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Travelling with Continuum: When the stars (and ports) don't align

It was all part of an experiment, with a trip to Asia providing a great chance to see how far I could get with Continuum on my Lumia 950 XL. But while setting up in Hong Kong was (mostly) a breeze, as I moved on over the border to another hotel I encountered the polar opposite.

And with it is highlighted why you probably can't rely on just your phone if you're frequenting a hotel.

It's all about the ports.

In a past life I travelled up and down the UK spending at least three nights of many weeks in a hotel. In my bag I'd have a company BlackBerry, a Lenovo Thinkpad and a VPN token to connect the laptop to the internal company networks over public Wi-Fi.

It was when Continuum was first announced that I flashed back to these days, thinking how amazing it would have been to go on the road with just a phone and a small dock, connecting to hotel TVs and on-site PC monitors to get my work done. It doesn't matter how you spin it: triaging a large amount of email on a BlackBerry Curve and its tiny screen was painful. Really, really painful.


But after the ease of connecting up in one hotel, transferring to another on the same trip highlighted why such a dream will, for the most part, remain that. Because you just can't guarantee you'll be able to plug in to the TV in your room.

In my case it was just a simple fact of logistics. The TV was mounted to the wall and no ports were accessible. And I'm not in the business of removing large, flat screen TVs from Chinese hotel room walls.

So it was pretty much a bust, and proof that to really use Continuum when you travel you're going to need something else, something you can rely on. And we've got three examples hitting the market soon.

I'm referring to a laptop dock, a dumb terminal that's basically a large screen powered by your phone, with an extra battery for longer uptime. The Nexdock is one such example we've seen recently, and with its Indiegogo campaign now funded we'll start seeing it ship in June. Just plug in the phone and get that large-screen Windows 10 experience. And especially in the case of the Nexdock, price is on its side. It's not the most impressive piece of hardware, but it's cheap.

HP Elite X3

HP and Acer are both also releasing their own respective products with the Elite X3 and Jade Primo. Part of a complete ecosystem of Continuum accessories, you'll again be able to use your phone to power a laptop-like experience. And as Continuum grows over time it'll become a more viable solution over carrying a high-end phone and separate laptop.

The ultimate question, and one that will be answered differently depending on your circumstance, is still why you'd go this route over carrying a phone and a laptop. Price is one of the key factors, but it'll perhaps become more intriguing as the platform continues to develop.

But these hardware add-ons are almost certainly necessary to successfully travel with Continuum on your Windows 10 phone.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

