Monthly Archives: May 2017

Windows 10 Mobile Fast ring goes to build 15213

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The new ‘feature2’ builds (‘Redstone 2+’?) are still moving on apace for Windows 10 Mobile Fast ring Insider phones (keep up at the back!), though build 15213, now live in the usual place in Settings on your phone, is more about bug fixes, with a couple of biggies addressed below (see my emphasis).

Source / Credit: Microsoft

Redstone 3 is now the Windows 10 ‘Fall Creators Update’

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Expending zero energy on thinking up a new branch title, Microsoft has announced at BUILD 2017 that the next major Windows 10 branch (for most form factors) will be the ‘Fall Creators Update’. I guess this makes sense since there’s still an emphasis on creating, in this case desktop-hosted story ‘remixing’ (photos and videos), but it’s still a somewhat weak title, if you ask me. The future for phones and mobile in general is yet to be announced, though I’ve got a feature on the way which will hopefully reveal all.

There was no mention of ‘Redstone 3’, of course, but that’ll be the match-up behind the scenes. We’ve already seen the first ‘feature2’ builds for mobile in the Insiders Fast ring, but it’s now looking unlikely that any of the ‘creative goodies’ of the ‘Fall Creators Update’, which are predominantly desktop/laptop/hybrid-based, requiring larger UIs (and, in some cases multiple input methods), will come to smaller screens, at least in their demoed form so far.

Don’t worry, I’ve got a chart in preparation which will explain everything, graphically.

There was mention on stage of iOS and Android also getting tie-ins to Microsoft’s new creative flow applications, but don’t forget that Windows 10 Mobile running phones are already ‘in’, in that they’re integrally linked into Microsoft Photos and OneDrive, so I’m not sure whether there’s a real imbalance there.

Instead, currently supported (Redstone 2) smartphones will be getting ‘feature2’ updates, which does include updates to core security, networking, encryption, Cortana, Edge, and so on – which is probably all you need in terms of currency on a 5″-6″ phone screen? Again, watch this space, I’ll explain more another time.

For Windows 10 Creators Update, for interest sake here on AAWP, Microsoft announced:

  • the Microsoft Fluent Design System (previously codenamed Project Neon) – the transparencies and graphical effects have limited application on the phone, though we have seen some tweaks to the likes of Groove Music recently.
  • OneDrive ‘Files on Demand’ – so you can see what’s in your OneDrive on any device but you don’t necessarily have to have local copies of each file – they’ll be grabbed on demand.*
  • (Cloud) ‘Clipboard’ syncing of all text, images and links between all (Microsoft) signed-in devices
  • Timeline, keeping a history of the documents and tasks you were working in/on, so that you can jump back easily at a later date.
  • Story remix, a video creation wizard, pulling in images, video clips, music, even 3D effects and animations, into an intuitive creative interface.

* Note that this isn’t needed in the OneDrive UWP app on phone or tablet etc, since everything you’re seeing there is, by definition, in the Cloud and also, by definition, available to download ‘on demand’. The new feature above is for Win32 Desktop class devices which would traditionally have kept a local copy of everything, but which is not tricky because of smaller storage, e.g. on devices with SSDs rather than hard disks.

In short, and from watching many of the impressive demos, Windows 10 and its ecosystem seems pretty darned healthy, though what we all want to know is what’s coming up on truly mobile, pocketable form factors, in terms of both hardware and a version of Windows 10 that will suit it.

PS. Many wags have already pointed out the perils of putting ‘Fall’ in the title. ‘Fall’ as in falling over, ‘Fall’ as in only being called that in the USA and in fact being a whole other season in the Southern Hemisphere, ‘Fall’ as in close to ‘Fail’ – and you get the idea, headlines will write themselves(!) Oh well…

Heston Blumenthal bot comes to Skype UWP

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Microsoft is constantly partnering with content providers for the ‘bot’ system in Skype UWP. The idea is growing on me, but it still seems a tiny bit gimmicky. The latest bot was actually announced a while back, but I can see it now in Skype in the UK – it’s chef Heston Blumenthal, whose restaurant is not a million miles from my house and for whose restaurant I once collaborated in helping with Heston’s first ever DVD, back around the Millennium. Not much of a claim to fame, really, but hey, there’s a connection…

Anyway, Heston Blumenthal’s Skype bot is ‘exclusive’, offering “cooking tips, exclusive seasonal menus, and personal anecdotes directly from Chef Heston”. Essentially it’s a once a month short video presentation, along with some chat from ‘Heston’ himself. Here’s the bot in action in Skype UWP on my Lumia 950 XL:

Screenshot, Heston botScreenshot, Heston botScreenshot, Heston botScreenshot, Heston bot

You can try this yourself by looking under ‘Bots’ on the hamburger navigation menu in Skype UWP.

