Over the past few years there have been a few projects aimed at letting people use their smartphones as notebook or desktop computers.

Motorola’s Atrix line of Android phones were designed to work with Lapdock keyboard docks, but they’ve been discontinued. Canonical tried to breath new life into the category by crowdfunding the Ubuntu Edge smartphone which could also function as a desktop computer… but the company didn’t meet its ambitious fundraising goals.

Now a startup called Andromium is taking to Kickstarter to raise money for something a bit simpler: it’s an Android app and optional docking station that makes it easy to connect a phone to external hardware and run desktop-style apps.

andromium_02

Here’s the idea: install an app from the Google Play Store, drop your phone into a dock, and you can use a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and maybe even a game controller to interact with your phone.

The Andromium dock includes HDMI output, 3 USB ports, and a power connector for keeping your phone charged. The Andromium app, meanwhile, automatically detects when your phone is docked and switches the user interface to something that looks a bit more like Windows 7.

That means there’s a desktop, taskbar, and support for apps that run in windows that you can resize and move. This lets you run multiple apps side-by-side or on top of one another while using a keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

Andromium doesn’t change the operating system on your phone, so while there are built-in apps including a web browser, all your Android apps will also still be able to run. But they’ll run in full screen.

Background apps and services will also continue to run, so you’ll be able to take incoming phone calls, hear alarms, or receive other notifications even when your phone is docked.

Andromium’s developers hope to raise $100,000 to enhance the user interface and bring their hardware and software to market. Right now there are plans to support Samsung Galaxy and HTC One phones, as well as the Google Nexus 4, 5, and 6.

Technically any smartphone dock which supports USB input and USB-to-video output should work if you want to bring your own dock, but the team isn’t making any promises of support for hardware from third parties.

Andromium is an interesting concept… although it remains to be seen if it will be any more successful than the Motorola Atrix 4G or Ubuntu Edge. But it probably doesn’t have to be. The developers are seeking to raise a lot less money than the $32 million Canonical wanted for its project, and the hardware and software the team is offering seems pretty affordable. There’s no guarantee it’ll actually be useful, but even if it’s not, you probably won’t break the bank by backing the project.

Kickstarter backers can pledge $10 or more to get just the Andromium app in January, $29 or more to get an early version of the dock as well as the app in February, or $35 or more for the more polished versions the team hopes to ship in May and June. Full retail price is expected to be $40.

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34 replies on “Andromium could turn your smartphone into a desktop (crowdfunding)”

  1. If this works on laptops, out at least I can find a very portable computer monitor, then I will say goodbye to my crappy laptop.

  2. The idea is kinda cool, but the fact that only apps specifically written for the Andromium Framework will work windowed makes this kinda pointless imho.

    If it could act as a windowmanager and turn any EXISTING android app windowed, i could see that be useful, but like this it’s nothing more than than “floating mini apps” like some manufacturers already have on their android phones.

    Sry, but i’ll rather wait for Ubuntu Full convergence or hope against reason that MS will release a full convergence intel Win10 Lumia next year before i sink money into an MHL+USB dock and a mini apps framework.

    1. yeah I am kinda surprised Microsoft hasn’t dome something like that… it’d be cool if they had a phone that ran the mobile apps, but when you casted it or hooked it up to MHL it’d run a full desktop OS with support for full desktop apps like photoshop, illustrator etc. with the phone as a control or hook up a bluetooth keyboard/mouse. x86 has reached the point where they could make a phone that ran full windows for a decent price (they make tablets for $100 why not?)

  3. Is simultaneous HDMI out and USB host definitely possible through slimport? I was under the impression that only Samsung’s mhl implementation had the extra pins necessary. I’m in if this will definitely work on my Nexus 5.

    1. You are correct Octavio, slimport doesn’t allow USB-OTG concurrent with display-out. So for nexus 4/5 and LG G2/G3, the new dock we are designing for those phones won’t have USB input, user will have to use Bluetooth K/M.

      The things is, even for MHL specification, USB-OTG concurrent operation is a optional requirement in the MHL 2.0 spec, and only Samsung bother to implement it. HTC One (M7/M8) phones will also have to rely on Bluetooth K/M

  4. Suggestion…Instead of using a dock that just works with some phones, why not just have port connector with a micro USB cord connection attached to it, so that it will work on all phones? This way you don’t alienate consumers that use phones other than Samsung Galaxy, HTC, and Nexus. You’ll instead have a much broader range of consumers which may be interested in the product, and willing to contribute to its production. Food for thought.

    1. Ubuntu next is also coming soon, but the point of this is a bit different since they can use with their already existing device

      1. Yes they can but what are they gonna do with the lack of Desktop applications That windows has acquired over the years ?

        1. I don’t think they want to compete head on with win or lin, is more for a niche that still want to use their android apps and a few others with M/Kb, I think is going to be a simple desktop kinda like chrome OS. So it will probably have a niche too

          For myself however am heavy desktop oriented and like some mobility, so am waiting on the Ubuntu next convergent devices. Maybe even grab a cheap win tab meanwhile

  5. The problem with this for me is Android: desktops are about productivity and productivity requires real multitasking, multi-window and multi-monitor support, Android still isn’t quite there…

    The browser seems to be the standard Android class browser with the enormous text that’s great for a phone or TV but not great on a workstation.

