I've said for a while that in some ways the Sony Xperia 5 ii (and the newer mark 'iii', which I'm hoping to get back in) is a modern day Lumia 1020 in terms of who it's aimed at. Think about it. A focus (pun intended) on pure imaging, with Pro camera controls, a degree of genuine zoom, a physical shutter button, excellent 3.5mm audio out (and microphone 'in'), decent speakers (ok, the 1020 is just mono), all in a form factor that's genuinely pocketable (unusual for 2021). With this in mind, and - obviously - just for fun, I thought I'd take advantage of a decently sunny winter day to pitch the two phone cameras head to head for the first time on the All About sites.
One of the biggest services that is still easily accessible under Windows 10 Mobile at the end of 2021 is YouTube. But even here there are some caveats and notes, which is why I thought a round-up would be a good thing. Exactly which are the best ways to catch up with your YouTube subscriptions and suggested playlists two years after the platform itself stopped being supported by Microsoft?
Having reviewed the new Google Pixel 6 Pro and done a camera comparison with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I did also promise a comparison with a Lumia. And, tempted though I was to break out the trusty Lumia 1020, it's not a viable option (without account access or a working Store) in any way as a smartphone in 2021. So it's back to the trusty Lumia 950 XL, my reference point for all camera phones post-2015.
Perhaps provoked by a growing 'Right to Repair' movement and possible legislation in several markets, Apple announced 'Self Service Repair' last week. Which sounds fantastic - break a phone screen, need a new battery, just do-it-yourself. Except that despite what Apple might hint at first, Self Service Repair isn't for the likes of you and I. Nor should it be. When I want an unusually tricky job done properly around the house, I don't just get the right tools in from a DIY superstore, I get an experienced tradesperson in who has done the job a thousand times. And it's the same with smartphone hardware, I contend.
After my initial enthusiasm for the imaging potential of the Google Pixel 6 Pro, I've mainly seen this endorsed by results, but I do have to add a massive caveat - which I've entitled the 'zoom gap' and which we'll come to below. In terms of a smartphone camera to compare it to, any from the last year or so would do, just as a data point. But I included my iPhone 12 Pro Max*, here in its default-everything mode (so no ProRAW). I do still think the Pixel 6 Pro has potential, but Google has work to do to try and bring its 'Super Res Zoom' to the phone's main camera before I'll fully recommend it to others.
For years people have praised Google's 'HDR+' (and then 'Pixel Camera') image handling and processing. Originally designed for Google Glass, to make a terrible, tiny camera produce good results, the multi-frame algorithms worked wonders on many phone cameras too, even by side-loading onto generic Android hardware. The system was much copied by all other phone makers, so that multiple frames per image is now commonplace. However, Google's imaging hardware has been lacklustre, even poor, in the last year, so it's a great relief to see all that good software now paired with genuinely competitive camera hardware. So, ahead of my various review tests and comparisons (versus iPhone, Sony, and yes, Lumia), I thought I'd 'focus' in on what's under the hood in my review Pixel 6 Pro...
My time with the new Microsoft Surface Duo 2 was short, only a week (do go and read the review), but the freshness of a two-screened interface on top of Android still remains in my mind. And, with a couple of fairly substantial caveats, you can play with the concept yourself on any decent PC or Mac, thanks to Microsoft's Surface Duo 2 emulator. Being upfront, the caveats are that you need a very powerful PC for the UI to approach actual phone speeds, and that the emulator doesn't include the Google Play Store or Google Play Services, so you haven't got the full Duo 2 experience.
When it comes to the number of years software support claimed for a given mainstream smartphone, we naturally - and rightly - think of that as a security comfort blanket. In other words, OS security issues discovered during that period will get fixed and we'll be protected, however far we stray from the beaten track in the web browser or whatever malicious content is fired at us while mobile. But there are extra benefits from long support times. By pushing out the need for a new phone*, we can save (quite a lot) money. And, topically in these climate crisis times, we can all help save the environment.
OK, so Microsoft went with Android in the end for its next-generation superphone, the dual-screened Surface Duo, with the 'Duo 2' here gaining a pretty decent triple camera array. I've shot various scenes across half a dozen smartphones in the last five days, but here I'm pitching the Duo 2 against the 'benchmark' imaging device from the last half decade, the classic Lumia 950 XL. Was it worth that huge camera bump?
Six months ago I demonstrated fitting a Qi coil to a phone, the Pixel 4a 5G, here on the All About sites, so the idea isn't new. But for what it's worth here's another data point, with updated phone, updated coil, and more experience under my belt. In this case, it's fitting the sorely needed Qi to the Sony Xperia 5 ii, a stunning device in all other regards. Adding Qi has made me very happy with the phone again after weeks of Qi-less frustration!