It could be claimed that mobile operating systems are beginning to outgrow themselves. Apple’s iOS can be found on the pseudo-desktop iPad Pro, Android is finding its way onto desktops with Remix OS, and Windows Mobile 10 has Continuum, a system that turns the mobile device into a desktop computer.
Not to be left out, newcomer to the mobile space, Ubuntu Phone, has its own mobile-to-desktop software. If your device is compatible, and you’re running the OTA-11 update (or later), you too can turn your phone into a PC.
Why You Need a PC in Your Pocket
Smartphones are great for productivity, but even the most ardent advocate of thumb typing would admit that a physical keyboard is better. But when you’re limited by screen size, and the lack of a mouse, the only option is to scale up.
While carrying a laptop around all the time can be tiring, carrying a smartphone isn’t. Instantly reconfiguring a smartphone as a desktop computer is a huge advantage, to freelancers and businesses. It’s seen as the next stage of hot desking, where the office offers just the display and input devices, while you connect your phone and start working.
When you’re done, your phone is disconnected, and reverts back to phone mode.
Does Ubuntu Phone’s Convergence Trump Continuum?
The advantage with the Ubuntu Phone Convergence feature is that no specialist hardware is required. As long as there is a means to connect wirelessly to the TV, and you have a Bluetooth keyboard, you’ll be ready to go.
Now, although Microsoft’s Continuum feature on Windows 10 Mobile demands the addition of a dock (costing around $100), to which you need to connect your monitor, keyboard and mouse, it also offers the wireless Miracast experience, just like Convergence. (Note, however, that at the time of writing, it only works on the Lumia 950 and 950 XL devices.)
Convergence is wireless, making it a far superior option.
It’s worth pointing out here that Convergence doesn’t just mirror the smartphone’s display. Instead, it gives you a full Ubuntu desktop environment to work within.
How to Get Started With Convergence on Ubuntu Touch
Various Ubuntu Touch smartphones and tablets are available, including the Meizu Pro 5, which we used to test. Canonical has stated that all future devices will come with Convergence enabled.
To begin with, you’ll need a TV with wireless compatibility, using the Miracast standard (see below). Note that you’re limited to 720p rather than full HD.
Should you prefer to use a cable, there is also the option of a USB-C-to-HDMI adapter. Note, however, that this method can be inconsistent. Other cable solutions are available depending on what Convergence-compatible Ubuntu Phone device you’re using.
Once your connection method is established, open System > About This Device… and Check for updates. You might also check this via Settings > System > Updates.
Wait for your Ubuntu Touch to update before proceeding.
Connect Your Hardware
Once updated, you’ll need to sync your Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to the Ubuntu Touch device. The mouse isn’t completely necessary, as the device display will double as a touchpad in Convergence mode. Note that you won’t be able to use the handset for calls!
With the Bluetooth keyboard and optional mouse setup, you will then be ready to start using Convergence.
Activate Convergence and Use Ubuntu Touch Like a PC
Various wireless displays can be used with Convergence, as long as they use the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Miracast standard. The Google Chromecast and Apple TV do not use this, but various TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes do, so check your device documentation. Failing this, you should be able to pick up an affordable Miracast HDMI dongle for under $20.
All you need to do to convert your Ubuntu Touch device into a PC is open Settings > Brightness & Display and find the wireless display (or its adapter) that you want to connect to.
This is all there is to it. Seconds later, you’ll be using your phone like a desktop, the Convergence feature seamlessly presenting a PC-like experience, complete with LibreOffice!
Your phone’s display will turn into a touchpad, a pointing device for you to use in place of a mouse (just in case you don’t have one to hand). Similarly, should you have omitted to connect a keyboard the software keyboard in Ubuntu Touch will appear whenever a text field is selected.
Can You Still Use Your Phone?
Various other Bluetooth devices can be connected, including a Bluetooth speaker. This is useful as the wireless HDMI signal doesn’t currently carry audio.
Now, with a phone converted into a “full” PC — or certainly one that can be used in a productive way — there can be only one question. Does the phone still work as a phone? Can calls be received when Convergence is active, and the device is in PC mode?
What do you think of Convergence? Does it challenge Continuum? Would you want a smartphone that converts into a PC with little effort? Tell us what you think in the comments.