The idea’s not perfect, since the video shorts get interrupted by phone screen timeouts – so you have to tap the screen occasionally to stop this happening. And there’s no real interactivity, you can’t ask for tips or recipes when you need them, which seems a missed opportunity, given the whole ‘bot’ concept.

But it’s a start and an interesting idea, pinging you every now and then with interesting food ideas.

W10M’s File Explorer on your Surface too

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Not strictly phone-related, but there’s an interesting tie in here and one which is absolutely expected. When Microsoft created Windows 10 across all form factors, the actual user experience varied slightly at the application level, depending on what you were doing. One good example is Windows Explorer, the classic Win32 file manager, versus the simplified File Explorer UWP on the phone in Windows 10 Mobile. Microsoft didn’t replace it because the newcomer couldn’t do all those geeky tricks that people loved in Windows Explorer. However, some good sleuthing over on Google+ has revealed a way to also use the familiar W10M File explorer on your touch-driven Surface or Surface Pro too – as long as it’s running the Creators Update (Redstone 2).

From Google+:

Enable Touch Friendly File Explorer In Windows 10
You can activate the touch friendly, ( tablet version ) of Windows File Explorer in Windows 10 build 15063 and above.

Just create a desktop shortcut with the string

explorer shell:AppsFolder\c5e2524a-ea46-4f67-841f-6a9465d9d515_cw5n1h2txyewy!App

Right click on desktop >> New >> Shortcut >> enter the above string in location field and click next.
And you are done.

Very cool indeed. As someone who has been trying to use Windows Explorer on my Surface Pro and occasionally struggling with the imperfect marriage of touch and a (originally) mouse-friendly UI, for many things I want to do, the full on touch-designed File Explorer is an excellent option to keep available. For clarification, on my Start menu on the Surface device, I named it ‘File Explorer UWP’ and then I can dive into whichever one is needed at that moment:

Both File Explorers on my Surface Pro Start screen

W10M and Windows 10 on Surface Pro

File Explorer UWP on both phone and Surface Pro


Source / Credit: Google+

BUILD 2017: Windows 10 users now number half a billion

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At BUILD 2017, CEO Satya Nadella announced that Windows 10 now powers half a billion active devices worldwide. It’s directly relevant to mobile, of course, because the same ecosystem powers all of these, whether desktop, laptop, hybrid, tablet, Xbox or… phone. My own estimate for the number of truly active Windows 10 Mobile users was seven million a while ago, so let’s assume a few more people have now upgraded older phones – call it a round ten million. Which is only 2% of the Windows 10 total, but hey, the numbers do add up. Even if the original target was one billion users in the first couple of years.

BUILD 2017

The last stat we had for the ecosystem was 400 million back in September 2016. Microsoft also announced at BUILD 2017 some major new Azure services, updates to Office, and progress in its work on Artificial Intelligence.

The growth of the Windows 10 ecosystem has slowed but not stopped – as many have noted, businesses work on a much slower timescale to consumers and the vast majority of enterprises are still on Windows 7 – when these upgrade to Windows 10 in the next year, we could get quite a bit closer to that magical one billion user mark.

Dr Who comes to Skype UWP

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Something of an oddity but I noticed that Dr Who has been added to the list of ‘bots’ in Skype (UWP app), though don’t get too excited. With just a few sci-fi animations here and there, this is mainly a text-based game, getting you to answer trivia questions and do basic calculations. Are you really interacting with the Doctor or having adventures in time and space? Well, not really, but feel free to have a play if you feel like it – let’s see how sassy the Doctor can get!

Here’s the new bot in action in Skype’s UWP app for Windows 10:

Screenshot, Dr Who botScreenshot, Dr Who bot

Getting going, you’ll find the Dr Who bot in the usual list – do you use bots in general? Data points welcome!

