Smartphone Review: Microsoft Lumia 950
Windows Phone: Microsoft has just launched a new smartphone, the Microsoft Lumia 950. Will it be enough to gain a larger market share in the smartphone market …
Microsoft may be riding a high wave on the strength of its Windows operating system, Office suite, and Xbox gaming consoles, but when it comes to smartphone devices, they are not just lagging behind, but getting an astonishing amount of ridicule for their efforts thus far. Is all that about to change now that Microsoft is directly involved in the production of Windows Phones? The launch of Microsoft’s flagship device, the Lumia 950 could just hold the answer to that question and to the survival of Microsoft phones in the future as well.
The question is whether Microsoft has just intended the Lumia 950 to be a flagship device that users will upgrade to (since there hasn’t been a Windows Phone launch in quite a long time!) or is this one that will break through the barriers of mediocrity that has plagued the smartphone arm of the company and emerge as the go-to- phone for the future generation? Let’s find out.
We’ll start with the hardware. The first thing you’ll notice about the Lumia 950 is the polycarbonate shell and unimaginative design. The shell is available in 2 colors, black or white and lacks the premium look that you’d expect from an expensive device such as the 950. On the bright side, you’ll probably end up having fewer scratches in the long run as the shell seems pretty scratch resistant. Another good point is the advantage of having a firm grip on the phone if you’re using it single handed for taking photos in a crowded place.
Under the back of the phone is the sim slot and an expandable storage slot as well as the removable battery. The right side of the phone has the standard Volume Up and Down buttons followed by the Power and Camera button while the phone’s USB-C type port sits at the bottom.
The Lumia 950 has a 5.2-inch screen, with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and AMOLED display, which sits beneath a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The display resolution at 564 pixels per inch (ppi) matches that of the Samsung Galaxy S6 while bettering the Apple iPhone 6. Although it is not as slim as the iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S6, at 8.25 mm, the Lumia is still lightweight, weighing in at 150g.
It Lumia 950 pulls out all the stops in the camera department with a 20 MP, Zeiss Lens, PureView and OIS enabled rear camera that lets you capture some great photos, while the 5MP front camera features a wide-angle lens, which is decent enough for taking selfies with your friends. The camera is also capable of 4k video recordings with the ability to record up to 120 fps slow motion in 720p. Overall, there’s nothing groundbreaking about the phone’s camera, it does a good enough job, comparable to what an iPhone or Samsung would do.
The power of the Lumia lists the latest Qualcomm processor, the 64-bit, hexa-core Snapdragon 808; 3GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded to as much as 200GB via a microSD card, and an Iris scanner. Powering this device is a 3000 mAh battery that can last up to 9 hours and 30 minutes if your usage involves web browsing via Wi-Fi, 10 hours of 1080p video playback and 18 hours of talk over 3G. So at least on paper, with normal use, the phone should take you through the day.
So while the hardware isn’t the most exciting thing about the Lumia 950, the software is what’s worth noting. Microsoft has finally managed to bridge the gap between its smartphones, tablets, and PCs with Windows 10 operating system. That said, if you’re expecting a complete overhaul of the user interface from Windows 8, you won’t see that on the Lumia 950. However, there are plenty of desktop features you’ll enjoy using such as Microsoft’s fun virtual personal assistant Cortana, the new Edge browser, and the mobile versions of the Mail and Calendar desktop apps. These features should definitely appeal to users who want the Windows desktop experience on the phone.
The new Windows 10 Hello feature is also available on the Lumia 950, making it super easy to log in to the phone by just looking at it; no PIN or password is required. Again, the lack of a fingerprint scanner may be disappointing to some. The most interesting feature of Windows 10 on mobile is Continuum, the feature that turns the tiny phone into a full-fledged PC. You’ll however need to pick up some additional components for this to work such as the $99 Display Dock, a mouse and keyboard and an external display, such as a TV or a monitor. Once you plug the phone to the dock and to the rest of the peripherals, your phone content will get displayed on the big screen, giving you a wholesome Windows 10 user experience. I’m not talking stretched out images to fill up the big space but appropriate resizing of tiles and content that’s on your phone.
Continuum still has some way to go though, because it supports only a handful of apps, most of it being Microsoft’s own contribution. It may not also be convenient or practical for users to carry around the different peripherals to get the Continuum experience on the go. Also, the Microsoft Store still lags behind badly when it comes to Universal apps with even big names like Twitter and Instagram still not being as good as the ones on Android or iOS.
Overall, the Lumia 950 is a pretty decent phone. It has a nice looking screen, a great camera and feels solid. When it comes to smartphones, Microsoft is still way behind leaders like Apple and Google. What would have made a powerful impact in the space would have been a smartphone that wasn’t just visually appealing, but also highly innovative and app rich. If you expected the Microsoft Lumia 950 to offer you one such experience, you should know by now that it is not the case. If on the other hand, you are a big Windows Phone fan, (and probably hate the iOS and Android ecosystem) you might be eager to upgrade to the newest flagship device. In such a case, the $550 Microsoft Lumia 950 is probably one that might catch your eye.