In its quest to stop Apple’s iPad Air 2 in its tracks, Microsoft seems to have pulled out all the stops with its Surface 3 2-in-1. In addition to launching two versions with just Wi-Fi and two more with LTE data compatibility in the United States, Microsoft says it’ll launch another version that’ll come with LTE compatibility and be completely unlocked.
Microsoft confirmed an unlocked Surface 3 complete with LTE compatibility was in the works in a post on popular internet community Reddit. Reddit routinely hosts question and answer sessions with policy makers and companies that make consumer products. It’s the community’s opportunity to ask anything that’s on their mind.
In one post a Reddit users asks the Surface Team if it has plans to introduce a Surface 3 with LTE compatibility for those not willing to commit to a wireless carrier just to get the device. In their reply the Surface team confirms that an unlocked Surface 3 with LTE is on the way saying, “We are doing an unlocked LTE version. Can’t say where it will be available yet, but we hear you and in many markets we will have it available. Stay tuned for more!”
LTE is a type of mobile data. Essentially, having LTE built into the Surface 3 means users don’t have to hunt around for Wi-Fi connections in public or pay monthly for tethering add-ons on their smartphone data plan. Wi-Fi connections are still supported too.
Offering an unlocked Surface 3 with LTE is a pretty bold and important step in the evolution of the Surface line. The devices are meant as direct competitors to the iPad, but have never embraced LTE connectivity like the iPad. For example, the iPad Air 2 is available on every carrier with LTE in multiple storage sizes. The Surface 2 with LTE wasn’t but the Surface 3 with LTE is. $599 will get users a Surface 3 with LTE connectivity, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage this summer. The Surface 3 with LTE, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage will cost $699.
According to Nasdaq, T-Mobile and Verizon will carry LTE versions of the Surface 3 for their customers. If the unlocked Surface 3 is made available in the United States, AT&T users would be able to get the tablet and add data themselves, theoretically.
The Surface 3 offers a number of upgrade besides LTE compatibility and better storage options. The front of the Surface 3 is dominated by a 10.8-inch high-definition touchscreen display. Microsoft has added compatibility with the Surface Pen that currently comes with the Surface Pro 3 for free. Getting a notebook-like experience still requires that users purchase a $129 Type Cover, but the cover clicks in effortlessly and protects the screen. Microsoft added another position to the device’s built-in kickstand. There’s a MicroSD card slot and a full-size USB port for connecting to accessories.
The biggest change is Microsoft’s decision to ditch the mobile processors it used in past versions and base the Surface 3 on an Intel processor instead. Inside the Surface 3 is an Intel Atom x7. Anyone who purchases a Surface 3 will be able to download all the same Desktop apps that they can on a typical laptop or desktop PC. In addition to that, new apps are still available through the Windows Store. Microsoft plans to make interacting with Desktop and Windows Store apps more seamless with a free Windows 10 update coming to the Surface 3 sometime later this year.
The Wi-Fi only versions of the Surface 3 arrive on store shelves on May 5th. Microsoft didn’t mention when this unlocked Surface 3 with LTE is coming.