back to article Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950XL: Clear thoughts of Continuum with a snazzy camera

There’s only one reason you might want to buy either of the new flagship Microsoft Lumias. Straight off the bat, we can tell you it's not the party trick Continuum, where your phone doubles up as an ARM-based PC to run Microsoft Office. Nor is that reason Windows 10 – which is still buggy, bereft of significant new benefits …

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  1. Jim McDonald

    Good review.

    TL;DR... mostly great hardware, now need the software to catch up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      mostly great hardware, now need the software to catch up

      The first release of Windows Mobile was April 2000, fifteen and a half years ago. How many more decades will Microsoft need to catch up?

      On current progress, by the time Microsoft have a credible and full functional phone OS, Apple will be offering a a neural interface from an earring.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The first release of Windows Mobile was April 2000, fifteen and a half years ago. How many more decades will Microsoft need to catch up?

        Don't be a bore. Every time iOS/Android is updated to a major version a horde of new bugs are introduced, even though Apple made their first mobile thingy 22 years ago.

        1. fishman

          "Don't be a bore. Every time iOS/Android is updated to a major version a horde of new bugs are introduced, even though Apple made their first mobile thingy 22 years ago."

          The problem with Microsoft is that they throw out the old for an entirely different "new". Windows Mobile 6.5 replaced by Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 7 replaced by Windows Phone 8, and Windows Phone 8 replaced by Windows Phone 10. All huge changes to the code base. It makes the amount of changes to Android and IOS look like minor updates.

          1. TheVogon Silver badge

            "The problem with Microsoft is that they throw out the old for an entirely different "new"."

            But this time it looks like that mess is finally fixed. As of this last patch Tuesday, Windows Mobile 10 is running the exact same build version of Windows 10 as desktops!

      2. Teddy the Bear

        Microsoft "catch up"

        Windows Mobile was at one time the best platform for 3rd party apps - I remember the days of Side Loading apps and so on. I was genuinely confused with Apple launched the app store on iPhone - I'd been able to load apps onto my phone for years, what's the fuss about?

        When Windows Phone 7 launched, its focus on integration of social media into the OS was genuinely groundbreaking - at a time where apps weren't reliable it brought a coherent way of doing things which made social networks genuinely useful on the phone.

        Now we're in a position where the hardware on Windows Phone 10 is great, but the software is not ready - it's still trying to do innovative things (and good for MS that it is) but isn't ready yet. I've felt for a while that the Agile way of developing Win10 shifts pain to the end user, and this isn't acceptable for WinPho10. Us die-hards have stuck with this mess for years - give us some bloody benefit MS!!

        (Incidentally, I use Android as my personal phone and use WinPho8.1 on my work phone)

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: Microsoft "catch up"

          > When Windows Phone 7 launched, its focus on integration of social media into the OS was genuinely groundbreaking

          No. It was copied from Kin, which MS bought when they purchased Danger (and then broke it).

    2. Def Silver badge

      ...mostly great hardware, now need the software to catch up.

      Which if you're going to screw something up, it's better you screw up the software which at least can (and will) be patched over the next X years. If you get the hardware wrong, nothing will help you.

      I'll probably pick up a 950 at some point in the near future.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > it's better you screw up the software which at least can (and will) be patched over the next X years

        Yeah right. Tell that to the people who bought Windows Phone 7 devices which couldn't be upgraded to Windows Phone 8.

        The strategy (to be fair, not only Microsoft but many Android vendors too): ship it - sell it - forget it.

        1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

          "The strategy (to be fair, not only Microsoft but many Android vendors too): ship it - sell it - forget it." Actually, 7 phones got a final update (to 7.8) that bought most of the 8 features to handsets that otherwise lacked the grunt to run 8.

          Of course, you could go the other way like Apple who are not above updating a product to destruction - with the oldest product receiving 'one last update' that tips it into unusable, as happened with the 3G and the 4.

          1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            > Actually, 7 phones got a final update (to 7.8) that bought most of the 8 features to handsets that otherwise lacked the grunt to run 8.

            What 7.8 added was a few extra colours and a couple more tile sizes. Nothing more.

            WP7 was WinCE based and incapable of utilizing more than a single core. It lacked any real multi-tasking and 'tomb stoned' apps when another was run. It had very limited background tasks, more like MS-DOS TSRs.

            WP8 required dual core as one was dedicated to the UI (which is why it seemed more responsive) so it could not run on any WP7 hardware.

            Apparently, no existing WP phones (other than 950 and XL) will get Continuum. Some phones may get W10M, certainly not all.

            1. Goffee

              There are alternatives to Continuum

              ScreenBeam for one, that work on a wider range of devices...

              http://www.windows10update.com/2015/12/screenbeam-brings-a-cheaper-continuum-solution/

    3. TheVogon Silver badge

      "mostly great hardware, now need the software to catch up."

