What’s Up With HP’s New Windows Phone?

HP is re-entering the mobile phone market. And if that wasn’t shocking enough, their launch device is going to be a new Windows Phone. And it turns out that the phone has just seen a ton of leaks curtosy of tech2.hu.

But lest you think, “oh, they’re probably going to launch some cheapo phone as a test bed and Windows 10 Mobile happens to be free,” feast your eyes on these beautiful specs.

  • 5.96-inch display @ 2560 x 1440 resolution
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Quad-Core SoC
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB built in storage, MicroSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 16 MP Rear camera / 8 MP Front Camera
  • Iris Scanner & Fingerprint reader w/ Windows Hello Support
  • QI Wireless charging
  • Continuum support
  • USB 3.0 Type-C
  • IP67 rated for dust and water resistance
  • MIL-rating STD810 (Damage resistant up to 1-foot)

HP’s phone, rumored to be called the Elite X3, is being pitched as what is essentially the most powerful and most feature packed Windows Phone to ever grace the earth. For this reason, I’m a bit skeptical about the specs.

For one thing, where the heck is the fingerprint reader supposed to be? That HP logo? I highly doubt it. Also of note, that camera is probably going to be hot trash. I would imagine it’s the same probably discounted sensor that was in last year’s Samsung flagships. But the most important part of imaging is software, and I don’t entirely trust that HP’s going to nail camera algorithms. But based on that single LED flash on the back, I’m guessing that’s not the focus of this device.

But looking around at the front of the device, I’m immediately drawn to what appears to be front-firing Bang&Olfsen branded speakers. Yes please. Although HTC still holds the crown for having the best phone speakers, I’m looking forward to seeing if HP’s speaker technology can compete in the phone arena.

However, I’m worried about that IP67 rating, because I’d imagine a water dunk for this phone will probably kill the speakers. But I could and would be willing to be wrong.

Finally, this phone looks beautiful and pretty thin, but not stupidly thin. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but it does look like there are three buttons on the side, but all collected together. For that reason, and my assumption that the camera is trash, I doubt we’re getting a dedicated camera button. This will probably be an arrangement like the 950XL: Volume Up – Power – Volume Down

How Many X’s?

But, a Windows 10 Mobile device from HP with crazy specs is only interesting to those who happen to like Windows 10 Mobile. Unfortunately, that’s not a lot of people. Everyone’s been talking about the magical Surface Phone that will run traditional (x86) apps and suddenly make Continuum and Windows 10 Mobile make sense. While that may or may not be coming in the future, I think all but the most delusional of fans can believe that one single device will not reverse Microsoft’s futures. They need an ecosystem of partners, developers, and solutions.

And this is where HP comes in. No, this isn’t x86, and it won’t be. For that matter, I’m not convinced that Intel has anything powerful enough to stick in a phone anywhere in the near future. But the thing that keeps catching my attention is the name. Elite X3. X3. What does X3 mean? That’s a weird moniker.

Well, think of HP’s existing product line. They have the Spectre X360, which is a flip-around Yoga-like convertible. They have the Spectre X2, which is a Surface-clone that transforms from a tablet to a laptop. The X2 in that case means two form factors, tablet and laptop.

I think it’s entirely possible that the Elite X3 will re-introduce an old idea from Android, that ASUS has been failing to get to sell well, Three form factors, phone – tablet – laptop.

Yes, this has been tried before, and no it has never worked. But it mostly didn’t work because Android works primarily in one, and arguably two form factors. Phone and tablet. Google is trying to convince people otherwise with their Pixel C this year, but we haven’t seen the sort of runaway success that Surface has enjoyed quite yet.

But Windows 10 Mobile can work in all three form factors. Phone (W10M), Tablet (W10M or W10 Continuum), and laptop (W10 Continuum). The ecosystem equation is always going to be an issue for the consumer side, but that’s not as big of an issue for businesses. Something like this could save money on deployment costs, limit the amount devices IT would have to lock down, and simply a business’ mobile strategy.

This type of 3-form factor device is a natural evolution for the company that created the Surface line, but what’s most important is that the first device we see with this strategy in mind may not be from Microsoft. Perhaps Microsoft has finally found a way to get OEMs into their vision. It just happens that it might be their scared PC OEMs that are hungry to taste the fruit of the mobile market via a post-Blackberry business branch that’s ripe for picking. HP, Dell, ASUS, Lenovo, Acer. These are all companies who have failed to find a way into the mobile market, and perhaps Microsoft’s pitch is enticing enough for them to try.

Whether or not it will work is a question for Father Time and the Soothsayers. It’s also partially irrelevant, because neither Microsoft nor these OEMs really have a choice. The OEMs aren’t going to compete with the likes of Samsung and the less-successful LG for the consumer-focused Android market. And Microsoft has two choices: 1. Find a niche in the mobile market or 2. Get the heck out.

Number 2 is not an option for them yet. So might as well try Number 1 for a while.

Mike Lohnash