Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Impressions

The last high-end Windows phone that I owned was the Lumia 928 back in May 2013.  Since then I’ve owned a Lumia 635 and 640, one a low-end device and the other mid-range respectively (plus an iPhone 6 but we won’t go there for now).  In steps the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL…

This is a liquid-cooled eight-core, 3GB of RAM, expandable MicroSD storage, 5.7” QHD (2560×1440) AMOLED piece of tech in your pocket.  I’m not going to go through a complete rundown of all the phone’s specifications but what I will say is that this is a very capable smartphone today.  If you go online and read all the “reviews” and first impressions, you will most likely find a bunch of negative and less than positive remarks.

Without sounding like an apologist for Microsoft, I don’t believe this phone was, or is, meant for the general public and I think that is what a lot of the tech journalist are missing.  The Lumia 950/XL phones were never meant to take the smartphone industry by storm or be the magical solution that will help Microsoft regain market share.  In a way, you could arguably say that the 950/XL is meant as a kind of stop-gap or an appeasement of sorts for Windows phone fans and users.  We have been waiting for quite a while for a new high-end handset to hit the market and now we have it.

Despite the criticism on its design, I really appreciate the muted aesthetic that the Lumia 950 XL carries.  Sure, it looks similar to the Lumia 640/XL, or any other recently released Lumia device, but as a fan I would never confuse the two.  They’re very different devices.  Some people lament that the plastic housing feels cheap.  I won’t argue that it doesn’t have that same “premium” feel that metal has but I would not go so far as to say it feels cheap.  What does cheap even feel like?  I hold my Lumia 640 in my hand and the first thing I think isn’t, “This feels cheap.”  It feels good in my hand and so does the Lumia 950 XL, especially given its size.  But then again, I would never call a wine “cheap” either.  I’ll use the word “inexpensive” but never cheap.  You might say it’s just semantics but the word “cheap” has a very negative connotation and infers something of inferior quality or ability.  For my uses I would not say that the polycarbonate housing of the Lumia 950/XL is inferior.

I appreciate that I have the option to change out the back with custom backs to give it a totally different look and feel without the bulk of a case.  Along with that I love the fact that I can still have the ability to change out the battery, if needed, and have the ability to add a MicroSD card without having openings that ruin the seamless exterior of the phone’s housing.  Add the PureView camera, wireless Qi charging and the fast charge ability and this is a fantastic phone.  Even with the 5.7” screen it doesn’t feel like some cumbersome, giant piece of tech in my hand.

Is the Lumia 950/XL a phone I would recommend to all my friends and family?  Honestly, no but not for any reason of the hardware itself.  Both my sister and wife use Windows phones and right now I wouldn’t recommend even they switch.  They both really like the Windows phone user interface and that’s part of why they are still using their Lumias but Windows 10 Mobile still has its issues.  And there is still the issue of lack of a lot of first party mobile apps for Windows phone users.  The lack of apps that are out there for IOS or Android don’t really affect me in my daily life personally but it is something that is a big hindrance for a good portion of the general public.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend that that’s going to change anytime soon, if ever.  Microsoft’s plans for universal apps are great but they’re not going to be the magical solution.  This app gap is a serious problem for anyone looking to switch over to Microsoft’s mobile hardware.  Again though, that’s why the Lumia 950/XL is not for the general public.  This device is for existing users who want current, high-end hardware.

Am I happy that I purchased the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL?  Absolutely.  Do I have any regrets buying it?  None.

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