Microsoft’s long awaited Windows 10 devices launch did not fail to impress. The software giant rolled out a raft of devices from phones to wearables as expected with predictable specs but managed to still give us a few surprises. In every way possible the team nailed this recent set of announcements in order to maintain the positive coverage from the tech world which is always ready to label the company irrelevant. So lets break it down …
Microsoft Band 2
The companies first wearable had a very limited availability, limited to the US and UK but from all reports the performance was never really the issue. Made as a fitness tracker and not a watch the band was always designed to be warn with the screen facing in for more natural experience while working out. To achieve this the original hardware squeezed 10 sense s into a clumsy design which people never felt very comfortable wearing. Obviously satisfied by the performance of version 1 the new and improved Band 2 seems like it has received a little more love with a rounded and premium design with a streamlined metal body, curved display and flexible straps. In addition the team has some how managed to include a new elevation sensor to help those who train at different altitudes. Finally, the Band 2 retains the best part of the original device as it is cross – compatible with iOS and Android and is therefore not necessarily tied to the fate of Windows Mobile. The Band has to date been the only wearable that has really caught my attention as it aims to serve a specific purpose but provides more functionality then other fitness trackers like Fitbit. At the same time it doesn’t try to become a fashion accessory, personally I’m sticking with my Armani to give me that added flare. Now that they have refined the design I’m definitely still keen if it lands in Oz soon.
By now we are pretty used to Microsoft showing off mind blowing HoloLens demos but lets face it, we shouldn’t complain. This time the show focused on Multi-reality gaming with Project X-Ray where your entire house can become your new battle ground. Personally this is where the untethered nature of HoloLens really has an advantage over virtual reality headsets as you can more easily move into different rooms and interact unrestricted with the experience. The gameplay itself is pretty straight forward but is definitely cool, robots burst through the walls and hide behind your couch before you blast them in to holographic pieces. It really has me thinking about the possibilities, a police raid in your own house or a personalised hostage situation. More importantly, Microsoft finally gave us some release details with the developer kit available in the first quarter next year for $3000. It’s not cheap but since Google Glass was $1500 and that was nowhere near the level of HoloLens so I won’t be surprised if developers jump on board.
Lumia 950 and 950XL
Unsurprisingly the specs for these new Lumia Flagships like the new design for the Microsoft Band 2 had already spread all over the Internet but it always helps to get things confirmed. The 950 has an hexacore snapdragon 808 processor, and a 5.2 WQHD OLED display while the XL comes with an octacore processor, 5.7 display and liquid cooling. In addition both phones have a 20 megapixel PureView camera with optical stabilization, USB – C connections, 3 GB of Ram, wireless charging, Windows Hello facial recognition, duel adaptive antennas and 32 GB expandable memory. None of these specs seem ground-breaking on their own but as International Business Times points out they still slightly edge out the competition from Apple and Samsung. Even so some other media reports are disappointed expecting a killer feature and a ‘premium’ Surface like design rather then the continued use of polycarbonate.
Firstly, I see the duel antenna as a welcome addition if it successfully works to improve signal quality as I have always felt that it is a annoying weakness of modern smartphones that it was easier to have a conversation with someone over a phone call 15 years ago. Personally the killer feature of these phones comes from the software as Continuum allows both handsets to connect with a keyboard and mouse through the dock and drive a desktop experience through Windows 10, but every other phone on the market can do this right?. Technically this means that with the right app you can edit, print or easily manipulate photos and documents without syncing your devices. Now you can be “productive like a Boss where ever you are”, at least that’s the idea. Unfortunately, most people probably only want to use their phone as a phone so I don’t know how much traction it will get in the consumer market but it is definitely great for the enterprise sector.
