Thursday, August 11, 2016

Requiem for the Microsoft Lumia 950

Subtitle: End of Term Report Microsoft Lumia 950 Smartphone

Still Hurting
Before talking Technical specifics, I remind myself that the reason I don't have the above Smartphone anymore was because it was stolen.

I managed to purchase the 950 from a local private Swiss seller whose 930 phone had broken and whose 'free' 950 upgrade he received in exchange was unsuitable.

It was a good deal for both parties,  I got a bargain, and he went back to an Apple iPhone and my cashback to him.

Today, in Switzerland, I can find the Lumia 950 at a reduced 369CHF,  far below the initial asking 600CHF, but it is still too expensive for what the phone provides, as I shall clearly state here

A very practical phone.  

In that

+ Removable Battery
+ SD card slot, I had a 64GB Memory card (also stolen obviously!) and W10M has options to store or move apps, and data including photos to this card.
++ You can take the back off, in seconds without a removal tool.  So changing the SIM, which we do every time we are out of our native Switzerland to say, a local French or UK SIM happens all the time.
+ The back cover has the button assembly, meaning overall less chance for water or dust to get in.   I really like the physical design of this phone

The Camera

Lumia 950 camera

I take my photography very seriously.  In fact anything less than our Sony Full Frame Alpha 7 photographs I regard as a bit /mickey mouse/.  So I want the best Smartphone camera ever, because the Alpha, although less than 600 grams complete, is not always carried, but my Smartphone is. 

And the Lumia 950 obliged.

As with all Smartphones,  the Aperture is fixed at F1.9 but we have
+ F1.9, that is big
+ 3 Part LED Flash
+ Dedicated Camera Button
+ Smart tricks based on movement of subject and object
--- No Panorama or sphere ! WTF!!

Missing Hardware
For a 2015 phone a fingerprint reader or equivalent is necessary.   You want to be 100% sure that your stolen phone, which is a gateway, especially if you use Onedrive or Dropbox or GoogleDrive,  to perhaps all your personal information be it sensitive or financial, etcetera, cannot under any circumstances be compromised.

W10M provides an Iris Scanner via software called Microsoft Hello.  It's biggest fault is that it did not work very well for me. But without it you need to type in my case a randomised 6 digit password everytime I want to look at the phone.  (Other settings are available of course including nothing!)

As new builds of the OS materialised I hoped it would get better but then a Beta build completely broke the Iris scanner, and until a time costly backout back to a previous build  (involving the backout and re-entering all of my credentials)  I had to type that bloody number in every time.  By the end of the first day I wanted to throw the phone out the window!

The OS
I refer you to my 640XL review of December 2015
My last memories prior to theft were

+ Spotify
+ MS Band Support
+ Garmin Connect Support
+ Authenticator for MS and Google
+ SBB rail app
+ Youtube third party app
+ Feedly
+ Facebook

Desperately Missing
- Coop Shopping
- Google Maps
- Google Chrome
- Google Locations
- Google+
- Choice of third party camera apps


The Beta Insider program was free but, as per Iris, Microsoft Hello issue above, ended up just wasting my time.  Another time Outlook just stopped working, and so even though I studied the change log of fixes and broken before upgrading I was caught out multiple times.

I also found out that after a backout to a prior OS build then subsequent upgrades seemed blocked on more than one occasion.  The Beta build quality control was basically crap.

Continuum Dock

I bought a Dock that allows you to connect a regular screen keyboard and mouse to the phone and use it like a desktop.  It worked well enough, and is a brilliant solution ... BUT:   But because of the software shortage, I mean this won't run x86 apps don't forget, just those from the Windows Mobile store, I was far short of a working app subset that I'd need to abandon, or partially abandon my desktop.

The Last Temptation
Astonishingly at home here in Switzerland, my favourite, well my only decent Electronics store had a fire sale on the Dual SIM, Lumia 950.  If I could have justified the 300CHF i.e. 240 GBP on a whim then I would have.  

Overall the Lumia 950 was a terribly frustrating experience, camera excepted.

Windows 10 Mobile (W10M) failed to deliver the functionality I required, and my attempt to use Insider Builds required a backout that was time consuming and awkward.

The Camera was an absolute joy to use, even though Panorama was missing.   The photo quality and the dedicated shutter button allowed me to take so many beautiful pictures.

Not only was W10M missing functionality but it was slow.  On the previous 640XL phone I'd had an average CPU,  but the 950 had 6 core Snapdragon 808.  Come on!  I had over 100 Mbps 4G  on my Nexus 5X but only half of that on the Lumia 950.  So disappointing.

Photographs excepted, every time I interacted with the phone, from Facebook, to Speedtest, to Outlook Mail there were bugs, crashes and slow operation.  This meant I wasted SO much time.

I kept hoping it would get better, but it was simply so much slower than a cheap Android phone, even for Microsoft Apps, at times I almost wanted to cry.

Since this phone was bought second hand at a low price I don't have any illusion that I will never own a Windows Mobile phone of this calibre again.  So I'll close to say it was an expensive 6 month ownership ride.  But MS, you need to do a lot better, and realistically now, you'll never catch up.

Windows Device Recovery Mode
W10M and DNS
W10M posts from us