Lumia 950 XL and Fairphone 4
It's all about choice really. Not just choosing to help save the planet with a repairable device and huge longevity, but choosing to go down this route in the face of an onslaught of glued shut glass slabs that are almost impossible for the general user to open up.
We were used to it in previous eras - Nokias, Samsung (of the day), Motorolas, there was usually an easy way to get inside and replace any component that had broken or reached end of life. Those days are largely over, with some manufacturers taking steps to ensure that only they get to effect repairs. And when such a device gets more than about three years old it's deemed 'beyond economic repair' when it breaks, and so it gets binned. Well, hopefully recycled, but I'll bet a lot are not.
Hence the Fairphone series of phones, of which this is the highest specced by far.
As usual, just for fun and curiosity, 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 large 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||Fairphone 4|
|Date first available||November 2015||October 2021|
|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!)||
£500 inc VAT for the 6GB/128GB variant, £570 for the 8GB/256GB version
As with previous Fairphones, you're paying a little extra for a niche product with extensive eco-credentials. Which is fair enough. For more on this, see Fairphone's web site and wait for my upcoming full review.
|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
|162 x 76 x 11mm, 225g, taller and slightly narrower. But much thicker and heavier, in the main because of the larger battery. You do also get a larger display though, see below.|
No specific durability metrics, though the fact that the back comes off will help for water damage, i.e. taking out battery and cards immediately, drying out the internals, even unscrewing the motherboard from the guts of the phone.
No case is needed, which helps with the overall size in the hand.
|IP54 certified for dust/water, which means that it'll be fine in the rain, thanks to the tight fitting removeable back (and the absence of a 3.5mm jack), but a dunk in a sink will still need (easy) disassembly and drying everything out (as a minumum).
No case is needed, and besides, the Fairphone 4 is already thick enough.
|Operating system, interface||
Windows 10 Mobile, (dismissable) virtual controls, as needed, now officially updated to W10 Fall Creators Update (Redstone 3, Autumn 2017) with security to 'January 2020'.
Lovely interface that's now sadly forgotten by the rest of the tech world.
Android 11, August 2021 security, gesture controls available, or navigation buttons on-screen (the default still, oddly, in 2021). A fairly standard lightly skinned Google interface throughout.
Modern, and should be good to go for years.
|Display||5.7" AMOLED (1440p at 16:9 aspect ratio, matching most video media), Gorilla Glass 4, ClearBlack Display polarisers help with outdoor contrast, excellent viewing angles. Screen area is approximately 88 cm2
Glance screen available (in various colours) for always-on time, day and notification icons, plus some detailed info from a specified app.
|6.3" 1080p IPS LCD display, 19.5:9 ratio, Gorilla Glass 5, screen area is roughly 97cm2
Despite being a newer and larger screen, the LCD can't compare with the Lumia's QHD AMOLED with always-on-display.
|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. Includes the NexDock range, transforming the Lumia into a Windows 10 S laptop, effectively. (See the Touch workaround)
|LTE, 5G (two SIM slots), NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 5.1 (all uses).
All decent enough and nice to have the option for two SIMs, but the Lumia's Continuum possibilities still sway it for me.
|Processor, performance||Snapdragon 810 chipset, 3GB RAM, faster than it's ever been now on the Fall Creators Update though still slower for almost everything than on the Android phone. Multi tasking and app resumption is excellent though, at least with all the modern UWP apps
||Snapdragon 750G 5G, 6/8GB RAM, lightning fast at everything|
|Capacity||32GB internal storage, expandable via (cheap) microSD to extra 256GB||128/256GB, microSD expansion is present and correct|
|Imaging (stills)||20MP PureView f/1.9 1/2.4" BSI sensor, Phase Detection auto-focus, dedicated camera shutter button and launch key, 1.5x lossless digital zoom (in 8MP oversampled mode, and lossy digital after that), 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.||
48 MP main camera, outputting at 12MP through Quad Bayer, f/1.6, 1/2.0", PDAF, OIS
Imaging should be a close run thing, depending on the image processing software in the phone. This is the first Fairphone with a really good camera.
