Are you in the market for a good smartphone for e-reading, but you don’t really like either Android or iOS? Microsoft might have just the deal for you on a pair of Windows 10 phones. Gizmodo reports that Microsoft is running a buy-one-get-one sale at the moment: buy an unlocked Lumia 950 XL for $649 and get a $549 unlocked Lumia 950 free. At that rate, you could afford to buy one for yourself, then pop the one you don’t keep on eBay to defray the cost of the one you do—or else get one for yourself and one for your sibling, friend, spouse, or significant other.
They 950 and the XL are very similar phones, though the XL runs a slightly faster Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM chip and has a 10% more capacious battery; it’s just that the 950 XL has a 5.7” display and the 950 has a 5.2” display. They come with 32 GB onboard storage, expandable to 200GB via microSD.
And if you’re wondering whether you can read e-books on such a device, the answer is yes! WinBeta reports that the “big three” e-reading apps—Kindle, Nook, and Kobo—all run on Windows Phone to a greater or lesser extent, as well as a fairly impressive DRM-free EPUB reader called Freda that I’m currently trying out on my desktop. They may not be ideal, but they will read your e-books. And that’s even leaving aside web applications which should work just as well from a browser. My brother Alex says there are dozens of different e-book reader apps in the store that will run on the phone as well.
They also use a system called “Continuum” which allows the Windows 10 phone to be docked to a monitor and keyboard and used as a (fairly low-end) Windows Desktop device. (Unfortunately it reportedly can’t run two apps side-by-side on Lumia phones, so it’s not a completely ideal desktop experience.)
But if you’re looking for other apps than e-readers, Gizmodo suggests that you won’t find very many, so that might be a problem. Still, if you like Windows enough on the desktop that you’d like to try it out on your phone, this could be the best bargain you’ll find for a while. By all accounts, the hardware is great; it’s just the operating system that might be less desirable.
My brother Alex has a Lumia 950 XL and a Continuum dock he uses with it, about half the size of a deck of cards, and is overall very happy with the phone. He says he doesn’t have too much trouble finding apps for it. About 75% of the ones he finds only have a phone mode, in which case they just open on the phone. The standard installed apps such as Microsoft Office do scale to desktop mode. They’re an “intermediate” version of the apps, without all the same functions as the Windows Intel desktop versions (for example, no access to the Visual Basic backend), but are pretty close. For desktop apps, the phone functions as a touchpad.
He did notice some user-interface issues, such as a conflict between Outlook and Google Contacts. In our Hangouts conversation (which he typed on his docked Lumia) he told me:
It integrates with Outlook and/or Google contacts. I think Outlook is the default, but Google has more options such as custom names for numbers. When I imported, they went willy-nilly and where custom named numbers went into Outlook, they became “mobile” so now I have people with 4 or 5 “mobile” entries and can’t tell which are work, work mobile, mobile, home, husband/wife, etc. for that contact. Most likely the result of wanting to provide a set of services that different people might want, but not having a very robust selection path for them to implement.
Overall, the phone is very fast compared to others I’ve used. It does have some of the standard Windows issues with lockup and reboot, but so did iPhone.
He is also happy about how well OneDrive and OneNote integration works, and thinks that all in all, buying a $649 phone and getting a $549 one free is a pretty good deal. So, if you like Windows and wouldn’t mind getting your hands on a couple of decent phones at a decent price, you might want to check this deal out.