Exactly a year ago, shortly after reviewing the Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL for the first time, I had a moment's pause to consider whether the older (metal) Nokia Lumia 930 was perhaps still the best phone to go for, overall, weighing up all the pros and cons. So, one year on, and with all three devices now running the latest 'Redstone 2' OS branch, does my overall verdict of the 950 XL winning out still stand? Is there still life in the old 930, now over two years old?
Having featured a number of tips, tutorials and accessories over the last year, I wanted to round up perhaps the biggest ten, in terms of getting more from a Windows 10 Mobile smartphone. Newcomers, start here (including anyone coming over from Windows Phone 8.1 via the official upgrade program), and maybe even old hands will find some of the links and comments of interest, at least.
The budget end of the smartphone market is almost as interesting as the flagship end in many ways, helped by the fact that phones costing £150 or less are far easier to recommend to others than £700 monsters (cough, Elite X3....) It's true that one's brand new (the Swift 2) while the other is reaching the end of its sales life (the Lumia 650, after only 9 months, thanks to Microsoft's strategy changes), but you can still buy the latter readily brand new, so it's still a very valid comparison. Most tellingly, both feel like they should cost twice what they actually do...
There have been several people online pointing out that you can't buy a Lumia 950 or 950 XL flagship from Microsoft in the UK anymore - they're now firmly 'out of stock'. Noted, and I've done some research and discovered, in an update to an article I did two months ago, that the stock position of the two flagships has become sparse across many other Microsoft device stores online. See the table below.
When it comes to business phablets, we're talking premium construction, extra OS level security and higher-than-expected prices. And both the new HP Elite X3 and even newer Blackberry DTEK60 fall into this camp, on Windows 10 Mobile and Android respectively (that's right, Blackberry no longer uses its own OS). But how do they stack up across the board?
Well, it isn't often that I feature a Blackberry smartphone in a head to head on AAWP - their abilities and cameras have never been top notch. But, ironically, since Blackberry decided to quit making its own hardware and merely tweak someone else's, some aspects of its branded hardware have improved in quality. Such as the new DTEK60, with 21MP main camera. Aimed at businesses, the logical comparison here might be to the HP Elite X3, but that's stuck in HP's self-imposed 10MP land so I've plumped for the Lumia 950 XL instead. Just how good is the high-res shooter on the DTEK60?
I'm being a little disingenuous in the title, I have to admit. It's true that the titles below represent my 'Top 5' VR titles, but they're also just about the only VR titles on the platform (I counted to 9 and then realised I couldn't make a 'top 10'! Contrast this to ten times that number on Android, proving that VR on Windows 10 Mobile is still in its infancy. VR is still fun to play with though - all you need is a phone with enough screen resolution (1080p is enough here) and a VR viewer (readily available for under £10 anywhere).
This is going to sound rather trivial, but I have to put pen to paper (ok, fingers to keyboard) to explain some of the calendar sync oddities we have to live with in a modern world with multiple calendar sources. In short, the problem/symptom is that calendar entries entered on another device or web page (or whatever) take quite a while to appear on our Windows 10 Mobile smartphones - in my case it was hours, which I resolved to fix. You can't quite get real time calendar syncing, but you can get close.
HP has done a pretty good (if slightly delayed) job of getting the Elite X3 sorted out in terms of updates, both of the OS kind (think Anniversary Update) and the firmware kind (notably much improving the camera). However, there are still a few bits that don't quite work right, plus I'd like to draw HP's attention to a few software modules in Windows 10 Mobile that the Lumias have and which the Elite X3... doesn't. Surely, if HP asked nicely, Microsoft would share the rest of their source code?
As I finish a couple of weeks with the HP Elite X3, and with four review parts now complete, I tried switching back to the Lumia 950 XL for a few days. Which gave me the impetus to do a direct comparison at every level between the two smartphones. Yes, one's far more business-focussed than the other, so they're really not competitors except here on AAWP, where enthusiasts will be (hopefully) interested in my deliberations below.