Watch this space!
|5MP front camera||25 MP, f/2.2 front camera, way better than the Lumia's|
|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 digital stabilisation. Needs testing in terms of audio|
|Music and Multimedia
|A tinny mono speaker by modern standards, though as ever you can trade volume for fidelity in a simple tweak on Lumias.||Stereo speakers, bottom firing and earpiece. Not the highest fidelity in the phone world, but light years ahead of the Lumia 950 XL here.|
|3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP+AptX, plus a decent internal DAC, so great wired and wireless headphone audio too.||Bluetooth with standard A2DP, if you want wired audio then you have to plug in a Type C DAC etc, sadly - there's no 3.5mm jack, as on previous Fairphones.|
|Navigation||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 anyone in a low signal (data) area. But it's all looking a little neglected in 2020 compared to the bells and whistles in Google Maps. And even live traffic is now becoming erratic.||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, even at local level, along with offline maps that auto-update.
|Cortana/Voice||Cortana is now on life support in 2021, at least on mobile. It can answer simple questions (weather, currency) but many things fail, with a message 'Sorry, Cortana is no longer supported on Windows Phone', etc.||Google Assistant is baked in and works well, far superior to the dying Cortana in 2021, due to the investment that Google has put in over the last few years.
|Battery, life||Removable 3000mAh battery, and the ability to change cells are a positive here (and you CAN still buy decent spare batteries), plus USB Type C Power Delivery (up to 3A, so 15W) and 1A Qi wireless charging built-in also helps. However, a Lumia running the last branch of Windows 10 Mobile will now discharge in 24 hours even if you don't use it much, so it's a win here with enormous caveats!
Removeable 3905mAh battery, with modest standby drain. Type C port supports 20W wired charging via both Quick Charge 4 and Power Delivery standards.
Notably, there's no Qi charging, which is understandable given the thickness, but also annoying at this price and stops me awarding an outright win.
|Cloud aids||Windows Photos syncs at full resolution and quality across all signed-in devices, subject to your OneDrive tariff (stingy, unless you have Office 365 - most of us do, hence the 'win' here), 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, for easy restoration on a new or factory reset phone.||Google Photos does a great job of organising photos and syncing them across all signed-in phones and tablets. Note that as of 2021, you'll need to keep an eye on your storage quota, since all uploads count. As with Microsoft though, it's fairly inexpensive to pay Google for ongoing cloud storage.|
|File compatibility||As with all Windows phones, plugging into a Windows PC gives full drag and drop to the phone's user file system. Plugging into a Mac is more problematic, though seems to work under Catalina onwards.||Plugging into any PC gives immediate MTP file access, plus this works on a Mac on all OS versions, with Google's Android File Transfer utility, for drag and drop of all user files. Seamless and lightning fast.|
|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.||The side-power-button-mounted capacitive fingerprint sensor is foolproof and reliable. Works to authenticate transactions too, as you'd expect, with Google Pay or in the Play Store.|
|Applications and ecosystem||Windows 10 Mobile had most (though not all) mainstream apps and services covered, though some are dropping away now - see my guide! 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.||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 is now effectively out of support. From now on, it will be useable but with more and more service caveats applying. Still, 'end 2019' was a full four years since the Lumia 950 XL was launched, so it's hard to complain.||Fairphone gives a five year warranty on the hardware, which is unprecedented, plus up to five years of OS updates (three guaranteed). They even aim to write drivers for the 750G 5G chipset for Android 14 and 15 when Qualcomm itself has ceased to support the chip. Impressive.|
Adding up the green 'wins' (for fun?!) gives a 13-6 win to the much newer device, which is about as expected - there's a lot to like about the Fairphone 4, exploded below and which I'll be reviewing very shortly. The only real misses for me are the 3.5mm audio jack and Qi charging, so we'll have to see how much I miss these in daily life.