    My workday I usually run either two monitors side by side or two windows of browser side by side on a large widescreen monitor (and usually one has a spreadsheet running, so huge font doesn’t work). It’s absolutely crucial for productivity. I’m waiting for smartphone that can do that. I think, without knowing for sure, that would mean supporting video out at high resolution….

    Was sorta hoping this was running some kind of custom Linux-based solution using the linux-based Android kernal so that you had a Linux desktop class browser and related experience.

    The Motorola Atrix version 1 had the BEST hands down browser over video-out since it was a true desktop browser. Years later no one has replicated that.

    So in the end my sense is this is a consumer oriented product which may appeal to a niche consumer audience instead of a productivity or enterprise-class solution.

  6. I would pledge this if their main goal is to get acquired by Google. If google doesn’t adopt this, then the point is moot.

      1. Well I used to work for Google, while I do love it there when I worked there, I am not sure I am ready to go back yet :p

  7. looks like it’s trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. you can use a custom launcher or like sony phones it just works with peripherals and switches to desktop type mode when hdmi is plugged in without doing anything

    also there’s that little thing around these days…namely £60 windows tablets

  8. Hi guys, thank you for the great questions.

    @Saga, we are going to open source a major portion of our code base, specially the apps. We want to give reference/demo apps to help developers to learn how to use Andromium SDK (once it is publicly release in June 2015).

    @Realjjj, I actually talk with the manager of the ChromeOS device team, (one of the perk of being an ex-google employee, people in the company will be nice and at least talk to you), they make it crystal clear that they don’t want to support the phone as desktop form factor. So I decided to build Andromium OS instead.

    @Benoite, Andormium Platform is a combination of Software (Andromium OS) + Hardware (Dock), if you already another MHL/Slimport connector to your TV, you can just support our software tier and get the Andromium OS to use with your connector (make sure you have a Bluetooth k/m on hand)

    @Mike, Andromium Platform is design to use keyboard and mouse, touch support is not supported in Andromium OS and Andromium Apps.

    @Andreas, we support both MHL and Slimport, depend on the device. Chromecast does provide a surprisingly good user experience for high end devices (Snapdragon 805), we are able to get as low as 25ms latency for Note4 and Nexus6 devices. We are also in the middle of testing SD 800 and SD 801 devices with Chromecast. (if you want more details, see my blog post: https://andromiumos.blogspot.com)

    1. maybe i havent understood your product fully and where it fits in, but i wish you and your team success

      edit: why is your website is called adromiumos but the product is andromium os 😛

      1. Sorry typo, fixed 🙂
        https://andromiumos.blogspot.com

        @Disregard, for us, we believe that long term the technology field is heading to device convergence, it could be phone+tablet (Padfone X) or phone+laptop (Moto Lapdock) or tablet+laptop (Transformer Book) or Phone+Desktop (Andromium). Many of us living in the developed countries, our choices of computing platform is endless. However for many people in developing countries those are luxury items or frivolous spending,

        In many developing countries, every $ spend is a hard choice between food/shelter/education/internet connectivity. Many of those places doesn’t have broadband infrastructure or even landline infrastructure, so often smartphones are their only connection to online world. Additionally, laptop and desktop or even cheap window tablets are consider luxuries. For us the long term vision is to be able to allow families in those situations to use their existing smartphone to connect their TV to the phone + K/M to make it into a family computer.

        As of Dec 2014, that is still not yet possible, since Andromium require 2GB of Ram + mid to high end SoC. But with the rate that technology is progressing, and with some time to optimize the Andromium OS, we strongly believe that we will be able to support the low end android devices of Late 2015, and 2016.

        We are dreamers, but why not 🙂

        1. nice explanation, i love dreamers and especially those that think of others first

          i guess if you say the google guys aren’t pushing for official convergence with chrome os and android then you can develop a nice niche that fits in between that and the new multi-platform windows 10 ecosystem

          all the best!

        2. I think for the goal of bringing to masses, you could also support inexpensive MTK china phone/tabs and android tv sticks too.

  9. Open source or GTFO. I’m totally uninterested in yet another walled garden.

  10. it already exist as someone pointed to me!!!

    type MHL cable or MHL dock on ebay and you will see

    exemple: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Onedayshop-Smart-Dock-MHL-HDMI-OTG-Docking-Station-Charger-Cradle-for-Samsung-G-/361111730162?pt=US_Cell_Phone_PDA_Chargers&hash=item5413efb7f2

    MHL cable start @ 5$ ^_^;

    finally they said the andromium OS should be aviable via the google play…
    so why paid a dock that already exist when a simple MHL cable or dock can do the trick?…

    1. I have slimport and mhl cables. But simultaneous HDMI and USB host is not possible unless you have a Samsung Galaxy and their dock. I’m in if this is definitely possible on my Nexus 5.

  11. This seems far too involved. I’m not sure we need a lot more than a custom launcher geared more toward mouse/keyboard use than finger use.

  12. Will it connect via Slimport or MHL? Guess one could use the “Cast Screen” feature with a Chromecast, but the Lag would probably be a killer.

  13. Hi Brad, thank you for the write up. We hope that most of your reader will be interesting to support our project, since many of your reader love the android settop box concept.

    I want to drop by and also mention that we releasing an Andromium developer SDK in June along with a app store for developer to publish their andromium apps. So we are looking for third part developer to help grow our OS ecosystem.

    Best,

    -Gordon

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