  • I used to find hotels with mounted TVs would at least have a panel at some location nearby with all the ports available remotely but then again, these were mid level hotels and I wasn't footing that bill with most its not necessarily the solution that isn't ready but the world takes too long to catch up sometimes and I guess that's why MS isn't really in too much of a hurry to push these off to the majority at large. As it is only a "Beta" for insiders and fans to check out and play with. I mean the 650 released noticeably w/o Continuum. ;p
  • I don't think the world takes a long time, but technology changes to quickly. How many people know of Continuum for Windows Phone? Not many. The other question can be asked: How many people know about Windows Phone?
  • "Let it flow, let yourself go...slow and low, that is the tempo." ;]~)
  • just relax, lay down on bed, and try to do your work on the phone....if it is not possible, go out and have a beer!
  • Or use the phone to call for some company. And by company I don't mean MS or Google.
  • This is exactly what many people already said without having to check in to a hotel: you can't plug in at hotels (in the US). And a microcosm of the bigger picture, which is that there just aren't a billion unused monitors and keyboards and mice and docks lying around waiting for you. You have to bring so many accessories they're heavier and bigger and more extensive then a laptop, when in many cases a usb stick is all you actually need. And even then there's still no guarantee it'll work. Expand your field tests from hotels into random workplaces, schools, homes, coffee shops, buses, airports, airplanes, etc. and you'll find the same story. Continuum is a nifty little gimmick, and there's no real place for it in the world.
  • Well that's just inaccurate. My company has a floating floor plan with spare monitors and keyboards galore where you can plug in and work. And I just returned from a cruise where the ports in the cabin TV were easily accessible. I know that's not always the case as demonstrated in the article. And to your point, pick a home and I'll bet you'll find a spare monitor to use. Continuum is awesome and just getting started.
  • Now this is wrong, on your home and your own office you have the power for your screen to be your pc, and not having to transfer work from pc to phone and such and just work with your phone is a big plus already. All office apps run there. And for example you can get that fake laptop the guy mentioned wich is indeed really cheap. You reduce the cost with a high end phone and a fake laptop(must be light too) that has only  battery and runs from phone. On the other hand you would have a laptot(mid range at least) and a high end phone the cost is bigger there, and no one said its ready for the wolrd it just started and it's growing but it will be a strong tool in the near future and the accesories made for it like that fake laptop will make it even greater especially when continuum starts using Win32 apps, now its early stages it is developing itself you all have to relax and try different things :3 this thing one day will be what we all want our pc in our pocket ;). It will replace the way you work and it wont be a nifty little gimmick as you called it remember me it already earned its place on the wolrd it created its own category ;) be positive :D
  • All you need is an HDMI port and a power outlet. If that fails, no Continuum. I have the Continuum dock but instead I carry the Microsoft wireless display adapter which is the size of a Chromecast dongle and much more portable. Added one extra USB extender cable in case the TV does not have a USB port (much more likely than a missing HDMI port). I already carry an adapter to recharge my phone, made it a double USB port one and I'm all set.  One dongle, one cable. Does that not sound portable?  That's enough for Continuum, but to really replace a laptop I carry a Microsoft folding BT keyboard and a Logitech slim BT mouse. All the time, because it's compact enough to not be in the way. I can then choose to leave the laptop at home or carry it along as well. I don't think this is a gimmick, not at all.
  • Touch-down stations (shared desks/cubes for roaming users) are common. It is much cheaper for a business to outfit those with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard and provide users with a Continnum phone than it is to provide those same employees with an enterprise-grade laptop and phone. Not all business have those, but many do. For hat market, there is nothing close to Continuum in terms of needed capability per dollar.
  • How about a dock that can project as well.. Plus the top surface of the acts like a touch pad... A small rollable rubber type keyboard that rolls out from the dock itself;-) You got what sort if device i see in the future that can replace all those extra accessories Nokia Lumia 1520
    ~The Power of Windows 10~
  • Yes this is what I was thinking, the dock should have a pico projector inside for when you don't have a decent tv available. It should be pretty doable, it would have to project from 1 meter a 19" screen so it would need much power or great specs.
  • When you travel to the areas you are not sure there is a display readily available, bring along a HD pico projector is a safe bet.  Sony MPCL1 is a good candidate.  It is about the size and weight of L1520.  Throw that in your luggage, you can go anywhere as long as there is electricity.
  • Thats what i meant in a bigger view...
    Consider a dock station about the size of 1520 that can project, have a touch pad on its top and a rollable rubber keyboard on the side... One device with all the needs.. So all that you gotta carry is this dock n no need to worry about display n keyboard and mouse Nokia Lumia 1520
