MWC 2016 – HP Unveils The Elite X3 Windows Phone

This device has previously been leaked like crazy, but HP came ahead of the buzz today and announced it before the main festivities of MWC. Their new phone will be the Windows 10 Mobile powered Elite X3.

The specs are pretty much exactly what we reported earlier via leaks, but a few additional details have come out since that post:

All the leaked specs have been confirmed, except that the storage has been updated to 64 GB.

But it should be noted that this thing has all of the technology. Keep the following in mind:

  • 6-inch 2K AMOLED panel
  • Latest Snapdragon 820 SoC
  • 4GB of Super-Fast LPDDR4 RAM and 64 GB of really fast eMMC 5.1 internal storage
  • 802.11 2×2 wireless card supporting AC bands and Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • LTE-A support
  • microSD card support up to 2 TB
  • USB 3.0 Type-C
  • Bang&Olfsen audio via front firing speaker
  • NFC support
  • Freaking dual-biometric scanners – Iris Scanner & Fingerprint reader
  • A Massive 4,150 mAh non-removable battery

The non-removable battery would be a bit of a bummer if it wasn’t so freaking huge. Consider that most smartphones of yester-year included a 2,500 – 3,500 mAh battery and the promise that the SD 820 will be more battery efficient, and the fact that Windows 10 Mobile will be on it, and you’ve got a phone that will probably last 1.5 days or even more, unless Qualcomm’s promises are inaccurate. Regardless, it should at least last a full day.

We recently noted that it didn’t look like the fingerprint reader was being shown on the leaked hardware, and this is indeed correct. The leaked hardware is pre-production and does not include the fingerprint reader yet.

Earning the X3 Moniker

The biggest draw of this device, however, is going to be the additional accessories it supports. HP’s “Mobile Extender” is essentially a 12.5-inch laptop-shaped dumb terminal that works as an extended display for the phone. The mobile extender has an interesting hinge design that raises up the keyboard into a more ergonomic raised position, a la Surface Pro keyboard or Spectre X2 keyboard. But it will fold up flat into a super thin package for easy transportation.

While this has been attempted without success before with the Motorola Atrix 4G lapdock and the Palm Foleo, those previous solutions employed a secondary interface layer to provide a “desktop-like” experience, and they didn’t perform all that well. Microsoft’s mobile OS supports three different interfaces natively via its Continuum platform, and it has been proven to work well and seamlessly.

The Mobile Extender will connect with the phone via USB Type-C connector or wirelessly via Miracast.

HP will also offer the Desk Dock accessory which looks exactly like Microsoft’s Continuum dock, except that the phone will dock in the top of the unit, rather than needing to plug in via a USB-C cable.

By the way, the Desk Dock also supports Quick Charge 3.0 for a super-fast top up.

HP Workspace

Microsoft’s desktop-style Continuum mode only supports Universal Apps, which is an unfortunately small subset of the already small Windows 10 Mobile app store. But HP is unveiling an interesting way to try to get around this problem.

HP Workspace is a platform of enterprise-focused x86 apps that are hosted in the cloud and authenticated via Active Directory. Each x86 app that’s connected will have its own tile in the Continuum start menu. When one of these x86 apps is launched when docked, the phone will establish a VPN connection to the datacenter and launch the virtualized application in a separate window.

For those hoping HP Workspace is finally a solution to Microsoft’s app gap, keep in mind that HP Workspace only supports a small subset of popular Enterprise applications, most of which were originally written for Windows XP. This is a great boon for business and the enterprise, but the average consumer will likely have absolutely no use for something like HP Workspace. I would also imagine that HP Workspace will require license fees for the individual applications.

Will it Work?

Let’s look into the crystal ball a little bit here. Obviously, the biggest indication of how it’ll work is going to be price. Considering the specs, the build quality, and the amount of accessories, and the fact that this is very much enterprise focused, and the fact that this is HP, it’ll probably be exceedingly expensive. However, it’ll be cheaper than what it’d cost for a company to buy an employee a business laptop and an iPhone. Currently, we don’t know what that price is going to be, but I’m guessing it’s going to be over $1,000.

And I think that’s the key point here. This phone is not geared for normal consumers like me. This is geared towards a business. Even when talking about the front-firing speakers, a feature that is definitely a huge consumer demand, HP only talked about the fact that it was optimized for Skype video conferencing.

Windows 10 Mobile was never going to see huge consumer adoption, and this has been proven with two more consumer-driven versions of the OS. But I think this is a smart idea for both Microsoft and HP. The Bring Your Own Device model has made iPhone the dominant platform of choice for businesses, but I don’t think it’s the ideal platform for businesses. Many companies still provide phones and laptops to mobile employees, and having multiple devices with different OSes can be a pain and causes additional expense for IT admins. This is a smart way to simplify mobile business technology while expanding the feature set currently available with the established standard.

But those of us who love Windows Phone and want to see it succeed have to hope that this device will cause an inevitable “trickle-down” to the consumer level. iPhone was probably a rare case of a technology that “trickled” up from consumers to business, but in most cases, new expensive technology starts at the enterprise and eventually becomes available for consumers.

The success of the Surface Pro over traditional tablets proved that there’s room for the consumer industry to move beyond the standard laptop, and maybe this kind of unification around a single mobile device is the future. But that will all depend on whether businesses adopt this kind of device or not. I’d expect that HP won’t be the only provider offering something like this, and it’ll interesting to see all the different implementations we’ll eventually see.

But it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this device performs once it ships in the summer.

Mike Lohnash