      Just got my 950 XL from Amazon.fr today - both the hardware and the software are great so far. Zero issues for me (after updating to the latest 10586.29 build), and its very fast to use / navigate. Fastest phone I have ever used by far.

      1. TheVogon Silver badge

        To follow up after a day of using it - great handset, great camera, no OS issues so far - incredibly fast on Windows Mobile 10.

        The one thing I would fault it on is the incredibly poor quality rear cover for such a high spec handset. What were Microsoft thinking? It doesn't actually look that bad, but once you take it off you realise how cheap and crappy the cover is. Fortunately it is easily replaceable by design (as is the battery!)

        I have ordered a leather replacement cover from Mozo: http://www.mozoaccessories.com/

        1. Munkstar

          Are those covers available yet?

  2. dogged

    I found that Win10 Mobile on a Lumia 930 initially produced extraordinary battery life and then started burning power like it was a space heater.

    Beyond that, the only real issue with it was that it killed Skype (non-functional) but oddly, not Lync. Anyone who isn't an absolute email junky is unlikely to share Andrew's concerns. This also explains why he seems to like Blackberry so much.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      The battery life went through a bad period on my 1020 in October, but in November it was back up to very good.

      My 950 is excellent. I have 2 email accounts, but one is private and one work, so I keep them separate anyway, so I haven't missed the integrated inbox.

      The Hello camera has problems with glasses, so it is a bit hit and miss, but I haven't experienced any batter loss through it trying to scan when it is in my pocket or laying on my desk.

      The speaker is loud enough, but does lack a bit of bass, but hasn't really bothered me, compared to my 1020 - it provides clearer tones and is easier on the ear when listening to podcasts and audio books.

      The camera is a stonker, and I thought the 1020 was good. Low light (candle light, taking a photo of an advent crown with lit candles, produced a very clear image with little noise.

      It has been very stable and I haven't seen any significant bugs, yet. The only thing that played up was Bluetooth connection to my headphones - the in-car hands-free works fine, but the headphones connect, but it still plays sound out of the internal speak for 10 seconds or so, before it switches.

      Other than that, I am very happy with it.

      Skype is still working, both as an app and with the integrated messaging on my 950 (and previously on my 1020).

      I find the hardware is also nice. Functional? I suppose so, but I can't say anything negative about how it feels in the hand, the back is fine, certainly better than the Samsung Galaxies that I had.

    2. Arctic fox
      Windows

      @dogged Re:"then started burning power like it was a space heater."

      I have noticed a lot about this on various threads connected to this or that tech preview build and it does appear to be strangely random with regard to who is affected. I am running the latest build on a Lumia 640 and its bigger brother the 640XL and the battery life is excellent, at least as good as when they were running 8.1. However, I have seen a number of other 640/640XL owners reporting poor battery life and overheating issues (something which I have not experienced at all). There does not appear to be any explicable pattern currently. I confess that I am very puzzled.

      1. 0laf Silver badge

        Re: @dogged then started burning power like it was a space heater."

        My 920 does this on WP8.1. So doesn't seem to be a new issue at all. Phone might well run all day hardly using any charge then for some reason decides it wants to be a pocket warmer.

        Particularly annoying at night when the phone can be 100% when you go to sleep and a brick when you wake up.

        Other occasions you can go two days without recharging.

        1. Arctic fox
          Windows

          @Olaf Re: "Phone might well run all day hardly using any charge then for some reason.....

          ......decides it wants to be a pocket warmer."

          Just wondering old chap in context with my reply to "dogged", do you notice any context with which apps you are using when this happens? Genuine question, I am very puzzled by these phenomena. I get the feeling that a great deal of this is not connected to hardware issues in the phones concerned (at least not in the direct sense). I am beginning to wonder whether it is driven by the app-usage pattern. Just a guess on my part you understand.

          1. 0laf Silver badge

            Re: @Olaf "Phone might well run all day hardly using any charge then for some reason.....

            If there is a pattern it's eluded me.

            I've blamed the Facebook app, the few games I've ever had installed but on removing them it still seems to do it.

            I suspect (with little evidence) it might actually be a wifi problem. I've notice more regularly when coming home the phone picks up the wifi then starts to heat up. Is it an app firing up with the wifi becoming available, no idea. And again it's not always.

            I've very few apps on the phone really. Just FB, LinkedIn, camera apps (all MS or Nokia) and not much else.

      2. Indolent Wretch

        Re: @dogged then started burning power like it was a space heater."

        This isn't that bizarre is it? Microsoft have a perfectly visible track record producing operating systems and patches that after being installed for X amount of time just stop working properly. That it should happen on a phone as well seems as surprising as the sunrise.

  3. djstardust Silver badge

    Doomed .....

    This is just Microsoft all over. No strategy, half baked ideas and software to match.

