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?
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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...
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.
The Lumia 1020 has held itself apart from the Windows 10 Mobile story and all the Insider builds, with writers like me saying 'Stay on 8.1'. The specialised camera hardware and Xenon flash, the 2GB of RAM allied with the older S4 processor, the iconic status and operation which no one wanted to ruin with a beta non-optimised OS. But recent developments and builds have let the 1020 back into this 2016 mobile OS and it works surprisingly well. It's no 950 in terms of performance, but the Lumia 1020's imaging hardware will still be unique through 2016, I predict.
Microsoft Translator is a big thing, with versions for every form factor and with APIs and hooks into many other products - if you don't believe me, have a browse around the dedicated Microsoft Translator site here. The point is that there are a lot of behind-the-scenes resources in the (Microsoft) cloud dedicated to making Translator work. And with Translator now officially out of beta (after an eternity) on Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile, make sure that you have this installed and ready for use the next time you find yourself in a linguistic tough spot.
I've complained so many times about duplicate and misleading applications in the Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile Store, and it's not clear how much Microsoft has listened - certainly plenty seems to keep slipping through the net. But I wanted to model how you and I can help, by using a function I'd never actually used before. It only takes a few seconds and who knows, if a few thousand (or more?) of us report the odd miscreant when we come across them, the Store may get better faster and we'll all benefit in the long term?
In case you've been living under a rock, Windows 10 Mobile is being tested across the board and official updates aren't that far away. Yet the Lumia 1020, the camera-champion and with unique hardware, has already been singled out by both Microsoft and me, the former admitting that the new OS doesn't fully support the device yet, and the latter saying that 1020 owners should avoid the Windows 10 Mobile Insiders Preview for the time being. More on that below, but I also wanted to offer some thoughts on what you can do to help your 1020 feel 'fresh' in a time of great OS upheaval elsewhere.
The Lumia 930, 1520 and Icon all feature the same 'PureView'/'oversampling' camera, of course, with a 20MP sensor oversampled to produce 5MP photos with higher purity, lower noise and so on. At least that was what happened under Lumia Camera under Windows Phone 8.1. Now that the OS and camera application have changed dramatically, is PureView still a 'thing' on the current flagship devices (and presumably on the upcoming 950/950 XL, with similar camera specs)?
With updates to Windows 10 Mobile's Photos and Lumia Creative Studio in the last week, with an update to Camera hotly expected for this week, and with Photos Add-ins appearing yesterday, it seems as if Microsoft's imaging strategy is coming together. But is it better than what came before it, back in the 'good old days' of Windows Phone 8.1? It's certainly much, much simpler - and I wanted to show this pictorially, so see the flow chart below. The mess and confusion from 8.1 was partly because it used some Microsoft apps and code, and some Nokia - with Windows 10 Mobile and Nokia no more (as is), everything's now under one roof, and it shows.
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 as we move towards Autumn 2015 and new versions of the various platforms, I wanted to conduct an updated 'blind' test and get a data point or two. Or twenty. Reversing the result of a smaller sample of queries back in May, we now have an almost dead heat between Cortana and Google Now, with Siri not far behind. Things are hotting up in the voice assistant world!