Screenshot, Dr Who botScreenshot, Dr Who bot

Think the text adventures of old, only not as clever or deep. But hey, it’s free and it’s all built into Skype, so why not, if you’re at a loose end?

Screenshot, Dr Who botScreenshot, Dr Who bot

The occasional bits of animation or audio are a nice touch, but they’re kept minimal, probably for bandwidth reasons on mobile here.

What do you think? A waste of space? Or a nice nod to a British TV classic?

PS. This all needs Skype UWP on Windows 10 Mobile, of course.

PPS. Where’s David Tennant when you need him??!

Into uncharted territory: Lumia 1020, 925 and 920 on Creators Update

Short answer: very well indeed. My personal Lumia 1020 is now on the Creators Update and, with only a couple of caveats, I’m very happy with it there now. Skype is now supported again (the new UWP version), I get the newer versions of all the Microsoft first party apps, all the latest third party UWP apps are now viable and very little feels abandoned.

Lumia 1020 on Creators Update

The prerequisites (if you’re considering doing the same as me, here, though do read right to the end for loads of caveats) are:

  • an older non-W10M-approved Windows Phone 8.1 device, ideally with 1GB RAM or more (e.g. Lumia 920, 1020)
  • a Windows 7, 8 or 10-running PC
  • unlimited free time and patience – really!

I’ll save the usual disclaimers and caveats – if you’re attempting any of this, along with me, then you’re technically skilled and well aware of the risks. And if you’re not, then run a mile – just buy a newer phone! I also can’t emphasise the last point enough – it took me around 48 hours, on and off, working my way through the updating procedure, with several blind alleys and trial and error (and resets). With this feature, you may be able to halve this time, but it’s still not a quick process!

I also want to emphatically emphasise that I’m not going to be tech support for anyone else following in my footsteps. Try the steps I used and see how you get on, but if something comes unstuck and you hit a problem then sorting it out is part of your own learning curve!

If you’re happy to proceed then read on. The first set of steps is from this XDA Developer page, with extra comments from me. See that link for the downloads needed though.

1. I downloaded and opened the main package (see source link), then opened it in 7-Zip. I extracted the exact folder from it (in this case the named folder ‘768×1280’). (Again, see the source link for exactly which folder to extract for each phone, if you’re confused.)

2. Using Win(Command)+R, in the run command dialog, I typed “control printers” and then ran this. It’s the familiar Devices and Printers pane, but you apparently need to bring this up in order to remove the phone manually. I’m not 100% sure why this step is needed, but I guess it forces the OS to re-recognise the phone below?

3. I downloaded and extracted the ‘iutool’ package (again, see the source link above). From Windows Explorer, I right clicked and started a new command (PowerShell in my case, on Windows 10) window.

4. I plugged the phone into my PC, and then typed: ‘iutool -l’.

The PowerShell console then confirmed that ‘Nokia 909’ (the Lumia 1020’s original model name) was connected and available.

5. I then typed this command: ‘iutool -V -p D:\768×1280′


6. After about 40 minutes (with minimal activity on the PC screen, somewhat scarily!), my Lumia started spinning cogs and then was in Windows 10 Mobile 10586.107, i.e. Threshold!

7. Having started the phone, I found that the on-screen keyboard didn’t work at all! Which is a right pain because you can’t then type in (for example) a Wifi password. The source link does mention this, though it means another download and side-load. I downloaded ‘’ and extracted the cab file for ‘en-gb’, renaming it as instructed to ‘’ (I assume that this could have any name, the ‘cab’ bit is the important one).

I then installed this too with ‘iutool -v -p D:\’ (ignore the ‘8024a110‘ error) and the Lumia rebooted and started updating itself shortly, with the usual cogs and ‘migrating’ steps. Patience is again needed… Following the update, my keyboard was working fine again, so I was able to set up the phone on Wi-fi and verify that Windows 10 Mobile (10586 branch) was now in place and working.

8. On the phone, I went to ‘Settings/Update & Security/For developers’ and selected ‘Developer mode’.

Screenshot, Redstone hackScreenshot, Redstone hack

9. I grabbed the old Windows Phone 8.1 SDK application deployment utility, filename WP8.0 SDK Tools Lite Setup on the PC. Once downloaded, I extracted it all ran the .bat file supplied. This also took a while (loads of components are involved) and I needed to approve permissions every so often.

