Plenty of people rely on smartphones to do many of the things that used to require computers. You can check your email, surf the web, watch videos, and play games on a smartphone.

Over the past few years we’ve seen a few attempts to take things further by allowing you to run desktop-style software on your phone. Microsoft’s Continuum software lets you plug a phone into a monitor and run Office software, for example. But Windows 10 Mobile has a tiny market share.

You know what has a lot of market share? Android. And soon you may be able to buy an Android phone that you can plug into a keyboard, mouse, and monitor to get a desktop-friendly user interface. Jide is bringing Remix OS to smartphones, along with a new feature called Singularity that lets you use your Android phone as a desktop.

Remix OS is a custom version of Android designed to work more like a desktop operating system. It comes pre-loaded on a handful of tablets, notebooks, and desktop-style devices, and you can install Remix OS for PC on many recent computers.

When I spoke with Jide co-founder David Ko about Remix OS last year, I asked why he thought it made sense to turn Google’s mobile operating system into a desktop OS, and Ko told me that many people’s first computing device is an Android phone. So why not let them run the apps they’re already used to when they decide they want a larger screen and better multitasking support for productivity purposes?

Remix Singularity takes things to a new level by offering a mobile experience that’s close to stock Android, while giving you a desktop experience when you connect external hardware. That means you get a taskbar, freeform multi-window support, and desktop style notifications, among other things. It’s basically like an Android version of Microsoft’s Continuum or Ubuntu’s Convergence.

Singularity could theoretically turn your phone into the only computer you ever need… assuming you’re cool with using the Android versions of apps like Word, Excel, and Photoshop instead of their Windows or Mac equivalents (or LibreOffice/GIMP on Linux).

Don’t want your phone to be a PC? You could also make it a TV box. Just connect to a large display and you can get a big-screen user interface for Netflix, YouTube, and other media applications.

 

When I caught up with him again at the Consumer Electronics Show this January, Ko showed me a teaser video of Remix Singularity, but said the company wasn’t ready to make an official announcement yet. The plan at the time was to show it off at Mobile World Congress, but now I’m told it’s still a work in progress.

So while there’s no official press release or launch yet, Jide has released a promo video and some pictures to show how Singularity will eventually work when it launches this summer.

Remix OS for Mobile will look and work a lot like stock Android. The magic happens when you connect external hardware.

I’m told the company is also pursuing potential partnerships with companies including phone makers

One thing that I’ve often wondered about Remix OS is how long the company can stay one step ahead of Google. While Jide released a version of Android with true multi-window features before Google did, Google eventually did follow suit.

Ko tells me that as a smaller company Jide is more nimble and more capable of making changes quickly, so he’s confident that the company can continue to add value to Google’s software that you wouldn’t get from stock Android.

But I can envision a few different scenarios for the future:

  • Ko could be right.
  • Google could decide to get serious about offering its own desktop-class software (such as the rumored upcoming Andromeda), which will make Remix OS look redundant.
  • Google might just buy Jide and merge Remix OS with Android (or another company working on desktop-style Android software, such as Phoenix OS).

Anyway, given a relatively uninspiring hardware showing at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Remix Singularity was one of the most exciting things I saw at CES 2017… even if all I saw was a demo video. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this project.

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12 replies on “Remix Singularity will let you use Android phones as desktop PCs (work in progress)”

  1. cant get to work on flash drive and screwed up my pc,,wouldnt boot,,had to do a restore,..thanks

  2. The promise of these kinds of platforms are great. So exciting, but it’s been the better part of a decade that I’ve been waiting for a decent one to actually release. Go Remix, you can do it?

  3. I would love to see this as an in-between dongle instead of a stand-alone OS that can do this. Give me an App that does this with my current build or a dongle that can do it for my current phone’s OS.

    1. If you have a newer phone or a rooted one, a MHL / USB C to VGA / HDMI cable and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and headset will do the same with multitasking as well, you don’t really need Jide for that.

  4. An interesting curiosity but thats really all it is, Android apps barely make use of tablet space, let lone desktop usage.

    Google will eventually move into the same space and a third party rom will not survive especially as Google evolves Chrome/Android into their own closed source equivalent of Windows.

    Windows Phone is dead and MS has changed tracks instead pushing full Win10 PC into mobile space with cell pc’s, in effect both Google and Microsoft are doing the same thing but from opposite ends.

    Microsoft has the advantage in this area in terms of productivity apps and games, cell pc’s could be capable of running AAA titles, Android lags far behind in these areas.

    1. Android isn’t going to turn into a closed source system, and you are way too early in judging the ChromeOS/Android hybrid as a success. It’s a nice idea, but we have no idea whether it will take off commercially yet.

      Microsoft has had zero traction with Win10 in the mobile space (below the Surface) as yet and I also don’t believe Google has any interest in turning Android into a AAA gaming system, either.

      Google is far more interested in the educational and corporate marketplace with Chrome/Android than hardcore gaming, mainly because those markets combined are 10 times bigger — and are more in sync with their cloud-based business.

      1. Seconded. Coincidentally, I sat in on a sales meeting with a large Chromebook distributor and got a look at some of the latest stuff. Our company is also trialling a new touchscreen Chromebook with Android support, so I got to play around with that too today. I have to say, I was mightily impressed, especially with how many Android apps scale well to the larger screen, even being resized.

        Anecdotes aside, the numbers don’t lie. Chrome OS has exploded from basically nothing to something like 60% marketshare in education shipments in a few years. With a business model doing so well, why change it? In fact, they encourage outside third parties, and Chromium (the open source version) is as healthy as ever. Neverware uses it for their business model so it’s hard to understand where the certainty about “Google will move into closed source” comes from.

        1. Interesting. I’m not a Chromebook user, but would be more than happy to see Google competing well in the same space as Microsoft and Apple. More competition is almost always good for the consumer. Likewise, I wouldn’t be upset to see Microsoft making real gains in the mobile space, either, as unlikely as it seems at the moment.

  5. I just upgraded my desktop to a screaming fast little box: MSI Cubi2, with hot sauce! ;-)). It will probably be my last desktop, ever, because someone will get the Continuum / Continuity / Singularity / Whatever idea right.

    My next desktop, in three or five years, will be a phone.

    I current phone is an old Sony Z Ultra. (I haven’t upgraded it, because no one has as yet done the BIG screen any better.) I have fiddled with Andromium enough to be absolutely certain that this could work. And if it can, then it will.

    I imagine a “dock” that detects the proximity of the phone, and automatically establishes bluetooth links for mouse, keyboard, webcam, whatever… Just sit in front of the screen, and it’s all there, ready to go.

    I don’t care which OS wins the race. I have exactly one app that exists only in Windows. Everything else has adequate replacements in the other OSes.

  6. What kind of ports does an Android device need for the connections? MHL, a combination of microUSB and miniHDMI, or maybe USB-C (with dongles)?

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