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I returned to Windows 10 Mobile and the HP Elite x3 — here's what I learned

Windows 10 Mobile Home screen
Windows 10 Mobile Home screen (Image credit: Windows Central)

HP Elite x3

HP Elite x3 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

For the longest time, I was a Windows phone user. I used Windows Mobile devices, and I used Windows Phone devices. I flirted with iOS and Android devices through the years, but at the end of the day, I'd always return to a Windows-based phone. That was, until, Microsoft announced that it was no longer planning to continue work on its mobile platform.

The mobile device you choose to carry is a significant choice in modern life. It's the bit of tech you choose to bring with you everywhere you go; that you trust will keep you connected and safe, and is there for you if you get lost, stranded, or worse.

The mobile platform I chose was put to bed last year, with no new hardware or software features planned. As such, when Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Windows 10, Joe Belfiore, confirmed that Windows 10 Mobile was no longer of "focus" to Microsoft, I threw in the towel. I've used both iOS and Android devices since then, and I can't say I've found my new home yet. Nothing I've used has been a full-time replacement for my Windows phones.

So, after over a year of hunting for my next true mobile companion, I've temporarily given up the search to go back "home." I jokingly called this Windows 10 Mobile's last voyage, but in a funny way, it's true. Outside of security updates, Windows 10 Mobile is no longer being maintained, meaning there are some issues that are starting to arise.

Returning to Windows 10 Mobile

I was initially planning to return to Windows 10 Mobile with Microsoft's first, and last, smartphone flagship: the Lumia 950 XL. Released in 2015, the Lumia 950 XL is a 5.7-inch phone with a Snapdragon 810, 3GB RAM, and a 20MP camera, which was excellent. These specs were more than fine for a 2015 flagship, but in 2018, it's ... not.

The reason I didn't stick with the Lumia 950 XL on my final voyage was because of the battery. I'm not sure when it happened, but one of the cumulative updates for Windows 10 Mobile released in the last year has severely degraded battery life on the platform as a whole. Everything from the Wileyfox Pro to the Alcatel Idol 4 Pro is suffering from terrible battery life for me.

The Lumia 950 XL wasn't able to get me through a day. I ordered a new battery to see if that'd fix the problem, but it didn't. The Wileyfox Pro, which I assume was manufactured within the last year, also suffers from poor battery life. So it's not aging batteries that are causing these battery issues.

If I was going to be relying on this phone as my primary device, I needed it to last a full day. So, I switched on the HP Elite x3. Now, when we first reviewed this Windows phone back in 2016, it was a two-day phone. In 2018, it's a one day phone, thanks to these apparent battery issues going on with Windows 10 Mobile.

HP Elite x3 in 2018

I honestly forgot how great a phone the HP Elite x3 is. When it launched in 2016, it did so with many issues surrounding its not so great camera, and a Windows 10 Mobile that was still pretty buggy. It wasn't until the Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update that the HP Elite x3 became a usable phone. It was a true flagship with everything to offer.

Featuring a 6-inch 1440p OLED display, a massive 4000mAh battery, a Snapdragon 820 processor, both fingerprint and iris recognition for security, and front-facing speakers, this was a 2016 flagship in its truest form. Most of what the Elite x3 offered in 2016 still holds up today in 2018. Its screen is absolutely gorgeous, rivaling that of most flagship displays available in 2018.

Even little stuff like its haptic feedback motor is fantastic. It's the tightest, cleanest vibration motor on a Windows phone and is even better than most Android phones I've tried in the last year. But it's still nowhere near as good as the iPhone.

Some things just don't hold up in 2018, however, mainly with that camera. In the last two years, smartphone cameras have improved two-fold, and the HP Elite x3's camera was not superb even when it launched. It takes OK photos in ideal scenarios, but low-light photography is a rough time, and the camera app itself is just slow compared to the latest iPhone and Android devices.

The fingerprint and iris scanner are also two parts of the phone that don't hold up in 2018. The fingerprint reader especially is the slowest fingerprint reader that has ever existed on a smartphone. The fingerprint module is no different from what other flagship makers were using in 2016, but for some reason, the OS is just so slow at picking it up and logging you in.