10. Still on the PC, I downloaded the vcREG registry editor. It’s a file ending in ‘.xap’.

11. On my Start menu, I ran the Windows Phone 8 Application deployment tool. I selected ‘device’ and picked the registry editor .xap file that I grabbed just now:

Screenshot, Redstone hack

12. With my phone connected and the screen turned on and unlocked, I clicked on ‘Deploy’. Nothing appeared to happen, but the status showed as ‘Complete’ after a few seconds and then vcREG appeared in the apps list on the phone.

13. I ran vcREG, tapped on the ‘…’ menu and then on ‘templates’. I checked ‘Live Interop’ and ‘Restore NDTKsvc’ and then on ‘Apply’. My old Lumia 1020 was now ‘jailbroken’, to use the iPhone jargon. And the registry was unlocked:

Screenshot, Redstone hackScreenshot, Redstone hack

14. Back on the PC, I downloaded ‘Interop Tools’ from the here, I went for downloading the stable v1.7, since I had issues with newer versions (v1.9 of the app would crash with no useful information – probably something I’d done wrong, but hey). 

15. Using Explorer on my Windows PC, I copied this Interop Tools folder tree into a suitable area on the phone, e.g. ‘Downloads’

16. Back on the phone, I ran (Windows 10) File Explorer, navigated to /Downloads and then tapped on each of the ‘dependency’ files in turn. These are libraries needed and they install silently in the background. I waited a few minutes to be sure and then tapped on the main Interop Tools application installer – and, again, waited a minute for the background installer to do its work. I then ran ‘Interop Tools’ and headed into the Registry Browser.

Screenshot, Redstone hackScreenshot, Redstone hack

17. I navigated through (in turn, i.e. 4 taps) the registry key hierarchy:

  2. System
  3. Platform
  4. DeviceTargetingInfo

18. I then changed the phone’s ID so that when the phone update routines come calling, it reports itself as a device that’s most definitely ‘allowed’ to get the latest OS updates. I used the Lumia 950 XL for the ID:

  • I set ‘PhoneManufacturer‘ to ‘MicrosoftMDG‘ (capitalisation is important). I tapped on ‘Write’ and then ‘Write’ again.
  • I repeated along the same lines for  ‘PhoneManufacturerModelName‘, to ‘RM-1085_11302‘ (or RM-1116_11258 has been suggested for dual SIM devices, again mimicking a Lumia 950 XL)
  • I repeated for ‘PhoneModelName‘, setting this to ‘Lumia 950 XL

Screenshot, Redstone hackScreenshot, Redstone hack

19. Heading to ‘Settings/Update & Security/Phone update’, I found that Windows 10 Mobile OS branch 14393 was already downloading, as the next step for the Lumia 950 XL. This is the Anniversary Update and I waited the usual hour or two while this installed, the phone restarted and ‘migrated’, and so forth.

20. So far so good, and my test Lumia 1020 was now far more up to date. Now for the latest and most satisfying part – grabbing the Creators Update (a.k.a. Redstone 2, branch 15063). Now the rollout for the 950 XL for Creators Update isn’t total yet across the world, so I went down the most sensible route and used ‘Settings/Update & Security/Windows Insider Programme’ to set this Lumia up to receive ‘Release Preview’ ring updates.

21. I headed back to ‘Phone update’ and there was the Creators Update downloading and then installing. On (in this case) a 2013-made Lumia 1020!

22. It’s at this point that I’d recommend a full ‘reset your phone’ in Settings/System/About. I didn’t need to, above, because my Lumia 1020 had already been reset about a dozen times during the 48 hour experimentation period. But if you’ve come up via 8.1/Threshold/AU and haven’t yet had a chance to reset then now is the time. And don’t try and restore any ‘backups’. Just resync your data in the usual way and re-install any applications needed from the Store/My library. The OS will be cleaner and fresher that way and everything will work more reliably – trust me.

23. As usual, in the Store there will be a lot to update. So be patient! On the older, slower Lumias, you’re looking at about an hour to install 50 UWP app updates – and you’ll need to keep an eye on it too, as it can get paused while the Store client itself closes or gets updated.