    If it wasn't for the fact they make so much from business licensing they would go under. They certainly have lost the consumer and developer confidence so we'll see what happens in a few years when the landscape changes. Their new business licencing terms won't do them any favours either.

    Horrible company, full stop ...... but I love Windows 7 (and Office 2003) and have it on all my machines. If someone could only bring the "old" Microsoft back ......

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: Doomed .....

      Possibly.

      On the other hand, sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. It's like that bit where you're trying to tidy your house before you have people over and after half an hour all you've achieved is making even more of a mess because you had to take everything out of various cupboards and drawers in order to work out where to put things away logically.

      It's possible this "One Windows" thing actually will pay off, and we'll get a useful integrated codebase across multiple device types a few years down the line. I want that to be true, I really do, because that sounds pretty good... but then I'm excited by the idea of an Ubuntu phone, because I like that sort of thing.

      If they can reign in whoever it is that decided they need to go full Google on the data slurp, and then spend the next 2 years beating their various UI designers with the projector used for the "YOU WILL ALL DO IT THE SAME WAY" presentation until they submit, this could work.

      Could.

      I hope.

      Not holding my breath.

    2. dogged

      Re: Doomed .....

      > If someone could only bring the "old" Microsoft back ......

      Steve Ballmer's Microsoft? Not the Microsoft that opens up its source code and releases (free) dev environments for OSX and linux then.

  4. hopkinse

    the main question is...

    Do they take pictures quicker than the 1020? I'm assuming so since the sensor is smaller and the processor is faster but who knows... The lag is the only gripe with my 1020 so I'm only going to be tempted by one of these if it's considerably snappier taking pictures.

    Another question is - do they allow you to save in DNG/RAW format like the 1020?

    Ever hopeful but increasingly despairing!

    1. dogged

      Re: the main question is...

      Yes and yes.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: the main question is...

      Much faster (I have a 1020 and a 950). The 950 is very quick and the results are excellent.

      The lag on the 1020 was really disappointing, it had an excellent camera, but I always found myself reaching for my compact camera or DSLR.

      1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        Re: the main question is...

        I too have the 1020. It's Achilles Heal is this lag - largely down to driving a monster camera through a less powerful CPU. Still, I've yet to find an Android phone or iPhone I'd trade it for - 'er indoors has an iPhone 6+ which is massively over priced and offers me nothing, while my kid's Samsung was flimsy and I find Android too much of a faff.

        I'm interested in the 950XL, but I think I'm going to hold off for a while and see how things develop.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the main question is...

      I too have the 1020, and have tried the 950 and can honestly say the 950 is incredibly fast (in fact I wasn't sure it had taken the snap) and the picture quality is amazing especially displayed on the 950s high res screen. I will be replacing my 1020 as soon as possible.

  5. theOtherJT

    So, exactly what we all expected then.

    Microsoft has never really understood "Customer relations". They had a such a good product in WinPho7. Reviewers liked it. People who owned it liked it. It didn't need much to shine.

    What Microsoft then did was spend the next 5 years trying to make it fit better into THEIR ecosysem to the detriment of the overall user experience rather than iron out the glitches that stopped customers from actually buying one - and clearly this hasn't changed.

    One can only hope the worst of the pain is over now that they have finished "unifying the code base"* and they can get on with actually improving the thing for the user. Never really been their strong point tho, has it?

    * I'll believe that when I see it - ask me again in another 3 years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So, exactly what we all expected then.

      Sorry I disagree, 8 on Winphone is WAY better than 7. Not tried 10, waiting for it to settle down.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could have been a winner...

    ....if they'd put Android on it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could have been a winner...

      Yes then I could own it by sending it a MMS.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Could have been a winner...

      "....if they'd put Android on it."

      Then it would be slower, laggy, have a shorter battery life, and a lot more security vulnerabilities. However the ignorant public would likely buy it by the milllion...

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Could have been a winner...

      If they had put Android on it, I wouldn't have bought one...

      1. dogged

        Re: Could have been a winner...

        > However the ignorant public would likely buy it by the milllion...

        I doubt that. It doesn't have an Apple on it or a Samsung logo.

      2. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Could have been a winner...

        "Then it would be slower, laggy, have a shorter battery life, and a lot more security vulnerabilities. However the ignorant public would likely buy it by the milllion..."

        I've owned several Windows Phones and I see no evidence to suggest they're any faster or responsive than Android.

        Yeah some versions of Android have vulns. As long as you don't get your apps from a warez website, your chances of being affected by them are close to zero.

        1. dogged
          Stop

          Re: Could have been a winner...

          > Yeah some versions of Android have vulns. As long as you don't get your apps from a warez website, your chances of being affected by them are close to zero.

          Stagefright.

        2. GitMeMyShootinIrons

          Re: Could have been a winner...

