Lumia 950XL, Continuum & Other Shiz
I am pretty sure at least five of the half dozen or so people who bother to read this will be aware I am a long standing fan, advocate and user of Nokia Symbian and Windows Phones and then Microsoft Lumia's after the takeover. I don't claim to be an 'expert' but I have been using mobile phones for a long time, I know how to use the phones I've owned to there full extent and have a reasonable idea how to use Android handsets. People I know ask my advice and for help when they have issues with mobile phones and I've contributed a few comments on forums and social media and even had the great good fortune to attend launches and trade events and meet people within 'The Mobile Industry' . What I am trying to say, is that I believe my opinion has some validity, at least in relation to Windows 10 Mobile .
My personal preference for mobile, at present and since it's launch on the Nokia Lumia 800 in 2011 is Windows Phone, I like the layout, I like the way it works and it has suited my mobile phone usage for four and a half years or so. As well as the simplicity of the OS , since launch, the 'Lumia' brand has provided market leading and innovative camera technology , which is something that has always been one of my top requirements on any phone, I haven't used a 'real' camera since I had the Nokia N95 8gig, so phone cameras have been my ONLY camera for quite a few years.
The reason for this somewhat elongated prologue is really to establish my reasoning and disappointment to that reader who has stumbled on this totally ignorant of my existence previously. I have owned or used almost every Lumia since launch, I stuck with it when WP7 was abandoned leaving two year old handsets obsolete, when Nokia Smartphone Division was bought by Microsoft and when the original WP became Windows 10 Mobile, and despite a lack of apps and services missed by many, I was a happy user without an 'app gap', more by luck than management, but that was the situation.
Christmas Parcel Arrives
Now to get to the actual reason for this piece, Windows Phone users had been waiting for almost two years for a 'Flagship' phone to be launched following in the steps of the Lumia's 1020, 1520 and 930/Icon, all Microsoft had released was budget handsets , capable and occasionally more than capable mid range phones, but nothing 'High End' , so when the Lumia 950/950Xl were launched it created a bit of a buzz and the reports of Continuum added to this considerably. I hadn't had a new phone for a couple of years as I was waiting to update my Lumia 930 (and 1020 for that matter) but nothing had been released by Nokia/Microsoft even close in either general phone or camera capabilities, so late summer last year I bought an Honor7 mid range Chinese Android handset, mainly as a toy to try, but also to dip my toe into Android again just to stop people telling me I didn't know what I was talking about when it comes to anything non-WP and as it happens, some features on the Honor7 have affected my views in this piece.
If you have read any of the stuff I've posted here on Hub Pages over the last six years you should have noticed I have been extremely lucky to have been provided with the chance to trial and review quite a few handsets via Nokia Connects, Connects and then Lumia Voices via their seeding/trial scheme. They are the social media team from Nokia and then Microsoft and have always been great to deal with and extremely kind and generous to me, that said I was still very pleasantly surprised to receive an email whilst on holiday last December in Cyprus, from Lumia Voices offering me a trial of the brand new Lumia 950XL. I had to arrange for the phone to be dropped at my sisters as I wasn't returning to the UK until Christmas Eve and so when I collected the package it was a bit like an early Christmas present, a VERY BIG Christmas present !! I hadn't just been sent the handset, but the full seeding package with all the Continuum paraphernalia in a very impressive package.
Package PicsClick thumbnail to view full-size
I was, to say the least, very impressed with the package and everything in it looked extremely cool, and to be fair it all is/was to a greater or lesser extent. Anyway , I put my sim in the 950XL and set it up and due to the time of year spent more time drinking alcohol and eating Turkey rather than playing with tech for the first few days, that said my initial thoughts on the handset were,it actually felt pretty good, the one I had didn't have a creaky back as others had reported, the screen looked great, everything was pretty snappy, battery life was good and the odd family snap I took was ok.
Along with a high end , high specification handset from Microsoft with market leading camera tech and innovation I was also really looking forward to trying continuum, so at this point, Christmas and my tech trial was looking pretty damn good so I went into the holidays with a good bit of enthusiasm.