Overall, I think for the most part the Elite x3 still holds up for me in 2018. I love its design and hardware, and while the Snapdragon 820 is a little old now, it's still competent.

Windows 10 Mobile in 2018

I've been using the HP Elite x3 and Windows 10 Mobile for a few weeks now, and I'm happy I went back. It's been awesome coming back to this platform and remembering why I chose it. The Start Screen is still a fresh take on what phone home screens can be, and it's super awesome being able to use the same apps on your PC directly on your phone.

I'm already using many universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps on my PC, and it's great to able to use those same apps on the go too. Outlook Mail, Microsoft To-Do, Edge, even Twitter, are the same across PC and phone. The Microsoft Store has also been updated with the new design on phones that lets you install apps on your other devices, so when I'm out I can tell the Store to install an app on my PC or vice versa.

There are some issues, but overall, I've been loving going back to using UWP apps on the go with Windows 10 Mobile. Using your Microsoft Account, many apps will sync your sign-in data from your PC to your phone, meaning apps like myTube and Readit won't ask you to log in again if you've already done it before.

I also really like how Cortana still syncs your notifications to your PC, meaning I don't have to look at my phone every time a notification comes through. For some reason, Microsoft is removing this feature from the Cortana app on Android and iOS, and it's something I really miss.

The Insider Program is still active, and while it doesn't provide new Insider Preview builds anymore, it does give you access to Insider versions of UWP apps in the Store, assuming they still run on Windows 10 Mobile.

The Office Mobile apps are still excellent lightweight versions of Office for mobile phones. I even use these apps on my PCs. OneNote is still fantastic and remains up to date, as does Microsoft's new To Do app which has an excellent UWP app that works just fine on mobile.

It's not all roses

Windows 10 Mobile in 2018 is by no means a perfect experience, and I'd argue it's gotten worse since last year. Windows 10 Mobile is now in a state where no one is really maintaining it. Microsoft is only servicing Windows 10 Mobile with security updates, meaning it's rare to see any actual Windows 10 Mobile-specific bugs be fixed in the monthly patches.

I've also noticed that some of Microsoft's UWP apps now aren't always focused on ensuring that experience works well on Mobile. The most notable of which is the new Microsoft Store app, which now requires you to tap on an arrow to navigate through categories, rather than swiping through them, which is much more natural. It's also worth noting that any app that uses any real Fluent Design effects is usually pretty laggy.

A bigger issue with Windows 10 Mobile in 2018 is the lack of apps, which is only going to get worse as old Windows Phone 8 apps are pulled or stop working, and as UWP apps move on to support newer versions of Windows 10. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) do run on Windows 10 Mobile, albeit very poorly. This is because Microsoft's implementation of PWA support on Windows 10 Mobile was never finished.

PWA also doesn't support service workers on mobile, meaning things like push notifications don't work on the platform. As such, apps like Twitter won't inform you when you receive a new tweet or message. PWAs on mobile also eat battery life like no other app I've ever seen, meaning if you're a heavy user of Twitter, Windows 10 Mobile is a rough place to be now.

Spotify is dog-awful and shouldn't be used at all. It's a slow mess that isn't even supported technically. It still works but is very buggy. On the flipside-ish, Slack is an app on Windows 10 Mobile that still works great, is fast, smooth, and functions as it should. Slack has abandoned its Windows Phone app too, but at least their app works well. Unlike Spotify.

The Instagram app on Windows 10 Mobile is a very mixed bag. It's a perfectly capable app if you don't use Instagram Stories, but the Instagram Stories feature itself is a total mess. It's laggy, slow, and basically unusable.

Edge is still pretty great, but it's not without some really frustrating issues; primarily the issue which sees the keyboard stop working when tapping on text boxes like the Google Search box.

Cortana on Windows 10 Mobile has more or less been left behind. It's still using the old Notebook design and hasn't been updated with any of the Timeline specific features added in the recent Windows 10 updates on PCs.

