The Microsoft Lumia 950 smartphone has just launched and we’ve had an early look at one of its most interesting features – Continuum.
This functionality is totally unique to the 950 and its bigger brother the 950 XL and let’s you transform the phone into a desktop computer in a couple of easy steps.
In the demo we saw in Dublin this week, the phone was connected to a box called a Display Dock. It features 2 USB 2.0 ports, a USB charging port, HDMI and DisplayPort. Just plug the phone in with the USB-C cable and connect to an external TV or monitor via HDMI. The USB ports can be used to connect wired or wireless accessories like a mouse and keyboard and with that, you have a PC-like setup powered by nothing more than your phone.
It really is a surprisingly neat solution, and the Windows 10 experience scaled up to present the familiar desktop on the larger screen, which was a projector in this case.
We ran through a couple of sample scenarios, including editing a PowerPoint document on the screen. Everything ran very smoothly, including task switching with Alt-Tab as you would on a full PC.
You can also use Microsoft Word, browse photos and do some editing, add entries to your calendar, watch movies (scaled up to HD) and access maps. The advantage of using your phone as a computer also lets you compose SMS texts with the added speed of a keyboard.
There are multiple ways to get this system to work, including using the phone as a mouse-like touchpad if you don’t have access to an external device, and you can also pair a mouse over Bluetooth. There are other features as well, like being able to display your PowerPoint presentation on the big screen and have additional notes only available on the handset for your own reference.
We were also told that the phone can create this kind of connection wirelessly via Miracast which is included in certain TV’s or added with a dongle. We were given the example of being able to beam a HD movie from your phone to the local TV to entertain the kids while you catch up with some email on the phones screen. That kind of multi-tasking was unheard of in smartphones just a few years ago, but the Lumia 950 seems to handle it all effortlessly.
It should be noted that this system isn’t a full desktop or even laptop replacement – not all apps will work on the larger screen, though the functionality is being expanded all the time. What it does give you is the potential to easily jack into a PC-like environment to give your productivity a boost. And it’s a pretty exciting glimpse at what our smartphones will be capable of in the very near future.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL are available now, the Display Dock is sold separately.