In my hopefully common-sense-strewn advice about keeping some older Lumias (mainly the 1020 and any phone with only 512MB RAM) on Windows Phone 8.1, I have to emphasise that there are huge advantages in upgrading your Lumia, whether officially or unofficially, via the Insider programme. True, your smartphone will be slightly slower overall - but the advantages outweigh the caveats, I'm convinced. Not least because your phone will be able to run UWPs (Universal Windows Programs) properly, i.e. it'll be part of the full, 300 million-strong Windows 10 ecosystem.
Recent Features - Software
The number one request I get behind the scenes on AAWP is to compile a directory of the best applications for the platform - given the amount of rubbish/fakes in the official Store, despite my rantings over Microsoft Store QA over the years. So, with another big update for mid-April 2016, and now in more phone-friendly format, here's our directory of the very best of the Windows Phone (and Windows 10 Mobile) world. If you or someone you know is just starting out on the platform then look no further for suggestions.
I touched on Dynamic Exposure in my recent feature charting the many instant decisions that Microsoft's 'Rich HDR' (née Rich Capture) system goes through each time you take a photo on, for example, the Lumia 950 or 950 XL. One of the more intriguing possible outcomes was in lowish light with moving subjects, which is where 'Dynamic Exposure' comes into play, with two shots of different exposure times combined to good effect. Below, I demonstrate just how well this works.
Remember when Windows Phone 8.1 was the mainstream and Windows 10 Mobile was the cool OS to play with, break and generally have fun with? As of March 17th 2016, Windows 10 Mobile is a (potential) reality for the majority of users of Windows Phone 8.1. Moreover, Microsoft's own resources are now more focussed into knocking 'Redstone' into shape, meaning that the standard 'Threshold' build isn't going to get anything more than critical fixes from now on. Making me ask the question (of myself), 'Where should my gaze be? What should my primary Windows phone be running?' Redstone, of course. All the way.
An update last week to Microsoft Health brought in a new (and long overdue) feature - the ability to take part in multi-person challenges with your friends. Competing to see who can do (for example) the most steps over a given period has long been part of the Fitbit world and now you can do the same with Microsoft Health. Here's how it works under Windows 10 Mobile.
One of the almost unique features of Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile is that their Store applications are set up, by default, to automatically download and install updates (just as on the desktop). So, in daily use, apps will just 'magically' appear to gain functions and bug fixes, with no intervention. In contrast, iOS and Android default to notifying users of waiting updates when the relevant store application is run, relying on the user tapping to acknowledge and agree to update everything. Which approach is best? I contend the former, by a country mile.
HDR is somewhat contentious in the world of imaging. Anyone who's seen HDR images can tell in an instant that they don't claim to show the world as it really looked, but rather as it could be emphasised, bringing out all colours and all detail to maximum effect. The results can be dramatic, see some of the examples below. Now, the Rich Capture system on many phone cameras in the Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile world means that you can do a limited amount of HDR imaging, but what happens when you can't achieve as dramatic a result as you want to at capture time? i.e. Can clever software work wonders with your raw material?
I really, really wanted to fall in love with Windows 10 Mobile. But it’s just not happening yet. Windows 10 Mobile has been a long time coming. Never mind the regressive name change bringing to mind the hoary days of Windows Mobile 6 and bloated bricks made by HTC; this is arguably the operating system that Microsoft has dreamed of all this time. A unified platform across all possible form factors playing host to a singular repository of feature-rich, beautiful applications that magically scale across different screen sizes and different processor architectures.
It's not often that I come across a utility that I really should have known about already - in this case it's Microsoft's own 'LumiaPhoneTest', and dates from "2013-14", implying that it's not under current development anymore. Still, it seems to work fine and gives you low level access to hardware tests that would otherwise require a trip to a repair centre of some kind. In this case, I was verifying that my Lumia 930's four microphones all worked...
Following on from our rather handy guide to the very best one percent of applications for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile, here's a similar guide, also part crowd-sourced, to the very best percent of games on the platform. Enjoy! And do comment if you have other suggestions, based on your own gaming experience.