Final thoughts on my final voyage

I'm delighted that I went back to Windows 10 Mobile these last few weeks. I've loved every minute of it. It's been great to experience that Start Screen and UWP apps on the go again, reminding me of what it would've been like had Microsoft been successful in its push for true universal apps. I still believe there is a future for universal apps on Windows because the proof is in the pudding. The good UWP apps work great on both PC and phones, including Microsoft To Do, Outlook Mail, Fitbit, myTube, Readit, and OneNote.

However, Microsoft's abandonment of Windows 10 Mobile is very apparent in 2018. When compared with Android and iOS, Windows 10 Mobile is just so slow and is starting to miss out on new features that other platforms are introducing. While I personally enjoyed my time back on the platform, I can't say it's an overall "enjoyable" experience anymore.

Weirdly, using Windows 10 Mobile in 2018 feels a little like digital detoxing. Apps are slower, and apps like Twitter don't even work with notifications anymore, meaning I'm much less inclined to pick up my phone and use it. So I was using my phone less, which felt pretty good actually.

Android and iOS are much better choices for me in 2018 than Windows 10 Mobile is, and that's to be expected. When I left Windows 10 Mobile in 2017, it was still basically on par with iOS and Android, but that's no longer the case in 2018. I'm going to be picking up the OnePlus 6T next week, with plans to make it my primary phone with all of Microsoft's Android apps onboard.

Windows 10 Mobile, it's been emotional. And it's time for me to say goodbye, for real this time. But I hope Microsoft returns to making mobile devices with Windows one day, and I'll be first in line if it does.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

