Having slammed the Surface Duo utterly for its initial specs, price and availability, I did want to address the balance and point out (some of) the things it will be able to do well. And who's going to buy it. There absolutely is justification for the initially crazy price tag - it's just not a justification that brings it remotely within recommendation range for most people reading this. Plus I have some serious Duo-centric questions about the core of 'productivity' - entering text.
One of the most important phone features for a Lumia owner that needs replicating in the wider world of Android and iOS is the camera, of course. And I've established that if you pay a lot of money (e.g. £1000 for the iPhone 11 Pro) then you can match and exceed even the Lumia 1020 and 950 XL. But what if you're a bit strapped in this crazy world of lockdowns and redundancies? The new Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro is in for review, with a (nominal) quad camera setup including a 64MP main sensor and it's only £249. It's great value for money, but can the camera set-up get close what a Lumia owner might expect? i.e. can you really save money and still take great photos?
Camera 'angles' are an odd thing. Back in the day (2005-2015), all a phone camera needed to do was shoot a single, standard (90° or so) photo of a scene, as well as possible. Job done. Various smartphones experimented with zoom (notably the famous 808 and 1020 pair), and from 2015 smartphones with extra telephoto lenses started to appear. But LG went in a different direction with its G5, building in a 130°+ wide angle camera as the phone's 'secondary'. And the idea caught on, with as many dual camera phones coming out in 2020 with 'main and wide angle' as 'main and telephoto'. Could it be that I, for one, underestimated the appeal of a true wide angle camera?
Almost six months ago I came up with four suggested replacements for a Windows phone, at various price points and with suitable caveats and observations. All of which are still decent shouts in late July 2020, but I wanted to go further and deliver an overview of the entire smartphone world this time round, at least as seen from a Western (UK) perspective. What do I think of the ever increasing brands and models? There has never been so much choice, one might argue, but I'd also point out that there's a huge amount of commonality as well, and that anyone buying in mid-2020 needs a decent degree of discernment.
Never mind Huawei's infrastructure woes, the company's handsets will carry on being made and supported, though not with Google Mobile Services. Which is a huge disadvantage for most people in the Android world, but I still maintain that the app and services situation is 99% fine for someone coming from a Lumia and dependent on Microsoft services and apps. I've previously showcased the P40 Pro with everything installed and accessible from the default Huawei launcher, but I've now discovered that it's trivial to get the official Microsoft Launcher for Android installed and working. Giving even more of a Microsoft flavour to this imaging-centric Chinese phone for Western markets.
The arrival of genuine homescreen 'widgets' in iOS (see the screenshots below) has prompted more thought about the concept and about which mobile OS has mastered them, if any. Symbian and Android both had home screen widgets in 2009, while Windows Phone reimagined the idea completely for its 'live tiles' in 2010. And, a decade later, the iPhone joins the widgets party. But have any of these mobile OS really delivered? I say no. Or at least, not yet, with iOS 14's new implementation looking promising for the future.
I get asked every so often to condense my years of (ahem) photographic wisdom into digestable form - and set against the background of phone camera hardware and software which is constantly improving. It has been six years since I did something along these lines on AAS or AAWP, so let's put that right now. Your typical 2020 smartphone camera system will take pretty good photos in full 'auto' on its own, but what can you do to take the next step?
Spotify is the most successful music streaming service in the world - but that doesn't mean that its attitude and its lawyers don't suck. They've gone after third party Spotify clients for years and Strix Music (née Spotimo) UWP is just the latest victim. Meaning that Strix Music for Windows 10 Mobile can't be published in the Microsoft Store, sadly. But don't give up - the application is available for side-loading onto your Lumia (or similar) and, with a few beta caveats, works just fine. Here's how to install Strix Music and set it up.
I've already matched the brand new Xperia 1 mk II up against the Lumia 950 XL, but I did promise an imaging head to head - and it's going to be very close, the Xperia's image processing is under control and I promise to give it bonus points when it can do other revelant and useful things... Is the new Sony the ultimate 'camera phone'?
In the latest of my series of looks at alternatives to a favourite Lumia flagship, I bring you a head to head with the brand new Sony Xperia 1 II (said 'one mark two'), claiming pro-level imaging (including an optional DSLR-like interface and pro-grade video shooting tools). There's an awful lot packed into this £1000 Android handset, so let's get started... (And yes, an imaging shoot-out is next!)