One aspect of Windows Phone has traditionally been device and specification-dependent - the multitasking carousel, accessed by long pressing the 'back' control. Up to (and including) Build 10512 of Windows 10 Mobile, devices with 2GB or RAM were allowed up to 14 'slots' in the carousel, but this has now been trimmed to be just '7' - however much RAM a device has. And the OS is faster for it.
It's all very well saying that the Lumia 950 and 950 XL camera is the best, across all shots and use cases, that has ever existed in the Windows Phone world, but how does it compare with the best of the competition? The latter is almost unanimously the LG G4, running Android, so I got that in for direct comparison and a fight to the death. At least in terms of still imaging.
In advance of my full review part (2) for the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, I wanted to set some data points up. Specifically looking at the 950 (and 950 XL) camera against its predecessor, the 930 (from 18 months ago) and the Lumia 1020 (from two and a half years ago). That I'm comparing with a smartphone camera that's so old is a tribute to how good, in terms of raw image quality, the 1020 was, though the user experience and performance in the newer devices is dramatically better, more than a single order of magnitude, from 1020 to 950. So bear that in mind too!
Security is very much in the news recently, whether physical, in terms of terrorism, or personal, in terms of hacked servers, potential ID fraud, and so on. Then there's the raft of security holes found in various versions of Android, arguably the dominant OS on the planet at the moment. Regardless of other factors, including the 'app gap', you have to wonder whether security should be a factor when choosing which smartphone platform and ecosystem to invest your time and money in? I contend that it absolutely should be.
If I've learned anything in 20 years in the handheld and mobile industry, it's that one needs to have a sense of perspective. Leading me to observe the imminent new Lumia flagships from far enough away that I can see the hill that they may - or may not - have to climb in order to be pronounced a success. Who, aside from AAWP-reading Microsoft (and ex-Nokia) enthusiasts is actually going to buy the new Lumia 950 and 950 XL?
I can't believe that it was two years ago that the Lumia 1520 first became available - it still seems fresh and competitive in late 2015, thanks to the 'leap of faith' design decision by Nokia to go with a 6" display, leapfrogging the phablets of the day. In fact, they aimed a little too high (arguably), though it's evident in a world of ever-growing smartphones that a 6" display isn't as preposterous as it was two years ago.
Looking at the form factor, weight and flexibility of the new flagship Lumia 950, I spare a thought below for the original 'budget flagship', the Lumia 830, matching the newcomer in more ways than you might think. OK, so it's horribly outgunned at the end of the day, but commonly just over £200 now, would you accept that it's a bone fide 950 'lite'? Certainly with the replaceable battery and expandable storage it's perhaps a good bet for having a workable Windows 10 Mobile system without breaking the bank?
With imaging being at the heart of many Lumia smartphones, it was important to sort out the mess that was the imaging workflow under Windows Phone 8.1. Rather than a brace of camera applications, we now have just one*, now 98% complete**, plus we have a unified Windows 10 Photos store, available on phone, tablet/hybrids/desktops/laptops, essentially wherever you're signed in to your Microsoft account. Add in OneDrive, to link them all together, and you should have photographic nirvana. Well, not quite. This is Microsoft, after all, and I've got a few questions...
At the various preview events around the world, including the one Rafe attended, reported on in this week's podcast, people I trust have been handling, nay fondling, the upcoming Lumia 950 and 950 XL flagships and delivering informal verdicts on the form factors. And there's one common thread popping up - that they all say that, of the two, they'd go for the 950 XL. Which is counter to my initial gut feeling, but I can absolutely see why.
I'm sure most of us have been through several hard resets over the years, not least when messing around with Insiders Preview builds, but we're now close enough to the firmware that will be shipping in the Lumia 950 and 950 XL that I thought I'd not only reset my Snapdragon 800-powered Lumia 930 (trying to get close to the 950 spec) but also set it up from scratch, mimicking the new user experience and documenting it as I went. How close are Microsoft to an OS that will work first time for the Lumia 950 newbie? Very close, with just a few loose ends to tie up.