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!
Recent Features - Windows 10 Mobile
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.
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.
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...]
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!
Yup, it's the new Nokia - ruggedised, fully specced, and - well - rather huge. There's a lot to like, but there's one big question for old-Nokia, Lumia and Windows fans: how does its camera arrangement perform? Given the Nokia name, I just had to return to a Lumia as the comparison, my trusty 950 XL, which I pitched spec-for-spec against the new Nokia last week.
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.
I've done PureView shootouts in the past, but there are a few tweaks here. From the 2012 Nokia 808 PureView, which I've allowed to be tripod mounted here for low light shots (there being no OIS), through the trusty Lumia 1020 and the good all-rounder that is the Lumia 950, then to the iPhone 12 Pro Max in full ProRAW 'pure' shooting mode and the latest Sony Xperia 1 mark iii with 'Photography Pro' app and dual telephoto. It's the widest shootout I've ever done, in terms of timescale and is provided more for interest than to try and score generational points!
Following my imaging head to head between the fixed-up Sony Xperia 5 ii and the new camera benchmark, the iPhone 12 Pro Max in ProRAW mode, there was demand for a quick return to the Lumia 950 as the comparison device. And, with the weather set fair in the UK summer, I'm happy to oblige. As before, Sony has upped their game since the Xperia 5 ii's release, with updates, so can the 2020 multimedia champion also now best the 950 in imaging?