Skip to main content

Turn off your phone's display during Continuum with this simple app

Microsoft's Continuum for phone is certainly one of the more interesting aspects of the new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. While some people are dismissive of it, many change their mind once they see using your phone as a PC can be quite useful.

However, all is not perfect. One complaint I have seen a lot of is in regards to the phone's display staying on 100% of the time. If you turn the display power off using the side button, it also kills the Continuum function. This inability to power off the display could be a problem for some who would prefer to leave their phone connected to the Display Dock for hours on end with a wired mouse. While the phone does use the USB-Quick Charge feature diagnostics tells us that the number one power drain is an active display on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL.

Luckily, there is now a freeware app called simply Disable Screen and that is all it does – it blanks and disables the display while connected to Continuum. This function should allow more rapid charging of the battery and keep the heat down maybe as well.

To use Disable Screen just connect to the Display Dock and once setup navigate on your phone to the app and enable it (you could do it through Continuum on your external display, but this will cause the two to shift focus and is a tad confusing).

Of course, the next question you may have his How to power it back on? Turns out, the app is cleverer than you would think.

While the display is off and it does not respond to touch, you can still swipe up from the bottom to bring back the action keys (Back, Start, Search). Once those are visible, you can hit the Windows key or Back key to go to a live display. This function means at no point you need to break the Continuum connection to the Display Dock.

Overall, Disable Screen is a win-win app in our book. I've been using it for the last 20 minutes without any immediate issues, and I feel confident to recommend it. I hope to see Microsoft build such a feature into Windows Phone at some point, but I can see how discoverability and control could be an issue.

Regardless, for now, you can download it for free and start being even more productive...like a boss.

Thanks, Zsolt M., for the tip!

Download Disable Screen for Windows 10 Mobile (opens in new tab)

