Although there's life left in Windows 10 Mobile in terms of updates and support, new hardware is thin on the ground, plus repairs and spares for older hardware are becoming tricky - so it makes sense for everyone to be aware of the best of the rest, flagships from other platforms. And with both the Pixel 2 XL and iPhone X in for review for The Phones Show, it seemed appropriate to put up a direct comparison.
As usual, I've shaded in green an obvious 'win' for either device. Any row where a winner would be totally subjective is left uncoloured. Or, where all devices are utterly excellent but in different ways, I've given each a 'green'(!)
[By the way, if you're viewing this feature on a phone then the table may well cause you problems. Try viewing in landscape mode? Failing that, go view this on a laptop or tablet!]
|Microsoft Lumia 950 XL||Apple iPhone X||Google Pixel 2 XL|
|Date first available||November 2015 (can you believe that the 950 XL is now 2 years old??)||November 2017||October 2017|
|Current price, availability||No longer officially for sale, though it's often on clearance prices if you're lucky and at outrageous profiteering prices due to rarity (if you're not!)||£999, for the 64GB model from Apple||£799, for the 64GB version from Google|
|Dimensions, form factor, weight||
152 x 78 x 8mm, plastic chassis and replaceable backs (plastic/leather/wood etc, from Mozo, as modelled here!), 165g, bezels are comparatively small
|144 x 71 x 8mm, aluminium chassis with curved glass front and back, 174g, shorter than the other phones here due to the all-display front||158 x 77 x 8mm, aluminium chassis, part coated with grippy texture, 175g, the largest of the three phones here|
|Durability||No specific durability metrics, though the fact that the back comes off will help enormously for water damage, i.e. taking out battery and cards immediately, drying out the internals. I'm old-school here! Damage to the back or corners is trivial through replacement of the rear, but the screen's exposed, of course.||IP67 for liquid and dust, but a case will be required for drop protection, with glass on all sides, however toughened it is...||IP67 for liquid and dust, pretty rugged because of the textured metal back - case not needed?|
|Operating system, interface||Windows 10 Mobile, (dismissable) virtual controls, as needed, now officially updated to W10 Fall Creators Update (Redstone 3, Autumn 2017)||iOS 11, gesture-based home control plus '3D Touch' pressure sensitive screen for context-sensitive actions, largely restricted to portrait use in general apps||Android 8.0, virtual controls on screen almost all the time|
5.7" AMOLED (1440p at 16:9 aspect ratio), Gorilla Glass 4, ClearBlack Display polarisers help with outdoor contrast, excellent viewing angles
Glance screen available (in various colours) for always-on time, day and notification icons, plus some detailed info from a specified app.
Screen area is approximately 90 cm2
5.8" 1125p resolution at 19.5:9 aspect ratio, Samsung Super AMOLED display, 'ion-strengthened glass', excellent viewing angles, though the display has the famous 'notch' cut out at the top and this affects many applications aesthetically, for better or worse(!)
Screen area is approximately 84 cm2
6" P-OLED 1440p screen, Gorilla Glass 5, always on time date and notification icons, poor viewing angles (blue tint issues)
Screen area is approximately 92cm2
|Connectivity||LTE, NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 4.2 (all uses). Continuum connectivity to use a wide range of first and third party UWP apps on external displays as secondary screen, independent of the phone display
||LTE, NFC (but only for Apple Pay, sadly), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0 (again restricted to Apple-approved comms), integral wifi tethering||LTE, NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 5.0 (all uses)|
|Processor, performance||Snapdragon 810 chipset with 'liquid cooling', 3GB RAM, faster than it's ever been now on the Fall Creators Update though still slower for almost everything than on the iPhone and Pixel. Multi tasking and app resumption is excellent though, at least with all the modern UWP apps
||Apple A11 Bionic chipset, 3GB RAM, very fast, Apple always do an incredible job in terms of TLC and optimisation.
||Snapdragon 835 with 4GB RAM. Lightning fast at everything.|
|Capacity||32GB internal storage, expandable via microSD to extra 256GB||64GB internal storage (in the variant being considered, no expansion)||64GB internal storage (in the variant being considered, no expansion)
20MP PureView f/1.9 1/2.4" BSI sensor, Phase Detection auto-focus, dedicated camera shutter button and launch key, genuine 2x lossless digital zoom (in 8MP oversampled mode), OIS. 'Rich Capture' produces customisable HDR shots and 'dynamic flash', with triple LED illumination. Outstanding shots in most light conditions, with just focussing issues in low light as an Achilles heel.
5MP front camera
12MP, wide angle f/1.8 1/3" BSI sensor, OIS, Phase Detection auto-focus, quad LED flash, plus separate f/2.4, 1/3.6" sensor with tighter 2x zoom optics, also with OIS. Terrific possibilities, and great photos, thanks to the A11's image processing power, competitive with most of the best of Lumia. Detailed shootout coming soon!
7MP front camera, f/2.2
12MP, f/1.8, 1/2.6" sensor, OIS, PDAF and laser auto-focus, dual LED flash, Visual Core image processor to be enabled in future updates. See here for my 950 XL shootout - the Pixel 2 camera is pretty good, but not a winner overall.
