Hands-On with Windows 10’s New “Continue From Your Phone” Feature

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 43 Comments

Hands-On with Windows 10's New "Continue From Your Phone" Feature

Today’s Windows 10 Insider Preview build includes our first peek at the PC/smartphone integration functionality Microsoft showed off months ago at Build. It’s a small step forward.

A few weeks back, I openly wondered what had happened all the great Fall Creators Update features we were promised months ago at Build 2017. Key among them was a set of smartphone integration features, including Phone settings, a cloud-powered clipboard, Timeline, and Pick Up Where You Left Off. None of which had appeared, to date, in any preview versions of the Fall Creators Update.

Well, today that changed. A little bit. As I noted in Microsoft Ships Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15235 to the Fast Ring, this most recent preview build does finally include that Phone settings feature, which lets you link your smartphone to your PC. (Really, it links your smartphone to your Microsoft account, which likewise needs to be linked to your PC.) And … then there was something else too. That is not quite Pick Up Where You Left Off. It’s called Continue From Your Phone.

Here’s how Dona Sarkar describes this additional feature.

“After you’ve linked your phone, just go to your phone and start browsing the web,” she writes. “When you are at a website you want to view on your PC, simply invoke the native share experience on your phone and share the website to the ‘Continue on PC’ option … the website will magically open on the linked PC.”

I’ve cut out a bunch of explanatory text there for brevity’s sake. But the way this works in the real world is actually quite ponderous. And it’s one-way only, from phone to PC: You can’t “pick up where you left off” on the phone if you start on the PC. (Not yet?) And to be clear, this is for browsing a single website only. The Pick Up Where You Left Off feature is supposed to work bi-directionally and for a wider range of tasks.

So it’s super limited. I’ll explain why this is ponderous in a moment. But before getting to that, let me explain how I’d do this now.

I’m on my iPhone. Or Android phone, it doesn’t matter. And I’m reading a website that I’d like to open on my PC for some reason. Since I’m using Chrome, it just works: I go to my PC, open Chrome, and select More (the “…” menu) and choose History. All of the recent tabs from all my devices are right there.

The Chrome approach works because it’s Chrome on both sides, and the history is synced through your Google account. Microsoft does the same thing—you need to be signed in to your Microsoft account on each device—but the process isn’t as seamless because you won’t be using the same browser (probably) on each device. For example, this would work with Safari on the iPhone and Edge on Windows 10.

Anyway, here’s how it works.

First, on Windows 10, you open the new Phone settings interface (Settings > Phone) and click Add a Phone. You need to be signed in with your Microsoft account, and if you are not, you will be prompted.

Then, you enter your phone’s phone number so that Microsoft can text you the install link for the Microsoft Apps mobile app.

Two things about this app.

First, this currently works only on Android, but an iPhone version of the app is coming soon.

Second, you may recall that the Microsoft Apps mobile app used to be just a lame promotional thing the listed all of the apps Microsoft made for Android. Well, it’s been updated to do more stuff. For example, it adds a “Continue on PC” item to the Share pane in Android (and will do so soon on iPhone too).

OK. On the Android phone, the text message arrives.

And when you tap that link, the Google Play Store opens and navigates to the Microsoft Apps page. So you install that. And sign-in with your Microsoft account.

OK, now you’re ready to start reading a web page on your phone and then continue reading it on your PC. So obviously, you load a web page on the phone. In your browser of choice.

Next, choose the More menu (“…) and then Share.

In the Share pane that appears, select “Continue on PC.”

A pop-up appears with two choices: “Continue now” and “Continue later.”

If you choose “Continue now,” you will be presented with a grid of the other devices that are connected to your Microsoft account. (And I assume you could, in fact, push this page to a browser on a phone, but I haven’t tried that.) To be clear, this is any PC connected to your Microsoft account, and not just the one you linked via that Phone settings interface.

Select the PC you want and Microsoft Edge (and not your default browser) will open on that PC and display that page.

If you choose “Continue later,” a notification will pop-up on your linked PC (and, I assume any other linked PCs) indicating that the page has been saved.

You will see it in the “Continue from your phone” section in Action Center too. So you can select this notification later to open the web page on your PC.

Obviously, this isn’t as seamless as just using Chrome everywhere. And I really don’t like that Microsoft forces you to use Edge on the PC-based receiving end. But a step forward is a step forward. And this is pretty interesting and possibly useful. I assume bi-directional sharing is coming soon too.


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Comments (43)

43 responses to “Hands-On with Windows 10’s New “Continue From Your Phone” Feature”

  1. Jaxidian

    I was fairly unimpressed with it. I had much the same experience, although it seems my notifications are always cleared in Windows when I click on the notifications icon (I see the number there but as it expands, it's empty and the number goes away), so I wasn't able to test the "Continue Later" option.

    I wonder if it's trying to sync these notifications with a machine that has an older version of Windows (which doesn't support these notifications).

    Overall I was quite unimpressed. This is something I'll keep installed - we'll see if I ever actually use it.

