Desktop Mode for Smartphones: Why Didn’t It Succeed?

The technological advancements of smartphones have been remarkable in recent years, making them increasingly powerful and versatile devices. With ever-increasing processing power, storage, and screen sizes, smartphones have the potential to replace traditional desktop computers and laptops for many users. Several companies, including Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung, recognized this potential and developed desktop mode solutions, such as Continuum, Sidecar, and DeX, respectively, to offer users a seamless transition between their mobile and desktop experiences. However, despite the potential benefits, these desktop modes have failed to gain significant traction with users. Today, let us explore the reasons why the concept of desktop mode for smartphones hasn’t taken off despite being a practical and sometimes exciting possibility.

What is the desktop mode for smartphones?

Desktop mode for smartphones is a feature that allows users to connect their device to an external display such as a monitor, TV, or projector, and use it as a traditional desktop computer. This feature is particularly useful for people who want to work on larger screens or simply prefer the desktop interface. It is also an excellent option for those who enjoy playing online games, including online keno for real money, as it provides a more immersive and convenient gaming experience. When playing online casino games for real money, it is essential to have a stable internet connection and a device that can handle the demands of the game – because, as we all know, malfunction voids all winnings. Desktop mode for smartphones provides the perfect solution, offering a reliable and efficient gaming experience. Additionally, players can take advantage of other features offered by desktop devices, such as multi-tasking, making it possible to play multiple games at once.

Continuum, Sidecar, DeX – What do they have in common?

Microsoft Continuum, Apple Sidecar, and Samsung DeX are all technologies that aimed to transform smartphones into fully functional desktop computers. They share the same concept of “desktop mode,” which enables users to connect their smartphones to a larger screen, keyboard, and mouse, effectively turning the smartphone into a computer. This technology was based on the idea that modern smartphones have the sufficient processing power to handle most computing tasks and that users would benefit from a single device that can function both as a phone and a computer.

One of the main features of these technologies is that they allow users to have a desktop-like experience, with resizable windows, a taskbar, and a file explorer. Users could access their files and applications as they would on a desktop computer, using a keyboard and a mouse, rather than a touchscreen. This would allow for increased productivity and ease of use, especially for tasks that require more than what a smartphone screen can offer.

Another common feature of these technologies is that they require additional hardware to function correctly. For example, Microsoft Continuum required a dock, while Apple Sidecar needed a Mac to connect to. Samsung DeX had a unique design, where users could connect their smartphone to a dock or a simple HDMI adapter to enable desktop mode.

Why is their success so limited?

While the idea of using a smartphone to perform tasks typically reserved for a laptop or desktop computer seems practical, these services failed to gain traction with customers for several reasons.

Limited compatibility

Continuum, Sidecar, and DeX all required specific hardware and software to work, limiting the number of devices that could use them. This meant that users had to purchase new devices that supported these services, which was an additional expense. For example, Continuum required a specific dock or adapter, while Sidecar only worked with specific Mac and iPad models. DeX required a specific dock or cable and was only available on select Samsung devices, usually the “top of the line” models, and is not available on the more accessible ones.

Limited functionality

While the services offered the ability to connect a smartphone to an external display and keyboard, the experience was often limited compared to a traditional desktop or laptop computer. The operating systems running on smartphones are not optimized for desktop use, which made the experience of using these services feel clunky and frustrating. Furthermore, the performance of these services was often lacking, with limited processing power and memory compared to a traditional computer, making them unsuitable for demanding applications.

Cost and awareness

Another reason why these services failed to take off was the extra cost involved in using them. Continuum required a specific dock or adapter that was only compatible with certain devices, making it difficult for users to switch between different devices. The situation was similar for Samsung’s DeX – a DeX dock that turned certain smartphone models into desktop mini-PCs had to be purchased. Other manufacturers did introduce more cost-effective and convenient variants, but they, too, failed to live up to the users’ expectations.

Finally, there’s the matter of awareness. The majority of smartphone users were simply not aware of the benefits of using a smartphone as a replacement for a desktop computer. The marketing of these services was lacking on the providers’ part, which contributed to their failure in the long run.

Are these functions still available?

While “desktop mode” for smartphones wasn’t a success, it wasn’t an ultimate failure either. While we don’t see hordes of home office workers ditching their laptops and using their phones as a computer instead, the services are still very much around, supported by the latest models released – at least in most cases.

Apple still allows its users to set up their iPads as a secondary display. This can be useful in certain situations, especially if you happen to own both a Mac and an iPad. Samsung DeX can be used with Samsung phones in the Galaxy line (S8 through S23), Note line (Note8 through Note20), the Z Fold 2, and various tablet models. 

The only one of the above that failed was Microsoft’s Continuum: it was discontinued in 2017 when the OS maker gave up on its Windows Phone dream.


The concept of “desktop mode” for smartphones, which aimed to turn smartphones into fully functional desktop computers, failed to gain significant traction with users. The limited compatibility and functionality, extra cost, and lack of awareness contributed to their limited success. However, despite the failure of these services, they are still available, supported by the latest models released, and can be useful in certain situations. It remains to be seen if future technological advancements will lead to a more successful mobile-desktop experience.

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