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Microsoft Lumia 950 vs iPhone 6S


Lumia 950

Lumia 950 vs iPhone 6S: Do you go Apple or Microsoft?

Microsoft has just announced its first flagship Windows 10 smartphone, the Lumia 950, alongside the super-sized Lumia 950 XL. What chance does the smaller device have against the mighty iPhone 6S, though?

We're not talking about a simple sales projection here, of course. That would be a little pointless given Apple's current, nigh-on unassailable position.

From a pure hardware standpoint, however, the Lumia 950 is clearly specced to impress, and it points to a much stronger future for Microsoft in mobile. Check out how it compares to the current smartphone king, the iPhone 6S.

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Lumia design

The iPhone looks much better

Microsoft didn't really talk about the design of the Lumia 950 at its launch event, and it's easy to see why. From the outside this looks to be a device born of a previous generation, back when Nokia was still making Windows phones.

As such, we get what appears to be a chunky, all-polycarbonate smartphone body. It's rather 2011.

The iPhone 6S is hardly the most handsome phone Apple has ever made, but it looks a good deal more premium than the Lumia 950. It's made of series 7000 aluminium, which makes it a tougher proposition than previous models, and its rounded edges give it a subtle allure in the hand.

In design terms, the iPhone 6S is the clear winner here. Now, if Microsoft were to let the team behind a the Surface Pro 4 free on a phone design, then we'd have a contest...

3D Touch

Microsoft has won the resolution game

The Lumia 950 packs a 5.2-inch QHD OLED display, which means that it's much bigger and much sharper than the iPhone 6S's 4.7-inch LCD screen.

It'll also have more vibrant colours and deeper blacks, thanks to the use of OLED technology. Microsoft can thank the old Nokia team for that, as they were one of the only manufacturers other than Samsung to build up a significant body of work using such screen tech.

Of course, it remains to be seen if Microsoft can get the colour accuracy and balance right, which is often the issue with OLED screens.

On the flip side, it's OLED technology that enables the Lumia 950's Glance screen feature. This actually dates back to Nokia's independent days, but Glance enables only some of the screen to light up and provide key information.

Apple's flagship phone, meanwhile, provides 3D Touch technology. This is an innovative pressure-sensitive input system that its rivals are sure to want to copy over the coming years. It really is that transformational - at least potentially.

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iPhone 6S

These should be two very fast smartphones

It seems as if the iPhone 6S will have a considerable power advantage over the Lumia 950, based on the raw components used. The Snapdragon 808 is a capable chip, but it benchmarks far lower than the monstrous Apple A9 powering the iPhone 6S.

Apple has even closed the gap on its rivals in the RAM stakes, doubling up to 2GB. The Lumia 950 has 3GB, but one suspects that it needs the extra headroom to run Windows 10 (more on which later).

One point in the Lumia 950's favour here is the presence of liquid cooling technology. We haven't seen this in a smartphone before, but it could potentially enable its processor to run at full pelt for longer.

We'll have to wait and see how that particular component plays out.

Both go big on the cameras

As we've already made reference to, Microsoft's Lumia team used to be Nokia, so the camera on the Lumia 950 will almost certainly be awesome.

Sure enough, it's a 20-megapixel PureView number with Carl Zeiss optics - a sentence that will warm the cockles of many a faithful Nokia fan.

You also get optical image stabilisation, which is something the iPhone 6S lacks, and a triple LED flash system where the iPhone 6S only has a double.

Both can handle 4K video.

Of course, it remains to be seen how the Lumia 950 actually performs as a day to day shooter, but there's genuine pedigree here. Oh, and the Lumia 950 also has a dedicated camera button, which wins it extra brownie points from us.

Related: Lumia 950 vs Lumia 950XLLumia camera

Storage wars

Surprisingly, there'll only be one storage option for the Lumia 950, and that's a rather modest 32GB.

Still, it's not as modest as the entry-level iPhone 6S, which comes with a pitiful 16GB of storage. You do get 64GB and 128GB options too, however.

On the flip side, the Lumia comes with a microSD slot, which has become a rare feature in a 2015 flagship smartphone. The iPhone 6S, as always, doesn't have the ability to expand its storage in this way.

Fingerprint vs iris

Apple was the company that really pushed biometric security into the smartphone mainstream with TouchID.

What's more, the iPhone 6S comes with a much improved TouchID system, which means that it detects your fingerprint much quicker and more accurately than before.

The Lumia 950 doesn't have a fingerprint sensor, but that's because it attempts something much more ambitious. It comes with an iris reader that scans your eyes.

It remains to be seen if this is as intuitive, fast, and reliable as TouchID and other touch-based security systems, but it should prove to be more secure.

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Lumia Continuum

Which OS do you prefer?

And so to the crux of this comparison. These two phones are mainly separated by their software, and the opposing visions of their manufacturers.

Apple's iOS 9 is the latest version of a bespoke mobile OS, designed specifically for use on portable devices - though playing increasingly nicely with Apple's OS X desktop OS.

Microsoft's Windows 10, by contrast, has been designed to run on all form factors, including smartphones like the Lumia 950.

The Lumia 950's biggest selling point over the iPhone 6S, then, is that you can plug in a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and you'll get a passable PC experience. It's a feature Microsoft calls Continuum.

Universal Windows 10 apps on your phone will scale seamlessly to the plugged-in monitor, boosting productivity and negating the need to rely quite so much on cloud-based syncing when you can literally get the task done on your phone.

That's the theory, at least. It remains to be seen if this works day to day, and at an acceptable speed, or if Apple's discrete solution remains the best. We're intrigued by the potential of Microsoft's approach, though.

Early Verdict

The Lumia 950 won't put a dent in iPhone sales, and we suspect that Microsoft knows this. It's a first generation Windows 10 product with a last generation design, and we suspect that the first great Windows phone is still to come (possibly in Surface form).

As a proof of concept, however - which is what the Lumia 950 seems to be - it's got some compelling features. Its camera promises to be excellent, its 4K OLED screen could well be a Galaxy S6-like stunner, and the prospect of a flexible PC-like experience on your phone is a tantalising one.

Right now, though, the Lumia 950 and its compact take on Windows 10 have everything to prove, and the iPhone 6S looks likely to remain the top dog for the foreseeable future.

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