Recent Features - Microsoft

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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Cortana isn't dead (yet)! Here's what you can still do...

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Cortana, Microsoft's voice assistant, was always a latecomer to the party, following Siri and whatever Google were calling their voice tech at the time, but it was right up there in terms of functionality in 2015. However, with the withdrawal from 'mobile' and with the ending of support for Windows 10 Mobile in January 2020, what Cortana can actually do has gone downhill, with many people, including me, concluding that the assistant was dead and useless. That's not... quite... true, since there are numerous voice queries that still produce sensible results. With quite a few caveats, as you might expect!

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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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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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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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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra - imaging shootout #1

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This phone camera shootout has been hotly anticipated, not least because the 2021 Xiaomi flagship promises 'PureView' quality images and with a larger (1/1.12") sensor than even the legendary Nokia 808. Add in top notch image processing and immense power, plus a high megapixel 5x periscope telephoto, and going into this first test with the Mi 11 Ultra should see it triumph overall. A lot will depend on how much emphasis I place on zooming, of course, but let's keep things sensible and balanced - for now!

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Head to head: Lumia 950 XL vs Nokia XR20

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What's this? A Lumia up against a new Nokia? Yep, and it's something rather different this time round. The XR20 has all the gadgets one might expect from a flagship smartphone for 2021, plus it's utterly milspec durable. Yet it starts at under £400 inc VAT. What's the catch? Screen technology, mainly, but if lack of AMOLED isn't a showstopper for you then the XR20 might very well be the large and tough 2021 contender you've been waiting for.

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