No headset? Companion devices to the rescue – Microsoft Teams

I attended the Digital Workplace Conference this week in Auckland, New Zealand. I don’t like taking a headset with me to a conference unless I have to. Even more so when it’s my Plantronics 8200 UCs. More than one friend has commented that when I where them, the headset is almost a third the size of my head. In fact, I can recommend it as a makeshift neck brace if you have just experienced whiplash. [Disclaimer: I’m joking. Don’t use it in place of a proper neck brace. [Comment on Disclaimer: Isn’t it sad that I have to type a disclaimer for something as obvious as this?]]


BTW – great sound, awesome mic. Bluetooth quality was scratchy sometimes till I finally updated the firmware. Now it’s even better.

As conferences usually go for a busy consultant, the eventual call comes in for something you just have to attend to. Thankfully, this fantastic project manager was giving me ‘heads-up’ that I’m needed in a meeting later in the day. However, I didn’t bring any headset. Then I remembered Microsoft Teams allows use of a companion device.

Companion devices in Microsoft Teams

“What’s a companion device” you ask? I can join a Teams meeting from two devices simultaneously. From a desktop/laptop and from my mobile. This opens up a few useful scenarios.

  • Roaming tour: Start the call from your desk. Then begin to talk about an object or some architecture in the room. Join the call from your mobile with video and voice turned on. Walk over to the object, point and talk about the object.
  • Mobile app training: Start call from your desk. Join from your mobile and share your mobile screen. Run the training using the webcam, mic and speakers from your desk, while presenting the mobile app as the shared ‘desktop.’
  • In place of a headset: My story continues below.

I didn’t bring my headset. But I have a perfectly good handset with me most of the time – my mobile. I had two options. Dial in via the conference number and ID for the Microsoft Teams meeting, OR use the Teams mobile app for audio.

View from the iPad. Listen and speak from the iPhone.

I wanted to be able to join the Teams meeting from my iPad, so I could more comfortably see a shared desktop during the meeting. I had only used my mobile as a companion device with my laptop and Surface Pro. But it turns out that I can join a Teams meeting from two mobile apps. I joined the meeting from my mobile using the Teams app, in addition to my iPad. This provided the audio as a handset. Nifty.

The meeting began with the usual four quadrants as participants joined with their video turned on. My image was being displayed through the front facing camera on my iPad. This meant I could comfortably look and engage with people. I held my mobile to my ear as you normally would during a cellular call. The video from the meeting participants was displaying on my mobile too. But I wouldn’t see it and it would dim as I placed my mobile against my ear to listen and speak.
Joining from the mobile as companion device was smart in that it didn’t automatically activate the camera on my mobile. However, I could do so simply by turning my video on from the mobile.

Ten minutes into the meeting and the project manager began to share his desktop to show the plan and some other key documents. His shared content was comfortable to view from my iPad, while I listened and contributed to the conversation through the mobile app.

Drawbacks

However there were a couple of drawbacks.

  1. The mobile doesn’t use noise cancelling and it was picking up some of the conference ambiance. That’s understandable. It’s also why we use noise-cancelling headsets (when we have them with us.)
  2. It’s good practice to mute yourself in a meeting when you’re not speaking.
    The project manager muted me. A few minutes later, I needed to respond to a question.
    To unmute, I had to tap my mobile screen to make the controls appear, then tap the unmute button, lastly returning my ear to my mobile to listen and speak. At the best of times, this took about 10 seconds, during which time I had missed part of the question and had to ask for it to be repeated. If I had my headset, I would have unmute using a button on the headset within a few seconds.

In summary, using my mobile as a companion device with my iPad was a good replacement for a forgotten headset. But you do need to be wary of muting and unmuting delays if you want to contribute to the conversation.

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