247 Comments
  • Continue the journey. Go back to Windows Phone 7!
  • Why stop there. Go 95 and pick up a Palm with Windows CE
  • Brb, installing MSDOS 6.2
  • CP/M and the Microsoft Z80 for me.
  • Pffffftt. PDP 11 all the way.
  • You actually can, install MS-DOS Mobile from the Store and have fun. It was an April Fools joke Microsoft released to Windows Phone a few years back and is still in the store.
  • I'd need a Windows phone first lol. Was it actually functional or did it just look like DOS? Can it actually run old DOS programs?
  • The Dos app was basically a joke launcher, you could type in commands and run apps that were installed on the phone. Not much more than that. It had a funny 8bit version of the camera app.
  • The camera would take pictures in ascii art or cga 4 color resolution. There is a stupid rock paper scissor game and a fake Windows 3.1. Tapping the Internet icon would make the dialup modem sound before launching the browser. A nice bit of fun for some time.
  • I am "continue" using Lumia 1020 and 810 my wife Lumia 640!
    Journey so far is good!
  • I'm here with my 950xl.
  • Me as well. Love that phone more than ever now.
  • Still, the best looking, and most intuitive, smartphone OS to date. It's stupid we can't have it.
  • In the real world Window phones looked cluttered and busy. If you were used to simple icons, Live Tiles weren't intuitive, they were actually quite the opposite. Flashy, annoying and useless when compared with full function widgets. Live Tiles were a turn off for normal people and power users. Only the biggest fanboys pretended to like them. If Windows phone really was the best looking and most intuitive, it wouldn't have been completely ignored by the whole world. Windows phone was a huge stumble for Microsoft. It was a nearly perfect example of what not to create. Microsoft should remove any resemblance to Windows phone and Windows 8 from all future product.
  • I see you're still spouting the same old crap here.
    Let me guess: "Microsoft didn't let OEMs customize the UI hurr durr" was too stale to mention this time? "If Windows phone really was the best looking and most intuitive, it wouldn't have been completely ignored by the whole world." Actual, pure crap. There was one reason and one reason only for why WP didn't succeed, and that was being 3.5 years late to market. One only needs to look at Android's UX around the time the first iOS was released to realize the world basically didn't have a proper iOS response until WP7 was released. What Microsoft should do in future versions is to bring back heavy use of Live Tiles plus improvements to them into any touch related area - like tablet mode - plus the ground-breaking tablet UX of Windows 8 that was inspired by Windows Phone.
  • Future of a mobile first Microsoft OS should be the ideas from Microsoft Launcher with its lovely fresh and clean design combined(!) with a modern version of Live tiles (interactive tiles you remember?!) with more options to customize it and design it for your taste. 🤗😍 Of course it doesn't have to be important what device you prefer. Should doesn't matter at all and as soon as possible. Sent by Lumia 1520 it's a exciting time for being a Microsoft-Enthusiast.
    (Greetings from #neuland Germany. Internet is a new thing for our government🤦😭 but not for us - digital world is the present and the future) goMicrosoft
  • I'm trying Microsoft Launcher now for 2 Weeks - and it just has the issue of all the other Android Launchers: It provides very little information when you just look at the home screen.
    I have really given it a try, but i will go back to Squarehome. It not real live tiles, but it's as close as you can get with Android.
  • yup, totally agree
  • When you are at work this week, make a recommendation that the company bring back its two biggest failures. See how that goes over.
  • I am not a fanboy and don't pretend I like the live tiles: I love them. The first thing I did when getting my Android phone was to install Launcher 10, far better than the usual Android launchers, not to mention the outdated iOS launcher that looks like a crippled Windows 95 desktop.
  • You could try Microsoft Launcher in combination with launcher 10! - then you have a nice picture what could be (hopefully) the future of mobile first Microsoft OS. I replaced everything was being replaceable in android with Microsoft. It could be the next step to get a Microsoft android completely without google! That would be great and a huge step for any user because of freedom of choice instead android and ios duopol.
  • You can have that fairly easily today. Find a well supported Lineage phone and don't install the Google Apps. Your current phone may work fine. Throw on the Amazon store and you are all set.
  • You need the Playstore one time to get the bought version of Squarehome or Launcher 10.
  • You may also want to navigate over to f-droid (f-droid.org) and download the f-droid store. It is FOSS and there are a lot of apps.
  • Thanks for the Launcher 10 recommendation...so glad that I can now relive the WP10 experience on Android
  • If you like widgets that just showered you random information with no interactivity or further function, just wait until you use fully functional widgets. Live Tiles were useless. Even if they randomly showed you something interesting, there was no way to directly access that content. You just hoped it was there when you opened the app. Nothing more frustrating than seeing an article or post on a tile and then not being about to find it. Live tiles flopped for a reason.
  • A reminder of the the one thing I didn't like about Windows platform. Bleached copy/pasting his nonstop bashing of his opinion, disguised as fact.
