I’ve been waiting for this phone for a long time. My previous phone was a Lumia 920 and I got it when that phone was pretty new. That phone is a bit dated now but still works well. I’ve always liked that 920 and the Windows 8.1 Phone OS. In this review, I won’t focus on the official specs of the Lumia 950. There are plenty of places you can look them up and other reviews that focus on the specifications. This review will be based mostly on my thoughts and impressions. My device is an unlocked Lumia 950 in black. I purchased it directly from Microsoft at the Store. I’m at AT&T customer but since I am off contract, I wanted to keep it that way. I’ll also include my thoughts on Windows 10 Mobile since that is installed on the 950.

Windows 10 Mobile

Coming from Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 10 Mobile is a big change but still familiar enough to make for a smooth transition. The new OS is far more polished and the UI is refreshed a lot in great ways. Since I did not participate in the Insider program, this is really my first look at the OS. I’m sure I will have more thoughts later. Here are some of my first thoughts.

I have always like the actions available to me by swiping down from the top if start. But that menu is much improved now with an expandable/collapsible set of features available. Settings is much improved. Searching settings is a great feature and makes it very easy to use.

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I’ve always been a fan of Cortana and she is working great on Windows 10. So far there are no new surprises with Cortana but I look forward to seeing how it integrates with Windows 10 Mobile. I did have some trouble setting up Quiet Hours. From the phone you can easily turn Quiet Hours on or off but no way to schedule them. But of course, I forgot that Cortana handles that for me!

Another nice feature of the OS is the ease of which you can set where files get stored. Configuring the use of a SD card is easier than ever. I guess I should get around to actually popping in an SD card.

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My only real issue with Windows 10 Mobile is that I don’t think it is done. I have a feeling they rushed this out the door. Is that a big problem? Not really. But often (in my first day) various settings screens would open and then close immediately. So it is a nuisance. But my assumption is that these items will be patched quickly. I don’t mind the minor inconvenience since, as stated, I have been waiting forever for this phone.

Continuum

wp_ss_20151126_0010One of Windows 10 Mobile’s most exciting feature is Continuum. It sounded really cool to me but I admit I was skeptical for two reasons. First, I was unsure how good the experience would be. And second, I’m not sure how useful it would be to me. Well of course I tried it out right away! I already have a ScreenBeam Mini 2. It was super easy to get my phone connected to that via the Continuum app. I also have a little Bluetooth keyboard that goes with my Dell Venue 8. For the mouse, I chose to use the phone as a touchpad. I figured this would give me an idea of usage while “traveling light”. I could always upgrade to a Microsoft Display Dock and better mouse and keyboard. My first thoughts on Continuum – it works really well! There was a slight lag when typing but that was expected with my setup. Basically, it really felt as if I was using a “regular” computer. I played with email and Word and a few other things. The experience was really good. Now, for the big question… will I ever use it again? So far the only answer I have is maybe. I certainly wouldn’t shy away from it. But since I have a lightweight Surface Pro 3, it is not often that I am without a great device to use. And why would I travel with a separate keyboard in my bag vs. my Surface?

Hello

Windows Hello is Microsoft’s new login mechanism. Since childhood I’ve dreamed up using a Retina Scan to log in to a bank vault or some secret location. Windows Hello seemed as close as I would get for a while. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a let down to me. It seems to work but it is just too awkward and slow. I have heard this works much better on other devices. Hello does recognize me but not all of the time. But mostly, it just seems strange holding the phone up to my face and waiting. If it could recognize me really fast at arms-length it would be awesome but that does not work. I’ll be fair and play with it more but I have a feeling this will be turned off on my phone soon.

Size and Weight

I really like the size of this device. I’m coming from a Lumia 920 and I expected the 950 to feel a lot bigger. But it doesn’t. It is bigger but it doesn’t really feel bigger so that is great. Part of that may be due to the weight – this phone is much lighter than my 920. Part of its lightweight nature is due to the material used for the back of the phone. I’ve read many reviews that claimed that the plastic back made the phone feel cheap. I couldn’t care less about that. I really think this is a non-issue. To me, the phone is lightweight – that is a big plus. Also, the back is removable and replaceable so I assume you can get a more expensive back for it if you are so inclined. I’m happy as is. Also, I find it funny that many reviewers suggest that the back material feels cheap and users won’t like it. But many users will get a case for their phone anyway. So why would they care? While the size of this device may not feel much bigger, I have a ton more screen real-estate. I can fit so many icons on the start screen. I am really loving that. For me, the size is great. I feel like the size combined with the resolution makes for a great user experience and fits a lot of information on screen.

