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How Continuum for Windows 10 Mobile works on Lumia 950 & Lumia 950 XL

It has been an exciting week for Windows fans, as Microsoft unveiled one of the best hardware lineups in the company's history. During the Windows 10 devices event in New York City, Microsoft surprised everyone with the Surface Book, and as expected the company announced the Surface Pro 4 and Microsoft Band 2. However, one of the most important highlights of the event was the announcement of the new Lumia phones.

During the media briefing, Microsoft introduced the new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. These new devices are very sleek with very powerful hardware. Both phones have similar hardware, but the big difference between the two is the screen size and processor. The Lumia 950 features a 5.2-inch display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 and 3000 mAh battery while the Lumia 950 XL features a 5.7-inch display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 and 3340 mAh battery.

These two phones run Windows 10 Mobile, and because there are very capable handsets, they also come with support for Continuum. Let's take a closer look at how this new feature works on the Lumia 950 and 950 XL.

What's Continuum

Continuum is a new feature was first introduced for the desktop version of Windows 10, and now Microsoft is also bringing the feature to the phone. Continuum for phones lets you turn your phone into a PC-like experience by connecting an external display, keyboard, and mouse using the new Microsoft Display Dock.

Continuum is a perfect feature for those moments you need to get work done right away, but you are not close to a computer.

How does it work

So, how does Continuum work? Well, you first need a Microsoft Display Dock. It's an optional accessory that includes an HDMI, DisplayPort, three USB 3.0 ports, and USB Type-C port that connects your phone to the dock.

Getting started is very simple, you plug in your external monitor, keyboard and mouse to the Display Dock, and then connect your phone to the only USB Type-C port on the dock.

The phone will detect automatically and switch to Continuum mode. Once the feature is enabled, you'll see a similar desktop environment found on the version of Windows 10 for desktops. However, it is a little different, as you will see many mobile elements such as the mobile signal bars on the top-left and the battery status and date on the top-right corner of the screen.

Another important difference is the Start menu. When you click the Start button, you will notice immediately that the menu is similar, but not the same as the version on PCs. Instead, you will see the Start screen for Windows 10 Mobile with all your Live Tiles.

Continuum

If you need to open a Windows app, simply go to the Start menu and click on an app, just like you would do on a regular computer.

The taskbar also houses all your running apps icons like you would expect from a regular computer experience. If you're running multiple apps, click the icon in the taskbar to jump to a particular app.

It's also important to note that apps on the bigger screen will look and work identically to the Windows 10 PC apps because they are the same universal apps. When you are moving from the smaller screen (phone) to the bigger screen, the app is only responding to the canvas. This app design concept is very similar to what you see today on responsive design for websites, where no matter if you are using a desktop, tablet or phone the web page will respond to the size of the screen and format the content accordingly.

Everything works just like a regular PC. If you received an email from your boss with a few attachments for a presentation, double-clicking the attachment automatically opens it with the default app.

If you need to go back to the previous app, simply click the icon on the taskbar. You can also click the Task View button to view all the running apps and jump to the app you want.

Alternatively, Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile also supports the keyboard shortcuts you'll find on Windows 10. As such, you could also switch between apps using the Ctrl + Tab shortcut. If you're working on a document, you can easily select some text and use the Ctrl + C or Ctrl + X to copy or cut, and Ctrl + V to paste the content from the clipboard.

The most interesting part about Continuum is that you can be doing a lot of productive work on the big screen, and you can still use your phone as a phone. In the smaller screen you can continue to make calls, reply to SMS messages, watch a video, play a game, you name it.

As Microsoft said: "Each experience is independent and uninterrupted."

When you're using Continuum on a Lumia 950, Lumia 950 XL, or another phone that supports the feature, you're not mirroring or expanding the phone screen to the secondary display. You cannot drag with the mouse an app and move it from the big screen to the phone or vice versa.

The way it works is that whatever app you need, you have to launch it from the Start menu (Start screen). For example, if you want to open the Mail app on the big screen, go to the big screen and launch the app from Start. If you need to use the Mail app on the phone, go to the Start on the phone and tap on the Mail tile.

You can't use Snap view with Continuum.

I asked Microsoft if you can have multiple apps running on the big screen using Snap view, and their answer was no. You can't use Snap view with Continuum. In fact, you can only run up to two apps at a time: one app on your phone and another app in the big screen.

