A return of sorts: Microsoft’s Lumia 950 reviewed

Old tech heads may remember the idea that Windows bugs weren’t exactly uncommon, and probably look upon an old Blue Screen of Death fondly, even if at the time the faults probably caused endless frustration and several expletives. Well, Windows 10 for Mobile may end up bringing it back.

Apps will crash, and even the camera will struggle to perform, occasionally yielding a black screen instead of the camera, as if the system just couldn’t be bothered to load.

It’s almost as if Marvin the Android was in control of the Lumina 950, sitting there, shaking his head, droning “you don’t really want to use the phone do you?” before going back to his robotic depression.

Even the internet will cut in and out, generally when a WiFi network has been connected. You don’t even need to be connected to the network in question for it to happen. Oh sure, when you go out of range from a home or work connection, it takes an extra few seconds for the phone to totally disengage and move to 4G LTE, but even when it picks up on a guest WiFi network, we found it stuttered on the 4G connection, pulling the reception down to zero before waiting a couple of seconds to reconnect.

It’s almost like the Lumia 950 wants you to connect to every wireless network, even if you don’t know what it is.


But let’s say you can forgive these issues, and just assume that many of these will be patchable and fixed in the coming weeks. That is possible and very likely, but it’s not the only concern we have for Windows 10 and the Lumia 950.

No, there is something far more troubling lurking on the horizon, and it won’t take you long to work out what it is.

A question of apps

The question of apps is one that lingers over Microsoft’s Windows 10 for mobile devices, because like the old editions — Windows Phone 8.1, with Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7 before it — there just isn’t enough support.

Despite pushing the idea that Windows on a current mobile is pretty much the same as Windows on a PC — and for the most part it is — app availability in the Windows Store still feels sorely lacking.

Simply put, you’re probably going to struggle to find the apps you depend on, because while there’s a Twitter app, a Facebook app, a Facebook Messenger app, and an Instagram app, there isn’t say a Google Hangouts app, a Google Play Music app, an Apple Music app, an Arlo app, and there probably isn’t a Windows edition of an app you regularly rely on.

Microsoft tries to cut through this problem with an app for Android that looks at what you regularly use to see if there’s an existing app for you to switch to, but often it comes up short, or even just flat out ignores your regularly used apps because it lacks the library to search from.

Devices reliant on an app are also likely out of luck, unless you own a Fitbit, which seems to be one of the only accessories that will write code for Microsoft’s operating system. Don’t even bother bringing one of the many smartwatches here because the apps plain don’t exist, and while Jawbone’s Up is fairly popular around the world, the recently released Up app for Windows is only available in America.

Forget new games because they’re not here, either, something we’re sure you’ll be genuinely shocked by, and while some of the staple apps do exist on Windows, they have problems, too.

Instagram Beta is images only, and it's a very old version of Instagram.
Instagram Beta is images only, and it’s a very old version of Instagram.

Take Instagram, which does exist, but serves as an app that is better left forgotten about or used merely as a browser for your feed than something to add images with. Instagram has quite a while ago moved to a more editable system than just basic filtration and frames, but you don’t get anything more than that basic filtration and framing on the Windows Instagram app.

It’s old for the sake of being old, and you get the feeling that its lack of updates come from Instagram (and its Facebook owners) just not seeing the value in updating the app.

Twitter doesn’t come off scot-free, either, because the interface is old and everything about the system just makes you wonder where Twitter is up in this joint.

On the other hand, Pandora at least feels like it has kept things going with an updated app, but it’s the exception rather than the rule, because the few apps you can find that you’ll use will probably have been left designed for Windows Phone 8, not the current Windows 10.

It’s a shame this, and it’s a problem that isn’t necessarily totally on Microsoft — developers are partly to blame, of course — but isn’t helped by the phone manufacturer’s reluctance to bring more devs to the table.

Based on this early sample, it seems like Windows on a phone is still the black sheep in the mobile phone family, with all the attention paid to the iOS and its Android sibling, and very little to the child few really knew was there.

The Windows Store just doesn't feel like the other app stores.
The Windows Store just doesn’t feel like the other app stores.


Microsoft’s Lumina 950 is a curious little thing, with the device bringing some of the better parts of Windows to a mobile operating environment, and yet feeling like an unfinished and almost rushed product.

Some bugs are pretty obvious, the device doesn’t feel flagship, and the battery life borders on being a disastrous mess, and when you combine them, these aspects just don’t help the Lumia 950 come together as a flagship phone, let alone something great enough to take on the massive medley of majestic mobiles we’ve seen thus far.

Match that with an app ecosystem that still feels immature and it’s hard to bank on the Lumia 950 as the competitor Microsoft really needs.


That said, it’s still a pretty good start and a return of sorts for a software company that is doing what it can to learn from its mistakes and recover some much needed marketshare.

We’re not sure if the current generation is going to be a great pick up for everyone, and until Microsoft fixes its battery life, it is truly hard to recommend, but if you’re tired of Android and iOS and want to see what life is like on the other side of the three-sided fence, Microsoft’s Lumia 950 is worth a look, we just hope some patches roll out quickly.


Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Clean and clear operating system; User interface is still very customisable with modular live tiles; Windows Hello is very cool when it works; Great screen; Upgradeable storage via microSD; Fantastically fast and clear camera;
Feels like a mid-range, not a flagship; Battery life needs a lot of work, especially in comparison to the older Windows Phone devices; Can be a fair bit buggy; Windows Hello can be all over shop in terms of reliability; App availability needs a lot of work; Existing apps are generally out of date in comparison to their Android or iOS counterparts; USB Type C charge port is both a blessing and a curse;