Back in early May, we speculated that Microsoft was working on two new flagships devices that would compliment the launch of Windows 10 Mobile in October 2015. The details of these two devices have now been verified and satiate Windows Phone users who have been lamenting for updated flagships. However, it is important to note that Microsoft has recently made a dramatic shift in its smartphone strategy. This will have an impact on the number of models released, and more importantly may have an impact on the retail supply chain after launch. We will discuss this impact at the end of the article, but for now how do the Lumia 950 / 950XL stack up?
Our early speculation on the next generation of flagships was accurate in every aspect, apart from the model name. Just as Microsoft decided to call the successor of Windows 8, Windows 10 and not Windows 9, the team at Redmond decided that the next flagships will be called Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL. Considering that Microsoft has not released a flagship since the Lumia 930 more than a year ago (and with respect to the United States, this is close to two years), it is Microsoft’s hope that this name signals a new beginning for the Lumia Brand.
Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL Specifications
|Lumia 950 (Codename: Talkman)||Lumia 950XL (Codename: Cityman)|
|Dual SIM||Variant will be available in select locations.||Variant will be available in select locations|
|Build Material||Polycarbonate body with aluminum side buttons||Polycarbonate body with aluminum side buttons. 1mm silver ring inside the circumference of the black camera pod|
|Colors||Matte White, Black or Cyan||Matte White, Black or Cyan|
|Display||5.2 inch WQHD (1440×2560) OLED display||5.7 inch WQHD (1440×2560) OLED display|
|Processor||Snapdragon 808, 64-bit Hexa core||Snapdragon 810, 64-bit Octa core|
|Biometric Sensors||Iris scanner (infrared) for Windows Hello||Iris scanner (infrared) for Windows Hello|
|RAM||3GB of RAM||3GB of RAM|
|Expandable Storage||microSD Slot upto 128GB||microSD Slot upto 128GB|
|Rear Camera||20MP PureView rear camera with triple LED flash||20MP PureView rear camera with triple LED flash|
|Front Camera||5MP Wide-angle front facing camera||5MP Wide-angle front facing camera|
|Battery||3000 mAh removable battery||3300 mAh removable battery|
|Wireless Charging||Qi wireless charging with flip cover||Qi wireless charging integrated|
|USB||USB Type-C||USB Type-C|
|Extras (sold separately)||n/a||Smart cover, Surface Pen|
The upcoming flagships will use polycarbonate material in a design that is said to build upon the Lumia 830. The devices will be thin (between 7-8mm), light and “sexy as hell”. This is a welcome change from previous Lumia flagships that fall more on the substantial and bulky side (see Lumia 920, Lumia 930). An interesting recent development that may positively impact the design of the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL is the appointment of Panos Panay from the Corporate Vice President of the Surface group to the Engineering head of all Premium Microsoft Hardware (Premium hardware includes Surface, Xbox, Windows Phone, Surface Hub, Holo Lens and the Microsoft Band). In the future this will mean a more cohesive design language across all of Microsoft’s hardware, it is hard to predict how much of an influence Panos will have on the Lumia 950.
Both devices will use the latest chipsets available in the market: Snapdragon 808 on the Lumia 950 and Snapdragon 810 on the Lumia 950XL. It is not clear if Microsoft has a solution for the overheating and subsequent CPU throttling problems that other devices using the 810 SOC have exhibited. Windows Phone enthusiasts can take comfort in that fact the Engineering leadership that Panos Panay provided when designing the Surface Pro 3 will help ensure that the Lumia 950’s design provides the best experience possible..
With 3GB RAM, 32GB on-board storage and Micro-SD support (up to 128GB of expandable storage), these Lumia flagships will have more than enough horsepower to power desktop class applications. Though the rear camera will remain at 20 MP, both devices will incorporate a triple LED that perform in a pulse mode. This enables light conditions that are close to “motion freeze framing” capability of the xenon powered Lumia 1020. The front camera of both devices will be a wide angle 5MP camera. We can also expect to see advancements in the image algorithms and software that will enable high quality and fast image capturing.
Both devices will come with an OLED Clear Black screen at WQHD resolution. Coupled with large removable batteries (3000 and 3300 mAh respectively) and Windows 10 Mobile frugal power requirements, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL should exceed daily use charging cycles.
Windows 10 And Special Features
As stated above, Microsoft has decided to scale back their number of model releases to meet just 3 key segments: Flagship, business and value. This means that the Lumia line will be focused on showing off the best possible experience between on mobile devices. Similar to the Surface strategy, Microsoft hopes that by showing the value of the “Mobility of Experience” between Windows devices, other OEMs will be inspired to make Windows 10 Mobile devices. To stand out from the crowd of similarly specd’ mobile devices, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL have been designed to take advantage of key Windows 10 features. These are Windows Hello, Continuum and OS Wide Pen Support.
- Windows Hello
Both devices will support an Infra-red Iris scanner that will allow users to securely sign into their devices instantaneously. This feature, “Windows Hello”, is one of Windows 10 standout features and I can attest to the speed with which it works when using a fingerprint reader (under 1 second to sign in). The Lumia 950 will be the first smart phone to implement an easy to use iris scanner as a security measure.
Windows Continuum will allow Lumia smartphones with the right hardware (namely the Snapdragon 808 and 810) to drive an independent display (upto 2k resolution). Once plugged in using a USB C cable or wirelessly via Miracast, the Windows 10 Mobile OS will appear in the desktop from on the large display. Any Universal Windows Apps that are opened on the large display, will scale and act just like a desktop app. The potential here that you can be productive anywhere without having to carry your laptop.
- Surface Pen Compatibility
The Lumia 950XL will support the use of the Surface pen. Though an additional cost at $50, the Surface pen allows users the same functionality that exists in the Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 devices. This is a very smart move on Microsoft’s part as it immediately sets the 950XL as the premier productivity device, surpassing the current champion, the Galaxy Note 4 from Samsung.
We can expect to see the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL to be announced in September 2015 and released to the retail channel in October. This brings us to possibly the greatest risk that faces the launch of these flagships. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced the write-down off their Nokia acquisition and a further lay off of 7800 employees. As most of these resources were in the smartphone manufacturing supply chain, it will me an that Microsoft will have to outsource manufacturing to 3rd parties like Foxconn or Pegatron. This switch may result in low availability of the flagships across the globe, especially if the devices turn out to be hit.
Apart from this potential logistical hitch, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL are shaping up to be very exciting devices.