The only downside to a manufacturer significantly improving phone camera performance is that I have to re-do one or more of my imaging features on the 'All About' sites. Luckily, I love doing them, so following the January 2022 feature update for the innovative Microsoft Surface Duo 2, I headed out with a brace of test phone cameras to compare it against. Firstly, here, against Microsoft's own older - but still a reliable benchmark - Lumia 950 XL.
Recent Features - Windows 10 Mobile
When a smartphone falls out of use in your life, there's a temptation to find a good home for it. Often a family member, often a second hand market like eBay, but sometimes - just sometimes - the phone is special enough, is unique enough, in fact is downright collectable enough, that you might like to hang onto it. Not necessarily just for pecuniary reasons, but perhaps sentimental reasons as well. As an example, I've picked out a dozen smartphones from my own collection that fit this bill. Classics one and all...
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.
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?
Almst six years ago to the day, Microsoft launched what would become its last* serious Windows phones, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. The announcement certainly seems like a dividing line in the sand, six years on, but - curiously and perhaps even more significantly, at least with hindsight - occurred only 18 short months after its platform had matured, making the real world, viable lifetime of Windows on phones less than two years... total, I argue. Yes, yes, a crying shame. But here are the time and data points, to back up my contention.
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!
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.
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.