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.
This is something I've referred to a number of times in recent months as a problem, but it seems that we've iterated our way to the solution, so I wanted to write it up explicitly. The symptom is that, under Windows 10 Mobile, an application - usually a podcatcher - is suddenly 'not there' anymore. Its live tile is greyed out, any playing media is not available and the application shows as 'Pending' in the applications list. For hours at a time, sometimes. What's going on?
Taking a slight tangent from the core review coverage of the HP Elite X3, and in answer to numerous requests for a direct imaging head to head with the Lumia 950 XL, now that the X3 has had its camera firmware fixed up, here's a look using our interactive comparator. The winner can probably be guessed, since the X3 isn't claimed to have the best camera, but the device does have a few tricks up its sleeve....
We've had the Lumia 1020 and 950/XL winning camera phone shootouts for years on AAWP and still haven't found anything to touch them, least of all the new Pixel XL, whatever claims Google makes for it. However, the 1020's ancient now and the 950 is no spring chicken. What about the brand new HP Elite X3, priced for business and built like a tank. Does its camera prove a better match for the Google darling?
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.