Monthly Archives: October 2017

Another Twitter storm, Windows 10 Mobile lifespan unaltered

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I’ve had so many emails in asking me to comment on Joe Belfiore’s stream of tweets over the weekend (and the reaction to it on tech sites) that I felt I had to, at least, update my ever-extending and hopefully still clear Windows 10 chart, showing what’s happening to the OS. In summary, there’s nothing in Joe’s tweets that’s new. Nothing to see, back to your homes, etc.(!)

The tweets themselves were honest, but the only thing ‘new’ in them was their very existence, since Microsoft’s executives rarely speak frankly on Twitter. Anyway, for the record, the main ones, in response to the the initial ‘Is it time to leave Windows 10 Mobile?’ were:

So nothing too shocking, in short, support will continue, but building new ‘features’ into Windows 10 Mobile and building new first party hardware based on W10M ‘aren’t the focus’. I.e. won’t happen. But then we knew this already and have done so for at least a year. Microsoft is ‘out’ of first party consumer/phone hardware and Windows 10 Mobile, in its current ‘feature2’ state, is essentially ‘feature complete’.

On with an updated chart anyway. The thing to note is that Microsoft has promised Windows 10 Mobile updates and security patches until at least Autumn 2019 (my chart only goes as far as the end of 2018) and that it will keep up with the core Windows 10 ‘branches’. So we currently have ‘1709’ in the Fast ring for Insiders at the moment, for example.*

* whether this will be formally pushed to a wide range of phones is open to question, of course. I suspect that the ‘push’ will be to the same limited device set as the Creators Update

The relevant portion for Windows 10 Mobile then is the heavy red dashed area:

I’m not apologising for Microsoft’s strategy and ‘mistakes’ in all this, note. They’ve bungled so much in ‘mobile’ over the last 15 years, but that’s covered in other editorials. What I want to get across here – again – is that Windows 10 Mobile isn’t ‘dead’, it’s still supported. For another two years, at least, by which time other options should have presented themselves.

And the dearth of ‘new features’ is almost completely irrelevant – new features will come to Windows 10 Mobile users each week, each month, through the still improving UWP applications on the platform, both from Microsoft and from third parties. 

Nothing lasts forever in the tech world, let alone the tempestuous mobile world. Let’s take your average Lumia 930 user (something of a median on AAWP):

  • The phone was released in 2014 under Windows Phone 8.1
  • Updated to Windows 10 Mobile officially in March 2016
  • Updated to the ‘Anniversary update’ (Redstone) in Autumn 2016
  • Update-able to the ‘Creators Update’ (via the Insiders Release Preview ring) in Spring 2017
  • Useable with CU security updates and UWP app updates until Spring 2019

That’s, for an enthusiast with a humble Lumia 930, a fairly full five year lifespan, for a single device. Just one data point, but five years on a single phone is unusual in the smartphone world, perhaps only a couple of iPhone models can match it for longevity.

Anyone with a Lumia 950/XL will fare better in terms of future proofing, getting the ‘Fall Creators Update’/’1709’ and support until Autumn 2019 and perhaps beyond, though not the same ‘life span’ as the 930 above.

In short, we’re not blind at AAWP, we can see that the times, they are a changing. But let’s not go off half-cocked, your Windows phone isn’t going to suddenly stop working, it’ll carry on getting important updates, new apps and app updates via the Store for quite a long time yet. 

Tile Rider UWP impresses as a physics epic

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Super-polished and with perfect physics, this top-down arcade Windows 10 puzzler is also free for the next three weeks, so grab it soon. It’s designed for touchscreens first and foremost, so it’s great on the phone under Windows 10 Mobile.

From the Store description:

A high-speed adventure game with puzzle, racing and battle elements. Have you ever wondered what life inside your phone is like? Did you know that it’s quite puzzling and requires you to BE SMART? You also have to BE STRONG there and hold your gun tight! And finally, you’d better BE FAST

Here’s Tile Rider UWP in action on my Lumia 950 XL:

TileRider screenshot

Slick and animated from the start, TileRider was available first on other platforms, explaining the sheer investment and production values….

TileRider screenshot

There’s a back story of sorts, but what you really want to do is get into the action…

TileRider screenshot

With the action auto-zooming as needed, you control a little car by swiping in the direction in which you want it to go. Obstacles and dangers all obey the laws of physics and the puzzle difficulty level is very high.

TileRider screenshot

Beautifully animated and lit, TileRider is a must-download – all the more while it’s completely free!

You can grab TileRider UWP free in the Store here – for phone, tablet or desktop.

Source / Credit: Store

Anatomy of a Lumia photo #11: Going wide

The idea of this series is to give you an insight into the thought processes that went into achieving each image, in the hope that it might inspire you to better photos too. Here’s today’s snap from my Lumia 950 XL:

Photo

Nothing too special, you might think – except that you’ll notice an unnatural curve along the bottom and top of the frame, giving the clue that all is not quite as it seems.