Even more impressive is that through the Microsoft Display Dock, you can also connect USB removable media such as a standard USB flash drive.

It's worth pointing out that your USB storage needs to be supported by your phone. It all comes down to drivers. Most USB flash drives will work, but if it requires some sort of drivers, you may not be able to connect it to your phone.

Wrapping things app

Continuum truly brings the PC experience to the phone like no other platform in the market. If you want to be productive and you want to have the best Windows 10 Mobile experience, then the new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are the handsets you need to pick.

You can also enable Continuum using Miracast on supported devices, but using the wired Microsoft Display Dock is the best solution as there is no compression like with Miracast. Your phone will also continue to charge while plugged into the dock.

What do you think about Continuum for phones? Let us know in the comments below.

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

275 Comments
  • Hopefully they'll add snap as power increases. Totally understandable limitation for now
  • I just hope for some more media capable apps now. This would not only be awesome for productivity, but also for entertainment. Plus it into my TV and boom, run Kodi or Plex in a "desktop" fashion
  • Plug it into a dumb TV and turn it into a Smart TV instantly.  It would keep getting smarter with more and more UW apps arrive.  Netflix is coming soon and that is a start.  Watch your Continuum TV with family and friends while laying in the couch.  Hello, L950XL!
  • So we can't do Continuum using Miracast?.. Ahem .. I hope we can do it using next generation of Lumias ...
  • The article clearly says it can
  • Sorry.. I missed the last part.. Re-read it.. Thanks... But I wonder why didn't MS show it off during the event.. Miracast continuum is much more cooler than connecting the phone to dock.. My thoughts though..
  • I'm sure the lag is much worst using miracast plus you're limited to standard hd on the tv.
  • Cooler but less reliable, less performance and less picture quality.  No dual screen mode and would have to use separate charging cable and BT mouse/keyboard.  If you want to do serious work, forget about Miracast.
  • These events are full of a crowd of people with Wifi enabled devices.  There is a ton of interference and one guy with a signal jammer can make your whole show go off the rails.  Miracast works with very little delay in my experience.  I use it all the time for presentations at work and watching movies at home.  I normally can't tell the difference between Miracast and wired in those use cases, but I wouldn't count on it for a demo that is being broadcast around the world.
  • Plus they are trying to sell a new device.
  • It would be interesting to see how it would cope with the miracast lag (of the order of few hundred miliseconds)
  • Wireless connectivity will eventually come, and while Miracast works, it is not the best experience due to lag and other factors.  As faster WiFi comes down the pipe like WiGig which can push up to 7GB/s of data, the experience I'm sure will change.
  • Bring on the baytrails and cherrytrails! I'm pretty sure intel atoms can handle this!
  • No, we need the CherryTrail successor, but it's not out yet. If worry about CherryTrail trying to power a high-res phone and monitor. I can't help but wonder if Continuum separates the ARM chip, with the big cores powering the monitor and such and the LITTLE cores handling phone duties (which makes me wonder how gaming on the phone with Continuum running would actually work). If Continuum DOES split the cores like that, then Intel will need to produce a chip capable of similar task scheduling.
  • People have doubts about use cases of this tech. I think if you can get enough universal apps in the store to use this, it could be a great feature. Starbucks, libraries, family room etc
  • Who is going to carry a monitor, mouse, and keyboard to Starbucks or a library?
  • Of course, theoretically they would have those, but almost all offices of resonable size have spair monitors lying around.
  • As someone who works in IT at an office, we have a bunch of spare monitors. Not so much on the mice and keyboards, but with the way my coworkers' desks are covered in paperwork and other stuff, that's really not that proactival a solution. Instead, you'd likely aim to just put the dock into a second input from the first monitor and change inputs to the dock.
  • What I could see happening for cases like this is a device similar to the notebook dock the Motorola Atrix could be used with being created. Instead of a dock, however, the phone would plug into the dock using the USB-C connector. Economically, of course, instead of massively producing them to turn into a flop like the Atrix, they could produce them in limited quantities similar to the original Band. Now that the techonology is ready for it, they could actually be successful with this.
  • Damn good idea.
  • That'd be pretty interesting to see happen. I guess your idea is in the vein of the PadFone, with the difference being that the phone remains functional and connects via a cable, rather than snapping into the tablet display. A full-on PadFone idea might be even better though (or as another option), letting you turn the phone into a tablet, or even a Surface Mini.
  • He means there is supposed to be a docking station there where anyone can plug in their phones and use them full PC...
  • I'm sure Starbucks is going to team up to shell out a bunch of money for a niche product to work with a niche device.
