For years people have praised Google's 'HDR+' (and then 'Pixel Camera') image handling and processing. Originally designed for Google Glass, to make a terrible, tiny camera produce good results, the multi-frame algorithms worked wonders on many phone cameras too, even by side-loading onto generic Android hardware. The system was much copied by all other phone makers, so that multiple frames per image is now commonplace. However, Google's imaging hardware has been lacklustre, even poor, in the last year, so it's a great relief to see all that good software now paired with genuinely competitive camera hardware. So, ahead of my various review tests and comparisons (versus iPhone, Sony, and yes, Lumia), I thought I'd 'focus' in on what's under the hood in my review Pixel 6 Pro...
My time with the new Microsoft Surface Duo 2 was short, only a week (do go and read the review), but the freshness of a two-screened interface on top of Android still remains in my mind. And, with a couple of fairly substantial caveats, you can play with the concept yourself on any decent PC or Mac, thanks to Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 emulator. Being upfront, the caveats are that you need a very powerful PC for the UI to approach actual phone speeds, and that the emulator doesn't include the Google Play Store or Google Play Services, so you haven't got the full Duo 2 experience.
When it comes to the number of years software support claimed for a given mainstream smartphone, we naturally - and rightly - think of that as a security comfort blanket. In other words, OS security issues discovered during that period will get fixed and we'll be protected, however far we stray from the beaten track in the web browser or whatever malicious content is fired at us while mobile. But there are extra benefits from long support times. By pushing out the need for a new phone*, we can save (quite a lot) money. And, topically in these climate crisis times, we can all help save the environment.
OK, so Microsoft went with Android in the end for its next-generation superphone, the dual-screened Surface Duo, with the 'Duo 2' here gaining a pretty decent triple camera array. I've shot various scenes across half a dozen smartphones in the last five days, but here I'm pitching the Duo 2 against the 'benchmark' imaging device from the last half decade, the classic Lumia 950 XL. Was it worth that huge camera bump?
Six months ago I demonstrated fitting a Qi coil to a phone, the Pixel 4a 5G, here on the All About sites, so the idea isn't new. But for what it's worth here's another data point, with updated phone, updated coil, and more experience under my belt. In this case, it's fitting the sorely needed Qi to the Sony Xperia 5 ii, a stunning device in all other regards. Adding Qi has made me very happy with the phone again after weeks of Qi-less frustration!
Almst six years ago to the day, Microsoft launched what would become its last* serious Windows phones, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. The announcement certainly seems like a dividing line in the sand, six years on, but - curiously and perhaps even more significantly, at least with hindsight - occurred only 18 short months after its platform had matured, making the real world, viable lifetime of Windows on phones less than two years... total, I argue. Yes, yes, a crying shame. But here are the time and data points, to back up my contention.
The tech world is gradually turning into a homogenised soup, but hopefully in a good way. Any device will, more or less, eventually be able to run any application or service, and it's down to you as to which form factor, which hardware you choose to use or carry around. In this case, I'm looking at two videos demonstrating 'Android on Microsoft', as I've termed it. We already have the Microsoft 'Your Phone' system, linking an Android smartphone (ideally from Samsung) to Windows, we already have Microsoft apps and services on both iOS and Android - the videos below show the new Surface Duo 2, with a two-pane Android experience with Microsoft front and centre, and a first look at Android applications running on Windows 10 Desktop, on your laptop or ultra-mobile.
Cortana, Microsoft's voice assistant, was always a latecomer to the party, following Siri and whatever Google were calling their voice tech at the time, but it was right up there in terms of functionality in 2015. However, with the withdrawal from 'mobile' and with the ending of support for Windows 10 Mobile in January 2020, what Cortana can actually do has gone downhill, with many people, including me, concluding that the assistant was dead and useless. That's not... quite... true, since there are numerous voice queries that still produce sensible results. With quite a few caveats, as you might expect!
I know, I know, the Lumia range is fading into memory now - but fans of the way the likes of the Lumia 950 could be disassembled in seconds to replace the battery, then a batch of Torx screws and everything else came out, will love the new Fairphone 4, due in for review this week. In fact, there are even less screws involved than on the Lumia, the screws are standard cross-heads, spare parts are more obviously available, AND the assembled phone is bang up to date Android, competitive in terms of components, and has guaranteed updates for many years to come. And, like the Lumias, there's no need to use a case - ever. This, ladies and gents, is where someone clinging onto a Lumia should perhaps look. Below, I compare the devices, spec for spec.
In the latest in our occasional series on smartphone photography, I may have moved on from a Lumia as a day to day phone, but the ideas and ambitions are still there. In this example, I use zooming, cropping and healing to deliver a cinematic shot from an otherwise unspectacular scene. See what you think and don't forget to think about sending in your own best shots and the story behind them!