  • If you look at Windows Phones, they where reasonably popular comparing to their prices (problem at start) and distribution (problem at start and end). So really there is no proof that interface was good and bad, most people never even come to think about the interface when they had other choices for other reasons.
  • And Samsung had a tight grip on the bit stores (like Mediamarkt and Saturn in Europe, BestBuy in US ...). It was really hard to tell them that you really don't want ****** android.
  • Samsung made Windows phones. People didn't want them either, and the ones that did buy them returned them at a high rate. Shop employees didn't push Windows phones because they knew they would be returned.
  • I agree, I miss it all the time. When I use my Android I just smh because Windows Phone was so much better.
  • Sad I know, but MS stock prices have been absolutely killing it since killing off W10M. And profit is all that matters at the end of the day. We have Nadella to thank for making the tough decisions that have benefited our portfolios. Microsoft is way better off as a corporation with a single minded focus on Azure and Office 365. As hard as a pill it is to swallow, Nadella should keep on doing the absolute minimum he can to support Windows. CIOs will buy it anyway. That's what the last few years have proved. He has the enterprise in a stranglehold with Windows. They have to buy it warts and all. There's no alternative, and he know it. He's absolutely right in pouring all their resources into Azure and Office 365. Killing W10M was an act of genius.
  • @Ferris Bueller That's a recipe for FAILURE... you're blabbing there my friend.
  • You're totally right
  • Windows Mobile is dead. Violated so many users. Will you trust windows mobile the third time ?
  • I have one note for you Zac. Use 1shot pro. It gives the elite the hdr shots of the Lumia, it allows u to use the full 16mp which the windows camera lacks, and you get really amazing low light images with out loosing manual camera and video control in the same app. It does not properly launch the photos app but other than that even on Lumia its better and it has been kept up to date.
  • I too left only recently and missed it. But with my new Sony Xperia and Launcher10.. Its like I never left.
  • Thanks for the tip! I have an HP X3 and the default camera app is so terrible!
  • Just installed 1shot pro on my X3. Resolution is still limited to 10mp though. Otherwise I like it. Installed it on my backup L830 as well.
  • Noticed on my 950xl that full megapixel use is when configuring to take pictures in 4x3 ratio instead of 16x9. I suppose the eye of the camera is 4x3 so using 16x9 would crop the input into the camera.
  • I'm still running Windows 10 Mobile. I have a hard time moving to other platforms because they fall so short in simple ways. Android is too Google and quite frankly, I have no interest in having the most personal piece of tech one owns powered by a company where you're what's for sale. Then iOS still feels like a Palm Pilot to me. As highlighted here, if you're a Windows 10 user, W10M does such a great job of being a part of your tech with notifications and apps working across devices. And that was the kicker for me. It's a part of my tech environment, serving as an extension of everything I use. It's not the center of my tech environment. I love that.
  • Plus you don't need to drop $800+ on a phone with a glass back. Don't get me started with Google and Apple's globalism crap. How about the fact that everything Google has privacy issues. Not to mention, many malicious apps in the Play store. Making a special crippled search engine for China??? I'll stay with my Elite x3. Glass back, really?!?
  • I thought I was alone in everything you've said about your sentiment for WPM.
  • Most of the world doesn't care about security.
    You privacy freaks will get marginalised more and more...
  • Maybe they do. Maybe that is why they are using Android so heavily. https://www.blog.google/products/android-enterprise/gartners-analysis-pr...
  • Upgraded to an Elite X3 from my trusty old 822 about a year ago. While the phone actually seems to work better now than when it was new (maybe I'm just used to it), it is getting harder and harder with the app experience slowly diminishing. I agree with Zac on the camera, but I have no problem with the fingerprint reader being slow. Don't currently use the iris scanner. While I am trying to hang on to W10M as long as possible, I don't think I'll be able to make it to 2020 without switching.
  • I'm on my 1520, and I'm not planing to change it until it dies (hopefully not anytime soon, don't wanna waste money), or something actually worth switching to shows up. But I guess I'll probably hold out with it even in 2020 lol.
    For me the app situation has always been ok. TBH I'm not that demanding in regards to apps - I don't use bank apps, I try to bring social media usage to a minimum, and I'm not trying so solve everything with my phone (i.e. there has to be an app for everything, and I have to use it). So WP actually does wonders for me.
  • Best phone ever made. I am using a 950 because my 1520 was stolen two years ago. I really miss it.
  • Best phone I ever had. Really miss my 1520 (screen disintegrated two years ago). Went back to Android little more than a year ago, but have lost all interest in phones. I was disappointed to see that Android was still the same messy OS I left 4 years prior.
    As Zac mentioned; if MS ever decides to release a device that can function as a phone, I'll ditch Android in a heartbeat!
  • I have recently done this same thing. I was on Android and switched back to Windows. (950 to be exact) Honestly the only thing that made that switch a possibility for me was getting the Surface LTE.
    Once I was always connected and had all day battery life on my Surface, my phone suddenly got a LOT less important to me. All I needed it for is calls, SMS, emails, calendar, and the odd search. So I switched back. With Cortana syncing things up for me, it makes the 950 a perfect companion for the Surface. Like a pager for my PC.
