Microsoft Lumia 950: The first Windows 10 smartphone tries hard -- but can it succeed?

Microsoft's first Windows 10 phone has all the right specs, but we've yet to see if it's got what it take to become a preferred corporate device.

lumia 950 marketing 01 dsim

Microsoft's new Lumia 950, the first phone to use Windows 10, is in many ways a very old-fashioned phone. It doesn't have the high-end metallic feel as phones like, say, the Nexus 6P or the Samsung Galaxy S6. It has a modest (for today's standards) 5.2-in. display (although its sibling, the 950 XL, has a larger 5.7-in. screen). It lets you peel off the back and replace both the SD card and the battery.

The specs for the Lumia 950 are certainly decent. The phone is equipped with a 1.8GHz Qualcomm Shapdragon 808 processor with 3GB of RAM. It offers 32GB of storage -- and that's it; no messing around with 16GB, and if you need more than 32GB, you can insert the SD card. It comes with a 3,000mAh battery that, according to the company, should offer at least 18 hours of talk time at 3G or 9.5 hours of Wi-Fi browsing.

It comes with a USB-C port and a dedicated camera button on the right side of the phone, just below the volume and power buttons.

The back-facing camera is a 20-megapixel device with optical image stabilization, auto-focus and a 30 fps video frame rate; the front-facing camera offer 5 megapixels at full HD. The display is a solid 2560 x 1440 AMOLED screen with the fabulous brightness and solid blacks that those specifications indicate.

And (still in beta, but available to users), it can use iris recognition to unlock the phone, something that I didn't have a chance to test.

(The Lumia 950 XL will have pretty much the same specs, except for a 5.7-in. display, a 2.0 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and a 3,340mAh battery).

One has to wonder if Microsoft is using the Lumia XL as a test run to see what its customers want with the new Windows 10 operating system. Do users -- specifically, business users, because let's face it, Microsoft has very little chance at this point to capture the consumer market -- want the kind of high-end sleekness that the more prosperous (or tech-happy) consumers appear to prefer? Or would they rather have a phone that works seamlessly with their operating system?

Docking your phone

When I went to see the phone for the first time, one of the selling points that I was presented with was the Microsoft Display Dock, a rather nifty docking station that, along with Microsoft's new Continuum feature, enables you to use the phone as a workstation by plugging it into an external display, a keyboard and a mouse. (You can also use Bluetooth if you prefer wireless keyboard/mouse combinations.)

microsoft display dock block1 jpg Microsoft

The Microsoft Display Dock will let you use the Lumia 950 as a desktop system.

On the other hand, the phone will only be available from two vendors: Locked devices are available from AT&T for $150 with a two-year contract, while unlocked devices (for AT&T and T-Mobile only) from the Microsoft store -- for a somewhat expensive $600. (The Lumia 950 XL won't be available for a few weeks.)

Which underlines the tentative feel of this introduction. If Microsoft felt that this was a solid hardware introduction to the mobile possibilities of Windows 10, would the company limit its availability like this?

We'll be doing a more thorough deep-dive review of both the phone and its OS in the near future. However, just from an initial look at the phone, I'd guess that the verdict may be: Nice try.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon