This may be the year that using your smartphone as if it were a desktop PC goes mainstream. Or at least that’s what a few different companies seem to be hoping.
The makers of Remix OS have announced that they’re bringing their custom version of Android to smartphones… and supporting a feature called Singularity that allows you to plug in a monitor and view apps in a desktop-style mode with a taskbar and multi-window support.
And there’s mounting evidence that the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 will have a similar feature, called DeX.
This week Android Police noticed a series of pictures of the Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone in an alleged system dump for the upcoming Galaxy Tab S3 tablet… and one picture shows the Galaxy S8 sitting in a desktop docking station with the word “DeX” across the screen.
The dock is plugged into an external display, which is showing what appear to be multiple apps running in floating windows, and system trays on the bottom of the screen which could be used to show status or notifications.
In other words, it sure looks like you’ll be able to sit your phone in a dock to run Android apps on a bigger screen and interact with them as if you were using a desktop PC.
Android-based operating systems are actually a bit late to the party here. Microsoft has been offering a Continuum for Phone feature for Windows 10 Mobile since last year… but Windows has a pretty tiny market share on smartphones and a pretty limited selection of Continuum-compatible apps.
Likewise, Canonical’s Ubuntu operating system for smartphones and tablets has a feature called Convergence that allows you to interact with a mobile user interface when using a touchscreen-only device, or a desktop-style view when a keyboard and mouse is detected (an external display is optional). But Ubuntu phone has an even smaller market share than Windows 10 Mobile.
There’s definitely a wow factor at play here: you can use your phone as a desktop! It’s the only device you’ll ever need!
But at this point most laptop and desktop computers tend to have more powerful hardware than your typical smartphone… although that might not be true for much longer (there are a growing number of phones with more than 4GB of RAM and full HD or higher resolution displays, after all). More importantly, though, it remains to be seen whether mobile apps will be capable enough to replace the software people have become accustomed to using on desktops.
If the idea does take off though, maybe developers will continue adding new features to mobile apps so that the functionality gap between desktop and mobile versions of software like Office or Photoshop won’t look so big in the future.