Do note that there are some caveats to taking an older phone like this through to Windows 10 Mobile ‘Redstone 2’ (and beyond):

  • You can’t always use the camera in Skype UWP – the camera hardware is usually somehow locked to other camera applications, even if not running still – it seems as if this is Skype being over-fussy!
  • Brightness is stuck on ‘Auto’ – not a huge deal, since most people leave it on this anyway, but….
  • Glance screen is gone, since all the registry keys that the older phone hardware need are moved competely for Redstone. Potentially another showstopper for some?
  • Windows 10 Maps is broken, in that the map rendering code was updated in the latest versions to use hardware-accelerated graphics in the newer chipsets – using Maps on older x20 Lumias on Creators Update results in road outlines not being drawn properly. Navigation still works fine, including voice, but it’s disconcerting to see much of the familiar Maps interface ‘missing’!
  • On the Lumia 1020, the familiar 5MP/34MP ‘dual capture’ is missing, by default, since Windows 10 Camera does things differently. In fact, this app is very limited on the 1020 because you can only shoot in 34MP/38MP mode – far too high for most practical purposes. However, all is not lost, since the UWP applications ProShot and 1Shot fill the gap admirably and I’ll be featuring these in another feature this week on AAWP. 

Performance is smooth but slow, as you might expect on such an old device. Starting applications can take a second or two and there’s definite ‘lag’ by 2017 standards, yet at no point do things stop working or appear overly impractical. If you want the camera functions (via those third party UWP apps), including zoom and Xenon, then it’s perhaps worth living with an older, slower phone? 

Screenshot, 1020 on Creators UpdateScreenshot, 1020 on Creators Update

Windows 10 Maps has errr….. street rendering issues on the older phones. Navigation still works though, as do all other views, including traffic and aerial views here.

Screenshot, 1020 on Creators UpdateScreenshot, 1020 on Creators Update

Going through the process of updating loads of built-in apps in the Store client; (right) of course, being on Windows 10 Mobile means that all the latest UWP apps are available – here with ‘AAWP Universal’ in action.

Screenshot, 1020 on Creators UpdateScreenshot, 1020 on Creators Update

Groove Music works just fine too, of course, with both local and online music files; (right/below) Windows Camera is a no-no here on the 1020, but ProShot (above) and 1Shot make up the difference and with bells on. Article coming soon…

The 4.5″ 768p screens do seem small by today’s standards, yet consider the use of capacitive controls – these mean that you never have to live with virtual, on-screen controls, and so the effective interface is equivalent to a 5″ screen with the latter.

At the very least, the Lumia 920, 925 and 1020 can live on the Creators Update on the whole and take part in most of what Windows 10 Mobile has to offer in 2017.

    No need to be ashamed – we’ve been Creators on mobile for a decade!

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    The naming of Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 branch as the ‘Creators Update’ has been viewed from some quarters as somewhat hollow from the perspective of mobile, since the new 3D and Ink features are not mirrored on the phone. Yet in some ways, this is the desktop catching up – we’ve been ‘creating’ on smartphones for over 10 years now, I’d argue.

    The naming of any OS branch is somewhat of a gimmick, of course, since at the end of the day it’s just an ‘operating system’ and 99% of what people do on their computers is down to the applications and services they choose. But marketing being what it is, it’s undoubtedly friendlier to give an OS update a name, something memorable. 

    And, given the ‘Ink’ and Paint 3D extras thrown in with Redstone 2, the name ‘Creators Update’ seemed appropriate.

    However, over on the phone side of things, despite getting the exact same OS branch and build, the same core and 99% the same built-in UWP applications, the absence of Ink and Paint 3D (both of which make more sense on the much larger screens of a desktop) has made the marketing handle feel somewhat ‘hollow’.

    But wait, isn’t this just the desktop getting a taste of what we’ve had on mobile for a decade? Admittedly, the creating act is very different, but I’d argue that with the advent of the Nokia N93 (running Symbian) back in 2006, the smartphone became a very valid ‘creation’ tool. For the first time I could shoot TV/DVD-quality video, with stereo sound, ON MY PHONE.


    And I did. I shot numerous home movies on the N93, each of which made their way onto DVDs for the family to enjoy, mainly of my growing six year old daughter. The N93’s 480p quality may seem quaint by modern standards, but was pretty close to the 576p of DVD, mainstream quality back in 2006, and arguably better than the interlaced grain of the traditional ‘TV’ of the day.