  • It's a long play...if the OS gets popular in the long run, continuum will too and so will such services...
    Continuum is the future...but yeah, the future could have been here right now if the tech was carried by iphones...because then everyone would scramble to set up docking stations to help iPhones provide PC experiences...
    You know, in a way...iphones and other popular brands are actually blocking the future from happening now...hope Microsoft finds a solid path to connect with the common consumer...
  • Im thinking of it more as a security feature,,,,do all your work on your phone at work and when your done unplug your phone and take it with you. No physical way for anyone to snoop on your pc when your away from the office. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • That would be nice, also getting to hide it behind the ARM architecture that won't run an x86-based piece of malware.
  • Who's going to bring a big ass monitor, keyboard and mouse to a Starbucks or a library? At this point, why not just carry a laptop?  Wouldn't it be lighter?
  • If this kind of thing becomes popular (it wont right away), I could see coffee shops, airports, hotel lobbies, havin a few docks around people could plug into. Its cheap to provide and no risk since you arent providing the data or having people log in to your own machines.
  • It still requires a significant capital outlay, probably in the Millions of Dollars, for any organization, whether Starbucks or a city library system. For people who use Lumia phones?  That's.....a very, very small niche. No offense, but that's not very likely to occur. Now, if *all* the mobile OS' gained this ability, that's a possibility.  But, say, a Marriott isn't going to put those in every location in all their Marriotts, only for Windows phone users.
  • A single Starbucks needs to spend just $10K on capital outlay for something like this.
  • No, but I've gone to many client places with my Surface where I need to hook up to their boardroom screens and there is always a plug interface problem. With this I could have my presentation on my phone and bring the continuum device with me and plug it using HDMI. In a pinch all you need is your phone and this.
  • Exactly!
  • Or have your presentation in the cloud and still present it on your phone!
  • The only problem here is that the Surface doesn't have an HDMI out port. If it did, you wouldn't be having these "plug-interface problems", since your resolution seems to be using a Continuum device and plugging it in using an HDMI cable.
  • I was thinking exactly the same. It's a very nice feature but the limitation of 1 app running on the big screen could be a problem. Maybe they can also add this feature when W10m will be really optimized (for sure not in November/December).
    I'm thinking this just because is Continuum itself that, looking like a PC, pushes the user to do even more.
  • You can have more than 1 app running, but only one app on the screen. Basically its full screen only with no snap.
  • It seems hardly an understandable limitation. My galaxy note 5 can easily run two apps side by side, or even more in individual windows. Windows phone needed this multitasking thing down a loooonngg time ago, especially considering how windows is THE multitasking platform Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yea im not sure why windows phone hasn't done this yet. Cant you run 3 or 4 apps at once on the same screen/side by side?
  • Maybe it has to do something with the way wp handles multitasking, Sandboxing the background apps to not use any ram.. 
  • not really, the surface RT with a tegra 3 chip can handle snap view and multiple monitors, tegra 4 does it twice as fast and SD810 is even faster if I'm not wrong, they just didn't have the time to code it :P
  • I wonder if it's only a software limitation that can be added in a future date. 
  • One of these things is not like the other: "You can also click the Task View button to view all the running apps and jump to the app you want.​" "In fact, you can only run up to two apps at a time: one app on your phone and another app in the big screen."
  • What I take from that: like on the phone, you can have several apps suspended on the background, but only one of them is active on the screen at a time. Alt-tab should work similar to long pressing the back button on the phone
  • Any app you have open that is not displayed is suspended. That's why you can't snap. Limit of one active app on phone, one active on monitor.
  • They mean viewing it at the same time. Since you can't snap in either the big or the small screen, you can only have one app displayed in each. You can of course have several other in the background and switch between them, but not using them all at the same time.
  • well, technically then, that IS two apps running at once...just not on both on either screen, right? lol its mobile essentially...only on W8 desktops could you do more than 2 anyway... =p
  • There is also a mistake in this article or the display dock specs article. In the display dock specs article it says there are USB 2.0 ports and NOT USB 3.0. What's the right one?
  • This must be the usp for Lumias now.
  • I was under the impression early on that this could be ussed wirelessy, with a bluetooth mouse and key, and miracast setup?  Is this no longer the case with the dock being required for contiuum functionality, or is the dock just for extra power user functionality.
  • Did you read the article? It was stated in there .
  • In bro's defense, the article buries it at the very end and doesn't go into the topic at all, which was disappointing.
  • if I'm not wrong. Miracast for Display and built-in-bluetooth keyboard and mouse for interaction.
     
