Also onboard is 20 MP camera, microSD, triple-LED flash, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC, Iris Scanner, USB 3.1, and an adaptive antenna

It's been a year and a half since anything remotely resembling a high end Windows smartphone was released.  And Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) spent much of 2014 and 2015 committing to two waves of massive layoffs, which culled nearly two in three employees from its newly acquired smartphone unit.

Yet here we are today, and Microsoft has at long last announced new high end Windows 10 smartphones.  Better yet it managed to pull off some surprises even.

Microsoft today debuted a pair of high end smartphones, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL (some sources had previously suggested Microsoft was skipping the 940/940 XL branding and going straight to 950/950 XL -- looks like they were right!).  These are the same devices (Talkman and Cityman) that have been the subject of numerous leaks, beginning as early as last October.

Lumia 950 and 950 XL
The Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL are seen, side by side.

The biggest surprise with these new devices, arguably, was the inclusion of new "liquid cooling" technology.  Microsoft blew by this bullet point on one of its slides, but it's one that will surely be of interest to PC fans.

Lumia 950 and 950 XL
[Image Source: Microsoft Livestream via Neowin]

For high end gaming PCs liquid cooling is a long-standing solution for dissipating heat faster than is possible with a pure air convection solution.  The idea is to flow liquid by some hot component (say your GPU and CPU chips via a metal heatblock.  The evaporated fluid (typically some sort of inert/nonconductive coolant) is then ciruclated to a condenser, where a fan blows air to push out the heat and condense the cooling fluid.  

While such systems are common in the gaming space -- and are even found in some gaming laptops -- this is the first (in my recollection) that we've heard about the technology in the smartphone space.  Under load, or when using certain functions (e.g. the GPS), modern smartphones can get quite hot, particularly the battery and system-on-a-chip (SoC).  Presumably Microsoft is utilizing some sort of internal capillary system with an inert, evaporative closed cooling loop.  But we shall see shortly.

Lumia 950 and 950 XL

And the price of the unlocked devices itself is a highlight of sorts -- $549 USD for the smaller 5.2 inch Lumia 950 and $649 USD for the bigger 5.7 inch Lumia 950 XL.  

Lumia 950 and 950 XL
[Image Source: Microsoft Livestream via Neowin]

This price, given the spec is quite aggressive -- perhaps equally so as Google Inc.'s (GOOG) just-unveiled Nexus 6P.

Lumia 950 and 950 XL

Lumia 950 XL

The Microsoft Lumia 950
Lumia 950 XL
The Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Other highlights of the new smartphones include microSD expandable storage (something that increasingly Android smartphone makers are dumping), adaptive antennas, infrared iris scanning for device unlock, triple LED flash, and a silver ring in the camera optical assembly.

Here's the full spec for both devices:
  • BODY (both)
    • Materials :: Plastic (polycarbonate)
    • Colors ::::: Matte White or black
    • Weight
    • Lumia 950:::: 165 g (5.82 oz.)
    • Lumia 950 XL: 165 g (5.82 oz.)
    • Dimensions:
    • Lumia 950::::
    • Lumia 950 XL: 151.9 x 78.4 x 8.3 mm (5.98 x 3.09 x .33 in.)
    • Screen
      • Tech. (both):: AMOLED
      • Resolution ::: wide quad high definition (WQHD; 1,440x2,560 pixels)
      • Size (diag.) :: Lumia 950: 5.2 in.; Lumia 950 XL: 5.7 in.
      • PPI ::::::::::: Lumia 950: 564 ppi; Lumia 950 XL: 518 ppi.
    • System-on-a-Chip (SoC)
      • Chipmaker (both) :::: Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM)
      • Lumia 950: Snapdragon 808
        • CPU: 64-bit Hexa-core (2x 1.80 GHz Cortex-A57; 4x 1.44 GHz Cortex-A53)
        • GPU: Adreno 418 @ 600 MHz (128 ALUs)
      • Lumia 950 XL: Snapdragon 810
        • CPU: 64-bit Octa-core (4x 2.00 GHz Cortex-A57; 4x 1.55 GHz Cortex-A53)
        • GPU: Adreno 430 @ 650 MHz (192 ALUs)
    • Memory (both)::: 3GB of RAM (both)
    • Storage (both)::: 32 GB NAND Flash (internal) + microSD (up to 2 TB)
    • Front-Facing Camera (FFC) (both)::: 5 megapixel; wide-angle lens
    • Rear-Facing Camera (RFC)
      • Both: 20 megapixel PureView module; optical image stabilization (OIS) (6 lens module); triple-LED flash
      • Lumia 950 XL exclusive: aluminum hardware buttons on side of device; silver ring around camera enclosure (1 mm)
    • Battery (@3.8V) ::: Lumia 950: 3,000 mAh ; Lumia 950 XL: 3,340 mAh
    • Connectivity: LTE (see below); Bluetooth 4.1; NFC; USB 3.1
    • Other (both)
      • Iris scanner (infrared, works with Windows Hello)
      • Qi wireless charging
      • Fast charging
      • USB Type-C charging/connectivity
      • Corning Inc. (GLW) Gorilla Glass 4

