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First look: The LG G5, Samsung Galaxy 7 and HP Elite x3 premiere at the Mobile World Congress

Dan Rosenbaum | Feb. 23, 2016
Three flagship Android smartphones with three very different views of the world.

Besides being big, the phone is built. It claims an IP67 rating, good enough to withstand all but the most determined and prolonged dunking, and Samsung reps claim the ability to withstand a four-foot drop without screen breakage. (This was left untested by request.) Interesting for a business-class phone -- maybe for listening during conference calls -- the Elite x3 sports a pair of forward-firing Bang & Olufsen speakers. They sounded nice, even in a very busy demo room.

HP execs wobbled a bit when discussing distribution plans. They want this to be an enterprise phone, sold solely through direct sales and the VAR channel. But talk to them a little more, and they start talking about the prosumer market, the Windows fanatic market and the SMB market, and there was some speculation about Microsoft stores -- and it starts to sound as though they wouldn't see it as the worst thing in the world if the Elite x3 found its way into some pockets that weren't necessarily corporate.

HP hopes to ship the Elite x3 in the second quarter. Representatives wouldn't discuss price, which makes sense given the nature of their primary distribution channels. My guess is that this will be at the top of the flagship market: At about $700.

When it was new, Windows Phone had a ton of great interface innovations, many of which have been adopted over the years (as good ideas are) by Android and iOS. But despite its lack of push in the consumer market, it remains an interesting and useful operating system.

It's far too early to make an educated guess about the fate of the Elite x3, but the design choices all seem to be defensible at first glance. Whether the target market will embrace something so different is another question altogether.

Bottom line

Three big companies, three flagship phones, three very different target markets and design theories.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are the most ambitious. The company is both aiming at the general smartphone market as it's evolved and hoping to employ these phones as a wedge into new uses like virtual reality.

The LG G5 is aggressively consumer-oriented; its replaceable battery and function modules at the expense of ruggedness could well capture a raft of casual users.

To call HP's Elite x3 an oddball is natural but not entirely fair. In an age where most vendors are trying for something that looks and works only marginally differently from everyone else, to make radically different choices in operating system and target market is surprising -- but not necessarily wrong. At first glance, the phone works pretty much as advertised. Will enterprises embrace it? It's far too early to tell, but the goods themselves certainly look credible.

We'll let you know when we get to put them through their paces in a couple of months.


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