    My wishes:

    1. Honor my default browser
    2. If I send a link from/for an app (Amazon, Twitter, etc.), open it in the appropriate app in Windows, if applicable.
    3. Make this go both ways ("Continue on Phone" -> open default browser in Android)
    4. Support iPhone (or not, I don't care - don't have an iPhone, but this should probably be here)
    5. Magic (once they get all of these basic things done, then start to do the fancy crap they demoed, which I have no clue how is supposed to work given the limited nature of the "Share" menus in Windows, Android, and iOS)
    • jbinaz

      1. If I send a link from/for an app (Amazon, Twitter, etc.), open it in the appropriate app in Windows, if applicable.

      This would require having the app on Windows, which depending on the app may or may not exist. I hope the store gets some momentum...

      • Jaxidian

        In reply to jbinaz:

        Oh, definitely! They already have the "fallback to a web browser" scenario working well, which is the ideal fallback scenario. Hopefully they can figure out how to have the first-class experience scenarios working well, too, when you have the appropriate apps installed in both places (and I don't just mean Microsoft apps but more standard things, like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Newegg, etc.)

  2. the_sl0th

    Seems too restrictive to me to be useful:

    1. Only works on Windows 10 PCs
    2. Have to be logged in using a Microsoft Account on PC rather than just a local user
    3. Only opens in Edge on the PC, not the default browser

    Shame. I'm sure with a bit more imagination they could have created a cross-(MS)platform solution that is truly useful.

  3. prettyconfusd

    I wondered what that 'continue on PC' icon was that turned up the last couple days. I tried it but it doesn't do anything for me yet as my Surface isn't enrolled in the Insider Preview - good to know the option will be there in a month or two at least.

    Agreed it seems like a very basic version of the cool stuff they promised us though, hopefully the feature set fills out quickly.

  4. Roger Ramjet

    So if Microsoft implement some multiple user by each PC thing (do they already have this), the solution essentially becomes a shareware from all to all (could be a part of their family share thing previously promoted? could be used in classrooms?). That would be vastly superior to the Chrome thing which is designed for Thurrott to Thurrott.

    Don't see why they should build this and immediately hand over the benefits to Google by having you go over to Chrome on PC ("muscle memory" and all that), and since the reviewer says the Chrome version exists and is more seamless, the complaint seems like saying the food is bad and the portions too small. And not bad, since its the only comparison available now, but just note this isn't a finished product.

  5. SRLRacing

    I've been getting notifications from Cortana to resume where I left off on my PC in Edge for a few weeks now with it showing me the tabs in Edge from the last time I completely shut it down with the PC still running.

  6. skane2600

    Well, MS got one thing right - looking at web pages on phones sucks so better to see them on a PC. Then again, if you have a PC nearby better to just skip the phone altogether.

  7. GT Tecolotecreek

    Sounds like a more burdensome copy of IOS/OSX Continuity feature that came out in fall 2014. Continuity includes handoff, universal clipboard, cell calls to/from your computer and instant hotspot. Handoff works with Safari, Mail, Maps, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts and some 3rd party products. While it only works with OS X/IOS devices it is seamless and transparent, and just works with no extra steps. Just start on one device and you can pick it up on the other with a single tap or click.

  8. navarac

    Interesting to read all of the negative comments. This works OK and I'll hold my thoughts and see how this pans out.

  9. Tony Barrett

    What an utterly ponderous, pointless 'feature'. Maybe this works (just) if you're using all the defaults MS want you to use, but anyone else won't even bother with this. I can achieve this between my Android device, ChromeBook and Chrome on PC already, and it's a heck of a lot more seamless.

    Probably just another MS way to try and force people to use MS accounts. No thanks.

  10. Waethorn

    Does anybody not see the problem with Microsoft's default PC naming system now? #facepalm #golfclap

  11. Narg

    I recall Microsoft being more Android on Windows 10 features originally. Nice to see them cross the gap to get both ecosystems into this feature.

  12. GetEdumated

    Firefox also syncs history.

  13. mikefarinha

    My guess this is a move to help entice developers to build more windows store apps. If I'm on my mobile and am struck by an idea I want to write down in Word before I forget I can do that and then, when I have more time to flesh it out and format it, I can continue on my PC with a full experience.

    I would think the store apps on the PC would have to support this feature , which would explain why it currently only works with edge.

    I can see this being something that developers of mobile productivity apps (Project/Task management, travel planning, banking, content creation, etc.) Might consider.

  14. Win74ever

    Useless feature. You already can do this using Chrome. It would be nice if they stop putting useless categories in the Settings and just finish moving everything from Control Panel to Settings. But I know that will never happen because Windows 10 is a dead end.

  15. rameshthanikodi

    So clicking the continue later notification will open the page only in Edge? That sucks. Dealbreaker. I wish I could say I expected better from Microsoft but these days it seems like I can't. Does continue now forces you to use Edge as well?

    I'm also puzzled that they built this into the lame Microsoft Apps app (lol) instead of the Cortana app, which syncs notifications between the phone and PC in the cloud.

    • cayo

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      Oh yes. When Google forces you to use Chrome to access similar functionality, Paul calls it is 'seamless'. And when Microsoft forces you to use Edge, that sucks, it is a dealbreaker, etc.

