Continuing with Continuum

Had a play with continuum these last few days and the verdict: It’s cool, but I don’t get it!

As I’ve said in a previous post Microsoft aren’t the first to try this trick of turning your phone in to your laptop or PC and for me I don’t see the point. The idea, I think, is to make your PC smaller, more versatile and flexible meaning you can take it anywhere. Reality is you need your phone, a mouse, keyboard, a monitor and Continuum plus all the wires that connect them. Not sure how Microsoft think this makes the phone easier to carry around?

Connecting Continuum up was super easy and it all powered up with no issues at all. I thought the idea of using your phone home screen as your start display was great. The dynamic twisting and turning of the app tiles worked perfectly and I was super impressed when loading and shutting down apps.

The big sell for Microsoft, at the moment, is the professional programs like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. You get a scaled back version of these desktop apps, but you still get everything you basically need to do anything you want. I personally ran large files with over 15 years of financial forecasting connecting more than 6 spreadsheets and it work swimmingly. Something I didn’t expect it to be able to handle.

The multitasking was really quite buggy though. As the above image shows, whilst you have something on the big screen you can play around on the phone accessing other apps and continue what you’re doing. I found that if I tried multi tasking like this the Excel, Word or Powerpoint file would crash. One time I was on Skype on the phone discussing the spreadsheet in front of me and the phone completely froze and I had to reset the whole thing.

The first time I used Continuum I had a few user error issues with the mouse and the phone. You can use the phone as the mouse if you wish, but if you put the mouse and phone too close together things get confused very easily and the portable mouse wont work. It took a few curse words before I figured that one out. Very red faced!

For me one thing Microsoft has never struggled with is hardware. Believe it or not Microsoft have been in the hardware game a lot longer than people realise, nearly as long as Apple. They just didn’t make huge volumes of laptops or desktops. The devices they’ve always come out with have always had good looks and appeal (other than the Lumia 950XL that’s been hit with the ugly stick like the 1520). And again they’ve always had great software, but because Microsoft are so late to the smart phone/device market they’ve been left so far behind that they are really struggling to catch up. Even though they deliver great software and are trying to make developers lives easier with their cross platform technologies developers are still not really interested. And I feel this could happen again with Windows 10. With Windows Phone 7 and then 8.1 they still didn’t have many of the big apps and looking at the apps coming out no one is developing for Windows Phone and I don’t understand why developers are doing this. I’m involved in three big apps coming out this year in Fintech and Insurtech sectors and each one of them I’ve made sure will be available on Windows Phone. Though the numbers may not be as high as Android or iOS the users are loyal and deserve great apps.

Overall Continuum is a great concept, but reality is very different. I’d rather a good looking, solid and robust phone (which the Lumia 950 has in abundance and I recommend) and a fantastic bit of kit like the Surface Book or Pro 4. They’ve made these two so great I think that they’ve already made Continuum redundant.


The Trial Continues

I’ve now had a chance to review all aspects of the kit Microsoft sent across, I’ve spent quite some time setting the phone up, setting up Continuum, having conversations with Cortana and using it out and about. I’m going to break down each element in my next few posts covering:

  • Windows 10 Mobile
  • Continuum
  • Cortana
  • Design and specifications
  • Apps vs Univeral Apps
  • Practicality

The Microsoft Lumia 950 is Microsoft’s first Windows 10 smartphone. That alone should make it a big deal.

At this moment in time I don’t think you’ll see tens of millions of people across the UK or the globe buying one of these tomorrow, next week or even next year. For most, Windows still isn’t a viable option over Android or iOS. For the dedicated Windows fans, this device is right up their street.

Windows 10 Mobile

Visually there’s not a lot different between 10 and Windows Phone 8.1. The two share familiar navigational layout. The customisable grid of Live Tiles remains the same, as does the Store, the Action Center pull-down menu and the alphabetical list of all apps.

At the very bottom of the screen, unlike Microsofts last flagship device the Lumia 930, you’ll find a trio of navigation soft keys: back, home and search like on the 730 and co. Like the others holding down the back button pops up the multitasking view, where you can manage, launch and kill your recently used apps.

A new difference between 8.1 and 10 is the homescreen, which is more customisable than before, and looks a bit more modern. You can now add a background image as well as being able to add an image to the tiles like 8.1.

The Action Center shortcut keys, which run across the top of the screen when you bring it down, can be expanded with a simple click. They’ve now added a further two rows of toggles, which does make it look a bit daunting at first glance. They’ve continued the same look and feel if you’re using Windows 10 on a laptop right now, the Notifications Center found in the bottom right corner of the desktop looks basically the same.

Microsoft’s have claimed time and time again their aim is to create a consistent look and feel across all devices – phones, laptops, desktops and tablets – and they’re on the right track.

The next major difference are Continuum, the Universal apps and Cortana, which I’ll cover in their own posts as this comes with a lot more detail.

Overall is their much difference between 8.1 and 10. Visually, no, Underneath, oh… yes, but is this enough to start changing peoples perspective of the Windows platform and entice people over, who knows.

Thus far testing is going well, so stay tuned for more info…



Lumia 950 Trial

On Thursday (my 32nd birthday) I received Microsoft’s new device the Lumia 950 as part of a trial they’ve asked me to do. As you’ll see in my last post I gave the launch of the Lumia 950 and 950XL  a real hard time, so it’ll be really interesting to see how they really shape up in my hand.

I’ve been in the Windows Phone ecosystem since the beginning with the HTC Titan running Windows Phone 7, which I thought was a great phone. I now have the Lumia 930, which I’ve had for a very a long time and is also a very good phone, however does come with a heating issue. I’m now looking at the new crop of Windows Phone devices so this has come at a fortuitous time for me to review.

So what did the lovely guys over at Microsoft send me I hear you ask? I’ve got the Lumia 950, Arc mouse and keyboard including Continuum with all the wires that connects everything up.

Lets first start with the Lumia 950. Overall its much better looking than its bigger brother the 950XL. It’s surprisingly light, thin and fits well in the hand. Overall, I’m quite impressed. It charged as quick as they say, so within half an hour I was ready to start downloading apps and heading in to town to give it a proper test.

The keyboard and arc mouse are as slick as ever, which leaves Continuum. As you’ve probably read in my last post the Lumia 950 and Continuum aren’t the first device to try and turn your phone in to a laptop or PC and I’m sure it wont be the last, but the way Microsoft have structured Windows 10 and the use of this little black box they call Continuum is different to everyone else. This little box is about 5cm square and for it’s size is fairly heavy. However, it’s very discreet, currently sitting under my TV in the lounge. It connects up very simple and I’m looking forward to giving it a thorough test drive.

Overall, I must admit, I am a lot more impressed with not only the device, but Continuum as well. Initially, I thought this was a Microsoft PR stunt, but looking at it they’re very serious.

I’m going to try and get a post out every day on my journey with this new phone and gadgets over the next two weeks so keep reading and keep coming back for updates.