On its MSDN web site, Microsoft clarifies how it will segregate the market for Windows 10 Mobile handsets into three primary areas of focus: Value phones, premium phones and value phablets.
Note: Thanks to Sarkis C. for tipping me off to this information early yesterday. I was traveling, so I’m only now able to write it up. –Paul
“Smartphones come in a wide range of sizes from low cost phones, small tablets (phablets) and industrial handheld devices,” Microsoft helpfully explains. “A typical smartphone combines cellular connectivity, a touch screen, rechargeable power source, and other components into a single chassis. Windows 10 Mobile can support a wide range of small form factors devices.”
In a list it describes as “a few recommended hardware configurations,” Microsoft explains which components and features make up each of those three types of Windows 10 Mobile-based smart phones. As you should expect, all three will support Cortana, and only the premium handsets and value phablets can support Windows Hello face unlock. Likewise, only premium phones will support Continuum, which I’ve described as Windows 10 Mobile’s key differentiator against Android and iOS. That further emphasizes low little impact this niche feature will really have on Windows phones, since the volume sales of these devices will be value phones and phablets.
The most curious thing here, perhaps, is the phrase “value phablets.” This seems to suggest that the firm has no faith in a premium phablet-type device. Obviously, one of Microsoft’s upcoming Lumia handsets, the 950 XL, is a premium phablet as it features a large 5.7-inch screen and an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor. But I suspect Microsoft is steering away others from this money-losing market segment here. That is, there is some money to be made with value phablets, like the excellent Lumia 640 XL. But not with premium phablets.
In Microsoft’s view, the phones break down like so:
A value phone is low-cost, features an entry-level chipset, 1 GB of RAM, 4 or 8 GB of storage with microSD expansion, a 3.5- to 5-inch WVGA -FWVGA-qHD screen, and a 5 megapixel camera.
A premium phone offers a “premium” chipset, 2 to 4 GB of RAM, 32 to 64 GB of storage with microSD expansion, a 4.5- to 5.5-inch FHD to WQHD display, a 20 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and flash, and a 5 MP front-facing camera. This almost perfectly describes the Lumia 950.
A value phablet, meanwhile, provides a “mid-tier” chipset, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage with microSD expansion, a 5.5- to 7-inch 720p display, a 5 megapixel camera, and a .3 MP front-facing camera. That 7-inch bit is kind of interesting.
In a related page on MSDN, Microsoft also describes how Windows Hello biometrics will work on Windows 10 Mobile. The following choices are available.
IR camera face authentication. This is “an enterprise grade identity verification mechanism that … utilizes a camera specially configured for 2D, near-infrared (IR) imaging to authenticate and unlock Windows devices and to unlock your Microsoft Passport. The system is designed assuming that images of you can be easily obtained. By building on Microsoft Passport and advanced camera technology, we utilize a variety of factors to ensure that your data stays secure.”
Fingerprint reader. This utilizes a touch sensor (not a swipe strip) with an optional “liveness detector” (yes, really) that “provides a minimum of one of the anti-spoofing measures based on the fingerprint sensor specification.”