Microsoft Lumia 950 review

Ready to beta test Windows 10 Mobile?

Microsoft Lumia 950 review

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Are you willing to be a Windows 10 Mobile beta tester? That's really what it feels like carrying around Lumia 950. It's certainly not ready for everyone, but Microsoft's "Insiders" will no doubt flock to this phone or its phablet counterpart, the Lumia 950 XL.

Lumia 950 review

We liked

The Lumia 950 is the first Windows 10 Mobile phone, and that probably fits your style if you're reading this on a PC, Surface Book or Surface Pro 4. The phone revamps the slick Live Tiles interface that I really like, and the iris-scanning is a fun party trick, even if it takes longer to bypass.

Continuum is the most hyped feature of this smartphone, and it's a handy way of working on full-scale spreadsheets and diving into Word documents with just a phone, Display Dock and several cables. It's not going to replace your PC during travel just yet, but it's something that should excite enterprise folks in the future.

Lumia 950 review

We disliked

There's a lot of work to be done here, Microsoft. All of the top apps need to be a part of Windows 10 Mobile. Furthermore, the existing ones, like Instagram, need to get regular updates so that, next to iOS and Android, they're not lagging behind in more ways than one.

The Windows Hello log in is literally eye-catching, but it's too slow compared to a fingerprint sensor. Microsoft Maps isn't ready for road warriors of any sort, and the phone gets too hot. Call quality could be better, as could the battery life and camera, all things that firmware updates may be able to fix – to a degree.

Lumia 950 review

Final verdict

Lumia 950 feels like a public beta test before Microsoft launches the long-rumored "Surface Phone." It's an incomplete picture that doesn't quite deserve the Surface name, as much as I like the operating system underneath and some of its enterprise features.

Of course, this more than enough for Windows Phone 8.1 users to upgrade to the Windows 10 Mobile flagship's debut. Seeing that attractive Live Tiles design on the phone and then, in less than a few seconds, transitioning to the desktop-like mode via Continuum is a dream come true. Phones are finally acting like computers in a way Apple and Google have barely tried.

Continuum needs to be fleshed out, and so does the app count, camera, battery life and phone call quality. Again, there's a lot of work to be done. The Lumia 950 and Windows 10 Mobile feel like the first stepping stones before Microsoft dials it up to, say, Windows 11 Mobile.

Matt Swider