Setup

wp_ss_20151126_0009Setup was basically pretty easy. I logged in with my Microsoft Account and I was given the option to copy my old phone’s apps and settings or start from scratch. I chose to copy. So it took a while to install all of my apps but that is to be expected. My start screen looked really funny at first because my Lumia 920 didn’t support as many tiles as the 950 does. I can fit a ton of tiles and it doesn’t look crowded. It looks really cool, I think. Organized and slick. After the initial setup process I spent some time arranging the start screen, configuring email and calendar accounts, and more. Really a very simple process. The only problem worth noting, in case it helps someone else prepare, was the need for a Nano SIM card. My old phone’s SIM card was not compatible with this device. So while at the mall I went to the AT&T store. As much as I dislike that store, it was pretty quick and easy. The staff quickly got me set up with a new SIM Card at no cost.

 

 

 

Screen

As stated earlier, I won’t get into actual specs. I’ll just tell you that this screen is beautiful. As important as the insides of the device are, the screen is what you see, what you use. Touch feels great. Details look sharp and the colors are crisp. The screen is bright. Of course, I haven’t had a chance to try out the 950 in a variety of locations, like the beach for example, but my first impressions are that the screen is beautiful.

Camera

The camera is probably the feature that I was most excited to try. I’ve been trying to read up on the features and capabilities as much as possible and I need to continue doing so. I really want to get the most out of this camera. I had heard good things about the camera’s ability to take low light shots. I took a few pictures inside with no flash and dim lighting. I really was shocked at how good the resulting images were. This is really impressive. I’m very impressed with Rich Camera. With this feature, the camera actually takes multiple pictures and allows the user to to adjust the images later. Wow… again I am really impressed. I definitely need to play around with the camera. I’m also excited about the Living Image feature that takes a bit of video before a picture. Sounds like you can use that to make really nice montages and slide shows.

Apps

Yeah, Windows 10 Mobile is short on apps. We know that already. However, the new mail, calendar and other default apps are really nice and much improved.

Other

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This phone comes ready for 2 SIM Cards. I only have 1. I find it a bit annoying that the phone and text tiles each have a little “1” on them to indicate which SIM card they are for. But I keep seeing the “1” thinking I have 1 text message waiting for me. I’ll probably get used to that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of 2s, the phone came with 2 USB-C cables. One that is USB-C to full size USB. Another that is USB-C with a power plug on the end. That was a small but added bonus. I love the idea of a removable battery. And of course, allowing for SD card expansion is a great thing.
selection of cases and back. My 920 had hardware buttons for “back”, “Home” and “Search”. The new phone does not. The 950 has software buttons for these actions. That is taking me a bit of time to get used to but I have a feeling that this is a better set up.

Summary

Well, this should be no surprise to anyone who knows me. I love this phone. Some may say that there are better phones out there. Certainly there is an issue with available apps for Windows 10 Mobile. But I’ve been “All In” with Microsoft stuff for a while now. I am holding out hope that the platform gets more popular and the apps come. The truth is, I’m not desperate for any apps (right now). Having a Windows based phone is great for me because it works and syncs well with my home pc, my Surface Pro 3, my usage of One Drive, OneNote, and now my new Band 2. If you have a Windows Phone already, I wouldn’t hesitate from getting this device.

I had a great time on Friday 3/20 presenting “End To End Development with Schwammy’s Favorite Patterns and Practices”. Thanks to everyone who came out and sat in a packed room for a full day. And even though we had a pretty large spring snow storm, I’m pretty sure everyone stuck around for the whole day. I hope you all made it home safely.

In this talk I covered a lot of content. If you need to follow up with me on any of these topics, feel free to contact me directly or comment on this post.

Thanks for the great feedback you all provided. The response was very positive. There were a few good suggestions and I’ll definitely be taking them into account when we plan a repeat of this presentation.

Here are the files I promised. I hope the solutions all work out for everyone. Please let me know if there are any problems.

By the way… one last tip… I used one of the VS Extensions that I talked about, VSCommands, to create the zip files for download. VS Commands has a feature allowing you to right click in Solution Explorer and Zip up the solution. It will automatically remove source code bindings, ignore bin directories, and more. Very cool.

Note that the sql scripts for the ELMAH database are in the solution in the App_Readme folder.

I recently gave an “Introduction To LINQ” presentation at the Microsoft event:  Data Access Firestarter.  That session was recorded and posted on MSDN’s Channel 9.  Here is the link so you can check it out.  If you want the content, you can get it from this post.  I’m really excited to be on Channel 9, it is such a great source of content!

I also gave the same talk at Philly.Net Code Camp this past Saturday.  That talk was also recorded and is available via Live Meeting replay.  I think it will be on Channel 9 too.  Both sessions went pretty well. 

I do feel the need to make a correction though!  In the presentation at Code Camp I answered a question incorrectly.  It was a subtle error, but one just the same.  The question was “Can you use LINQ to SQL against other databases?”.  I’m not really sure why I gave the wrong answer because I have been doing this stuff for a long time and I really do know the right answer.  My incorrect answer was that you can do LINQ to SQL as long as you have a provider to the other database.  This is completely wrong!  You can certainly do LINQ to a wide variety of data sources, including Oracle, but that isn’t “LINQ to SQL”.  LINQ to SQL is specifically an implementation of LINQ to a SQL Server Database.  I hope that makes sense.