          "I've owned several Windows Phones and I see no evidence to suggest they're any faster or responsive than Android."

          Generally, that's because the Android manufacturers have loaded the phones with bigger CPU and more RAM to compensate. My various experiences with Android lead me to feel that it's 'adequate, but fiddly and underwhelming'.

          1. DrXym Silver badge

            Re: Could have been a winner...

            "Generally, that's because the Android manufacturers have loaded the phones with bigger CPU and more RAM to compensate. My various experiences with Android lead me to feel that it's 'adequate, but fiddly and underwhelming'."

            I don't know what the reason is. I just know in my experience that the performance and battery of Windows phones is little different to those of Android phones. My first Windows phone was a Lumia 800, the second was a lower spec 510 which is now a hand-me-down to my kid. At the time I had equivalent Android phones (since I develop mobile apps) and the general performance was dictated by the hardware, not the OS.

            One thing I found very noticeable on Windows Phone were app startup times could be quite poor and this was exacerbated by the phone being extremely quick to freeze dry apps (i.e. tell them to persist state and kill them outright) so when they were next opened they had to be restarted and restored. I suspect that the phones had less free RAM to hold apps in an open state, or the OS simply didn't trust apps to behave well in the background (unlike Android where the general philosophy is the cream rises to the top) and prematurely killed them.

            With regard to the general experience I think Windows Phone is generally okay for casual use. The tiles are a neat idea and they work pretty well. Where it doesn't work is if you have a lot of apps and you find yourself hurling tiles around to find them. That's where it breaks down. Not to mention lack of folders. And the way that settings are separated from the apps themselves and stuffed in some unsorted list.

            My biggest complaint about Android is the up-front security permissions. It's being fixed in 6 but I use Cyanogenmod where I can override them the way I like.

            1. dogged

              Re: Could have been a winner...

              > Not to mention lack of folders. And the way that settings are separated from the apps themselves and stuffed in some unsorted list.

              I don't disagree, these were problems. But folders have been there since 8.1 and W10M has finally done something decent about the shitty "Settings" arrangement.

            2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

              Re: Could have been a winner...

              > exacerbated by the phone being extremely quick to freeze dry apps (i.e. tell them to persist state and kill them outright) so when they were next opened they had to be restarted and restored.

              Exactly. It is called 'tomb stoning'. WinCE on WP7 could not run multiple tasks so apps had to save state and kill themselves when 'put into background' and then reload and return to last state when activated again. WP8 should have been able to cope with multiple tasks, but I suspect that most apps carried on 'tomb stoning' themselves.

        3. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: Could have been a winner...

          "I've owned several Windows Phones and I see no evidence to suggest they're any faster or responsive than Android."

          There are at least 2 handsets now - one running Windows Phone 8 - and one running Windows Phone 10 - that also run Android - and testing has proved that Windows Phone is consistently much faster and has better battery life...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Could have been a winner...

        You know not all phones are like the £30 Android you obviously bought right?

        Spend the same amount of money on an android as this Microsoft crap, and you will get a superb device, with a best in class camera , lightening performance and 2 day battery life.

        http://www.dxomark.com/Mobiles/Sony-Xperia-Z5-Mobile-review-Best-mobile-photo-video-scores-to-date

        1. dogged

          Re: Could have been a winner...

          > Spend the same amount of money on an android as this Microsoft crap, and you will get a superb device, with a best in class camera , lightening performance and 2 day battery life.

          that you can pwn with a video file or a text message, which crashes regularly and resembles Win3.1 Program Manager.

          Whoop de doo.

  7. Big_Ted
    FAIL

    Would I buy this

    Yes I would, if it was a stock Android phone.

    Will I buy it with any version of Windows on it ?

    Nope unless its a full version of Suface Pro with phone ability built in and phone mode rather than tablet mode then maybe I would as a replacement for a Laptop. desktop computer.

    Still an incomplete answer looking for a question no-one is asking....

    1. dogged

      Re: Would I buy this

      > Still an incomplete answer looking for a question no-one is asking...

      That's pretty much word-for-word what the Reg's commentariat said about the Surface.

      Surface seems to be selling quite well these days.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In it's favour it has a few more things than just the camera - here are a few pros that spring to mind:

    The best camera on any mobile

    High dynamic range audio recording (wont distort at high volumes at a concert like say an iphone will)

    The best touch panel and AMOLED screen on any mobile (can work with gloves on!)

    The most secure general OS for a mobile

    Continuum (use like a desktop)

    Windows Hello (Iris Scanner)

    Wireless charging

    SD slot

    Cortana (Somewhat better than Siri)

    USB-C connector

    Fast Charge

    Also worth noting that you can't have been testing the current version of Windows Mobile 10 as it was only released for the Lumia 950 / XL today - this includes numerous fixes.

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