    ~The Power of Windows 10~
  • Can it be connected to the phone easily?
  • You can connect phone to HD projector thru Dock.
  • Missing the point, it has to be integrated in the dock, continuum is all about portability, if you have to take a projector with you you could take a laptop with you.
  • Or a Surface... they are small super thin and super light.  I dunno, I got the continuum dock since it was free but its still in the box.  I'm not sure how or when Im ever going to use it since I have SP4.
  • Get a patent, you 'll get rich!
  • I don't understand why the new wall mounted TV'S have ports on the backside. Its really a pain in the a** to plug in something.
  • Lack of vision on the designer's part? Get it? Vision?
  • This is why the NexDock, or HP Elite X3 Extender, is critical to a business Continuum use case. 
  • I'll post this statement again as an FYI.  If you can locate a Surface Keyboard Bluetooth Adapter and a Surface keyboard you have most of the equipement without the added bulk of a full bluetooth keyboard and a separate mouse.  Add in the wireless display adapter and you've got yourself a lightweight Continuum solution for travel (provided you can reach the HDMI port).  
  • That sort of experience is what makes me think taking a phone and a Surface is a better option. Unless of course Microsoft releases a "Surface Phone" lovingly ripped off the Asus PadFone model which is still, to me, the way I would see Continuum working best (actually if anything, the fact that Asus hasn't done it proves to me more about the failure of WP10 than anything else). Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • If you have to carry a laptop dock you might as well carry a proper laptop, one reason is you get access to the full programs you want to run rather than mobile blown up versions. No point jumping through all these hoops only to end up with access to less powerful versions of the products in the end.
  • Or get a surface
  • one reason is you get access to the full programs you want to run rather than mobile blown up versions.
    There's HP's Cloud win32 apps/sw, & other ones coming, & MS's (but doubt it'd be a solid substitute).
  • "If you have to carry a laptop dock you might as well carry a proper laptop"
    Yes and no. From an enterprise position supporting one device (the mobile phone) instead of two (your phone and a full PC) is much easier both for maintenance (drivers, updates, firewall, VPN) and cost. In fact, if you gave 100 employees just the Elite x3 and Mobile Extender (the laptop part) the costs and maintenance of those would be much lower (plus fewer licenses). The Mobile Extender, after all, is just a battery/keyboard/display with no "guts". You're also saving a lot of duplication as the information (sometimes secure) is only on one device. I know when it comes to IT people are more likely to screw up a laptop (porn!) than their phones. In fact, those very limitations of mobile is what makes it interesting for IT who are concerned with security and fewer problems. Now, for consumers the argument for this setup is not quite there yet. Then again, HP and others are positioning this towards business use and less so for general consumers (although, like all things, some people will latch on to this anyway). I think people need to think about the Elite x3 as a case of mass deployment and the costs saved versus giving each employee one phone and one full PC/laptop. That savings can equals tens of thousands of dollars, plus it's cheaper to upgrade the phone later on than upgrade two devices.
  • For now, yes.  However, with a SnapDragon 830, 4G of Ram, and a way to do Win32 apps, then no.  There will be no value in most people buying or bringing another laptop.  The phone will give the power of a proper laptop to the extender, which is cheaper, lighter, and easier to replace.  In fact, from what I read about the SnapDragon 810 vs the 820, the HP Elite X3 with the 820 (and virtualized Win32), we may be at that point this summer.
  • That's certainly the right way to look at it. I don't think anyone is saying Continuum -as it is today - is the solution we are looking for in mobility. But once the hardware gets there - and it is - all of a sudden those limitations begin to diminish. After all, the most frequent complaints about Continuum are just technical: need faster hardware, a way to do Win32. Both of those things are solvable, but it will be a journey to get their not a fixed destination. Conceptually the idea of Continuum is very intriguing as is the potential, which is why I think many companies are eyeing it. My hunch is Microsoft knows the hardware is on the verge of reaching that point. Current hardware is just a taste of it.
  • Why not have the 'laptop with no guts' have an insert for your phone to slot into to power it..?
  • Well Asus Padfone is already doing this, except its running Android. We need Asus to make a Windows version of Padfone which it will be way more useful. Sent from Turing Machine
  • I want to add that Continuum needs proper desktop environment as I stress it out. Current Continuum implementation seems like a lite version of tablet mode even without Windows Snap. Its like working on a tablet environment without a touchscreen (for now). Having a proper desktop environment will really make Continuum really useful for heavier productivity and worthy to be in a laptop form-factor accessory. That's the real PC-like approach that Continuum needs to be, not just running apps on maximized mode. Hardware performance will naturally come sooner than later. Even accessory for it is here and there will be more (hopefully), its really the software that needs more work. Sent from Turing Machine
  • no
  • yes
