One of the more interesting announcements from Microsoft at MWC was the declaration of 'Windows Phone as the third ecosystem'. It's a position they have laid claim to before, both as an aspiration and as an achieved goal. This time around though, I think they were not only fair to call it out at a European conference, but they were one hundred percent right. Windows Phone is the third ecosystem in Europe, it's the rest of the world that needs to catch up.
I didn't think this comparison would happen, due to the QX-100's price and availability, but we've been kindly loaned one and I set out to pitch it, chained to an Android smartphone, against the best of Nokia past (the 808 PureView) and Nokia future (the Lumia 1020). The QX-100, in case you hadn't been following the tech buzz, really is the guts of a high end standalone camera in a form that can be used directly by any compatible smartphone. Let battle commence!
Irrespective of what actually happens at Mobile World Congress next week, the online editorials that have sprung up over the last few days have set the storyline for Microsoft's mobile week in Barcelona. There isn't any. No major Windows Phones will be announced, the major Windows Phone partner (Nokia) has grabbed the headlines through a potential Android release, and it would surprise me if any of the countless peripherals have Windows Phone as their primary smartphone.
ZDNet's Matt Miller is someone we've known well for many years, since the days of Windows Mobile and Symbian, so we take what he says with some respect. Though this doesn't mean that we always agree with him. In this case he's penned an editorial 'Five reasons I am done with Windows Phone after 3.5 years' and I thought it might be worth looking at the five points and putting some perspective on from this end.
I can offer no explanation for why the official Flickr client for Windows Phone has been allowed to languish in an almost unusable state [I blame Yahoo, Flickr's owner]. I can however explain how to use the popular 2flicka client to both browse Groups and then upload your own photos to them. In other words, you can fully contribute content to Flickr groups from your smartphone.
There is a lot of chatter online about the future direction of Microsoft, especially in mobile. Mobile nowadays does not just mean smartphones, it also means tablets and laptops, gaming and associated services such as music and video provisions. Microsoft's online services are strong not just on their own mobile platform, but on the platforms of the competing mobile operating systems. This is a very healthy place to be as the 2014 mobile story continues.
You'll have read my general comparison between these two camera flagships already - I'd given the 1020 the nod already, across the board, but then this is AAWP and you might be expecting that(!) What's more interesting is to put the camera units in the 1020 and Z1 Compact to the test across my usual range of scenarios and test cases. Sony claims super results and lossless digital zoom, PureView-style - but surely physics will win out in terms of the 1020's larger optics, sensor, OIS and Xenon flash?
Navigating your Camera Roll (in the Photos hub) is simple, surely? You just flick up and down until you see the thumbnail(s) you want. Ah, but what about when, like me, your Windows Phone is the best part of a year old and you have well over a thousand photos (and videos) stored in the system? That's a lot of 'flicking' backwards and forwards. Surely there has to be a better way? There is, and it's built-in.
Picking devices from the Android world that are aligned similarly to the Nokia Lumia 1020 is tricky - whereas the 1020 is unashamedly camera-centric, you have to go to the ridiculously sized Galaxy S4 Zoom to find something competitive in the Android world. Well, until now. Possibly. You see Sony has just released the Xperia Z1 Compact, slightly smaller than the 1020 and yet with the same high end 1/2.3" 20MP oversampling sensor as the much larger Xperia Z1 - and, hopefully, more recent image processing algorithms. I'll come to actual camera performance in a separate feature, but for now here's a blow by blow comparison of the two devices.
The world as it was back in 2006 or so. Symbian ruled the still fledgling smartphone world with over 50% market share. Windows Mobile had itself a niche, and Blackberry was still growing into an accepted smartphone platform. And all three allowed third party applications to multitask, to do what they liked in the background. This, it seems was one of the core tenets of what made a smartphone ‘smart’. Yet today, iOS and Windows Phone present a different and - much as it pains me to admit it - a better model for the 99% of humanity that has no interest in learning about RAM, GHz and background task management.