Hello ScreenshotsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Now regarding Windows 10 Mobile, Microsofts latest iteration of it's Mobile OS designed to mirror Windows 10 on PC's and tablets, I was familiar with it as I had been using it on my Lumia 930 via the Widows Insider program and as the 950XL was much higher specification in every aspect I was expecting great things,USB C, it has a faster processor, more RAM and a better screen, hell, it even has liquid cooling!! How cool is that ?? Well, not as 'cool' as I'd hoped, I'd been waiting for a high end flagship and the 950XL just didn't hack it, sure, for general use it is pretty snappy, but then you'd get a stutter or a re-boot. The camera was good and in low light slightly better than my 930 (also with a 20 megapixel camera) and also seemed to get better close up results, but only marginally and then only using manual focus, tap to focus struggled at times, oh and notifications, if I got a notification whilst using the camera, the camera app would freeze or crash and the handset would need a re-boot to sort it. There was a software update in the month I had the phone which seemed to help, but the day I packed the 950 to post back I went out to catch a last few photos to do a camera comparison and whilst taking a photo I got a notification it froze !! There were other annoying things with the 950XL , who thought it was a good idea to put the power on/off switch inbetween the Vol+ & Vol- buttons ?? Barmy, irritating, unintuitive......FFS . As a WP Fanboy all this was genuinely disappointing and upsetting, lack of thought, testing, planning ? I really don't know.
There are a couple of unique and innovative features on the 950 , one is promising and gives me a little hope, the other should be the coolest biometric security in tech history, make James Bond jealous and be 'the future' it's called Windows Hello. The idea is you use the front facing camera to take a retinal scan and recognize you and so unlock the phone, and in all fairness, in good light and without wearing glasses, it works quite well and quite quickly, however if you wear glasses and if the light isn't good it becomes less effective to the point of being useless and extremely frustrating, as a result I turned it off. Remember when I was boring you earlier about my Budget Honor 7 ? It has a fingerprint scanner, it works 100% of the time, it works quicker than an on/off switch, it works in any light, it is multifunctional and it IS the way to go with biometrics, Microsoft please dump Windows Hello, it is extremely embarrassing showing your mates a cool new feature in a bar that simply doesn't work and even when it works 100% perfectly it is much slower and much more awkward than a fingerprint sensor. Beyond any other criticism of Windows Hello , there is another reason for preferring Fingerprint sensors, if once I'm called into service by MI5 or the CIA and captured by the enemy I would much rather have my finger chopped off then my eye gouged out, just saying.
Continuum on my TV
Good Stuff & a little hope
Well, if you haven't abandoned me yet due to my negative ranting, there is hope. The rest of the package I received all works great, the BT Keyboard, the Arc wireless mouse was probably my favorite part of the whole experience, loved it, the beautifully designed continuum dock and the continuum app all work great, the idea and system work great and is extremely impressive. Connecting a 55" TV to a phone and getting Edge Browser, Photos, YouTube and Office running on it via a phone is impressive. I really think that everything on the phone should work via continuum as a lot of apps and features are 'greyed out' when connected via the system, but I'm pretty sure software can overcome this. With further development I honestly believe there is massive potential in this idea and all the accessories show what great quality hardware Microsoft can produce, so maybe Handsets aren't really something they see a future in ? Continuum for Android & iOS in the future, like Outlook, Office.....
I'm not doing a review here, there are links for specs and pictures to see what the kit looks like, a quick Bing search will find dozens of written and video reviews and opinions on the Lumia 950XL and Continuum. I'm also not throwing the Teddy out of the pram, I am disappointed and less optimistic than I was and I can't for now, see the 950 a suitable upgrade to my current phones in any respect other than to play with continuum which at present is a work in progress. The leading mobile camera tech at present appears to be on LG & Samsung handsets and I can live with Android, so unless I read reports of a SW update resolving all the issues on the Lumia and everything working on continuum by summer I anticipate looking for a non Lumia to put my main sim in , or maybe a Surface Phone, assuming Microsoft don't cancel all handset production ?
Pics of handset
If you struggled this far, apologies for the negativity, I really hope that updates can make the 950 as smooth and stable as it should be, the camera much better than my current phone and that I can buy a Lumia I want to use every day that offers a substantially better experience on a daily basis than my Lumia 930.Fingers crossed this isn't the last thing I write about Windows Phone.
Thanks For Reading
01/03/2016 (That's March 1st, by the way ;) )