I have to confess - even after writing hundreds of articles about smartphone imaging I still get confused sometimes about digital zoom, especially in the realm of PureView. Exactly how far can you zoom in, on each device, for stills or video? What are the limits and what happens if you go beyond them? Here’s a helpful guide that I prepared earlier.
Having already looked at the 'Cognac' and black leather backs for the Lumia 950 and 950 XL - and loved them - I was somewhat stunned to find myself getting much flashier than I intended by donning the newer red leather and gold Mozo replacement back, featured here. Garish, perhaps, but it's certainly striking and makes a terrific change from the other, more staid colours and finishes.
Just rounding up a few core and popular applications for Windows 10 Mobile that have been updated in the last few days - we're also expecting a new update for the OS 'Release Preview' ring this week (the one many of the older Windows Phones have had to upgrade to), so there's plemty going on.
With the movement of its , Microsoft also made it clear that there won’t be any new Lumias for the time being, but that doesn’t mean no new Windows 10 Mobile smartphones. In fact, there are quite a few companies now involved in the ecosystem, so I thought I’d enumerate and introduce them. Some you’ll have heard of, some you won’t.
Yes, it's the second imaging shootout of the week, sometimes these things get bunched up and the LG G5 and HTC 10 arrived on the same day - both with pretensions at the Lumia 950's imaging crown. With totally different native resolutions though, meaning that in order to use our comparator I had to go out and shoot different test scenes at different times - here's the result of the 16MP fight between the Lumia 950 and LG G5.
, with a revamped interface and new functionality. After eight weeks of testing this is now considered stable enough to be made more widely available and Maps v5.x has appeared in the Store worldwide for everyone on Windows 10 Mobile, whether running production software (currently ) or any of the Insiders rings. Well, in theory. In practice, devices which got to .318 via official upgrade means (as opposed to using the Insiders Release Preview mechanism) don't seem to see it yet - but they will, give it a week, it's the exact same OS version after all!
I seem to be hooked on tower defense games at the moment - or maybe there are just some excellent examples coming on stream. 'REDCON - Strike Commander' is something slightly off the wall, in that it doesn't look like a tower defense title - but it is at heart, it's just presented differently. And rather wonderfully - I've never seen such superlative animation and atmosphere in a mobile game. Ever. REDCON is also available for Windows 10 on the tablet/desktop, but here I was trying it out on a Lumia phone.
, with a revamped interface and new functionality. After eight weeks of testing this is now considered stable enough to be made more widely available and Maps v5.x has appeared in the Store worldwide for everyone on Windows 10 Mobile, whether running production software (currently ) or any of the Insiders rings.
Although not directly relevant to AAS or AAWP, this is certainly of tangential interest. Microsoft acquired the Nokia feature phone (i.e. extreme low end, below Symbian) business when it bought Nokia's Devices division, but it never really wanted it (no matter what it said at the time). It seems that now is the right time to sell it off this part of the company, in a complex deal, to a subsidiary of Foxconn, one of the largest OEMs in the world, along with a new company, HMD, based in Finland. The latter is partly made up of ex-Nokia staff and will provide the management and design, while Foxconn/FIH will provide the manufacturing and testing facilities. The Nokia-branded feature phones still sell in decent numbers, mainly to developing markets which either can't afford smartphones or don't have the infrastructure to make the most of them.
In noting that Android Pay just launched in the UK, you have to wonder what Microsoft's timescale is for Microsoft Pay(ments). I'm no expert on mobile payments, but unless I'm missing something Microsoft is definitely in third place in the race to get people paying with smartphones. In fact, it's been surprising how long it has taken Google to get going with this, given their market dominance, 18 months after Apple. Perhaps this is a measure of how long it takes to 'get all one's ducks in a row' in terms of relationships with banks and payment providers?
The Microsoft Band 2 was , but I'd lost interest in wearing it every day because it didn't do enough for me - yet an update today may just have changed my mind and the gadget is charging up as I speak. You see, the new Explore tile - demoed superbly in the video example below - lets you wander over hill and down dale, tracking where you've been on the Band display itself, giving you detailed positioning and the facility to mark particular spots. For anyone who like walking, hiking, mountain biking etc. to keep fit, the Explore tile could be an eye opener.
In an extra length AAWP Insight #180 (sorry for the fortnight's gap), we talk about the latest updates to Windows 10 Mobile (Threshold), which leads to a more general conversation about the shape of computing platforms. We also talk about what updates you can get for all Windows Phone models, ruminate on the benefits of UWPs (one of the big benefits of upgrading), and mention our plans for curating apps and games on AAWP.
Very unusually, Microsoft released a new Insiders build of Windows 10 Mobile on a Monday evening, so overnight for us in the UK. And it's a big one, there are some significant bug fixes in this release, plus some extra features, such as being able to swipe to go back in the Edge browser. Grab this update sooner rather than later!
A month after , Instagram just got itself a big new version number bump on Windows 10 Mobile. Although there's nothing significant changed in terms of functionality, the application has had a face-lift all round, along with the much publicised 'new icon'.
With the HTC 10 now in for review on The Phones Show, I couldn't resist pitching it (it claims camera prowess) against the Lumia 950, looking at image quality. And, me being me and this being AAWP, I couldn't resist throwing in some comparisons with the classic Lumia 1020 as well - a different beast, but it does provide a known benchmark of sorts for what a phone camera can do.
One of the requests in the comments recently was to test audio capture when shooting videos. And, as it happens, I'd been thinking about doing this for a while anyway. So I headed out with six smartphones and tried to shoot video and audio in as controlled conditions as possible: in a quiet garden, by a windy, noisy road, and in a rock-level music setting. That should be enough to set the best from the rest, I thought...
There's something of a trend in the last few years to have puzzles which are embedded in an atmospheric storyline - think . The geometric puzzler Zenge is along similar lines, best played in moments of calm and with headphones on!
It's a theme I've been returning to over the years - that most users don't realise the work that happens behind the scenes when they call up a web page. What used to be (1995) 25kb of 'stuff' became 250kb around 2005 and now - 2015/2016 - a web page is more like 2.5MB, Per page. That's what higher resolution graphics, HTML bloat, scripting, trackers, animations and more do for the amount of 'stuff' that needs to come down the line. No wonder web pages still take a few seconds to render on a smartphone, even though the internal processor is many times more powerful than what we had a decade ago.
While compiling the latest update to the AAWP Games directory, I noted this new title, Poly and the Marble Maze, which looks to be a real head-scratching arcade puzzler. See below for overview and video trailer, which will give you an idea. It's simply priced - free, but with a 'Premium' bundle being highly recommended, at just below £4 in the UK. Which is a fair price for such high production values.
Tower defense is now a game genre in its own right - the combination of strategy, arcade action and combat has proved very popular. And Digfender is an astoundingly good example of the breed, here lovingly crafted for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile by Mugshot Games. The graphics are just right, the gameplay honed to perfection and even the freemium stays well within reasonable bounds. Highly recommended.