Continuum, Windows Hello, and Microsoft's own apps are why you should consider this increasingly niche Windows Phone OS. Microsofta€™s Windows 10 Mobile operating system may be a second-tier OS, but ita€™s not second-rate. Microsoft provided us one of its new flagship phones, the Lumia 950, to test out its new Windows 10 for phones.
Note, however, that several of the most unique features of Windows 10 depend on the hardware built into the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL. The $99 Microsoft Display Dock lets you enjoy the Continuum feature on a Lumia 950 or 950XL.
Continuum can connect your phone to an external display with or without wires, but it works best withA the $99 Microsoft Display Dock, which connects toa€”and powersa€”either the Lumia 950 or 950XL via its USB-C cable.
Continuum can also forgo the Display Dock entirely, projecting your phonea€™s screen wirelessly via Miracast to a dongle or directly to displays like the Panasonic CX800 60-inch 4K monitor in our lab. With Continuum running, your phone projects a PC-like, slightly low-res desktop view onto your display, roughly similar to the look and feel of a Surface Pro 4 in tablet mode.A Microsoft goes to a great deal of effort to make your Continuum experience feel like using a full-fledged computer.
I was very pleased at how I could sit down, open a Word file, begin taking notes on my experience, then return to my desktop PC and pick up where I left off, because everything is saved in the cloud. Windows Hello eliminates the need to constantly retype a PIN code by allowing the phone to visually recognize you.
Microsofta€™s recent Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book use special camera modules that scan your face to create a custom image to compare against the faces the camera subsequently sees. The Lumia 950 and 950XL, on the other hand, scan the irises of your eyes to authenticate you. Windows Hello setup requires gazing soulfully into the Windows phonea€™s camera for a few seconds.
Everyone knows about the a€?app gapa€?a€”the sparse supply for Windows Phones compared to the plethora that Android and iOS enjoy. Ita€™s here that owners of older Windows phones will see the advantages of Windows 10 Mobile, regardless of their hardware.
Because theya€™re universal, Windows 10 Mobile appsa€”Outlook (formerly Mail), Calendar, Maps, Messages, the Store, and morea€”are designed with the same features as their counterparts on a Windows 10 desktop. A good example is Maps, an afterthought on the PC but a critical part of Windows 10 Mobile. Other key mobile apps include Camera, whose manual controls have now been supplemented with Microsofta€™s lovely Rich Capture feature, allowing you to dial HDR effects up and down with a slider.
Who could forget about the Office appsa€“Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNotea€“which tie into the cloud and into Cortana (a€?take a notea€?) as well.

Ita€™s important to note, however, that Microsofta€™s plan to encourage developers to port iOS and Android apps to Windows hasna€™t yet come to fruition.
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As PCWorld's senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. PCWorld helps you navigate the PC ecosystem to find the products you want and the advice you need to get the job done.
With its new smartphone OS, Microsoft has doubled down on the productivity message, crafting a utilitarian OS with occasional flashes of magica€”most notably its new PC-like Continuum feature.
It's running Windows 10 Mobile Build 10586, the same version Microsoft shipped to its Insider fast ring on Wednesday.
Microsoft also assumes that if youa€™re buying a Windows 10 Mobile phone, you already own a Windows 10 PC.
You can set a custom, landscape background for your monitor, and apps align themselves in a PC-like taskbar at the bottom of the screen. YouA can slide your fingers around to move the cursor, tap with your finger to open apps, pan and scroll with two fingers, and right-click by tapping those two fingers.
Thata€™s a key difference: Android tablets, for instance, can connect to an HDMI monitor via an MHL connectora€”but youa€™re forced to view the screen inside a narrow rectangle, which mirrors the tablet you have in front of you. Ita€™s Microsofta€™s answer to the fingerprint readers built into the latest Nexus 6P or Apple iPhone. Setup requires allowing the phonea€™s front-facing camera to scan your eyes for several seconds while it creates a reference image.
But if youa€™re not holding the phone just so, or the light is a bit off, or youa€™re too close or too far away, then simply tapping your phonea€™s four-digit PIN is sometimes the only thing that works. For better or for worse, Microsoft is making the most of what it has by doubling down on the basic productivity message inside its own universal apps. From a UI perspective, Windows 10 uses the same Live Tile interface as Windows Phone 8.1, but with a more muted style that emphasizes wallpapers rather than brightly colored tiles.
Maps delivers the essentials: a basic map view with traffic options, a lovely satellite view (without the need to launch a separate app), and local search that integrates with Yelp, including reviews, pictures, and hours of operation.
Skype messaging has been drawn into the Messaging app, though Skype remains as a standalone app, as does Skype video.
Edge is now built-in as the default browser, with Reading List entries roaming among platforms.
Microsofta€™s Android-to-Windows developer effort, Project Astoria, has reportedly failed; however, the program to port iOS apps, Islandwood, is still flourishing.

We wrote last year that Microsoft needed to unearth what made a Windows Phone unique, and capitalize on it with a flagship phone. The company has done so much to entice consumers to Windows phones: previews, incorporating consumer feedback, free upgrades, universal apps, Continuum, you name ita€”and yet its market share continues to decline. Our parent company, IDG, receives advertisement revenue for shopping activity generated by the links.
Microsoft should make that same version available soon, for free, to owners of selected older Windows Phones. Ita€™s not essential, but Windows 10 ties together phones, PCs, and tablets far more seamlessly than, say, the Apple MacBook and iOS. By far the biggest selling point of Windows 10 Mobile is Continuum, a feature that lets you connect your phone to an external monitor and operate it like a PC. You can also access the phonea€™s keyboard to enter texta€”as well as the mic, which I found to be pretty handy for dictating text.
I gave Hello a second or two to work its magic, and if it didn't take, I just entered my PIN. Menus and options are much more organized, with a nice array of quick-action shortcuts that can be slid down from the top.
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Own a PC and a Windows phone, Microsoft seems to say, and youa€™ll be far more productive than if you owned any other platform. Continuum certainly wona€™t kill PCs or tablets, but ita€™s still a profound shift in computing culture.
Dedicated hardware buttons have been replaced with soft icons that slide in from the bottom.
If Microsoft can succeed in convincing app developers to port their apps to Windows, that will add immediate credibility to the mobile platform for both consumer and developer alike. And to minimize or close an app, you need to slide your cursor to the top-right cornera€”there are no visual cues telling you otherwise.

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