Back in March this year, Microsoft released the official Windows 10 Mobile upgrade to all eligible devices - so that's a whole load of Snapdragon 2xx, 4xx and 8xx-based smartphones* all right up to date with the latest and greatest OS, and all now on the Anniversary Update, right? Actually no, the vast majority of Windows Phone 8.1 users, many with fully W10M compatible phones, are still on 8.1 because Microsoft hasn't told them about the upgrade.
Having set up expectations that Google's HDR+ computational photography in the new Pixel flagship can be considered 'PureView take II', or thereabouts, I thought it time to put this to the test. So I took three PureView flagships from various eras: Nokia 808, Lumia 1020 and Lumia 950 XL, and pitched them against the new Google Pixel XL. The aim, away from trivial sunny shots (hey, suits me, this is the UK in October!), is to really stretch the pixel combination systems, in reducing noise and finding detail and colour.
We live in interesting times. There was a one year period (that ended a few months ago) where anyone with an older Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone (let's focus here on the more capable models, so say a Lumia 920, 925 or 1020) could opt to be part of the Insiders programme and 'upgrade' to Windows 10 Mobile. Many of us did that, some even went on to 'hack' Redstone and then Redstone 2 onto such devices - and many of us promptly went back to 8.1 because of the greater maturity and stability. Begging the question - can one really use Windows Phone 8.1 as we approach 2017? What are the drawbacks of living with the older OS?
Although it's somewhat galling to read of imaging advancements in the smartphone world that aren't being made by Nokia engineers huddled in a chilly Finland, it's worth putting into context where smartphone imaging seems to be settling and where this fits into the existing spectrum of phone cameras, with specific reference to classic Nokias of the past. You see, powered by ever faster chipsets, 'computational photography' is indeed where imaging has ended up and, on the whole, for the benefit of all.
The recent stories surrounding the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, with it catching fire and even exploding, ostensibly due to over-ambitious use of space inside the phone applying pressure to the internal Li-Ion battery, caused me to mull over features in many past smartphones that seem - in hindsight - designed to specifically avoid a 'Note 7' style Lithium accident. Using the example of the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 640 XL, I show how such an accident is far, far less likely.
With eBay withdrawing its old Windows Phone 8.1 application from the Windows Store and (so far, at least) not providing a modern UWP app alternative, you may have guessed that there's an element of DIY involved in using eBay in the meantime, i.e. using eBay via Microsoft Edge. Though note that an awful lot of eBay's functionality is HTML based, so you do get a reasonable experience.
Did you know that your Lumia smartphone had an equaliser built-in? Possibly. But did you know that a) it doesn't only work with Groove Music, it works system wide, and b) it also works with the speaker on your phone and not just headphones? While this wouldn't be that notable on phones with a decent enough speaker, the Lumia 950 XL, in particular, has an unpleasantly tinny component (I went into detail here). Begging the question, can a little tweaking save the day?
It has been a long 20 months since the first Windows 10 'Technical Preview' was released for enthusiasts to test. And, I've argued, that we still have another 6 months to go until the 'Redstone 2' branch ships and puts many of the current annoyances in the past. And we currently have no less than four possible states for people running the OS. OK, maybe err... seven(!) - see below. Which one should you be on/in?
"To everything there is a season" (Eccl 3) seems appropriate as Microsoft scales back its consumer mobile ambitions in late 2016. And one of the bug-bears of the early days of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, that of sourcing spare batteries (yes, yes, you can swap these out, unlike on many mobile rivals), seems to have eased a little. Temporarily at least. And given that stock may have dried up by 2017, now is perhaps the right time to buy? I investigate...
I was going to start this feature with a reference to ‘Trouble in Paradise’, a much over-used title admittedly in TV and film, except that the Windows Phone and then Windows 10 Mobile world has rarely seemed like paradise*, so let’s just stick with ‘trouble’. You see, even a full year after the launch of the new OS and new native hardware (the Lumia 950 range), there are still aspects of the experience that are, quite simply, ‘broken’. Maybe everything will come together in Spring 2017 with a mature version of W10M 'Redstone 2' rolling out, but that seems an awfully long way away right now.