    So I was very much creating back then, eleven years ago. Movies, auto-focussed 3MP photos too, high enough resolution to print out at 8 x 6 and no one would notice that the shot hadn’t been taken on traditional film or a standalone camera.

    The Nokia N95 and N86 followed, each increasing quality, though without the genuine 3x optical zoom that was special to that old N93. And across the rest of the mobile world cameras in phones started to improve, with Apple and then the various Android licensees getting into the game, and by 2011 just about any decent camera phone could shoot 720p HD video and take 8MP photos.

    Today we have 4K video and 20MP photos, good enough in most cases to pass muster on even the largest displays, and all this media created on people’s phones.

    Then there’s audio capture. I’ve recorded numerous podcasts and lectures or interviews on my various smartphones over the years, later editing things together in Audacity or similar on the desktop. I think that qualifies as creating too.

    Not to mention creating by crafting words. Emails, documents, notes, thoughts, all on the phone, either via an on-screen keyboard or, more usually, by using a Bluetooth keyboard. This very article was created on the phone.

    So let’s have none of this ‘mobile is an afterthought, where are the Creators features?’ We’ve been immensely creative on our phones for a decade now!

    If you can think of other ways you’ve been creative on your phone in the last ten years then feel free to add them in the comments below!

    New Microsoft hardware to be announced May 23

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    Event after event, it’s a busy May for Microsoft. A few days ago was the big Education event, launching Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop (plus many cheaper third party W10S devices), then there’s BUILD, the developer conference, next week, no doubt with more on Windows 10 on ARM and more on UWP app rollout. And now Microsoft has announced another event, in Shanghai, almost certainly to show off the new Surface Pro 5 – but could there be more?

    The linked web page states:

    On May 23 in Shanghai, Microsoft will show the world what’s next.


      The event time is down as 7 pm China Standard Time, which is midday in the UK, rather conveniently.

      A new device in the Surface Pro line is a shoe-in, as that’s overdue, but I’d also expect more on Hololens and ‘Mixed Reality’. A ‘Surface Phone’ can’t be rolled out, either – at some point Microsoft has to at least tease that it’s got plans for new category-defining hardware in ‘mobile’, whether this comes in phablet, clamshell (think Nokia E7-style) or folding-screen form.

      Watch this space.

    Source / Credit: Microsoft

    Camera head to head: Lumia 950 vs Sony Xperia XA1

    Matthew Weflen writes:

    With new first-party hardware nowhere to be seen (the last being the Lumia 950 in November 2015, a full 19 months ago), and Microsoft’s messaging a complete train wreck (“We are supporting Windows 10 Mobile! No wait, we are supporting Ultra-Mobile PCs! Umm, how about… we are committed to mobile in some way, shape or form?!”), it seems like many formerly loyal Windows Phone fanatics are losing faith and contemplating jumping ship.

    Sadly, I am one of them. After starting out with a Lumia 900, moving to a Lumia 1020, and now to a Lumia 950, I want off this roller coaster.

    But I don’t want to give up my Lumia-level imaging. The 1020’s wonderful camera turned me into an amateur photography enthusiast, inspiring me to purchase Sony’s Alpha a5000 mirrorless camera. But sometimes, the best camera is the one you have with you. My 950 has served me well in this regard, and I am loath to give it up, especially when I see how it compares to other leading phone cameras in Steve’s wonderful camera head-to-head series here on AAWP (which I can fairly safely say is one of my favorite things on the internet).

    Lumia 950 and Sony XA1

    In my search for a Lumia 950 replacement, I want a few things. I want great optics, expandable storage, and a dedicated shutter button, but I also don’t want to break the bank. As such, Sony’s XA1, released May 1 2017, was high on my radar. Featuring Sony’s 23-megapixel “Exmor RS” sensor, sized at 1/2.3”, and a f/2.0 aperture 24mm lens, it seems on paper at least to be physically capable of competing with the Lumia 950’s 20-megapixel sensor, sized at 1/2.4”, with a f/1.9 aperture 26mm lens. Both are backside-illuminated sensors, which should improve low-light photography by placing all light-blocking circuitry behind the CMOS sensor. The Lumia 950 has physical Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), while the XA1 does not, opting for a digital solution instead. Nonetheless, I am excited to see how the XA1 fares – Sony has equipped it with the same sensor and lenses that they utilized in their 2015 flagship, the Xperia Z5.

