One year with the Microsoft Lumia 950 – A short Review
Hardware & Features9.5
Operating System & Apps7.5
A late review of Microsoft’s flagship phone from 2015
At first glance, the Lumia 950 doesn’t impress. Due to the rather generic design and uninspiring look, you may even think that this is the cheap Lumia 640, but no! Microsoft said that this phone is for the Windows fan, and as such, I appreciated the fact that most of the features I wanted were included. An excellent screen, four microphones for rich audio recording, improved PureView camera, capable processor with 3GB of RAM, Glance, removable back and battery, microSD slot, and innovative features like Iris scanning should be more than enough to satisfy the Windows fan. The phone also supports Double-Tap to wake, after a firmware update.
Maybe the high price and the design affected the sales, and the 950 line failed to gain much traction in the market. But I am not complaining. Fortunately, there are some official and third-party accessory makers selling back covers for the Lumia 950. I have now four different backs for my phone – the original black cover, Mozo leather back, and two cheap back covers from AliExpress white and blue. Now I can completely change the look of my phone, without need to use some ugly silicone cases for protection.
In terms of performance, Lumia 950 is a fast phone thanks to the capable Snapdragon processor and the amount of RAM. Windows Hello and the iris recognition are working relatively well considering the fact that the feature is still in beta after a year. The camera quality is comparable with the excellent Lumia 1020, and much better than the Lumia 930. It may be dependent on my usage, but this phone is unable to last more than 24 hours without re-charging. This is probably my biggest complaint in terms of hardware.
One of the biggest gripes I had with the Lumia 950 was about the instability of Windows 10 Mobile at the time of launch. A year ago, the platform was simply not ready to hit the masses. Sudden app crashes, slow-downs, some lags here and there. Fortunately, most of these issues had been fixed in the next few months. By the mid-2016, Lumia 950 and Windows 10 Mobile were as stable as they should have been from day one.
Moreover, Microsoft keeps improving the platform with monthly cumulative updates, which is definitely very good for all users. Today, there are only a few issues that bother me. First of all, the camera app is still not as reliable as in Windows Phone 8.1. Sometimes, you have to wait minutes before the photo appears in the Photo folder for sharing / editing. The Photo app could be buggy too – you may notice some instability and glitches while zooming in/out the photo. Other areas for much-needed improvements in Windows 10 Mobile is Skype – the universal app that is still in a Preview stage, as it doesn’t support more than one file sharing at the same time, and doesn’t appear in the Share UI. But overall, Windows 10 Mobile is quite stable and reliable nowadays.
After Windows 10 launch more than a year ago, we saw a decent rise of new universal apps running across different type of devices. I would say that most of the apps you are probably using are here – Viber, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others have launched UWP apps for Windows 10 Mobile. Some of them are not that great though, like Facebook and Messenger being too slow at cold start up, or Skype still in Preview stage with not all features you would expect.
The most interesting new feature in Lumia 950 (and XL) is the ability to connect a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and simulate a Desktop-like environment with UWP apps. To experience Continuum in its full glory you need a Display Dock – a special accessory with many ports, including USB-C for charging. A year after launch, there are far more apps supporting Continuum, which makes the feature a lot more useful than before.
However, there are some obvious limitations at this stage, like the inability to open two apps at the same time, but some problems will be addressed in the upcoming Creators Update. Continuum has a potential to become a killer feature in the next few years, so I am curious to learn how Microsoft is planning to improve it on the upcoming hardware. Maybe the Win32 emulation is not too far away?
A year after release, Microsoft Lumia 950 is still an attractive phone, and for the price of $299 / or EUR299/, it’s definitely a very good deal at the end of 2016. Among the best things in the Lumia 950 are Continuum, the display, the camera and the rich audio recording. The XL version is also a good option if you want to experience Windows on phone, and you prefer a slightly larger device. With Microsoft discontinuing the Lumia line in anticipation of the Surface Phone in late 2017, you shouldn’t wait, but upgrade to the 950, especially if you have a mid/low-end Lumia. For owners of the Lumia 930 /1520, the underlying motives for an upgrade are fewer, as the performance of the old and new generations is comparable.
*the rating is based on a review in December 2016. A year ago, the rating would be lower.