Three years ago a group of folks raised more than $2.9 million through a Kickstarter campaign for their Superbook — a laptop dock that you connect to your smartphone to use your mobile device as if it were a notebook computer.

Then reality started to set in. The team encountered some unexpected challenges and pushed back the release date by a few months… and then didn’t actually start shipping units to backers until a year later.

Now another year has passed and Android Police reports that only 75 percent of backers have received their Superbooks. The rest probably never will.

In a private update posted to Kicsktarter, one of Sentio’s co-founders explains that the company has run out of money due to problems with component suppliers and manufacturers. With no new money coming in, Sentio let go of some staff. And the company has been trying to renegotiate an outstanding bill from a logistics company.

The reason this wasn’t all clearly communicated to backers earlier was that Sentio was concerned that the companies it was negotiating with would see any public statements and that they could affect the outcome of any talks.

But at this point, things look pretty bleak.

Meanwhile, the smartphone space has changed quite a bit since the Superbook idea was first proposed. Smartphones have larger screens than they used to. Some have built-in software that lets you connect them to an external monitor and keyboard for use in desktop mode. And some Android phones already are also laptop computers.

As for the Superbook, it appears that many of the people who did get their hands on one aren’t exactly impressed with the build quality or functionality.

 

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25 replies on “Crowdfunded Superbook laptop dock for smartphones is all-but-dead”

  1. Though this will be of little consolation to those waiting for their Superbooks, a new product has just been released which enables smartphones with displayport over USB-C and a suitable desktop environment (Samsung DeX, Huawei/Honor Easy Projection or Android Q Desktop) to work as a 2-in-1 type device.

    This is a touchscreen solution as well as a 1080P light and compact 15.6″ display with integral battery – supplied in a kit with protective case/stand and Bluetooth keyboard with trackpad.

    https://www.losingthewires.com/products

  2. These guys did their best and actually shipped a product. It just took so long that I no longer cared. I’ve used them (yes, I got 2) with my phone and as extra monitors. They are actually kinda handy as an extra monitor.
    Now if you want to talk about scams and who should be banned from crowdfunding – look up Superscreen. That guy took the money, supposedly built 100 beta units, and then reported that the money was all gone. So each one he had built somehow only cost about $20,000. Bargain, eh?

  3. just curios no one seems to care where all the money went from this fiasco? the project raised more money then anything else i can imagine. its just gone now. a crappy product was delivered with poor support and that’s it. everyone walks. where is the millions of dollars? was it just stupidity by a bunch of wonks or a full fledged con?

  4. Kickstarted this, paid for all the “premium” upgrades (1080P and backlight keys) for about $200.
    After multiple delays I eventually asked for a refund and received my refund minus 10% or so.
    Even after the poor initial results, I bought one for $90 on ebay and have used it a scant few times.
    The casing felt cheap and trackpad is wonky. And since getting an inexpensive android-app-compatible touchscreen chromebook for $150, the superbook has little value beyond novelty but for a little over $100 total investment, I’m not too heartbroken.

    I feel for those who are getting boned (especially for multiple hundreds of bucks) and hate that crowdfunding platforms don’t give a hoot and just pass the buck.

  5. I have one, it did take about a year to arrive. It works about how many have described, both in the app they made, and out of it. Font size must be adjusted, and if you have a rooted device with access to dpi settings, that’s great, adjusting to 1080p gets you what you’d expect. Mine has never been able to charge and work as a dock at the same time. Just some limitation of OnePlus5’s. Typing and normal operations are very usable as an all day laptop replacement. It will not allow netflix, due to DRM I expect. The most useful situation seems to be rdp/ssh so you can get into remote environments to actually do work, or if you need to hammer out emails on the fly, quickly. Fit and finish are VERY cheap chromebook-like. It looks just like any other 11.6″ budget laptop. It’s too bad they weren’t able to actually just get this to market, and I agree…the owner should be banned from any other start-ups.

  6. there should be a criminal investigation on what Andrew Jiang did with all that money? this is why crowd funding is so perilous.

