Dear Microsoft: Please bring double-tap-to-wake to the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL

As indicated in our reviews of the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, the Lumia 950 series of flagships is made of solid, well-rounded, if not spectacularly dazzling, smartphones. The Windows 10 Mobile OS pre-installed on these devices could use some more polish, but if things play well between the insider builds and Microsoft's new rapid development cadence with Windows 10, we should soon have software that matches the hardware. As such, the Lumia 950 series seems to be the culmination of everything the Lumia lineup has worked for, and the next logical upgrade for Lumia device users.

Right up until you start using the phone, and realize it no longer has the double-tap-to-wake feature.

Yeah, you heard me.

Yeah, you heard me.

For those unfamiliar with the feature, when your phone is locked, you can double tap the screen and it'll wake it up as though you pressed the power button. In addition to being a very quiet and seamless way to interact with your phone, it also saves wear and tear on your power button, of which my Lumia 1520's just broke after two years of strenuous use. I literally would not be able to interact with my Lumia 1520 without this feature.

As seen in Windows Phone 8.

As seen in Windows Phone 8.

The only downside to this feature is that it drains your battery slightly more. A drain that in my experience, has negligible consequences, especially on phones with beefy batteries like the Lumia 950 twins.

Such a move to omit desirable features from Lumia flagships is not without precedent. The Lumia 925, unlike it's 920 series siblings, omitted Qi wireless charging, and required a separate back cover to add the feature. The Lumia 930 (or Lumia Icon for US users), the Lumia 950's direct predecessor, omitted the Glance Screen, which in my humble opinion is an even more heinous omission than what we're discussing today. Those omissions, for better or worse, were the results of tangible technical limitations.

I see no such limitations with the Lumia 950 twins. Nor do I see any attempt to explain or excuse this omission. Which suggests to me that it's possible.

Why would Microsoft choose to omit this feature? I asked Microsoft for an explanation but have not yet been granted one. I can think of the following reasons (all of which are pure speculation at this point)

  1. It requires further Windows 10 Mobile optimization - this is not a convincing one, as non-950 devices running Windows 10 Mobile builds have had access to this feature for a while now. And if this were the reason, I don't see why Microsoft would not just say so, and tell us it's coming eventually. The company seems perfectly okay doing so with Edge and extensions.
  2. Microsoft doesn't feel compelled to add this feature since none of its competitors have it - again, why would Microsoft cripple its own advantages over its competitors? Well, why would Microsoft take away its free 15GB OneDrive promotions? Why does Microsoft systematically develop more apps and features for other platforms over its own? You never know with Microsoft. There might be a more sensible explanation though. As I understand it, Android devices have once had this feature, but have since had it removed in newer devices and candy operating systems. This suggests there might be some deck shuffling going on behind the scenes that's compelling all the major smartphone makers to omit this feature.
  3. The 950 series of hardware is incapable of using this feature - The explanation I dread the most. If this is the reason, I'm sorely disappointed, and regret buying a Lumia 950, if only because after all this time, and all this anticipation, we're getting yet another "flagship" that doesn't deliver the best Windows experience Microsoft can provide.

While the 950 series doesn't have double-tap-to-wake, it does have the double-tap-the-nav-bar-to-sleep. I've heard many readers pine that this "proves" the hardware is capable of doing so, but I don't see it that way. For one, the screen is already "on", so doing a double-tap gesture while the screen is on is no different that interacting with the screen normally. Interacting with the screen while it's off or in a sleeping state is another matter entirely.

I believe the Lumia 950 flagships can use this feature. But why they don't remains to be seen. Bottom line is, us Lumia and Windows Phone fans have waited a long time for these flagships. And it's heart-rending to pay top dollar for a flagship that's lacking features found in its lower-end siblings. It's like paying for a Mercedes-Benz S-Class that doesn't have automatic climate-controlled air conditioning.

Update: removed an inaccurate claim about the way the phone detects proximity. Thanks Matt.

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