My blog has been pretty quiet lately.  Things got a little hectic in mid February. 

More new technology:

After struggling to get the hang of Silverlight for a while, I was really starting to get comfortable with it.  Development on my project was moving along, the client was liking the results, and I was learning a lot!  Just when things were going well, my client informed me that he’d be dropping the project (hopefully temporarily) due to financial issues.  I was disappointed for many reasons.  I felt bad for the client (this economy is hurting a lot of people) and I felt bad for me, I had to find another client without much notice.

Lucky for me, I was able to get started on a new project pretty quickly.  I was very excited to dive into ASP.Net MVC too!  But from a blogging perspective, it meant another shift in direction.  I had been trying to focus on one thing and blog about it a lot.  I like the fact that my blog isn’t tied to a particular technology, but it is fun to get good at something and share information.  Oh well.  The fact is, I have been very lucky lately regarding new technology.  I was fortunate to start using VS2008/.Net 3.5 during the Beta at Orbius (lots of LINQ to SQL), then Silverlight 2 for my next client (and lots more LINQ to SQL) and now I’m doing ASP.Net MVC with jQuery, Dependency Injection, and other related stuff (and still lots more LINQ to SQL!) in my current situation.

What to blog about?

So now, no more Silverlight posts (unless I find some time to play around with Silverlight 3 which I am very excited about).  But I hope to continue blogging about what I am learning now.  There is one problem.  I typically try to blog about something that I struggled with and then resolved, hoping to spare others the frustration.  That was easy with Silverlight 2 which I thought was sort of painful to use (but I enjoyed it and liked the result).  But MVC doesn’t seem to be like that.  The switch to ASP.Net MVC was pretty easy for me.  And it seems to work pretty well.  The basics are pretty simple, in many ways less confusing that ASP.Net web forms, and I haven’t had too many issues yet.  Could it be that MVC really is the right way to go?  So far, it seems that way.  As I dig in more, I’m sure I’ll find plenty of blog worthy material.  As a matter of fact, I already have one, to be posted soon.

Business Update:

I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t been focusing on the “business side” of business.  A lot of independent consultants aren’t sure how to set up a business and I promised to write about it.  Here’s a quick update… I had debated back and forth about incorporating by forming an LLC or S-Corp.  I spoke with a lot of people including some accountants.  In the end, it seemed that there was no need to rush.  I had a client that didn’t care.  So I started to operate as a sole proprietor.  However, as a sole proprietor you can operate in several ways.  You can just mix up all of your personal and business money and confuse everything.  Or you can be a sole proprietor and act like a business.  That is what I am doing.  I have separate bank accounts and check books, I got a business credit card, and I record all of my income and expenses in QuickBooks.  Also, being a sole proprietor, I learned that you can also “do business as” some other name. It’s called DBA (not like a database).  This is a good idea for someone like me, since I do already have the my web site, blog and email on the domain IngenuityNow.net.  You don’t need to actually be incorporated to use a business name!

I also looked into insurance and learned about liability and E and O (Errors and Omissions) insurance.  You need liability so you can’t get sued if you knock over a server rack at a client, or a client falls walking into your house (nope, personal insurance doesn’t cover that).  E and O is to cover you if you screw up an application, trash a database, or find some other way to ruin a client’s business.  From talking to a lot of people, it seems that E and O isn’t so popular and most people only get it if the client insists.  It is also pretty expensive.  Liability insurance is much cheaper and seems like a good idea.

I also set up a web site and got business cards.  A little marketing goes a long way towards professionalism!  The web site is pretty simple so far but it will grow in time.  Please let me know what you think.

So what is next on the business front?  I’ve got to keep the networking up.  There are lots of clients out there, we just need to find them!  I also plan to get the incorporation thing going.  There are some good benefits to it (for taxes and liability) and I have spoken with a few clients that won’t work with you without being incorporated (although I know many consultants who never incorporate).  My only pain point so far on all of this is the accounting stuff.  QuickBooks helps, but it isn’t that easy to use if you don’t grok all of the accounting concepts, so I have a lot to learn

imageHere’s a brief description of MVC from the invitation to the event:

When it comes to design patterns, the MVC is the granddaddy of them all.  First described in the late 70s, the MVC pattern remains very popular in the world of web applications today. ASP.NET MVC provides a framework that enables you to easily implement the model-view-controller (MVC) pattern for Web applications. This pattern lets you separate applications into loosely coupled, pluggable components for application design, processing logic, and display.

The event takes place at the Microsoft Malver Office.  Click here for more details.  It is sure to be a great learning experience.