  • The article mentions Miracast (great news for me as I did not notice it was supported), but regarding the keyboard and mouse it's a good question... Hope it will work.
  • It does, it already works with current lumias, even in 8.1 since update 2
  • You can use Miracast and Windows 10 Mobile fully supports HID over Bluetooth, including keyboard and mouse. So it should indeed work. And if you don't have a keyboard and/or mouse: It is possible to use your phone's display as a digital touchpad and a virtual keyboard.
  • you can use miracast capable displays to do continnum. But there is a delay and performace draw because miracast compresses the stream.
  • I can see this being usefull in my school, as I'm usually in many different classrooms in a given day. If all I'm using is PowerPoint I can just carry this dock around instead of my laptop. Question: Do a keyboard and mouse HAVE to be plugged in to activate Continuum, or can I just use the phone and the dock?
  • you can only use the dock, in fact, you can use your phone as a touchpad for mouse.
  • While a keyboard and mouse is preferable: You can use your phone as a digital trackpad and virtual keyboard. It knows wassup.
  • Awesome, thanks! One more question, is the cable just for charging while using it so you can also use it wirelessly?
  • It can be used wirelessly with miracast, though as people pointed it out, there will be a minor lag and compression of the quality of stream
  • The Dock is NOT wireless: It connects via USB Type-C only. Wireless will require Miracast and, optionally, a Bluetooth mouse/keyboard. This will make things lag ever-so-slightly, and perhaps a decrease in the quality since the phone will be required to compress and transmit that image data (Also a taxing process, so depending on how well optimized these CPUs are: Could be potentially hazardous for batter life. But the removable battery and Qualcomm quick charging standard means swapping in a fresh one or topping off your device real quick isn't a HUGE deal). So the phone does indeed support wireless displaying via Miracast, but the Dock does *not*.
  • Is it possible to enter a tablet mode similar to the Windows 10 desktop OS?
  • It's already a tablet mode... But if you are asking I it would work with a touchscreen, I wonder the same.
  • On Desktop an app is full screen by default.  In this it is full screen always.  You cannot snap apps.  And no touch screen screens are supported that we know, although in theory a USB HID touchscreen might work I guess as that is basically a mouse input.
  • Is the display dock powered through the monitor via hdmi?
  • HDMI or Display port, you can choose.
  • Why do people start with the dock? Isnt this thing capable of working using Miracast and Bluetooth keyboard and mouse? Why not release a continuum box which connects to the phone wirelessly using these protocols and then to the display and keyboard using wires or not. Way more cleaner. And try enabling snap view and add some animations when the start menu comes up.
  • The problem is you get lag via miracast wired you do not. Adding in a wireless continuum box would make it worse.
  • Miracast isn't perfect.  Sometimes you get lag and latency, and, sure, sometimes you don't, but it's unpredictable. Imagine trying to type a document, and words show up even a milisecond off;  it would drive you crazy.
  • Totally agree. IMHO the dock should act like the Nokia HD-10, but include wireless charging too. Put your phone on it and it'll automatically pair and mirror the screen, and begin charging the phone.
  • That could be cool...totally get word to them anyway you can for Gen 2 Munchkin! =D
  • Watch how it works here.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pty67ks7obM
  • I feel that it is a great idea . but im not going to carry around a dock in my pocket to use when im not near a PC. And usually where there are sceens, keyboards, and mice there is usually already a PC there.  However I do see the benift for emerging markets  and I could use this at work to accessmy personal data on a full scrren instead of my phone. 
  • the point isnt to carry the dock, its to have a dock connected to your various work stations so that you can just drop your phone in and use it.
  • Yeah, that would be a lot more practical if this could run the apps as windows so you could actually multitask. The surface rt devices were way less powerful than these phones, so I don't think it is a hardware limitation.
  • @remc86007. Suspended and active apps are displayed on the taskbar like on the desktop. So you can switch between them. Brian Roper demoed this at the event.
