I have to apologise if I'm producing too many editorials which classify as 'rants' these days, but it's hard to keep one's strongly felt opinions inside sometimes. In this case, the trend towards ever-thinner smartphones in the wider industry (Windows Phones aren't, thankfully, the worst offenders here), as evidenced by the recent launch of the mass market Apple iPhone 6, at under 7mm thick, and the current record holder, the imminent Gionee Elife 5.1, at 5.1mm thick. Is it me, or is this march to 'thin' both counterproductive and impractical?
One of the most appealing aspects of Android smartphones of the last couple of years is that everything at the top end has been 1080p resolution (or above), meaning that there are a large number of games that really impress with graphical detail. It's partly why my main SIM often lives in a (somewhat hacked) Galaxy S4. With the Lumia 1520, then Icon and 930 all sporting 1080p displays, it's clear that Windows Phone has well and truly arrived in the high-def world, yet there are almost no leisure titles to use the capability.
I noted from yesterday's lengthy Apple announcements (of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) that the cameras in each had been upgraded, to (allegedly) 1/2.6" sensors and, in the Plus's case, OIS as well. Which, in imaging terms, brings the iPhone at last up to near the top of the Nokia photography tree - the Lumia 1520/930 camera is very similar in size and specs (even if the image processing techniques are very different). Have smartphone cameras plateaued? And can anything be done to improve LED flash results?
We've heard a lot about PureView imaging, a new, faster Lumia Camera application, Moment Capture, Dynamic Flash and Rich Capture, buzzwords aplenty over the last few days at IFA 2014. And the mix of all of this in the upcoming ultra-slim Lumia 830 does looks very tempting. But I thought a few words about what will and what won't happen to the existing imaging flagship, the Lumia 1020, might be in order.
One of the biggest bug-bears on Windows Phone in recent times, for me, has been the performance of Skype, especially in light of the emphasis on the application in hardware launches, e.g. for the Lumia 730/735 here. The issue is that, when returning to Skype on anything but the newer 2014 Windows Phones, even if we only just let the screen timeout and unlock it again, or even if we use the multitasking carousel, we still see completely unnecessary 'resuming....' dots, as shown in the video below.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, it seems, and my attempt at simplifying the situation in terms of applications and Windows Phone 8.1 multitasking/optimisation was rightly picked at by a number of developers, who live and breathe this stuff. So I got in touch with one of them, Sarah Fegert, and asked some of the more pertinent FAQ-style questions....
Yes, 8.1 and Cyan are a big leap forwards for this platform, but it has to be said that there's one aspect of Windows Phone that continues to annoy and frustrate just about everyone. The title probably gives the game away - having your user experience ruined by continual loading and resuming messages, interspersed by animated dots.... Happily, things are about to get a lot better, real fast, as I explain below.
It's a fair cop - I've written quite a bit over the years on why Xenon flash is a must in a camera phone, for evening and night time people shots, freezing motion and stopping typical low light blur. But there's more to a great Xenon flash in a phone camera. What about in daylight? Yes, really - 'fill in flash' is a technique used by professional photographers, yet something that's largely out of reach of people using phone cameras. Unless you have a Nokia Lumia 1020 and that all-important Xenon....
As part of a continuing series of features taking a good long look at the state of mobile, and aiming to be as brutally honest as possible, here I use my experience in the mobile industry to tackle the really tough 'what if' questions that have probably been in your brain for the last three or four years, as 'All About' readers. Hopefully my answers will provoke debate in Disqus below, too - why not get involved?
Available today on Verizon Wireless in the USA is the new and somewhat cumbersomely named 'HTC One (M8) for Windows', with the glimpse of availability on other carriers and in other countries in the near future. If nothing else, this release offers some new competition to the giant in the Windows Phone world, Nokia - now effectively Microsoft itself. With specs across the board both pretty high, how does HTC's new Windows Phone entry stack up against the similarly sized and priced Nokia's mid 2014 Lumia 930?