The mural shown is on the side of the Brewhouse theatre in Taunton and is huge. Around 20m long and 10m high – really rather impressive, and still in great condition. Worth a snap, I thought. So, mid-morning, standing around 20m away I pointed my Lumia 950 XL at it, square on:

Photo

Hmm… this also meant shooting into the sun, which was behind the mural/building. Resulting in the ugly flaring in the lens seen here. Now, in an ideal world, I’d have come back at the end of the day, hoped for some sunshine still and maybe even sun on the mural itself. But life’s not like that, I was only in Taunton for an hour and so I had to improvise.

I didn’t want to shoot off at an angle, i.e stand in the shade but not square on to the mural, because the graphics would be skewed horribly. So I stepped in closer to escape the sun into the phone camera lens:

Photo

But this meant that I was now too close and that the edges of the mural were lost. 

Time to improvise. I switched to the ‘panorama’ mode in the Windows 10 Camera application. This is really designed, as the name suggests, for subjects quite a bit further away and for wide sweeps of a landscape, but I wondered whether I could sweep around the mural from only about 10m away and get an interesting result:

Photo

It’s true that the panorama taking process has its own share of optical distortions, especially when your subject isn’t at ‘infinity’, but on the irregular shapes and patterns of the mural I was on pretty safe ground and I was pleased with the photo I’d obtained.

I wasn’t quite done, though, since there was too much foreground, plus taking this in the shade made for colours that were too muted. Happily, all Lumias come with the (ex-Nokia) Lumia Creative Studio application, and it’s a doddle in this, from the ‘Edit’ menu in Windows 10 Photos, to crop out the foreground also to punch up vibrance and clarity:

Screenshot

With the final result shown again here:

Photo

I was happy anyway. Who needs a LG G6 Android phone (with dedicated wide angle lens) when you can get decent results by improvising with the ‘panorama’ mode under Windows 10? (OK, tongue in cheek, the results here aren’t a patch on what the G6 would have achieved…!)

I wanted to see what else could be achieved with this technique, so tried a few more subjects. Shooting from the footbridge by the theatre, here’s a standard photo looking down the river:

Photo

And here’s the same scene, but using panorama mode and sweeping around through about 90 degrees:

Photo

So, quite effectively, I’m getting wide angle shots without a wide angle lens. Interesting.

There are downsides, of course. Overall resolution is lower, since panorama mode is limited to around 1000 pixels in vertical height, for obvious reasons. So you typically end up here with a 3MP or 4MP image at most. Plus you don’t get the usual Rich Capture options and you don’t get focussing refinements. 

One more example, I was up on the hlls nearby and loved the open feel, with a dramatic sky and some hill ponies to add interest:

Photo

True, this is more of a traditional panorama, but by limiting my sweep to not much more than 90 degrees again, the end result is more photo-like than the typical long-and-thin ‘panorama’ image, which is often so stretched in shape that you can never do anything with it.

So, shooting in panorama mode and limiting your sweep round turns out to be surprisingly effective. Comments (and examples) welcome if you’ve ever done anything like this!

Weirdo Attack UWP is free retro arcade

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For any fan of the likes of Space Invaders and Galaxians, Weirdo Attack is an alien-themed shoot ’em up. Just dodge the nasties, shoot your various weapons, collect power ups, and so on. Level by level, getting harder and harder. It’s classic arcade gaming and it’s implemented here as a UWP game for all Windows 10 devices.

From the Store description (sic):

Experience the amazing digital experience of Weirdo Attack. Retro weirdos from the past are blasting into the future. I don’t know why they are here and we don’t care. Blast them away as their increasingly harder waves introduce new and varied weirdos. See how far you can go. How many waves? How many different weirdos are there? Get power-ups and higher scores. Are you ready for this adventure through time? to the galaxy of angry attacking birdy bug thingies. Make no mistake, just like ye oldie games, it will be hard – the rewards are not given with endless lives of jumping stuff n’ that.

Will the future survive these retro dumb dumbs. Will you get a chance to blast the master weirdo?

There are various ways of interacting with the game, see the Settings pane for some hints and options. Here’s Weirdo Attack in action on my Lumia 950 XL:

Screenshot

Ah, memories of a bygone coin-op age!

Screenshot

The game in full flow. The graphics look a bit retro, but then they’re designed to be – and the action is pretty smooth.

You can grab this new UWP game here in the Store.

Source / Credit: Store

Dropbox UWP hits v5.0, gains facelift, new layout

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Last covered here back in May, Dropbox UWP continues to shine on Windows 10 Mobile, with this week seeing the release of the big v5.0. In fairness, the app was already pretty slick and the overhaul here is minor, but there’s an extra layout/view, plus everything looks… ‘fresher’!

Here’s the official changelog for Dropbox version 5.0 for Windows 10:

  • Display your files with 3 different layouts: gallery view, list view and content view
  • New design
  • New features for Dropbox Business users

And here’s v5.0 in action on my Lumia 950 XL:

ScreenshotScreenshot

Dropbox was always very white and clean – it’s just a bit cleaner still now, though there’s no sign of translucency or Fluent Design – on Mobile anyway; (right) there’s now a choice of three views/layouts: list, content, and gallery. Something for everyone!

Dropbox UWP app for Windows 10 is something of a star in the ecosystem. Perhaps even the best Dropbox implementation in the mobile world? It’s free anyway, as is a Dropbox account. You can grab or update the Dropbox UWP here in the Store.