Microsoft is rebooting Windows Phone with two new Lumia devices that showcase the best of what Windows 10 has to offer. Dieter Bohn reports for The Verge that while the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL have “the same basic specs we’ve seen on a lot of phones lately,” they actually showcase an all-new phone platform — which makes digging in to the internal specifications of the new phones a moot point.
“You never know what those internals mean on a whole new OS until you try it — so we tried it,” Bohn explains. “The result: Windows Phone is just as snappy and fluid as it was before. Even though it has something like the full power of Windows behind it (so much so that you can actually hook up a full-sized monitor and use it as a mini computer), it still feels like the stripped-down and fast UI we’ve seen before.”
Nonetheless, for the curious, here the specs are. The Lumia 950 features a 5.2-inch quad HD AMOLED display with a 2560×1440 resolution, and the Lumia 950 XL has a 5.7-inch AMOLED display with the same resolution. Both have 3GB of RAM and run Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon chips, with a six-core chip for the Lumia 950 and an eight-core for the Lumia 950 XL.
Each has 32GB of storage built in, plus a MicroSD card slot for expandable storage. The Lumia 950 features a 3,000mAh battery while the Lumia 950 XL features a 3,340mAh battery, and both batteries can be charged to 50% capacity in 30 minutes with USB Type-C fast charging. Both phones will go on sale in November. The Lumia 950 will start at $549 and the Lumia 950 XL will start at $649.
While Microsoft’s new Windows 10 software, the addition of the USB Type-C connector, and Microsoft’s liquid cooling technology are all reasons to be impressed by Microsoft’s new phones, we have a few other favorites among the features of the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. Read on to learn about our favorite features of Microsoft’s new Lumia phones, features that aptly combine software and hardware and show off Microsoft’s vision for a new, universal operating system and more powerful devices to run it.
1. 20MP camera
Both of Microsoft’s new Lumia phones feature the same 20MP camera system made with Zeiss optics, paired with triple LED flash and optical image stabilization. Nathan Olivarez-Giles reports for The Wall Street Journal that many Windows Phone fans are looking forward to testing the camera system, since the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are descendants of the Nokia Lumia 1020, which had a 41MP camera.
The triple LED natural flash helps to create more natural-looking lighting in darker environments, and a feature called Rich Capture enables you to adjust the color saturation level of bright or dark areas, or even remove the flash after taking a photo. The camera can also capture 4K video.
The Verge notes that snapping a couple of photos with the camera, as some journalists were able to do, isn’t enough to pass judgment on the new system. But cursory tests indicate that the new phones “didn’t choke in very low lighting conditions,” and also reveal that Microsoft is more closely following Samsung’s strategy of trying to get a usable image, rather than staying precisely true to the scene, as Apple attempts.
Like Google’s Nexus phones, Microsoft’s newest Lumia phones are high-end smartphones built to show off what the company’s software can do. One of the most impressive features that Microsoft demonstrated at its hardware event was Continuum, which enables users to plug the new smartphones into the palm-sized Display Dock, and use the phone as a PC with the monitor, keyboard, and mouse that are already on their desk. (Microsoft hasn’t yet said how much it will charge for the Display Dock, which you’ll need to take advantage of the functionality.)
Continuum enables you to get a PC-like experience from your smartphone, and it showcases the flexibility that Microsoft is enabling by building Windows 10 as a universal operating system that’s optimized for screens of all sizes and a wide variety of input methods. Those who have tested the feature have been largely impressed so far, despite the early limitations of the functionality. You can run a different app on the external monitor than what you’re using on your phone, which makes it more useful than Apple’s AirPlay or Google’s Chromecast features.
3. Windows Hello
The Windows Hello Beta brings a new way to unlock your phone to the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. You can wake up your device, look directly at the screen, and the infrared camera technology automatically authenticates you. Windows Hello was first introduced when Microsoft unveiled Windows 10. The feature is made possible by an iris scanner, which checks your identity when you’re logging in to your phone or PC.
Paul Wagenseil reports for Tom’s Guide that because Microsoft hasn’t yet shared exactly what technology enables the Windows Hello Beta functionality on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, we’re not yet sure of exactly how the biometric authentication feature will work on either phone. Wagenseil thinks that photos of the new smartphones may show IR blasters, which would indicate that the phones may have the hardware to perform either iris scans or retinal scans.
Iris recognition, which already exists on a few Android phones, uses a burst of infrared light to record the spots and bands surrounding the pupil in a person’s eyes, though iris scanners can be fooled by high-resolution photographs. Retinal scans, which are also available on a small selection of Android phones, also use infrared light, but beam it into the pupil to illuminate the patterns of blood vessels on the back wall of the eye. Retinal scanning is more intrusive than iris scanning, but is significantly harder to fool.