qr: disable

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

72 Comments
  • I'm wondering though, and I suppose this is why they need ppl to test continuum, if the sensor still functions...does covering the phone solve the problem? I would suppose not or it wouldn't be an issue lol =p
  • Well, the sensor would be for hiding the display during a phone call or turning off Glance. At best, Continuum's use would make the display dim.
  • I also assumed putting the phone face down (covering proximity sensor) would disable the screen, the same way it does when you hold a call to your ear... But maybe not... Guess a future update will rectify this properly. Soon™.
  • OH, clever, I guess it's an app that makes the screen go completely black? That should do the trick, I think.
  • I agree. It could be taking advantage of the OLED display, which when fully black, it's basically off. This also explains the navigation keys being active (the action center should be accessible too)
  • Not sure it is a real screen disable (as you can still pull up the system bar) but defintely is 100% better than have the display fully ON for all the session
  • Yeah, as noted it disables roughly 90% of the display for touch and what looks like the backlight until you swipe from the bottom. But not really sure what is happening if it's really off, just black but no touch, etc. Either way, better than nothing for now.
  • We'll know when a high end lumia with LCD display comes out. I bet its just showing a black interface with no user interaction areas. Thus only the system wide gestures like show/hide nav bar works. Try to see if action center comes down.
  • There's no backlight on these phones.  All he has to do is show a black image and the oleds turn off.  The entire screen is still listening to touch.  It's just his app only catches that specific gesture. 
  • I created the app, it's just show a black screen which is effectively disable AMOLED screens.
  • Thanks for making the app
  • Thanks
  • I figured as much. Thanks for the app and the post to verify!
  • You are my Hero for the day!  No, the week. Heck, for as long as it takes Continuum to support this feature natively. lol I am a daily Continuumer. So this is a BIG help. So thanks thXer.
  • The app is nothing but an empty black colour for the display it seems. As the 950 and 950xl have an amoled display(correct me if i am wrong), the black colour means the display will look as if it is off due to the pure blacks of amoled. But on an lcd screen like my 640xl, it would look like it is giving off a very dim white light(eg. glance screen in night). So on an lcd capable continuum device in the future we won't be able to make out the display is on during daytime. In late night however.. Clever trick though.
  • i am quite sure we will get such option directly from MS in a timely manner. I sent them so many email about it that for sure they will do it just not to read me any more
  • hey daniel, would love to get that start background. pls give me the link. also if possible tell me you source of these awesome background images.
  • Nice!
  • This is nice as it reduces burn in. But should be built in function. Kudos to developer.
  • Will apps run in the background on the screen and will keyboard and mouse still work; can apps still be used with peripherals and connected screen while the display is toggled off using this app? Sorry if I missed the answer above.
  • Apps running on the desktop are being powered by the phone but are independent from the device. You can be working on a Word doc on the desktop while on a phone call if you need to.  However, the desktop can only actively run one app at a time.  I don't believe window snapping is supported.  So yes you can still do everything on the desktop even if the phone screen is "off".
  • It's not actually turning off the display. Almost the same effect as opening a black image and swiping away the navigation bar. So, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
  • Great find! Downloading now!
  • If you open any app..on phone.. You can open any other app on the big screen?? This is how it works right? Both devices can work on different apps?
  • Right, but opening this app on your continuum display is not something you want.
  • At last we have to pull the cord....
  • Wallpaper of that phone please!
    And also where could I get this problem solved of 'email me when someone replies to my comment' feature. The developer of app or website?
  • You wouldn't be able to open apps that aren't supported on the big screen.
  • Right, but this shows as a Continuum apps when connected.
  • This kind of thing is good but hopefully will be included into a Continuum firmware update in the future. My free one came on Saturday but I've not had time for a play.
  • I'm still waiting for a "it has been shipped" email.  I'm not in a rush though.  Can't complain when I'm getting a $100 device for free that I wasn't planning on getting otherwise.
  • I got mine in 2 days, which is really surprising as it said 4-6 week delay at the bottom of the web page. And because of a mess up with entering the code they sent me a second one as well and tried to charge me £80!
  • I just checked, and it says it's back ordered.  I entered the code 2 weeks ago.  Oh well, it will arrive eventually.
  • Mine was ordered last week, literally just got the dispatch email an hour ago, can't wait to try it out!
  • Great app idea and a great fill in by dedicated windows developers but it makes you question why such a necessary functionality isn't baked natively. Hopefully someone has registered the suggestion/problem through insider feedback app and hopefully we will see a native baked in functionality with new builds.
  • Thnx! Downloaded!
  • should be build in windows 10
  • Cool app! And for once a Rubino article, that isn't overly narcissistic...
  • Really?
  • Yes.
  • I don't get it?  Did you just forget your smiley face? Or are you really doing a drive-by? We live in crazy times.
  • I assume the app is running in the background which is why you can swipe up. Is there a chance that the OS might kill the app if too many apps are open / too much ram so been consumed? If so, what happens then?
  • The app isn't running in the background. It's open in the foreground. It's a very light app that basically just showed a black image (and the OLED screen works it's magic). You can achieve a similar effect by opening a black image and swiping away the navigation keys.
  • Great idea.... People on these forums just cannot help themselves in turning any positive into having a pop at Microsoft... Does what it says on the tin... does not effect anything if someone calls when in continuum mode... Wonders if the Win central app maker could develop this idea into a 'Troll Disable' app