Additionally here's the connectivity details for the Lumia 950 XL from Microsoft:
  • 3G/3.5G
    • GSM
      • Bands: 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz
      • Speed: (max, down) 296.0kbps ; (max, up) 236.8kbps
    • WCDMA (w/ HSPA+ enhancements)
      • Bands: #1 (2.1 GHz), #2 (1.9 GHz), #4 (1.7 GHz/2.1 GHz), #5 (850MHz), #8 (900MHz)
      • Speed: (max, down): 42.2Mbps (Cat 24); (max, up) 5.76Mbps (Cat 6)
  • 4G
    • LTE
      • Bands: #1 (2.1 GHz), #2 (1.9 GHz), #3 (1.8 GHz), #4 (1.7/2.1 GHz), #5 (850MHz), #7 (2.6 GHz), #8 (900MHz); #12, #17, and #28 (700MHz), #17 (700MHz); #20 (800MHz)
      • Speed: (max, down): 300 Mbps (Cat 6); (max, up) 50 Mbps (Cat 6) 
    • TD-LTE
      • Bands: #38 (2.57-2.62 GHz), #40 (2.30-2.40 GHz), #41 (partial) (2.555-2.575 GHz)
      • Speed: (max, down): 300 Mbps (Cat 6); (max, up) 50 Mbps (Cat 6) 

Microsoft's spec page on the Microsoft Store also confirms the sensor size of the 950 XL to be 1/2.4-in. (16:9) back-side illuminated (BSI) CMOS unit, with a f/1.9 F-number.  For comparison this sensor is roughly one half the size of the Lumia 808's 1/1.2 inch 41 megapixel unit.  (The Lumia 1020 packed a 1/1.5-in. sensor.)  For an additional couple points of comparison, the sensor is slightly bigger than the 1/2.5 in. one found in the Lumia 1520, but slightly smaller than the 1/2.3-in. sensor onboard the Xperia Z1 from Sony Corp. (TYO:6758).  

The OIS is a two stage, 6 lens system.  It's probable that the Lumia 950 is using the same lens and optics, but there may possibly be some subtle differences as well -- we'll have to wait for the 950 to show up in the Microsoft Store to find out for sure.

The devices will give early adopters access to Microsoft's new Continuum technology for small screen Windows 10 devices (which displays a full fledge PC interface, when the device is connected to a compatible large display wirelessly or via a cable).

Lumia 950 XL -- continuum
Courtesy of Continuum, the new Lumias become PCs when connected to a compatible monitor.

Windows Hello -- the driver set behind the iris scanner -- is still in the beta stage on the smartphone front, but will be included preinstalled exclusively with these devices for now.

Here's some more shots of the devices, courtesy of Microsoft.

Microsoft Lumia 950:

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Lumia 950

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL:

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Lumia 950 XL

Continuum (both devices):

Lumia 950 and 950 XL Continuum

Also announced at the event was the lower end Lumia 550.
Lumia 550
The Microsoft Lumia 550 (w/ Windows 10)

While that may not be quite as exciting, given the dirth of recent lower end Windows Phones, here's the spec:


All three devices (the Lumia 550, 950, and 950 XL) will be available by early next month.

Sources: Microsoft Conversations [Devices Blog], YouTube, Microsoft Store [Lumia 950 XL -- unlocked]

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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