    But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say. So let’s start snapping and pit the results against each other, using Steve’s Famed Interactive Comparator. All shots were taken on auto settings (unless otherwise specified) at full resolution, and cropped to 900×500 for comparison.


    It was a bit cloudy and rainy out on my first testing day, so I decided to go with a ‘still life’ featuring a few household objects and some money. Here is the whole scene, as presented by the Lumia 950:

    Overall scene

    In case you want to grab the original images to do your own analysis, here they are, from the Lumia 950 and Sony XA1, click the links to download. And to look at the images in more detail, here are fairly central 1:1 crops, just wait to make sure the page has fully loaded and then use your mouse or trackpad pointer to compare the images:

    Lumia 950 1:1 cropXA1 1:1 crop

    Both cameras do a pretty good job with this brightly-lit scene. Both succeeded at rendering the delicate cross hatching on the lower portion of the $50 bill. The Lumia 950 renders everything with a warmer tone, which in fact is a bit too warm compared to the real scene to my eyes. The 950 beats the XA1 in terms of overall detail. Notice on the cars the pearlescent paint jobs – the 950 gets it right on both the green and blue cars, while the XA1 only renders the pearlescent flecks on the green – the blue car remains flat.

    Lumia 950: 9 pts; Sony XA1: 7 pts


    I decided to hone in on the paper money, because of the oodles of detail and the challenging reflective color schemes. Here’s the overall scene, as shot by the 950:

    Overall scene

    In case you want to grab the original images to do your own analysis, here they are, from the Lumia 950 and Sony XA1, click the links to download. And to look at the images in more detail, here are fairly central 1:1 crops, just wait to make sure the page has fully loaded and then use your mouse or trackpad pointer to compare the images:

    Lumia 950 1:1 cropXA1 1:1 crop

    Interestingly, when things get closer, the Sony XA1 ends up delivering the better shot to my eyes. The color is truer to life, and the focus across the entire frame is better than the 950. In the comparison shot above, notice the delicate cross hatching in the corner of the $50 bill – it is much clearer in the XA1 shot. The extremely subtle threads in the paper of the bills are absent in the 950 shot.

    Lumia 950: 8 points; Sony XA1: 10 points


    Here is your basic outdoor macro shot of a flower. It was rather windy, so it provided a good challenge for both cameras’ abilities to focus and snap quickly. Here’s the overall scene, as shot by the 950:

    Overall scene

    In case you want to grab the original images to do your own analysis, here they are, from the Lumia 950 and Sony XA1, click the links to download. And to look at the images in more detail, here are fairly central 1:1 crops, just wait to make sure the page has fully loaded and then use your mouse or trackpad pointer to compare the images:

    Lumia 950 1:1 cropXA1 1:1 crop

    The Sony XA1 continues its winning streak with macro shots. The Lumia 950 shot completely butchers the delicate transition from white to yellow in the flower – the Sony shot represents what the flower looks like to my eyes. This yellow tint was evident in every attempted shot on the 950. Both cameras do a pretty good job with detail, showing crusty bits of pollen and tiny dirt particles inside the petals.

    Lumia 950: 7 points; Sony XA1: 8 points


    A sunny day in Chicago! I headed over to the nearby Japanese garden to get some shots with foliage. Here is the whole scene, as presented by the Lumia 950:

    Overall scene

    In case you want to grab the original images to do your own analysis, here they are, from the Lumia 950 and Sony XA1, click the links to download. And to look at the images in more detail, here are fairly central 1:1 crops, just wait to make sure the page has fully loaded and then use your mouse or trackpad pointer to compare the images:

    Lumia 950 1:1 cropXA1 1:1 crop

    Both shots do a very nice job with color and contrast, with the Lumia 950 appearing just a bit richer in color and less washed out by the bright sunlight. Foliage betrays Sony’s over-aggressive edge enhancement routines, which are detrimental to the image. The 950 also does a better job resolving detail in the shadows of the pagoda ceiling. But all told, these are pretty close.