I find the second criticism ridiculous and largely perpetrated by those people who have never used a Lumia device beyond a review unit, having owned a HTC Mozart, Lumia 610, Lumia 920 and a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge I still consider the polycarbonate 920 my favourite. Mainly because of the solid build quality as regardless of how many times I dropped it over the 3 or so years with out any form of case the 920 still works fine if only for the aging specs. Meanwhile the HTC lasted just over a year before a fall from a coffee table shattered the screen and made it unusable similarly one fall from a car door has left my Galaxy 6 edge with clear blemish to it’s stunning screen. This is not to mention the fact that my Galaxy like most other phones is kept neatly covered by a case so I can preserve the “premium” design, something I never even considered with my Lumia. Now don’t get me wrong the Galaxy S6 is a fantastic phone and I don’t have any regrets but I’m using it to make a point that the Lumia Line has a well know track record for taking a beating which I think is more important. After all if your buying a phone for the looks you probably don’t know anything about performance and are too concerned with your own status unfortunately this probably includes a good portion of the mobile marketplace. Sorry for the rant but every time I hear or read comments about premium materials and beautiful shiny designs I can’t help getting angry at people’s stupidity as I am a very practical person.
Admittedly apps still remain a problem for Microsoft’s mobile strategy and it’s not TV surprising that they find themselves at something of a cross roads. Both realising the importance of getting their services onto other ecosystems while trying to use the universal capacity of Windows 10 to breath some life into their own platform. The word out of Microsoft is that they aren’t expecting much from the new handsets but it allows them to create a bundle for enterprise customers interested in the surface line. We shall have to wait and see over the next couple of months but they will continue to make little progress if they can’t get Google, carriers and OEM’s on board in order to encourage developers. Hopefully the new tools to port Android and iOS apps to Windows will help as I think consumer’s will benefit from increased competition if Microsoft can start gaining even a little bit of traction in mobile.
I always seem to go into way too much detail, but stay tuned for part 2 as I look at the Surface announcements from Microsoft’s event.
It’s been a while but I thought my decision to upgrade phones and jump on the Samsung bandwagon would make for a good post. Now, first of all I would like to point out that I have been a happy Windows phone user since I got my HTC Mozart more than 4 years ago and it was with some regret that I found it was time to upgrade my Lumia 920. My decision instead was motivated by hardware and the annoying lack of a new Microsoft flagship with up to date specs. The choice going forward was easy since I have had experience using both iOS and Android, the latters static icons, closed hardware and obsession with adaptors made up my mind. So lets get down to it my phone is a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge running Android lollipop with the TouchWiz UI so my comments are not based on Google’s stock OS.
One of the features that has made my transition easy are Widgets as they act similar to the live tiles available on Windows Phone with both providing snippets of information for easy, quick consumption. The added bonus on Android is that not only do widgets show information but depending on the application have limited functionality. In conjunction with the improved ecosystem this has been a big win in making the change from Windows phone. Although I have never been obsessed with an endless supply of pointless applications that complete tasks that can already be done using the internet if it had a flash plug in the quality of official and major apps is a big improvement. The other area where I see a massive benefit in usability is Android’s ability to multitask, bring up open applications and close them all at once.
My major criticism of Android and iOS has always been the layout of the homescreen into pages with a specific amount of real estate unlike the continuous scrolling Start Screen found on Windows phone. Now I realise that this is being a bit picky but I can’t deal with gaps on the homepage so I end up finding apps and widgets to fill up the left over real estate. Its not just all aesthetics however as I’m missing the inbuilt email client found in Windows phone as it was easy to use and allowed me to pin individual inboxes to the start screen. However, my main criticism is the insane amount of bloatware from Google’s range apps to Samsung’s own concoctions that manage to do the exact same thing. Now I’m not saying that Windows Phone doesn’t come with its own set of apps that can’t be uninstalled but its a much shorter list.
Overall I am content with my decision as I am quickly adapting to using Samsung’s version of Android and the larger range of apps has been good. However, I am not ruling out a return to Windows Phone in the future when Microsoft finally releases some top of the range hardware. I hope this opens some peoples eyes about being willing to change ecosystems in the future as most of the things ways we use our phones aren’t that different and making the jump doesn’t take long if you have an open mind.