  • My objections to Continuum are ergonomics and portability. I prefer to use a keyboard on a proper desk, not in my lap sitting on the edge of the hotel bed. I definitely don't want to have to move the TV from its stand to the desk. I need to be able to use Continuum like I would a standard laptop or 2-in-1. The Nexdock is interesting, but the screen is too low res. I'd rather carry my laptop or 2-in-1 than the Nexdock. Finally, carrying a smartphone and laptop/2-in-1 provides a measure of redundancy. If 1 device fails or breaks I still have the other device to fall back to.
  • Your just listing possible scenario that could in the feature be feasible with continuum, clam shells could come in all sorts of sizes and form factors to suite everyone's needs, plus theoretically they could even come with a GPU (similar to the surfacebook keyboard) amplifying your phones power to game. The possibilities of the technology should not be brought down by a lack of imagination from the point of the consumer (you don't know what you want until you get it remember)
  • How possible would it be for a future Surface Phone to have a 'projector' in it? Pop out the kickstand, project a large 'screen' on to the wall, connect a small Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and voila. Otherwise, I'd say we're quite a few years away from most hotel televisions having Continuum-ready displays.
  • I was scrolling down to suggest exactly that! How cool would that be? Of course we would have to worry about more heat and maybe a thicker phone but id love to have that feature!
  • What about a modular design with the module containing a projector like the lenovo thinkpad x1?
  • You mean like the lg expo
  • Or...... a foldable phone that turns into a much larger screen.
  • Daniel can you please tell us a bit about continuum experience in wireless mode?
  • It seems reasonable to carry a $500 phone and a $99 laptop dock. The combo is probably lighter than a phone and a real laptop unless it's one of those $1500+ ultrathin models, but you wouldn't leave that in a hotel room.
  • Maybe consumers just need to start making hotels more aware that easily accessible display ports ars one of their new requirements as standard in hotel rooms for business people?
  • That's what I'm thinking too! I think we need to make new standards for Hotels to have easy accessible HDMI port for their customers can use whatever is for. That shouldn't be that costly to implement since it only requires HDMI extension and there is no need for new TV anyways, unless its those old CRT ones. Sent from Turing Machine
  • Proper hotels that actually have standards and cater to business people already have these set up plus a business center if the hotel is worth anything, its the hotels that you paid $10 - $20 a night for that don't get this coz people are cheap.
  • Was there an HDMI device in the room hooked up to the TV such as a dvd player that you could remove the cable and just use that cable that's already plugged into the TV?
  • I'm a frequent US traveller and don't have a problem with ports.   I bought the Wi-Di adapter and it does pretty well.  My issue is the actual phone performance.  Not powerful enough to stream video, it basically serves as a full screen for email and a powerpoint presenter.  Also connecting to VPN kills my internet access on Edge.  While that may be a corporate security issue (which is weird because my Chromebook works just fine). I'm looking forward to the next gen phones to see if the performance can match the promise of the platform. NexDock won't solve a performance issue.  I'd rather have a Surface or Chromebook for Travel.
  •   I think what would be interesting is how often you would hit this brick wall. I tended to travel to the same chain and the equipment became familiar, I would hook up the HDMI port often to stream something from my tablet or laptop. So if I do hit the wall and the TV is a bust will falling back to the 950 XL be the show stopper as I move on to my next venue that does work ? Also even if I do not get the big screen I guess you could still hook up the keyboard and mouse to at least make the typing side easier. Interesting times and it will be as usual only time that will tell. I can see value in the cheap laptop docking units but only if they are really cheap and incredible light and any power options needed to power them does not add to the weight significantly.  
  • See,the problem is that once you need a solution like NexDock, it completely negates the selling point of continuum: Agilely turning a phone into a PC. If you bring a NexDock, it's less of a pain to just bring a full-fledged laptop.
  • I'd like to see a laptop dock so to speak where the phone slots into a laptop to power it..
  • I'd like one that would slide in like an S-Pen and the phone could be charged and used like a USB device. Then you could eject it from the laptop like a disk, and any files stored on the phone from the laptop could be accessed. I'd also like to have an external GPU and maybe a co processor that could be modular and plugged into the device for even better 32 and 64bit performance...maybe even 86x programs. Connect it up to a display and be able to run things like video editing software for the videos you shot on the phone. Or something to that effect. I'm not positive, but doesn't USB-C have fast enough data transfer speeds?
  • Well Asus Padfone already exist which is the phone is docked inside a tablet with keyboard dock. The idea is already been implemented, it just needs W10M on it. Sent from Turing Machine
  • Partner with LG or Samsung and create a phone case with a flexible phone case that also is a foldable screen. THAT would be different and keep the bulk to an absolute minimum.
