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Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM sails for Microsoft

Late last year, Microsoft released their new flagship smartphone, the Lumia 950 series, which comes in four (4) different configurations, namely, the Lumia 950, Lumia 950 Dual SIM, Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM. The Lumia 950s have 5.2” displays and Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 with 6-cores and running at 1.8GHz, while the larger XL series come with  5.7” display and faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 with 8-cores and running at 2GHz, a FM radio receiver, and a larger battery. All the phones are running the latest Windows 10, of course.

I got my hands on the highest configuration model, the Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM, and the hardware specs are quite impressive: 20 megapixel rear-facing camera with 3-LED Natural Flash, a full HD 5 megapixel front-facing camera, with other features matching every other flagship smartphones on other platforms. Along with the smartphone, I got the Microsoft Display Dock to test.

First impression on the hardware was not unexpected. The Lumia comes in polycarbonate plastic, making the smartphone lightweight despite its size. The battery contributes mostly to its weight, which becomes obvious once you pop open the back cover to insert the nano SIM(s). It has been awhile since I had a phone that requires your to pop-open the back cover. However, this makes the battery user-replaceable, which is good in some cases — but let’s face it, how many of you would rather buy an external battery pack than a secondary battery for your phone? Anyway, the Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM dwarfs my iPhone 6S!4

First thing I did after turning it on is to look for settings and did a factory-reset. I will have a fresh out of the box experience. Took several minutes to get the device to wipe the data clean and start fresh. Configuring it for the first time is rather a mixed experience for me. It asked me for my Microsoft account and got stuck in verifying — only to find out that it sent me an SMS with an activation code and required me to hit next and confirm my phone, before it asked me for the activation code. After which, it detected my SIMs, and then went on to ‘update’ the apps. I figured, “OK, I guess I have to wait a tad longer before I could use it”. After a few minutes, the phone’s ready to use.

I always check if there is an OS update and/or stock app updates. I found a new OS update, and several stock app updates as well (so what was the apps that it updated before?) — heck, Candy Crush Saga is part of the stock app! I tried to update the OS, but it got stuck at 0% for more than 30 minutes. Frustrated, I figured that maybe I could play with the phone and install apps first. I selected Uber, Twitter, Swarm, Telegram and Instagram (Snapchat isn’t available), and each one got stuck at PENDING. I thought that maybe the phone isn’t connected to the Internet via WiFi — fired up Microsoft Edge, the new browser, and checked out sites and it worked. Tried to disable WiFi and go 4G, still nothing. What gives? This isn’t a good out-of-the-box experience, right?

I did another factory reset to start from scratch, and it went through the same procedures — yes, updating some apps, don’t know which ones, but when you Check For Updates, there are still available updates! When I entered my Microsoft account, it got stuck — couldn’t hit on Next to confirm my phone and then enter the activation code. Tough luck! Another factory reset might do the trick.

This time everything went through, I attempted to update the OS, which worked this time, took several minutes to download the update and a couple more to install it. After the phone rebooted, the app updates and the stock apps updates worked. Finally was able to update and install new apps. What an out-of-the-box experience!

The Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM is now my secondary phone for the next few days. The new interface takes awhile to get used to – after coming from iOS and Android – but it isn’t that bad. The added information that gets displayed on the icons displayed on the home screen does not give me much, at least not much compared to having the iOS Badge App icon. Anyway, to each his own, I’d say.

The Dual SIM feature is very convenient, specially in the Philippines where telcos don’t have decent coverage of the cities. I wish, though, that you have a fine-grained per app setting as to which SIM gets used by which app. This isn’t difficult as the built-in SMS and Phone apps can do it. Android phones have models with dual SIMs as well, but never could you find one from Apple.

The 20 megapixel camera comes with an enviable f/1.9 fast lens with optical image stabilization. Microsoft beat Apple in this category. The Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM has a focus-light feature that you can activate, which assists the camera to get a better lock on the subject. However, don’t forget to use it sparingly as it gets annoying at times. The Living Image feature, which Nokia pioneered, made me not miss the iPhone’s Live Photos. I also stumbled into a feature that allowed you to adjust the photo’s light levels and then select the best one that you think best represents the scene, or the one that is most artistic. I couldn’t bring this feature up consistently – is there a setting somewhere to make this applicable to all photos?

The Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM, along with the others in the series, do not come with a  fingerprint sensor. However, it has a nifty new way of unlocking your phone in addition to the usual PIN combination. This new feature is called Microsoft Hello, which uses the front-facing camera to scan your eyes to unlock the phone.

The Microsoft Display Dock allows you to connect your Lumia, via the USB-C cable, to an external display or TV, keyboard, mouse, or mostly any USB-connected peripheral.

If you are heavily entrenched on the Microsoft ecosystem, nothing beats having this phone, and don’t get one without the Display Dock.

Lumia 950 XL specs

Screen size: 5.7-inch
Resolution: 1440×2560
RAM: 3GB
Processor: Snapdragon 810
Internal memory: 32GB
Memory expansion: MicroSD
up to 200GB
Rear camera: 20MP
Front camera: 5MP
Battery: 3300mAh