  • It sounds like the app is a fancier way to display an all black screen since the screen is still on.  If the screen was actually off you wouldn't be able to swipe up to get the navigation buttons.  Either way it's great that someone made this.  Hopefully a native solution is added in 2016.  Maybe a "turn off/on phone screen" button on the desktop's task bar.
  • Good idea....If you use the app on the desktop it switches off the monitor... Could be handy to add a feature on this app for the hd-500 so it works automatically soon as you plug into it. If so required
  • There is also a downside to the screen being on like that that continously. - Image Burning A static image on the screen for excessive amouts of time can cause image burining. LCD doesn't have this problem however OLED and AMOLED do. My 1020 has this problem. The icons for messages at the bottom of SMS and the message space to type in are ghost images on my screen that can be seen when the screen is one solid colour. It's really annoying. 
  • Without knowing how this app works it does look like the screen or most of it powers down and not just stick on a black wallpaper as you suggest...
  • Except, this is a uniform black color throughout the screen, so image burning wouldn't be an issue here.
  • Wallpaper please!!!???
  • you can set wallpaper in continuum screen. go to display setting you will see it. the. "secondary display" option appears when you are connected to the dock.
  • Daniel, the issue I'm having with Continuum is the opposite - I can't find a way to keep the screen on my 950xl from timing out while playing music on Groove. Does this offer a solution to that by preventing the timeout? Or do you know of another solution? Thank you.
  • You can change the lock screen settings and remove the screen time out. You'll then have to lock the screen manually. However, keeping the screen on for long periods showing the same elements is not recommend, as it will lead to image burning (dim afterimages on screen that never go as long as the screen is on)
  • Why would you want the screen not to timeout for?
  • I just want to start a playlist or an album playing through the TV system and leave it to play through - this puts the sound through my home cinema. But after 5 minutes the phone times out and the music stops :'( Any solutions to that anyone? As it is, Groove with Continuum is pointless.
  • At first I didn't understand because Groove works perfectly with a "timed out" screen. But now I realize that what you are saying is that it does NOT work with a Continuum timed-out screen, Hmmmmm, that would be another request for the next Continuum build. Legit too. Continuum truely is a brave new world with all new thinking, in this regard. I'm a big fan of the concept and hope that when it becomes so commmon that folks don't remember when\where it started, that I do remember it was the much maligned 950(XL)'s that pioneered the whole thing.  
  • For your use case, this app should be perfect. Use it with my previous suggestion to keep the screen de facto on, while not causing image burning. ☺ Edit: in case you didn't understand, the app doesn't turn off the screen, just used a black screen (which turns off all lights on OLED screens). So try this app while playing your music.
  • I'm just surprised that the option to disable the screen wasn't in there from the start.  It's the first question I asked myself when I saw it in action.  Who wants to have their phone screen on unnecessarily (if you have the right accessories attached) for hours at a time?  I'd like to use Continuum as a music player to mybedroom TV with a keyboard/trackpad device; I'd have no need for the phones' screen so I just want to lock the phone and get on with using Continuum.
  • I may be missing something here, but when I connect my phone to my xbox (via wireless connector app, or via miracast), continuum pops up. WHich is fine and dandy, but sometimes I want to just mirror my display. I went into settings via the 2nd screen, and the option to mirror a display is there but then it crashes the settings app when I turn it on.   Am I missing something painfully obvious, or does continuum take away basic mirroring/casting functionality? I know I could ask on the forums but figured it's relevent here
  • A kind soul explained this to me the other day. When you are running continuum, open the app on you phone, hit the ellipse menu and display settings From there you can select mirroring.
  • Thank you kind sir it was my first (accidental) time demonstrating Continuum. And though it was cool to my gf when it popped up, it was marred by the fact I couldn't mirror my screen - which was my original intent. Now I know :)
  • Only a guess but in gadget app unassoiciate continuum with the said wireless device you are connecting to...
  • Im wondering, when wp 10 will come for lumia 925 and others... :/
  • February
  • Before MWC most probably.
  • Yeah definitely thanks for the app! But MS definitely needs to provide a proper solution so their OS doesn't always appear half-done. As far as discoverability goes, show a small notification on the continuum display or in the continuum app, or just a "Did you know" notification in the action center. Then take the user to the settings for continuum.
  • I hope this would be not the MS way: "Make your own essential settings. We don't care.."
  • Thank you. More like this Please.
  • no need to install an app only for this purpose. I have a simple workaround. make a 1440x2560 all black picture and use photo app to display this picture. then your screen is on but all pixels are black.
  • Unfortunately, the status bar remains white if you use the Light/White Windows theme color.
  • this app is all well and good but it doesn't stop the phone locking itself thus disconecting you from continuum. this is annoying for time when i am listening to spotify and then it just cuts out. this should be fixed in my opinion.
  • The app helps, thanks a lot for the hint. But my problem is not the screen being turned on alone. After 5 minutes of non usage the phone locks the screen and continuum is interrupted. Even if the disable screen app is running. I'm searching for a way to keep continuum running while the phone display is locked. I am not constantly working on continuum but would use it for presentation purpose, so no mouse gesture or keystroke will happen within a couple of minutes (more than five minutes).  Does anybody know a way to keep the screen unlocked while the phone is connected to a charging device like the display dock?