Recent Features - Android

Android on Microsoft - a tale of two videos. And caveats galore...

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The tech world is gradually turning into a homogenised soup, but hopefully in a good way. Any device will, more or less, eventually be able to run any application or service, and it's down to you as to which form factor, which hardware you choose to use or carry around. In this case, I'm looking at two videos demonstrating 'Android on Microsoft', as I've termed it. We already have the Microsoft 'Your Phone' system, linking an Android smartphone (ideally from Samsung) to Windows, we already have Microsoft apps and services on both iOS and Android - the videos below show the new Surface Duo 2, with a two-pane Android experience with Microsoft front and centre, and a first look at Android applications running on Windows 10 Desktop, on your laptop or ultra-mobile.

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Head to head: the Lumia 950 XL vs the 'take apart completely' Fairphone 4

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I know, I know, the Lumia range is fading into memory now - but fans of the way the likes of the Lumia 950 could be disassembled in seconds to replace the battery, then a batch of Torx screws and everything else came out, will love the new Fairphone 4, due in for review this week. In fact, there are even less screws involved than on the Lumia, the screws are standard cross-heads, spare parts are more obviously available, AND the assembled phone is bang up to date Android, competitive in terms of components, and has guaranteed updates for many years to come. And, like the Lumias, there's no need to use a case - ever. This, ladies and gents, is where someone clinging onto a Lumia should perhaps look. Below, I compare the devices, spec for spec.

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How to: Play built-in ocean, rain, and stream sounds to aid focus or sleep

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One of my favourite things a smartphone can do is help me go to sleep when my mind is whirling. Now, this isn't a new concept in smartphones, since there are third party applications for both Windows 10 Mobile and Android that play, for example, the sound of rainfall, the ocean, a bubbling stream, and so on. The idea is to mask out other sounds that might distract you from sleep and it works really, really well. Bringing me to this simple 'how to', highlighting that Apple has (quietly) added basic 'background sounds' into its latest iOS 15 - for free, and for everyone.

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October 2021: Top 5 smartphone options at various price points

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The latest in my 'Life after Lumias' series, and almost six months on from my previous article on this subject, I have several tweaks and a new pick. These are my top suggestions for smartphones to replace a Windows-powered device, now that Windows 10 Mobile is now long unsupported and as services gradually start to wind down. I've tested just about everything on the market and here's my updated verdict in terms of functionality, future viability, and - crucially - value for money! It's also hopefully a good guide for anyone looking for a new smartphone generally and wondering where on earth to start.

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By popular demand: Lumia 950 vs Sony Xperia 5 iii imaging

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The final imaging test sequence with the Sony Xperia 5 iii before it temporarily goes back to Sony PR, I had several people ask how its imaging was compared to the Lumia 950/XL. And, with a new monthly update under the Sony's belt, I'm happy to oblige. Again, it's a 'bells and whistles' (and jacks and ports) option in 2021 for an old Lumia fan, but just how does the camera quality stack up? Sadly, I think I've found a significant flaw - (yet again, as we often say with Sony) hopefully fixable with updates.

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Battle of the fold: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Microsoft Surface Duo 2

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I'd never have expected to write this piece so soon, but with the launch of the Surface Duo 2 last week we - surprisingly - have a true competitor to Samsung's all-conquering Galaxy Z Fold 3. I use the term 'all-conquering' with caution, of course, because these are hyper-expensive devices that won't approach mass market volumes. But it's still fun to pitch them head to head and see which comes out on top. Plus I look ahead to the Surface Duo 3. Yes, you read that right!

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Camera upgrade? Sony Xperia 5 iii vs last year's Xperia 5 ii

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An odd one this, since I'm comparing two smartphones in terms of imaging where so much is nominally identical. The brand new Sony Xperia 5 iii has the exact same main camera as last year's well-thought-of model, but the telephoto arrangement is totally different, which is where the main interest lies - does the new dual factor zoom system offer a significant benefit? Don't worry, I'll test the main cameras too, since the chipsets and image signal processors are different, plus so is the software - Xperia 5 iii has an all-in-one application with different algorithms. [Cross-posted to AAWP for interest, and because AAM isn't errr.... finished yet!]

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Head to head: Lumia 950 XL vs Sony Xperia 5 iii

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Last year's Xperia 5 ii (read as 'mark 2') was almost a perfect match in terms of specs and expectations for a classic 'Nokia/Windows phone' user - excellent audio, excellent imaging, not too large or heavy, fully water and dust proof, and so on. But we now have the brand new Xperia 5 iii, sporting internal upgrades plus (nominally) the same dual-focal-length telephoto camera from the Xperia 1 iii - let's hope it performs better at its upper zoom factor than the flagship did! Here's the specs breakdown, anyway. [Note that this is cross-posted to AAS as well, as it's a modern equivalent to the best of the old Nokia Nseries, I contend...]

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Testing modern image processing: Apple vs Google (feat. Lumia 1020)

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Here, I'm not going near indvidual image pixels - the aim here is to look at the smarts in the multi-frame image processing from both Apple and Google (iOS and 'pure' Android) in terms of them helping out to render tricky scenes and lighting. After all, the vast majority of regular people's photos are only ever seen at 'screen' resolution, so let's look at photos as-is and not get too hung up on pixel level purity. Just this once, eh? As a benchmark for vanilla photos without any smarts or modern processing, I'm also throwing in some (by necessity) single exposure Lumia 1020 shots taken at the same time.

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Almost a decade apart: Nokia 808 vs Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

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Nine and a half years apart, we have two phone camera systems with near 1" sensors. Yes, it has taken the rest of the phone world a decade to catch up to the Nokia 808 PureView in terms of sheer sensor size. But a lot has changed in terms of processing power and multi-frame capture, enabling true HDR and night modes. So how, in terms of photo results, does the 2012 808 PureView match up to the very latest 1/1.12"-sensored Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra?

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