  • Hopefully those rumors of an intel x86 powered windows10 phone come true. It would literally be a pocket-sized PC, that you could plug into your monitor and do real work on.
  • Where would this fantasy land exist of dockable stations everywhere? Libraries and airports?  They're going to spend Millions of Dollars for dockable screens for people who Lumia 950s?
  • Yeah, only institutions and organizations should actually front like that...I didn't think they were really pushing this for the rabble, robble robble
  • Maybe the dock in the backpack for when traveling to a remote office.
  • You would still need a keyboard, mouse and monitor.
  • All of that would be at the office.
  • I am envisioning have a small TV setup in my kitchen, probably hooked up to a cable box (unless we can get Fios to release a universal Fios TV app), and have the dock attached too.
  • I'm envisioning a dock connected to the tv in the bedroom to watch xbox movies, netflix viewing and listening to groove music.
  • "usually where there are sceens, keyboards, and mice there is usually already a PC there.​" Of course that's how it is now, there's nothing to hook up. If this kind of thing becomes more popular, I could see guest docks in public places. ​I could even imagine not replacing my 2nd desktop when it dies and just let everyone dock their phone instead.
  • That's what i'm thinking too. I love the idea, but "perfect feature for those moments you need to get work done right away, but you're not close to a computer." Why would i be near a keyboard, mouse, and monitor if i wasn't already near a computer?
  • I want an app that will let me plug my phone into my PC and give me the window display of my phone on my monitor. This way I can interact with my phone, make speaker phone calls and respond to texts using my PC keyboard and mouse. This way I never have to pick up my phone while working at my desk, but I don't need to be limited to what my phone can do as a PC.
  • They're pretty close to that with the "project my screen" program, but you can't do important things such as calling.
  • In "Project My Screen" you still have to use mouse as a "touch". You can't use the keyboard of a notebook to write a message, you need to click with a mouse every letter on the WP keyboard or slide, whats very dificult to do with mouse :(
  • You could do that with MirrorLink since the days of the good ol' Nokia N8.
  • This already exists. I can't remember the name but Microsoft have a desktop app that displays the phone screen and allows you to operate the phone with a mouse.
    EDIT: Soypan beat me to it, it's called 'project my screen'
  • We had this in the old Windows Mobile - actually, we had it before that when they were Pocket PCs connected by USB sync cables.
  • I don't know how useful it will be for me personally, but I'll be damned if I'm not excited about it.
  • Good article...  answered my question about Miracast and Continuum. Watching the demo during the event I'm thinking..  Why couldnt this be done wirelessly with bluetooth mouse/keyboard and Miracast.
  • Before someone asks if you can use it to play Star Wars Battlefront.....no...no you can't.
  • Unless it becomes a universal app
  • @AntiAB, lol no. Unless you want to melt your phone in the process.
  • Liquid Cooling! =D
  • Liquid nitrogen!
  • Yeah, PC gaming on Continuum is probably many, many, many, many,  MANY moons away. Probably at least six or seven years at the earliest.  The hardware is nowhere near there yet.
  • Dan do you know if you can run a full RDP session on this? So therefore you could RDP to a server or PC etc and then effectively run a full desktop and apps etc like normal?
  • You can currently rdp from within the Citrix receiver app ( assuming your company allows this ) so I assume this will all just work normally
  • Yes. a Universal Remote Desktop Client is in the store so you can use it to remote in for support or to a workstation elsewhere.
  • This guy is right. And the client is pretty good.
  • This^^^
  • You don't use ctrl+tab to bring up the app switcher, you use alt+tab
  • I wonder if the Windows + Tab would also work...
  • Continuum sounds like a nifty feature that you can show off to your friends but it's real cases is very limited. First you'll need a screen, a keyboard and mouse. The only two place you might have it worse and home (school if you're a student).   In both places you'll already have a fully functionally computer which will negate the need for Continuum. The only reason this will be useful is if MS starts putting monitors and keyboards at airports, libraries, Starbucks etc.
  • The big use will be business situations on the road.
  • and where will they get a monitor, keyboard and mouse ? 
  • I thought you can use the phone as a mouse and keyboard if you wanted..