  7. The reason this got so much attention is probably the software they were giving out to go with it. The Andromium/Sentio Desktop app for your phone was supposed to completely solve the issue of most phones not really having the ability to use a device like this. Suddenly, ANYONE with an android phone might use it as a laptop.

    It’s not like the concept isn’t viable, just ask all the people who bought the original nexdock, (and hopefully the new one). They don’t even make an app for that, it’s only for phones that support external monitors. Hopefully, the move to USB-C and android Q will mean more phones will be able to do this in the future.

    1. The NexDock currently on offer weights 1420 g, while the Chuwi AeroBook (a full fledged, fanless 13″ Core m3 laptop) weights just 1260 g. It costs a little more, though. But not my much.

  8. And to add the last update resulted in the screen staying dark although the phone clearly shows its mirroring its content.
    So its not usable despite being one product that did not need server support these days.
    Sigh

  9. Do I seeing it right that this thing got more in crowdfunding that the Purism Librem 5? Unbelievable.

    1. There’s a few key pieces of information one would need to know, and a lot they’d have to be willing to sacrifice, before they’d want to preorder that.

  10. I think this idea would be better with more integration, and with less. A laptop that’s a laptop by itself, but designed to go with a specific phone from the same manufacturer. The phone slots in like an ExpressCard and then you can run apps from your phone on the laptop. Much harder to get right, but I think it’d be awesome if someone did.

    1. I believe Asus had a tablet that worked along these lines but the hardware and software weren’t quite there at the time.

      1. They did. It was a cool idea but had too many compromises. Had an older processor with a sub-par camera. The tablet had a giant bezel and was bulky.

    2. If you’re going to design it for a specific phone, you might as well have the phone drive it. Otherwise it’s trivial to screen mirror many phones to a laptop, without even needing to plug the phone into something. There might be a niche for the devices you’re describing but I’m not sure what it would be exactly.

      The PadFone Brute mentioned is driven by the phone.

  11. Sounds like the company got killed by mismanagement (first time business people I guess). Although, even if they managed the company well, I still wonder if this would have succeeded as a product after crowdfunders got their devices.

    1. Andrew Jiang ruined it. just a kid with a big head who all of a sudden had globs of money.. no business experience. to be be frank, mediocre tech experience. who’s pockets got lined?

        1. yes. that’s Andrew he headed the project. he just walks away now. like nothing happened. he should be banned from tech and startups forever. whose pockets got lined and who got fleeced.

  12. I suspected that even if the hardware was solid, the software aspect of switching to a landscape layout with font scaling would be a challenge. As much as we want a single device to rule them all, it is not an easy task.

  13. The problem with anything like this, is that most people have something that needs a proper laptop. Then you run into the problem of maintaining two devices. Six months after buying it, I still haven’t got round to putting everything on my laptop, my Surface Go and phone are later in the queue.

  14. At first I thought the phone-as-desktop computer thing was a neat idea. But Samsung DeX is the only game in town, right? It only works with their high-end devices which I don’t want because I don’t want to spend that much on a phone that will become obsolete in a year and I might lose/drop/break. I have never spent more than $250 on a phone, and I doubt I ever will spend more than $500 on one. Having all my data on a single device isn’t important anymore because “cloud” syncing solves that. So I’d rather use the money that would go to paying for a high-end Galaxy device and use it for a better (dedicated) desktop computer, and carry a cheap phone that syncs with the cloud.

  15. This is one of those projects where I wondered at the beginning how they were going to make it all work. Another issue is making a setup like that, a phone and a laptop that requires that phone, better and more compelling than having a separate phone and laptop. There is nearly no difference if you have to take both things with you somewhere. The other use case would be people who want all their data on a single device, but want to use it in different contexts. That has its own downsides. And there’s the concept of buying a phone powerful enough to act as a laptop, but there are other ways to save money. It was a tough sell. I just don’t see the big appeal to something like this, but I don’t spend a ton on the smartphones I use.

    1. A lot of the cheaper chromebooks have slower processors than any flag ship, so I see the benefit for this somewhat. There is really no excuse for this project to have failed. You can already buy a pinebook for 100 bucks: https://www.pine64.org/?page_id=3707 Seems like with some hacking you could hook your phone up to it to mirror things

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