fun at the weekend was that for many Windows Phones, the transition to '10' couldn't be achieved without an intermediate update, to Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2. Which is interesting for several reasons, not least because this wasn't scheduled to come to most handsets (outside the USA) at all. And because it provides a unique opportunity for anyone with a Lumia 930. Grab it with both hands.
The apparent duplication in having both Windows Phone 'Photos' and 'Lumia Storyteller' on most Lumias is a little confusing, but a little investigation reveals that the latter can on the whole be used as a replacement for the former, and with significant extra features and tie-ins. It doesn't make much difference for the everyday Lumia, but for the Lumia Camera 5-compatible smartphones, it's very worthwhile making the switch, opening up the full gamut of modern features.
The story so far, I looked in detail at the image processing differences between the 'old' Nokia/Lumia Camera (Classic) and the new Lumia Camera 5 here. Summary? Greater saturation of colours, less noise reduction, increased contrast. Pros and cons all round. But we cheated slightly, using different devices, plus we should also factor the possibility of Rich Capture. Exactly which of all these gives the best photo results?