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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 How to Install Android on Your PC With Remix OS 3.0 How to Install Android on Your PC With Remix OS 3.0 Remix OS 3.0 lets users install Android on almost any hardware. Like Linux, Remix runs great on slow or older hardware, so if you have an old PC, bring it back to life with Remix... Read More , and Windows Mobile 10 has Continuum Continuum: Switch Between Windows 10 Desktop & Tablet Mode Continuum: Switch Between Windows 10 Desktop & Tablet Mode Windows 10 recognizes your hardware and instantly chooses the best display mode. When you connect your Windows 10 Mobile to a larger screen, you'll get a PC-like experience. That's the smoothness of Continuum. Read More , 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.

Meizu Phone Ubuntu Home

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.

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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.

Meizu Phone Ubuntu Settings

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 Microsoft Lumia 950 Review and Giveaway Microsoft Lumia 950 Review and Giveaway This could be Microsoft's final flagship phone. With many declaring Windows 10 Mobile dead on arrival, just what is the point of the Lumia 950? Read More 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 Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition Smartphone Review (and Giveaway) Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition Smartphone Review (and Giveaway) When a phone is released only to a select few enthusiasts, you wonder whether or not the hype is genuinely worth it. Let's look at one of the first phones to run Ubuntu Touch. Read More , 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 Everything You Need to Know About HDMI Alt Mode and USB Type-C Everything You Need to Know About HDMI Alt Mode and USB Type-C The new HDMI Alt Mode standard will allow phones and tablets to stream directly to monitors and TVs using USB-C-to-HDMI cables. Here's all you need to know about it. Read More . Note, however, that this method can be inconsistent. Other cable solutions are available depending on what Convergence-compatible Ubuntu Phone device you’re using.

Ubuntu Touch Convergence Activate

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 Stop Using HDMI: Miracast Is the Wireless Alternative You'll Love Stop Using HDMI: Miracast Is the Wireless Alternative You'll Love The next time you need to stream media between devices, remember the flaws of HDMI and consider using wireless Miracast instead. It's the technology we all need and deserve. Read More . 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.

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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?

Ubuntu Touch Convergence Incoming Call

Yes!

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.

  1. andrew
    October 11, 2016 at 11:44 am

    > Should you prefer to use a cable, there is also the option of a USB-C-to-HDMI adapter.
    Meizu PRO 5 doesn't support HDMI over USB by hardware.

  2. Jacob
    October 5, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    I would certainly love if my phone could do that. Though, with a few tweeks, I think an Android phone could be made to do pretty much the same thing.

  3. Eric de Hooge
    October 4, 2016 at 4:36 am

    It is certainly of added value to have a Ubuntu desktop wherever you are. I have Chrome Running for about 80 percent of the day and 20 percent for Linux with applications likr Gimp, darktable and scribus.

  4. g
    October 1, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Yeah check your facts, continuum works over miracast and Bluetooth no dock required... Stopped reading the article when I got to that glaring mistake

    • Christian Cawley
      October 2, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Thanks for your constructive comment. It is *really* appreciated.

  5. WP7Mango
    September 30, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Also, on Continuum, not only can you take calls, but you can continue using your smartphone as a smartphone, i.e. if you launch an app on your phone, it will run on the phone. If you launch the app from the external monitor, it will run on the external monitor.

  6. WP7Mango
    September 30, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    No, Continuum does not need a wired dock. It works wirelessly. You can use the phone as a trackpad too.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 2, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Thanks for the correction, WP7Mango.

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