  • I ordered a NexDock. I would prefer USB-C interface, rather than HDMI, but I think it's a cheap alternative and something to try out Continuum.  I'd rather leave my bigger laptops at home when I'm remote and need to do work.  Most of my work is done via Remote Desktop so local power isn't as much of a concern as portability and the ability to cope with a loss if the unit gets dropped, stolen, etc.  Who am I kidding?  Just wanted to play with this device. I also hoped that supporting the indiegogo project would push it to the second milestone triggering USB-C integration. 
  • This is why my travelling mobile bag of trick has adapters that I can hook up to most anything. Even standard VGA. Although I do admit that the screwed to the wall TV could present a problem.
  • So this is where the anniversary update will solve this problem - well kinda... In the last but one insider build it was announced that you could use the connect option on a Windows 10 Mobile to any Windows 10 PC or laptop. Even when locked. I've been using it today as I've been working from home. My personal laptop, running 14332 has been miracasting my 950XL all day. It works a dream. So here's where the "kinda" comes in. You still need access to a Windows 10 machine, but any miracast capable machine would do. Intend to travel with both a work and personal machine. Now I can just travel with my personal laptop or Ultrabook and my work phone. The ultra book becomes a work PC on demand. Not quite as lightweight as just a phone, but it works and works well...
  • * I tend
  • Need a clamshell keyboard+display with a slot to hold your phone (which becomes the track pad when docked). The Surface Phone Book™.
  • Sounds like selling a Phone Book. :p Sent from Turing Machine
  • One of the main advantages of a dumb terminal is that if it is lost or stolen your data is safe. If you lose your laptop there is the potential for lost data.
  • I think Microsoft should use those proposed WebUSB APIs to make a chrome extension converting chrome books into continuum enabled terminals... That would be hilarious!
  • That's actually not a bad idea I guess. XD Sent from Turing Machine
  • I think Continuum is another chicken-and-egg problem. If it (and similar technologies, if they pop up) gains enough traction for docks to be included in some hotels, restaurants, airports, etc., it could be extremely useful. Which would mean more docks and thus more usefulness and so on. However, until then it's very limited.
  • Every TV has an HDMI port - you need to power the Dock (or Miracast)
    Done it for years (Miracast)
  • I'm talking about having the dock already there, with a keyboard and maybe a mouse as well. So all you need to carry is your phone. That's what is needed to make this a popular technology.
  • When I travel I want as much mobility as and as little complication as possible. If I can't get it done with a Surface Pro 4 and a Lumia, what's the point?
  • "what's the point" - An expensive combination, maybe?
  • I can see anyone who travels frequently where space is at a premium entertaining this, especially in a service deployment capacity. With some of the power specs being revealed for the Surface Phone, you're looking at the potential of the mobile device having a three tier functionality. I carry my 950XL, Surface 3, and hard drive to upload new updates and refresh applications like Groove, Video and TV, various games and other essential services. I can see this changing to where all I would need is an ultra thin peripheral device like a monitor and keyboard, or just a keyboard. Most of the hotels in my experience provide access to ports on the backs of the TV's so that won't be a problem. I think the convenience of space and the efficiency of multi tasking will be appealing to the consumer space as many of their friends will already be utilizing this in some capacity in the enterprise space. This really is a revolutionary concept Microsoft has, and it combines to two entities in a way that no one else has attempted to.
  • Continuum on the road is much better with the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter. I have the Continuum dock but I leave that at home. Instead I take the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter (size of a Chromecast dongle) with me and one extra USB extender cable (in case the TV lacks a USB port). In my backpack there's always a Microsoft folding BT keyboard and a Logitech BT mouse. Even when I'm carrying my laptop, because it's all so compact that it is more of a nuisance to take it out of the backpack than to carry it. I always wonder why wireless Continuum does not get more love, it's great and so compact!
  • It's great and everyone knows this, but the Negativity is out there...
  • Yeah, for some reason the wireless Continuum only talked about few times and most people don't even know it already exist. The problem I think is also running Continuum wirelessly have this noticeable latency issues, and that may not a great experience especially when doing some work where those issues are more noticeable. I think we need new version of Miracast hardware where it can reduce those latency drastically. Sent from Turing Machine
  • Wonder if someone will build a dock that enables Continuum and also features a pico projector inside. Dock your phone into Continuum and show the display through a mini projector.
  • You're forgetting one important aspect there: new TV sets now usually get WiDi/Miracast by default. So, looking for a plug might not be required in the near future.
  • What about a VR/AR solution?  You could throw in a headset and it would allow you to have 2-4 virtual screens even if the Hotel, Plane, table does not have any that you can use. IF it is like Samsung, actela Idol 4 the phones screen is your screen for continuum. That is how a 5 inch screen would work like 2 27 inch screens and get the same work done.