8MP front camera, f/2.4
|Imaging (video)||Up to 4K, optically (and optionally digitally) stabilised, with 'Best photo' 8MP grabbing built-in, plus Rich Recording and HAAC microphones for high quality, gig-level stereo capture.||Up to 4K video capture, with EIS and OIS, and yes, the 2x zoom works in video mode. Mono audio recording though and this loses it equality here.||Up to 4K video capture, with EIS and OIS, poor quality mono recording using only one microphone.|
|Music and Multimedia||Decent mono speaker, loud but lacking in bass and depth, though you can trade volume for fidelity in a simple tweak. 3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP+AptX, so great headphone audio too.||Infamously, no headphone jack, though you do get a Lightning port-to-3.5mm adapter in the box (don't lose this!) Stereo speakers, the right hand one outputting through the phone's bottom. Decent volume, but can they make up for the lack of 3.5mm jack? Depends on your priorities!||No 3.5mm headphone jack, you get a USB Type C dongle for this in the box. Front facing stereo speakers, decent volume but fidelity not perfect.|
Windows 10 Maps is now pretty mature and impressive, especially once you've learned the live traffic routine trick! Offline maps save a lot of data bandwidth for those on tight contracts or pay-as-you-go.
|Apple Maps uses live traffic and map data from TomTom, it seems, in addition to its own resources. There's no offline maps facility, though.
||Google Maps is now the gold standard in phone navigation, tied in with many other Google services and offering true real time navigation around traffic issues.
|Cortana/Voice||Cortana is now mature and well integrated, and with a surprising degree of 'assistance'.||Apple's Siri is sassy and usually helpful, but (just as with Google Assistant and Cortana) still hands anything remotely tricky off to a web search. Still early days for digital assistants?
||Google Assistant is baked in and works well (activated optionally with a 'squeeze!), though no more mature than Siri or Cortana.|
|Battery, life||Removable 3300mAh battery, and the ability to change cells gets the win here in my book, the 950 XL easily gets through a day (on latest firmware), plus USB Type C Power Delivery (up to 3A) and Qi wireless charging built-in.
||Sealed 2716mAh battery, gets through a day, thanks to the low power cores in the A11 chipset plus iOS's good standby characteristics. Charging is via Lightning port and nominally only 1A, though other higher current sources should work (we're still waiting for official fast chargers?), plus there's now Qi wireless charging too.||Sealed 3520 mAh battery, easily gets through a day. Charging is at 3A max through the USB Type C port.|
|Cloud aids||Windows Photos syncs across all signed-in devices, subject to your OneDrive tariff (stingy, unless you have Office 365), should you have thousands of images in the system. Plus Windows 10 backs all your media, application data and settings to a separate backup folder system, tariff-free on OneDrive.||Recent photos auto-sync to iCloud, backups in general ditto, so if you want to, there's a complete image of your phone ready to restore at any point. Apple do this very well, as anyone who's had to restore an iPhone will have found.
||Google Photos, once installed, does a great job of organising photos and syncing them across all signed-in phones and tablets. Plus backup space is free for two years at full quality for Pixel devices|
|Biometrics||Iris recognition ('Windows Hello') works well unless you wear varifocals(!), but takes a couple of seconds (including an animation!) in real world use. There's also no official way of paying in shops using this, at least not in most of the world.||Face ID, using a laser-lit front facing camera is the only authorisation method here for unlocking the phone and for 'Apple Pay'. It works... most of the time. More of the time than the Lumia's iris recognition anyway!
||Fingerprint sensor (on the back) works well, and very fast. Works well with Android Pay.
|Applications and ecosystem||Windows 10 Mobile now has just about every mainstream app covered. Often third party clients are involved, mind you, there are companies who hate Microsoft so much that they simply refuse to write for Windows, it seems. And 'long tail' niche/boutique apps are hard to find for real world companies and shops.||Fully covered, from A-Z, of course. Any application of any significance in the mobile world is available for iOS. Including most of the Microsoft core applications, like Outlook and Office.||The might of Google and Android's app ecosystem - everything is available and almost always in first party form.|
|Upgrades and future||Windows 10 Mobile will be updated through 2018, of course, as part of the global Windows 10 ecosystem, albeit on the 'feature2' mobile SKU. Production devices can expect updates every month, Insiders every few weeks. The 950 XL is part of the Insider program if needed, we expect updates, patches and support to finish Autumn 2019.||Apple push system and security updates regularly - the iPhone X should be updated until at least the end of 2019. Going beyond the necessary, there are usually new features and new UI improvements too - as iPad owners found with iOS 11, for example.
||Google keeps its phones updated for two years from first availability, so we're talking the end of 2019, as for the other two phones here.|
Wait for it... Adding up the green 'wins' (for fun?!) gives the two year old Lumia 950 XL seven to the new iPhone X's five and the Pixel 2 XL's seven. But the playing field is quite level overall, so take these 'scores' with a pinch of salt, not least that this is AAWP and I may be prizing aspects that you may disagree with!
The usual caveats apply about totally different ecosystems, and going where the services and apps you need live - you could argue that the 'Applications and ecosystem' row should have double or triple weighting, for example! Plus several of my scorings can be argued either way, such as me rating the 950 XL as (theoretically) more durable and (self?) repairable than the iPhone and Pixel, yet without any waterproofing at all.
Still, that the old Lumia 950 XL is still right up, in my eyes, with the two-year-newer iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL, is actually somewhat remarkable and, not for the first time, I bemoan Microsoft's decision to kill production. All of this shows, yet again, that the Lumia 950 XL remains competitive if you're not too worried about boutique applications - the camera is still class leading, the screen's excellent, and there are an increasing amount of real USPs in 2017.
Comments welcome - have I been fair overall? iPhone and Pixel fans will say no, Lumia fans will say yes, but all input welcome here, as usual!