      • rameshthanikodi

        In reply to cayo:

        It would have been easier if it just opened it in whatever your default browser is, you know, just like any other link you open on your PC. But they went out of their way and hard-coded it for Edge. That's what isn't seamless.

      • prjman

        In reply to cayo: The better solution, IMO, is to simply release an 'Edge' browser for IOS and Android. That way, this kind of kludge solution isn't necessary. Even if they aren't there yet, they could simply wrap the Edge syncing functionality around the stock android browser, then upgrade it from there.

        If only MS had some engineers who would work on Android Edge while they finish Windows Edge. Being such a small company, I can see why they are strapped.

  16. anchovylover

    " Obviously, this isn’t as seamless as just using Chrome everywhere. And I really don’t like that Microsoft forces you to use Edge on the PC-based receiving end. ".....That's it in a nutshell! Other than MS's core fans why would anybody use this. It is inferior in every way. It's not the year 2000 anymore MS, there are better options for us all to use. Once again, too little too late.

  17. IanYates82

    I'll stick with pushbullet until they make this better. Goes bidirectional, uses my browser, and a whole lot more. It also supports end to end encryption (manually enter key into each device) which is a nice-to-have. I can also do pc to pc, or phone to tablet, or whatever I want. Pretty handy.

    It's a shame but Microsoft could do so much better. I'll continue watching to see.

  18. Plumbobby

    They could always consider beginning by making Cortana available outside the U.S... I bought an S8+ over an iPhone because of the flexibility with changing defaults to Microsoft services used on my Lumia 950, and previous Windows Phones... Imagine my surprise when trying to install Cortana right away and being told it isn't available. Yet, it's available on Windows 10 and Mobile in Canada. Sigh.

  19. Dan1986ist

    If only an Android tablet could be setup using this and not just devices that happen to be used sometimes as phones.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Dan1986ist:

      Install this... https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microsoft.appmanager

      I don't even have an Android device. I just looked up "Microsoft Apps Google Play Store" and there it was.

      • Dan1986ist

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        The issue is on the PC side, there is no way to setup an Android tablet using phone in settings in 16251. As we all know, this is requires sending a text to a phone which can't be done with regular tablet.

  20. anchovylover

    Most Edge users are MS fans and as such most likely still use a WM phone. Who is the target audience for this feature?

  21. adamcorbally

    They should just make a version of edge for iOS and android, doesn't need to be anything fancy other than functional and have shared file history and passwords via Microsoft account. Simple.

    • anchovylover

      In reply to adamcorbally:

      If people ignore Edge on desktop why do you believe those same people would use Edge on mobile?

      • Jaxidian

        In reply to anchovylover:

        I would argue that it's mostly ignored b/c it's Windows-only. Nobody likes to use Safari on iPhone and Edge on Windows. Or Chrome on Android and Edge on Windows. They're most likely just going to use Chrome since it functions very well on all environments (ignoring battery drain, obviously) and everything just seemlessly syncs across all of those environments effortlessly.

        Edge could do the same without Microsoft having to create this huge convoluted multi- third-party technology synchronization system. That would be a HUGE boost to Edge adoption on Windows. Sure, there's more to it than that, but I would argue that's the #1 thing hurting Edge adoption today.

        • Narg

          In reply to Jaxidian:

          Isn't "Safari" the only browser allowed on iOS? Sure, the others _look_ like another browser, but it's just a cover over Safari. Or have they changed that?

          Still, having an "Edge" Safari to allow info sharing with the desktop would be cool.

        • RonH

          In reply to Jaxidian:

          MS should make a Chrome and Edge add on to sync them.

        • anchovylover

          In reply to Jaxidian:

          Edge isn't just ignored, it is rejected by the masses. I used the word " ignored " to be civil. As you know Edge is the default browser of W10 and as such is on around 400/450 million desktops. Users have actually gone out of their way to install Chrome or Firefox. To me, that borders on a consumer revolt against Edge. People used to joke about IE only being used to download a different browser but at least IE still had decent market share so people were still willingly using it. The atrocious market share of Edge is a scandal in my mind yet tech writers rarely fully address it.

    • prettyconfusd

      In reply to adamcorbally:

      Yes please! They must be working on this. If they're not then they're even crazier than I thought, haha!

      A modern web browser isn't bound to one device, it's bound to a person - no matter what device they happen to be using.

      The IE team understood this with Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 where not only did all your bookmarks, passwords, and settings sync across multiple devices - but so did your tabs. That experience was magical.

      Now the only way to get that is to use Chrome.

      Opera doesn't sync passwords from desktop to mobile, making their sync feature semi-useless.

      And Edge. Well, Edge is it's own little island that just doesn't talk to anyone.

      I don't mind using Edge - it was a pain that first year but it does what I need it to now at a basic level - but now I no longer have a Windows mobile device, well - things might change...

      But as they've not announced it yet, I'd guess we're looking at next March at the earliest for a cross-platform play for Edge unfortunately.

  22. Johnpattison

    All good with Chrome syncing but what about Windows 10 S users - this might be their only option?