Smartphones have come a long way since inception. Email, word processing, as well as video recording and editing: the list of the modern day handheld’s functionality is impressive. It begs the question: when will these devices be capable of replacing our PCs?
That day may be rapidly approaching with Microsoft’s Continuum for phones. Continuum is a software feature that allows Windows Phone devices to connect to a display via a wired dock or Miracast. It can be used to simply port the data over to a larger display, or offer dual-screen functionality. It all sounds rather simple, but mirroring the handhelds data onto a more work-friendly form factor (complete with keyboard and mouse) could have huge implications.
As the team at NotebookReview explored, the potential for Continuum is certainly great there are some caveats to consider. The first being that Continuum in its current stage does nothing to bolster the performance of smartphones, it’s merely mirroring content onto a larger display. While phones have made great strides in performance, the average handset will struggle to put together a professional PowerPoint presentation or solve a demanding spreadsheet calculation in a timely manner. HP believes it may have a device that’s up to the task, but NotebookReview has its reservations.
It’s worth noting that Continuum doesn’t allow smartphones to run desktop applications, it’s just porting the handset’s apps onto a larger display. That means that a large selection of the applications users enjoy on their Windows PCs (namely legacy software) will not be available. App selection will be resigned to what is offered in the Windows 10 App Store, which has long been criticized for its lack of content.
The process of turning your phone into a fully functioning PC is also an expensive endeavor. Continuum may be baked into the Windows Phone software, but all the peripherals aren’t. Of course, you could opt to simply use the screen on your handset, but staring at a 5-inch or 6-inch device can become straining. To port your phone over to the big screen you’re going to need a dock or a Miracast enabled display, along with a keyboard and a mouse. Not to mention all of the Windows Phone apps you’ll need to purchase, considering PC applications won’t work on your smartphone.
That brings us to another issue. To get access to Continuum, you will need to switch over to Windows Phone. Microsoft has managed to convert a small selection of loyal fans, but the platform currently ranks a distant third with Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone accounting for 96.2 percent of the U.S. smartphone market.
Continuum is dependent on Windows Phone applications and app developers have very little incentive to currently create apps for the platform when the lion’s share of users exists on Android and iOS.
Continuum is a bold idea, but there is still a great deal of kinks to be worked out. A lot of ifs need to be answered before it can help transform our handsets into our primary productivity devices.
That’s not to say that the day won’t come. But for now, PCs still have their place.
For the full conversation on Continuum be sure to check out our editorial on NotebookReview.