I’ve been rather lucky over the past months to get my hands on some of Microsoft’s latest tech courtesy of the company I work for, Black Marble, including one of the first devices to launch with Windows 10 mobile, the Lumia 950 XL, and a much needed upgrade to my Microsoft Band with the second generation device

The Microsoft Band 2

I’ll start with the Microsoft Band 2 and the improvements made over it’s predecessor.

Microsoft Band 2

If you’re an owner of the original Band, you may have noticed that it isn’t the most comfortable of devices even though it is incredible when it comes to what it can do. With the Microsoft Band 2, you get both the function and the comfort with it’s flexible wristband which wraps around your wrist nicely without restricting your movement.

There are some slight OS improvements that you’ll get with the Microsoft Band 2 but nothing special that the original couldn’t do. We may see them diverge in the future but as it currently stands, the Microsoft Band 2 definitely feels like what the Microsoft Band should have been.

There are some features however that aren’t available on the Band 2 that you’ll want to use if you get or have one. One in particular is the ability to turn on activity notifications. This is a new feature that comes as an update which allows you to let your Band tell you, at a frequency you pick, to get up and move. This is great if you work in an office where you tend to be sat for most of the day. It has definitely helped me with getting my step count up.

Microsoft Band 2 Smart Alarms

Microsoft Band 2 Smart Alarms

The other is smart alarms. This feature will allow you to set an alarm that you’d like to be woken up by when you turn on the sleep tracker. As users of the Band will know, the sleep tracker will give you an overview of the light, deep and non-sleep you have throughout the night. Smart alarms uses that to pick the best time to wake you up up-to 30 minutes before your alarm so you don’t get woken up during a deep sleep period.

As fitness wearables go, the Microsoft Band 2 definitely feels like a competitor and I’d highly recommend it. I’ll re-iterate what I’ve said before, the Microsoft Band is NOT a smartwatch. If it’s smartwatch apps and the ability to fully integrate with your smartphone, this is not the device for you.

Windows 10 on the Lumia 950 XL

As smartphones go, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL is definitely a premium phone with a price to match it. I’ve only had the device for about a week but it’s been such an improvement over my rather old Nokia Lumia 920.

I’ve been an avid Windows Phone OS user since its inception back in 2010. I’ve only strayed once to Android for a brief period when Windows Phone 7 was transitioning to Windows Phone 8 and devices weren’t yet available but as soon as they were, the Nokia Lumia 920 replaced my Galaxy S3.

As an app developer, I’ve always found that the Windows SDK has provided the best experience for developers and as such, has kept me interested as a phone user. The Lumia 950 XL just builds on that interest with new features and the latest Windows Mobile 10 OS which has finally aligned the PC and Mobile operating systems that Windows Phone users have been begging for since Windows 8 made an appearance.

With a unified app store, Continuum, Windows Hello, Cortana and synchronisation across all of your Windows 10 devices, the Lumia 950 XL is a great extension to my own Windows experience and it hasn’t left my side since I got it.

Windows Hello on Lumia 950

Windows Hello on Lumia 950

The camera picture and video quality is incredible for a smartphone, especially over the 920’s. The display looks so vibrant and clear that I fear for putting it in pockets. Windows Hello and it’s integration with the Lumia 950 XL’s iris scanner is incredible. When setting it up, you’ll want to do it a few times in different environments and lighting so it can learn who you are.

All-in-all, it’s just an incredible phone and if you’ve been waiting for an upgrade like I have, this is the upgrade for you. You may consider it to be a large phone but it really doesn’t feel that big at all when you’re holding one and that’s possibly due to how thin it is. If you’re considering a phone but can’t afford one right now or you’re tied into a contract, wait a few months for the Mobile OS to mature and new devices to arrive. I am expecting a whole flurry of new Windows phones running 10 very soon in all price ranges.

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