Love-Hate is an occasional series in which we discuss the things we like most, and the things that drive us crazy, about products, services, people and ideas from across the world of technology.
Over the last 18 months or so, Microsoft has signed up a load of new hardware partners to its Windows Phone platform, including LG, Micromax, KAZAM, XOLO, Cherry Mobile, BLU, Yezz, Archos and many others, and more will be added with the launch of Windows 10 Mobile, including the likes of Lenovo.
But despite these many new additions, Microsoft’s Lumia range still accounts for an astonishing 97 percent of Windows Phone sales. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine what the Windows Phone range would look like today, if Microsoft hadn't persuaded Nokia to join the platform back in 2011.
Since Microsoft acquired Nokia, it’s rolled out seven new handsets under its own brand – and while all seven have been aimed at the lower end of the market, new flagship Lumia smartphones are on the way. And since Microsoft took over, things have improved for Lumia in many ways: entry-level devices are less austere, handsets are being launched more quickly after their announcement, and phones like the Lumia 640 and 640 XL have added value with the inclusion of a free Office 365 Personal subscription for your PC.
Let’s take a look at some of the things we love about Lumia Windows Phones.
Pretty good for OS updates
One of the top complaints for Android users is the often-incredible amount of time it takes for a new OS update to trickle down to handsets after being announced. Eight months after its official unveiling, Android 5.x Lollipop had reached just 12% of devices.
Of course, there are far fewer Windows Phone devices than Android ones, and that makes the process of handling OS updates a hell of a lot easier for Microsoft. After the mess it made with Windows Phone 7.x - abandoning all of those devices with no future upgrade path - Microsoft continues to support all Lumia handsets released with Windows Phone 8 or later, and has even promised that all of these devices will be eligible for free upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile.
The spanner in the works here remains the carriers, many of which drag their feet when it comes to rolling out updates, and some refuse to support the latest updates on certain devices. But Microsoft still enables owners to get the latest OS updates via its preview program, so these devices don’t have to be left behind after all. The company has also indicated that it will be taking more control of updates from the carriers with Windows 10 Mobile, which would certainly be a welcome change.
Awesome PureView cameras
The Nokia Lumia 1020, which featured a remarkable 41-megapixel camera, took the Windows Phone range to a new level in mobile photography, with technology based on the company’s earlier 808 PureView. But while the 1020 was superb in this regard, it wasn’t the only Lumia to feature an outstanding camera.
The 830, 920, 930/Icon and 1520 have all included PureView technology with sophisticated camera architecture using ZEISS optics, and the quality of the photos that can be captured on these handsets is right up there with the very best in the business, and arguably better in some regards.
And some of the expertise gathered in developing these high-end cameras trickles down to the more affordable handsets in the range, like the recently launched Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL, both of which feature surprisingly capable cameras in their respective price ranges.
Affordable but very capable devices
Speaking of the 640 and 640 XL, these two new handsets show that you don’t have to pay flagship money to enjoy a high-quality smartphone experience. Indeed, unlike many of the low-cost handsets that Nokia churned out in its latter days in charge of Lumia, Microsoft’s new handsets demand relatively few compromises of their users.
Take the 640’s predecessors, the Nokia Lumia 630/635 for example – those devices were certainly affordable, with decent performance, but they each lacked a front-facing camera, and had no flash for the rear camera. Or consider the ultra-low-cost Nokia Lumia 530 – its low price also meant that it had no selfie cam, and was further hindered by just 4GB of storage and a fairly weak display.
With Microsoft’s most recent lower-end handsets, it’s managed to strike a much more sensible balance between affordability and meeting the needs and requirements of users. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but from what we’ve seen with the 640 and 640 XL, the company is certainly on the right path.
Bright and colorful options
At a time when most smartphones were being sold in black, white, or some intermediate shade of gray/silver, Nokia’s first Lumia handsets certainly stood out in the crowd of competitors. Their bright colors stood in stark contrast to the more monochromatic palettes of rival devices, and the range has continued to flaunt its vibrant color options ever since.
Many Lumia handsets feature interchangeable covers too, so you can switch colors as desired, with official covers available for some devices for just a few bucks. The rich hues also complement the bright colors of the Windows Phone operating system rather nicely.
When so many handsets look so similar, there’s something quite nice about the burst of color that the Lumia line continues to bring to the market. But for those with less outrageous tastes – and given just how intense those colors can be, we can certainly understand if you’re one of them – the more traditional black and white options are generally available for devices across the Lumia range.
Still the best Windows Phone experience
Despite Microsoft signing up all those new partners to the platform, it seems fair to say that the best overall Windows Phone experience is still available on the Lumia range. Not only do these handsets typically get OS updates first, but the company also goes the extra mile when it comes to developing firmware for its devices, adding many thoughtful features that often take much longer to make their way to Windows Phones from other manufacturers, if at all.
The Lumia line enjoys more complementary accessories and peripherals to go along with its devices too – from matching headsets and phone cases, to battery packs, wireless speakers and wireless chargers – which many of the new Windows Phone manufacturers don’t yet offer.
And for those who like to try out the latest OS developments as soon as they're available, it’s also worth noting that the Lumia range is first to get the very latest Windows preview versions.
Of course, these are just our top picks of what we love most about Lumia Windows Phones – but we’d love to hear your suggestions too. Be sure to share them in the comments below!