Microsoft Lumia 950 Review: Spearheading Windows 10 Mobile

Article Index

The Software And Experience

Windows 10 Mobile is at the core of the Lumia 950’s identity. Microsoft’s mobile operating system is much like Windows 10 for desktops, with similar live tiles, the same control panel menu items, and a nearly identical design language throughout. All of the usual niceties of a smartphone are also represented, however, like a notification shade and simple status icons, etc., but there is clear continuity between Windows 10 on mobile devices and desktops. Windows 10 Mobile will also be immediate familiar to Windows 8.1 Mobile users.

windows phone start 1 windows phone start 2

The Windows 10 Mobile user experience is very similar to Windows 8.1 Mobile. The Start and Lock screens are virtually identical, though Microsoft did make updates to better take advantage of high resolution and high DPI displays. There is much more information density with Windows 10 Mobile, especially if you enable to the feature to allow additional live tiles to the start screen. And logging in with Windows Hello is also available. Windows Hello uses the devices camera and infrared sensors to detect your face / eyes and log you in.

The back, home, and search button functionality is similar to previous versions of Windows on mobile devices, and all of the things that make the platform different from iOS and Android – Live tiles, sliding app menu, etc. are accounted for.

windows phone store 1 windows phone store 2

The ramifications of the shift to Windows 10 Mobile and Microsoft’s new Universal App vision are still playing out in the Windows 10 app store, however. It’s widely known that there is a huge “app gap” between Windows 10 Mobile and iOS and Android. But recently many apps that used to be in the store have been removed, either because they’ve been abandoned or because they haven’t been updated for properly compatibility with Windows 10. With that said, the situation is improving daily – one of my go-to apps (TeamViewer) originally wasn’t available on Windows 10 Mobile, but has since arrived, for example.
With hundreds of millions of devices capable of running universal apps, however, we expect many more applications will come to the platform over time. As it stands today, most of the most common multimedia and social networking apps are available – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, are all here. And it’s the same for Netflix et al.

windows phone office 2 windows phone office 1

Users who look to their phones for productivity will really dig the Office integration on the Lumia 950. Outlook is an excellent mobile email client in our opinion. And all of the Office applications many of you use daily will be immediately familiar. Excel, Word, and PowerPoint function exactly as you’d expect them to. Connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor to the phone and use Continuum – which essentially mimics a desktop Windows 10 experience – and you’ll be hard pressed to tell mobile Office apart from its desktop counterpart.

windows phone edge 1 windows phone apps 1

Browsing on the Lumia 950 is very good too. The Edge browser is very fast and responsive, though we did experience some issues where web pages would appear to load but we’d be presented with a blank browser window. Refreshing the page would usually resolve the issue, however. We should also note that installing the 10.0.10586.29 update that recently hit seems to have improved the browsing experience, but we haven’t spent enough time with it to say for sure.

In general, fans of Windows Mobile will find a lot to like with the Windows 10 Mobile and the Lumia 950. Everything you expect from the platform is there, backed by plenty of RAM and modern smartphone hardware. Users coming from iOS and Android, however, will find the experience jarring. As a former Android user, I can personally attest that the switch can be worthwhile, but there will be a significant learning curve.

If you’re looking to Windows 10 Mobile for productivity purposes, Continuum will probably be of interest. With Continuum, the Lumia 950 can be connected to a display dock, and then to standard desktop displays and input devices to mimic Windows 10 on desktops. In our experience, Continuum is pretty awesome. Check out this video to see it in action...

When the Lumia 950 is connected to its companion (optional) display dock, the OS scales up to behave like Windows 10 on desktops. The phone can be used as it normally would – the technology uses the secondary display output capabilities of the Snapdragon SoC – or the phone’s screen can be used as a touch-pad. If you leverage OneDrive to save your files to the cloud, and your workday consists of using Office and Outlook most of the time, a Lumia 950 and display dock could conceivable replace a desktop system / tablet. You won’t have the horsepower of an actual computer for more demanding tasks, but typical office-type productivity work is absolutely possible.

Related content