When Windows 10 Mobile launched with the Lumia 950 / XL its Continuum feature garnered the majority of headlines, lots that was positive, lots that was negative.
There were some performance concerns and, given the rather flaky nature of the original Windows 10 Mobile firmware, some frustration at the number of resets and crashes that were part of the Continuum experience. The majority of opinion was that Microsoft was onto something, even if the absolute paucity of Continuum apps rendered the whole experience pointless.
Wind the clock on a year and things have changed. Continuum remains as impressive as ever as a concept, but now it is starting to deliver on the three-in-one dream. Performance is much improved and whilst you’ll never mistake it for that of anything more than an entry level PC, it is sufficient that once you start using it you soon forget that you’re working on a phone.
Up until the point where you run into one of Continuum’s limitations of course. These are becoming fewer and fewer with each passing update and software refresh. There are a significant number of apps that support Continuum now. In fact on my 950 more of my installed apps work than don’t. The latter are mostly games, which aren’t so much of a problem. The lack of Continuum apps is no more of a problem than the lack of Windows Mobile apps in general. If you can live with the latter the former won’t bother you at all.
There are some OS level limitations, but they are few and far between. Those that I ran into included Edge browser inability to download images because it lacks right click or long press support when running on the big screen and the inability to screenshot the desktop screen.
The interesting thing about these two limitations was that when I ran into them I was momentarily stunned, because I had recalibrated my expectations because I was working as if I was on my laptop. That’s a seismic shift in user experience.
As Microsoft continues to improve the software, so partners are opening new opportunities up. HP’s Elite x3 has a Lap Dock accessory which turns the smartphone into a laptop, with its own battery, display and ports. In size its a dead ringer for the MacBook Air, but packs in a larger 12.5” screen and a 10% bigger battery which can charge your device as well as power the Lap Dock itself.
HP is onto something here. This sort of hardware makes Continuum a palatable replacement for a laptop for a large number of light users. Paired with HP’s Workspace app virtualisation offering it makes for an interesting enterprise offering too.
If Microsoft continues to improve Continuum and app support continues to grow, then there’s an opportunity for third parties to build lap docks at all price points and capability levels. Which would really be a game changing offering.