Lumia 950, 950 XL: Microsoft reveals Windows 10 Mobile flagships

Posted Oct 6, 2015 by James Walker
Microsoft's new Windows 10 Mobile smartphones are now official as the company gave its two flagship devices a formal unveiling at its New York event today. The 5.2-inch Lumia 950 is joined by the 5.7-inch Lumia 950 XL to showcase Windows 10 for phones.
File photo: Lumia 950 demo at #Windows10 devices event 6/10/15.
File photo: Lumia 950 demo at #Windows10 devices event 6/10/15.
Microsoft's Panos Panay, newly appointed leader of the company's devices division, took to the stage to showcase the 950 and 950 XL. News of these devices has been available online for some time but Microsoft fans now have the details confirmed. It has been well over a year since the last Windows Phone flagship, the Nokia-branded Lumia 930 was launched, so today's New York event was understandably the subject of some anticipation.
The Lumia 950 is the more traditional of the two flagships launched today. Its 5.2-inch 2560x1440 display brings it in-line with the most popular Android smartphones of 2015, providing a large amount of screen real estate whilst still retaining a manageable size.
Under the glass, the 950 is powered by a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor that has already found use inside other flagships this year. The battery is a removable 3,000mAh unit which should be sufficient for all-day usage.
Although the 950 is at the very top of the Windows 10 Mobile range, it is still inferior to the larger 950 XL. Microsoft's usage of "XL" branding doesn’t simply equate to "bigger screen" but rather even more performance too.
The 5.7-inch display stays at the 950's 2K resolution of 2560x1440 but the processor gets a noticeable upgrade to an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. Owners will have to hope that the overheating issues that plagued early batches of the 810 don't manifest themselves but all evidence suggests Qualcomm has now solved this with a hardware revision. Keeping this large processor ticking is a removable 3,300mAh battery, a 10 percent increase over the XL's smaller sibling.
The Lumia 950 and 950 XL both have 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable internal storage. Microsoft is one of few manufacturers opting to retain support for removable batteries and memory cards this year, a move that is likely to please power users.
Windows Hello on Windows 10 Mobile Lumia 950  06/10/2015
Windows Hello on Windows 10 Mobile Lumia 950, 06/10/2015
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
Round the back, the phones have 20MP, optical image stabilization-supporting cameras sporting the "PureView" moniker that Microsoft acquired from Nokia. Although the devices will have to get to the hands of reviewers for decisive testing, Lumia phones have a strong track record for excellent camera performance. When the lighting goes down, a triple-LED RGB flash will be capable of providing some strong illumination when required. Microsoft claims you will be "blown away" by the camera technology.
Connectivity comes courtesy of a USB Type-C port which may prove a headache in the short term as most people aren't likely to own the requisite cables. However, it will give the phones a head start in the not-too distant Type-C dominated future and provides Microsoft with a way of demonstrating its new ethos of looking forward. The phones are also compatible with Qi wireless chargers as an alternative to plugging into the wall.
In a unique capability not available on any other smartphone, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL have built-in iris scanners that work with Windows Hello to allow owners to sign-in to their device just by looking at it. It remains to be seen how reliable the feature will be when in use but Microsoft's on-stage demo showed iris scanning as a smooth, almost-instantaneous way to unlock a device.
The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are the first devices to officially launch with Windows 10 Mobile. The edition of Windows 10 for phones is a marked improvement over its predecessor, Windows Phone 8.1, and includes improved notifications, an expanded Start screen and refined built-in apps.
It also powers the star feature of the 950 and 950 XL: Continuum. A technology that could turn the 3 percent share of Windows Phone into rapidly-growing double-digits on Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft is relying on Continuum to drive sales of its smartphones by promising a portable device that can immediately convert into a full computer when connected to a display, mouse and keyboard.
Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile - when connected to a display  the phone powers a Windows 10 desktop ...
Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile - when connected to a display, the phone powers a Windows 10 desktop experience via a dock
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
Owners will be able to use Microsoft's new Continuum dock to connect their phone to these accessories. The Windows 10 Mobile interface will then move away and reveal the desktop of the Windows 10 that runs on computers and laptops.
The power of Microsoft's Universal Windows platform means all the apps on the phone will automatically resize themselves into their full desktop versions. The taskbar and Start menu will appear, completing the transformation and revealing a near-complete Windows 10 desktop experience - powered by a device that can be slipped back into a pocket at a moment's notice.
Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile - when connected to a display  the phone powers a Windows 10 desktop ...
Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile - when connected to a display, the phone powers a Windows 10 desktop experience via a dock
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
With Microsoft successfully turning a phone into the only device that some users may require, it is understandably eager to extol the virtues of its new platform. Continuum is expected to appeal to people who traditionally carry a phone and laptop with key audiences being the enterprise and developing markets where money often can't stretch to two high-performance devices. Continuum is likely to be seen a lot more over the coming months as Microsoft expands its capabilities and redefines what is possible with a smartphone.
The Lumia 950 will start at $549 with the 950 XL coming in at $649. Both phones will be available from November and will be joined by a $139 budget option, the Lumia 550.