Windows 10 Mobile is nearing the official end of its life, with support slated to end pretty soon. Unofficially, it has been in an undead, zombie-like state, with residual app support from the occasional UWP update, from the remaining devs still passionate about the platform and its users.
I was clearing out some closets today and came upon my old HP Elite x3, which was the last Windows-based phone I used before fleeing for the green pastures of Android. I purchased the HP Elite x3, slightly begrudgingly, desperate to feel some form of life in the cold digital bones of this dying OS. Initially, I really enjoyed the HP Elite x3 (which is still semi-available, being sold at absurd prices on Amazon. Later, though, it was pretty much the reason I left Windows 10 Mobile for good.
What I really wanted was a Lumia 1520
It looked pretty sexy in its ads.
I ended up ditching my Lumia 950 XL because the battery life had just become so, so terrible. That was partially due to Twitter switching to a PWA and not being adequately integrated with the Windows 10 Mobile OS. Twitter began draining battery like crazy, and I never really enjoyed the third-party apps like Tweetium or Tweet It! which had a litany of their own limitations for a social media junkie like me.
After experimenting with a fairly ridiculous giant battery housing for the Lumia 950 XL, I decided to just get an HP Elite x3, which seemed like the closest thing to the classic Lumia 1520 we were ever likely to get. A gigantic, pretty gorgeous display came with a spacious 4150 mAh battery, which is beefy even by today's standards. Its unique design and intriguing speaker grill across the bottom made it stand out, with a modern-style fingerprint reader embedded in the back of the phone.
The HP Elite x3, for those who don't know, came in a gigantic box, easily the biggest box I've ever seen (or probably will ever see) for a smartphone. This was in part due to the Continuum docking station it came with, along with piles of cables to accommodate it. Continuum, was, of course, Microsoft's phone-to-PC solution that still hasn't really gotten any mainstream traction, even with experiments from Samsung's DeX platform. It worked pretty well on the HP Elite x3, but for all the effort that would have gone into carrying the dock around and all its cables, you might as well have just taken a laptop. Continuum may never be a thing, but it was a nice thing that might have found some potential with enterprises, had Microsoft not abandoned the OS completely. The x3 also came with some nice earbuds, which I still use to this day, a couple of years later.
On the hardware side, there was little to complain about. The buttons were well-placed and tactile, with a metallic finish. The screen was huge and crisp, and the phone was generally zippy executing commands and opening apps. It just arrived at the wrong time, too late to make a real impact.
Windows 10 Mobile was already rotting
The worst thing by far about the x3 was its camera, which is perhaps the worst smartphone camera I have ever used in my entire life. I'd say the cameras on the old budget Lumia 520 phones were more impressive than the HP Elite x3's effort because at least the Lumia camera software didn't crash at every possible opportunity. HP never fixed the crashing problems it had with its camera, right up until the end.
Beyond the camera issues, Windows 10 Mobile itself was already falling apart, with an app platform being abandoned in droves and software that had just fallen too far behind competing solutions. Even on the x3, Twitter and other staple apps didn't work correctly. Twitter was crashtastic as a UWP program, and the Windows 10 OS Meta apps from Facebook and Instagram were, and still are, garbage.
The HP Elite x3 for all its beauty and good intentions was just simply never meant to be.
What is (or was) your final Windows Phone?
For me, my experience with Windows-based phones truly peaked with the Lumia 1520, which defied ideas about what a smartphone battery could be, how big a smartphone could be, and how loud a smartphone could be. That slab in polycarbonate red was a true diva, and I can't really see it being unseated as my favorite phone of all time in the near future. Unfortunately, I only had borrowed a Lumia 1520 for a while, and by the time I could afford it, they were simply hard to get.
The HP Elite x3 was a chance to reclaim a bit of that 1520 nostalgia, but as good as the appearances were, the OS had already begun falling apart, at least for me.
Whether or not you've moved on, what is the last Windows Phone you're currently using, or did use? Hit the comments, or jump in the forum thread I made over here.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!