    Lumia 950: 9 pts; Sony XA1: 8 pts


    Ah, the venerable “simulated party” shot. Here is the whole scene, as presented by the Lumia 950:

    Overall scene

    In case you want to grab the original images to do your own analysis, here they are, from the Lumia 950 and Sony XA1, click the links to download. And to look at the images in more detail, here are fairly central crops, just wait to make sure the page has fully loaded and then use your mouse or trackpad pointer to compare the images:

    Lumia 950 cropXA1 crop

    Predictably, both shots look like hot garbage. Xenon flash these ain’t. In point of fact, both shots have aspects to recommend them. The XA1 does a pretty decent job with the background books, while the 950 better renders the beer bottle and gives me less of an ashen pallor. All in all, I think the 950 just edges the XA1 in this battle of the bottom feeders.

    Lumia 950: 6 pts; Sony XA1: 5 pts


    Time to capture some modern architecture from a distance. This sort of shot is pretty challenging for a smartphone, at least for pixel peepers, anyway. Here is the whole scene, as presented by the Lumia 950:

    Overall scene

    In case you want to grab the original images to do your own analysis, here they are, from the Lumia 950 and Sony XA1, click the links to download. And to look at the images in more detail, here are fairly central 1:1 crops, just wait to make sure the page has fully loaded and then use your mouse or trackpad pointer to compare the images:

    Lumia 950 1:1 cropXA1 1:1 crop

    The 950 again renders things too warmly by half, lending the sky an almost pinkish hue. The XA1 rendered the colors accurately. With that said, the 950 maintains focus across the frame better than the XA1. Taking a closer look at the detail in the background, it is clear that neither phone excels at long-distance detail. But the 950 does a better job giving us at least some fine detail in the distance, while the XA1 again overdoes the edge enhancement. To be fair to both cameras, zoom is not their forte, and both pictures looked at in total are fairly nice. They’re just not 1020 snaps, are they?

    Lumia 950: 8 pts; Sony XA1: 6 pts


    This is my home’s back alley at nighttime, lit by a few streetlights. Here is the whole scene, as presented by the Lumia 950:

    Overall scene

    In case you want to grab the original images to do your own analysis, here they are, from the Lumia 950 and Sony XA1, click the links to download. And to look at the images in more detail, here are fairly central 1:1 crops, just wait to make sure the page has fully loaded and then use your mouse or trackpad pointer to compare the images:

    Lumia 950 1:1 cropXA1 1:1 crop

    Both phones turn in a pretty admirable performance here. A fair amount of detail is evident in both images. The XA1 has more ISO noise, while the 950 has a smoother look. The 950 resolves more details in the shadows, and the overall snap has more detail and color gradation as a result.

    Lumia 950: 7 pts; Sony XA1: 6 pts


    • Lumia 950: 54/70pts
    • Sony XA1: 50/70pts

    This was a pretty close battle, with the XA1 consistently delivering better color than the 950, but the 950 consistently delivering better detail, especially on long shots. Sony’s hyper-aggressive edge-enhancement algorithms were really detrimental to fine details in the distance, and I wish they would tame it as the Lumia imaging team clearly has. The 950 also performs better in challenging light conditions, though the XA1 did not embarrass itself by any means on this score.

    For potential ship-jumpers, the question is how important camera is to you. The Sony XA1 offers an attractive phone with a dedicated shutter button (indeed, a button layout identical to a high-end Lumia) and a very high resolution sensor with solid optics. Nonetheless, despite a few wins for the XA1, the 950 was consistently just a bit better.

    For me, the deciding factor ended up being performance across other areas of the phone. During my testing, Facebook (which takes upwards of 12 seconds to load on my 950 running Creators Update build 15204) locked up and required a forced reboot with battery removal. My power and shutter buttons’ behavior on the 950 was inconsistent at times, requiring several attempts to engage the camera or turn on the screen. Heat generation was significant with all this picture taking.

    The 950 takes better pictures in most conditions than the XA1. But once you try a phone that “just works” in quick succession with a W10M device, the flaws in the OS, not to mention the dearth of apps, become ever more glaring.

    I’ve decided to switch to the XA1 as my daily driver. I go in, eyes open, knowing that my pictures won’t look quite as good, though no one on social media will likely notice. If Sony could but rein in its outlandish post processing, then the gap would narrow even further. I think I will also use this opportunity to lean more heavily on my Sony a5000 mirrorless camera for “serious” photography.

    Matthew Weflen

    Sony XA1