While Microsoft’s previous mobile platforms all shared some similarities with desktop Windows versions, Windows 10 Mobile really does put a PC in your pocket. Here’s an interesting example of why this is useful: If you have a USB-C enabled Windows 10 Mobile phone, you can now use many USB peripherals with that device.
This support comes in addition to native support for wired Continuum scenarios (including video projection), fast charging capabilities, and more, plus and Bluetooth support for peripherals such as keyboards and mice (also useful, but not limited to, Continuum).
According to Microsoft, Windows 10 Mobile supports a variety of USB-based PC peripherals, including keyboards, mice, and game controllers. But the most obvious use for USB is external storage. And as with a PC, this is a nice way to bring along additional content that either won’t fit on your phone or only needs to be accessed occasionally.
To test this, I used a USB-C to USB 2.0 adapter that HP supplies with their Spectre x2 detachable PC to access the contents of a USB flash drive.
When you connect the cable (with flash drive) to the phone—in this case, the USB-C-based Lumia 950—the device vibrates a notification, but there is no visual indication that anything has happened. (On PC-based versions of Windows 10, you will typically see a pop-up menu providing you with default autorun choices.)
But Windows 10 Mobile, in keeping with its PC heritage, includes a File Manager application, just like desktop versions of the OS. And when you run this app, you can see the USB flash drive—indicated as drive D: here—alongside your internal and microSD storage.
You navigate the drive just as you would other storage, and you can of course copy files between this external storage device and any storage in the phone.
You can also access and open files directly from the USB drive, though this may not be the best use of your battery. To test this, I opened an H.264 video on the flash drive directly. It opened and played in Movies & TV normally, as expected.
I also tested a USB mouse. As you might expect, you simply plug the mouse into the USB adapter—or, in my case, the USB dongle—the phone buzzes, and then the mouse just works.
And yes, a mouse cursor actually appears on the phone’s screen. You can move it around, click on tiles to launch apps, right-click to access “press and hold” options, and so. It works just as you’d want.
We’ve come a long way since the debut of Windows CE 20 years ago, when critics consistently berated Microsoft for trying to shoehorn its PC OS into tiny mobile devices. Today, this type of functionality isn’t just welcome, it’s a key differentiator for Windows 10 Mobile, and one that maybe doesn’t get enough attention.