Microsoft March madness update: Switching phones and making returns

It's been almost two weeks since I started the month with Microsoft evaluation, but I'm making a couple of changes while continuing on with Microsoft for mobile.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I'm now a couple weeks into my month with Microsoft products and have a few changes to my lineup and recent experiences to share. My primary T-Mobile SIM continues to live in a Windows 10 Phone, which has proven to be the biggest challenge for me.

Phone change

I made a decision yesterday to return the Lumia 950 XL. As I wrote in my full review, the hardware is pretty dull and I tired of holding it close to my face to unlock it. Mozo can't seem to make enough cases and the leather one I ordered continues to get pushed out to some future possible delivery date.

There were a couple lockups and while the camera is excellent, I pulled out my Lumia 830 and find that hardware much more compelling than the 950 XL. Since I can also update that to the latest Windows 10 Mobile software, I couldn't justify the $600+ to keep the 950 XL in my collection and am sending it back. The Lumia 830 is all setup now and performing well.

Universal apps are an eye-opener

At first I was concerned about the app gap on Windows 10 Mobile, primarily as it relates to banks dropping support for Microsoft's mobile platform. However, I discovered that the promise of Windows 10 universal apps is starting to be a reality. USAA and American Express both now have Windows 10 universal apps so I can conduct most of my banking on the Lumia 830. The apps still are not as good as on iOS and Android, but you can get by.

We also recently saw Instagram for Windows 10 launch across Microsoft's mobile platforms. There are very few essential apps missing on Windows 10 Mobile, but I would still like to see the quality and depth of the application experience improve over time.

Microsoft March madness mobile image gallery

Traveling with Continuum

Based on a request from a reader, I purchased a Display Dock for the Lumia 950 XL and took it with me on a trip to New Orleans last week. I brought the Lumia 950 XL, the dock, an HDMI cable, the USB Type-C charger, a USB Type-C cable, my Bluetooth Arc mouse, and a Bluetooth mobile keyboard. All of this gear actually ended up being more than just taking along the Surface Pro 4 and a Type Cover.

I hooked up the Lumia 950 XL to my hotel LG TV to try to use the phone as the central hub to get work done. There were several apps supported by Continuum and the dock, but many more that were inaccessible for use on the big display. The trackpad functionality of the phone was more frustrating than useful while the Bluetooth mouse worked well.

The entire experience was acceptable, but response showed a bit of lag and it wasn't anywhere close to as productive an experience as I have directly on the Surface Pro 4. For myself, I could never see an actual usage scenario when I would choose to use Continuum, beyond a cool technology demo, so I'm returning the Display Dock as well.

Surface Pro 4 not perfect yet

My Surface Pro 3 performed flawlessly with Windows 10, after Microsoft resolved its Mail client failures. However, I'm finding a few minor issues with the Surface Pro 4 that require me to perform a reset. I bought the new Surface Dock hub accessory and often have to restart to get my secondary display to appear.

I also went back to using a Bluetooth keyboard rather than the Type Cover while using the Surface Pro 4 with the Surface Dock since the Type Cover regularly decided to stop working. I cannot use the Type Cover trackpad or keys to do anything with the connected Surface Pro 4 so gave up on trying to save a bit of desk space with the Type Cover.

The Dell XPS 12 is being returned as I just don't have the time to focus on using it and the Surface Pro 4. The XPS 12 2-in-1 is an excellent alternative to the Surface Pro 4 and I may try to get one for my engineering work when my Dell laptop is replaced.

Microsoft Band 2 battery is frustrating

The Band 2 continues to capture lots of data and get regular Microsoft Health updates. Actually, the latest Health app update for the Lumia 950 XL resulted in the inability to connect the Band 2 at all so that's another reason I went back to the Lumia 830.

One thing about using the Band 2 as my primary wearable is that I discovered how the battery life impacts my usage. If I wear the Band 2 all day long, then I need to charge it before running and tracking a run with GPS while also charging it after the run to be able to track my sleep. Thus, I am finding I need to charge it from one to three times a day. This has resulted in a couple of days of missed sleep or missed step tracking and has resulted in way too much thinking about the battery status of the Band 2.

If I gave up on sleep tracking, then I could charge it once a day. Actually, that would be twice a day if I went for my one hour run too. I'm finding that having a device for activity tracking and another just for running is probably a better approach to tracking my life. I am continuing to use the Band 2 while also testing out the Fitbit Blaze on my other wrist.

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