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.
Windows 10 Camera isn't the only game in town anymore. Actually, it never was, since a great number of third party camera applications already existed and most continue to work to this day. However, ProShot is the 'big daddy' in the world of third party cameras for Windows Phone and now we have this rewritten UWP version, as reported on here. But what can this do over and above Windows 10 Camera? And is ProShot worth the purchase price?
Microsoft's recent extravagant price drops for the Lumias in most world markets signalled one of two things: either the company had woken up and was actually trying to sell some of these phones at realistic prices; or the company had woken up and decided that they wanted to stop selling Lumias, hence time to clear the current stocks. In looking at the current situation (Sept 2016) I try and discern the truth...
Having already looked at the zoom facility in the new Apple iPhone 7 Plus, compared to the PureView zoom in the existing Lumia 1020 and 950 smartphones, the next logical (and, seemingly, much anticipated) comparison is to look at photos taken without using the small aperture telephoto lens. In other words, does the regular iPhone 7 camera trump that in the existing world champion, the Microsoft Lumia 950? The raw physics and specs suggest that, even though it's newer, it's going to have a hard time.
Although at first glance this is something of a mismatch, at least in terms of mindshare in the mainstream, with a little bit of a trailing wind and some update-love from HP, the Windows 10 Mobile-powered Elite X3 could well be a contender, albeit not in the High Street for consumers. But this is AAWP and as a Windows 10 Mobile enthusiast you're probably not bothered about buying your next phone in a shop? In which case here's my hands-on head to head with these two latest high spec offerings - the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and the HP Elite X3.
With the Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020, the way of the future was set in terms of handling zoom on a smartphone - do it digitally, whether by smart cropping into a high resolution array as on the Nokia pair, or by using a high dynamic range sensor and some really smart interpolative zoom, as on the likes of the recent Samsung Galaxy flagships. But along comes Apple (with some ex-Nokia help) to break the rules, using a two-lens, two-sensor solution in the iPhone 7 Plus - one of which is a 2x telephoto. Gulp.
Having complained about the limited capabilities of the HP Elite X3 camera in my initial tests, and having wondered where the claimed '16MP' camera resolution was, a little hardware delving reveals that this hardware may be constrained by the optics specified by HP. Or you could just say that the original figure was exagerated - though I do have a well known precedent for this!
One feature of tech news feeds in 2016 has been 'Company XYZ abandons Windows Phone', a headline which sounds far more dramatic than it is. Broken down, this translates to 'Company XYZ did a Windows Phone 8.1 application three years ago as an alternative to the rather clunky XYZ web site of 2013, but the application is showing its age now and, in the absence of a full Windows 10 Mobile UWP app rewrite, is being withdrawn now that the web site works perfectly well enough in Microsoft Edge'. OK, so my translation isn't as snappy, but it's more accurate.
I've done numerous pixel-level image quality features in the past on AAWP - but I look at images at 'social' resolutions much more rarely. In this case, a family day out to Hughendon Manor, taking both the established Lumia 1020 and the newer Lumia 950 along for the ride. The mission? Not to shoot images and look at pixels, but to quickly capture a wide range of subjects and lighting in the most pleasing manner at the Manor. (Ahem - I'll get my coat....)
As an industry watcher, the world of smartphones has never been more competitive or better value. It's also duller than ditchwater. And, apparently, growth has now stopped and sales are in decline... With IFA 2016 just over in Germany, where yet another batch of almost identical 5" touch slabs were announced, I'm tempted to suggest that now really is the time to look for character in our smartphones. Where are the USPs? Are they now relegated to older, almost retro, devices, while new products fall over themselves to stay anonymous?