Four months is a long time in the phone world - I last opined on this topic in October, yet my picks have changed significantly! 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 2020 as Windows 10 Mobile is now unsupported and as services gradually start to wind down. I've tested just about everything on the market and here's my updated verdict, with just one eye on price and value for money as well (though this isn't critical).
"It's Surface phone the way it should have been", comments guest writer Arpolend Sevostyanov. He writes "It’s an interesting time for Windows phone owners, as the official support of Windows 10 Mobile is coming to the end, installing custom firmware made by enthusiasts on daily drivers becomes a viable alternative. One of the most exciting such projects is called 'WoA project' and I’ve been using my Lumia 950XL with WoA for about 3 months - here are my first impressions."
Forgive the thought flight into the unknown, but most readers will be aware by now that AAWP's infrastructure is less than efficient - see below for the various things that are actually broken. Anyway, I thought I'd profer a small glimpse into one idea. Your comments welcome, perhaps now more than ever!
Android smartphones come through my hands at a fair old rate - and only the best are really deemed recommendable, especially for an AAWP reader used to, say, a Lumia 950. And, unusually for me, I'm not talking imaging here - I'm looking at the overall design and construction - but the new Fairphone 3 reminds me in sooo many ways of the classic 950. See the photos and comments below and then let us know what you think!
Two weeks ago, I covered the availability of Microsoft's next-gen launcher/UI for Android, fun to play with and use now but ultimately destined to work smoothly on the Surface Duo (Phone) near the end of 2020. I did promise a walkthrough too, so here it is. It's pretty fully featured even now and if you have an Android phone and love Microsoft apps and services then it's the natural way to go. Don't worry too much about the 'Preview' bit in the name, it's stable as it is, plus it's getting updates twice a month, so it'll be a fun ride as features get added!
Late last year I posted about hacking the Lumia 920 and 1020 (from 2013 era) up to Windows 10 Mobile in order to keep using the phones, with working Store, and more. But as part of the hack, pretending to be a Lumia 950, it turns out that the later Windows 10 Mobile branches (1703 and 1709) were over the top for these old processors and even meant that some basic functionality (mainly Maps) was lost. At which point I wondered what would happen if the hack was adapted and shortened slightly, to leave the 1020 and 920 on branch 1607 (i.e. from late 2016), giving many of the benefits of W10M but retaining a working Maps sub-system?
I speculate regularly in prose form on reasons why people may have chosen to go down the Windows Phone (and W10M) route in the past, even staying with the platforms until 2020, but I thought it would be both fun and useful to gather your thoughts in poll form. See below - what has been most attractive to you? [Updated with results]
It's an obvious trend that smartphone processors get faster with every year's new launches. True, their operating systems also grow in size and complexity, but usually at a slower rate. So, overall, things get snappier. Back in the day, Windows Phone 8.1 was itself very fluid and snappy, but the move to Windows 10 Mobile introduced a more heavyweight OS and a more sluggish experience - I wrote about all this here, back in 2015. We haven't had new first party hardware from Microsoft since early 2016 and then third party hardware later that year - so how does Windows 10 Mobile on 2016 phone hardware compare, speed-wise, with the best of 2020?
The question is a tantalising one. How would someone get on setting up a Windows 10 Mobile smartphone from scratch... in 2020? i.e. a starting point of up to date security but no more updates to come - ever, plus a patchy set of mainstream services. I keep the latter tabulated and up to date here, but I also thought it worth documenting how everything comes together (or not) on a freshly factory reset Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro, certainly the slickest and shiniest (and boy, is it slippery) Windows phone ever made.
With some social applications, comms apps and Microsoft services being phased out as time goes on, I thought a ready reference table of where Windows 10 Mobile stands would be useful. And I'll revisit this every month to update each section as needed. In summary, there's likely to be little disruption to 'normal' activities this year but a few more caveats in 2020, now that Windows 10 Mobile is out of official support. [This is the January 2020 update, a month on from the previous one.]