Yes, yes, I've been trying to avoid the term 'budget flagship' for months, but I can hold off no more. You see, there's a new breed of Android smartphone in town, with 5"+ 1080p screens and high specification processors, but coming in at not that much more than £100 in the UK on pay as you go. Jaw dropping value, so I thought I'd take one such example device and compare it to the natural contenders in the Windows Phone world. Here's the Vodafone-branded Smart Ultra 6 against the Lumia 640 and 640 XL - they're significantly outgunned, but can the component choices and OS make a difference?
It's not just the name which is changing - from Windows Phone 8 to Windows 10 Mobile - there's something of a step change in terms of the core applications coming up, as many of us who have been on the Insiders Programme will know. In some cases, familiar features have been lost, in others there's a definite maturity which has arrived. Most of all though, given the way Silicon Valley hasn't been taking Windows Phone seriously in the past, there's a feeling that sharing core code, applications and a Store with the Windows 10 juggernaut on the desktop is a potentially huge bump up in significance. One that was sorely needed.
There's a sweet spot for everything, whether it's the quantity of beer you buy in one go (e.g. a 'pint'), the number of children your family has (2, in the West, allegedly!) or, indeed, the number of megapixels in your captured photos. There will always be exceptions and regional variations, but taking the megapixel example in the context of camera phones, the tech world is now moving into uncharted areas of what I've often called the 'megapixel myth'. From this point onwards, it's mainly pain and little gain, I contend, unless manufacturers start to do cleverer things with all those pixels, in the manner of PureView classics like the 808 and 1020...
It's some what ironic to see the gradual creep in size across the smartphone world, edging up to that of the original Lumia 1520 and 1320, 'phablets', announced in 2013. But, crucially, with one or two niche exceptions, nothing's got close to that 6" screen size. And for good reason, perhaps explaining why the 1520 and 1320 never really achieved significant success.
The Windows 8/10 Store is filling up nicely with third party applications and games - go have a look on your nearest laptop or desktop and you'll see what I mean. The usual suspects are there, from Facebook to Twitter to Amazon to Netflix. And on the gaming side, there's Minion Rush, Modern Combat 5, Crossy Road, and so on. Everything seems rosy, yet I've been talking to everyday users and I'm starting to have my doubts about how much this ecosystem will be used. And if it falls short of expectations, then it will may take the future of Windows Phone (Windows 10 Mobile) with it...
It has been a month since my last 'living with Windows 10 Mobile' feature - and since then we've seen a new build (10166) and are on the verge of another by by reckoning, plus there have been numerous core application updates via the Store. And with Windows 10 for the desktop now shipping to the great unwashed across the world, it's time for another snapshot of how the Mobile version is faring - I've been living with it for the last 48 hours and here's what's currently working and not working.
After a few questions on social media, I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about Microsoft's Continuum feature for phones, announced at BUILD a few months ago. The idea was that 'new premium phones' plug into HDMI-capable screens, hook up to Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, to run their applications at full desktop resolution. And, most importantly, none of the existing Windows Phone hardware will be compatible with Continuum, but there are good technical reasons for this.
One of the cornerstones of Windows Phone for years was the Nokia/HERE Maps and Drive applications inherited from Nokia's Symbian days. And with Windows 10, all of this is changing, though perhaps not to quite the same degree as you might think. You won't see the HERE brand in Windows 10, but see below for some common questions and answers about Windows Maps.
It's all very well having world-leading HERE Maps data covering every street in the known universe (well, almost), but what about when you abandon your car and start hiking, cycling or even geocaching, out in the country? For this, you need extra software and data help. Viewranger, on other platforms, is very well known, but it's not available on Windows Phone - begging the question, what to use instead? In this updated feature, I run through over half a dozen very viable alternatives.
Look in the Windows Phone Store for BBC iPlayer (at least, if you're in the UK, anyone else need not apply!) and you'll see a client for this incredibly popular streaming and catch-up TV service from the UK's national broadcasting operation. Look a little closer and you'll see huge numbers of negative reviews, talking about laggy performance, constant buffering and break-up. How can an application be this bad? Well, in fact it's not. But it's also demonstrably in need of attention by the BBC, should anyone from the media division be listening to AAWP. You see, it only works fine on a specific portion of the Windows Phone hardware range.