    In the end, all Microsoft really has to do is pull their head out of their @$$ and enable telephony on Windows 10 PCs and I wont even care if I carry this tiny second screen anymore. Thanks for this write up, Zac
  • Kingtigre, which version of surface LTE do you have? I have the Surface 3 LTE version.
  • Surface Pro (5) w/LTE advanced. LOVE this device.
    Would've done the Go if it had launched with LTE. Should have been a day 1 launch for that LTE variant.
    I was SO close to getting the 3.
  • Thanks, is it an unlocked LTE surface 5, I have T-Mobile.
  • It is. Bought at the Las Vegas Microsoft store. Got a $20/mo line from T-Mobile. Was pulling over 80mbps in Las Vegas. 25mbps in my town. No complaints. Just as good as my home internet...only...you know...everywhere.
  • Completely on board with that. Actually, the Cortana notification integration, SMS with Skype, and calls are all I really need in a phone when I have a computer with LTE.
  • For sure! It's not for everyone. I think it boils down to "What apps do you actually use?" I don't use a lot of them...or more accurately, I used apps that try to do things I use my PC for.
  • I moved on to iPhoneX last November but still carry by my 950 due to one reason only. Being able to record phone calls. I have an app on iPhone which does it but it required I call a third line and then merge the calls to be able to record. Its not the same and I think Apple did not release the API which would allow to record calls directly to the phone.
  • Carry two phones because of your Scrooge vendetta?
    😂
  • It really does bug me that Windows 10 Mobile didn't make the cut as a third option in the mobile OS space. I'm not saying this out of fanboy-ism. It's just that people need choice, and given the price one pays to have iOS, a lot of users find themselves choiceless because the only thing out there is Android. That's never a good thing. At this point I just want *something* to become a third option. It doesn't need to be W10M, just something that can be an alternative to those people who don't like/can afford the two choices they have right now.
  • Completely agree Bruno. Besides loving the OS of WM more than anything, I can't understand why the world is OK with a duopoly - since when is that ever a good thing for anyone?!
  • The World?
    Broseph please, Europe, India and South Africa treated WM well.
    But guess which company shat on us to be US centered?
    This is on MS not "The World" .
  • Yes, the world. This is not on ms. They both clearly agreed that they care about it being a third option and not necessarily having that third option bc wm. The world shut out other os's. READ!
  • Can't unterstand why monopolies and duopolies get accepted from the mainstream 🤦 it's dangerous especially mobile market has too much impact of other markets. It should get way more customer choices in this overhyped market. The same with browser and search engine. Monopoly is very very bad.
  • Upvoting your sentiment. And MS is about the only company that could pull it off. I do wish they'd get over themselves and just realize that they don't have to be #1... or even #2. A Surface phone would be a success if only a million total units are sold. But I know it would do better than that. It would assuredly be the fleet phone of choice for many enterprises.
  • Since when has Enterprise been early adopters? It would take years before they would even look at a new Windows phone. They aren't going to invest into a new platform until it has proven itself.
  • I'm still using an HP X3 and it's funny to hear you say it's slow. I have never used any of the other platform's flagships so my baseline is Windows Phones. The HP seems fast to me, but I might not know what fast really is because of my limited experience. Haha! I love this phone and I cannot give it up. It is so amazing.
  • Tech reviewers are just spoiled. A lot. Though I won't put the whole blame on them, I guess it's easy to get spoiled when you get to review newest devices all the time.
    I do agree with you. The x3 probably isn't slow. I haven't used it, but my 1520 has an "even slower" Snapdragon 800 which is actually really fast. I've never said wow my phone is slow while using it. Messaging, web browsing, most well written and optimised apps, anything about photos and videos, Office, it all works just as you would expect it. Maybe it's not instant, but I don't mind waiting half a second for something to load.
  • Does anyone two-way sync contacts between Windows Mobile and Windows Desktop? I have few older relatives who use 640XL and 650 respectively and for the life of mine I could not figure out how to make it sync from the phone upstream :(
  • I'm not sure how to do that, but contact info should be stored in their preferred email client. I lost my iPhone 3G years ago and 99% of my contacts with it. Since then I've synced my contacts from Gmail to iOS, Windows Mobile, and now Android without issues.
  • Erm... contact info is stored in the People application on the Windows Phone. I have no idea what iPhone 3G did in its time, but I would expect it to be a little different.
  • If you are signed into the same outlook/live email account through your pc and your windows mobile device, then it should sync your contacts through the internet to your email account that would show up on your windows 10 pc's people app, here are some solutions for the Issues that may prevent this from happening : some cases like using a metered network or battery saver mode may prevent you from sync'ing contacts so make sure you aren't on metered network mode or on battery saver mode(for both pc and mobile) until you see the contacts sync'd up on your peoples app in your pc.
  • I haven't had to do that for quite some time, and w