Over the past few years we’ve seen a growing number of cloud gaming services that can turn just about smartphone, tablet, or PC into a gaming device without the need for premium hardware (assuming you’ve got a speedy internet connection).

Now Ubuntu creator Canonical and wireless carrier Vodafone are demonstrating Cloud Smartphone technology that takes things a bit further by hosting an entire Android operating system in the cloud and allowing you to stream apps and games to phones with basic hardware.

Canonical

The idea is that you’ll use the hardware on the phone in your hand to do things like make phone calls, send text messages, or snap pictures. But by streaming apps and games from the cloud, you don’t necessarily need an expensive phone with state of the art CPU, graphics, RAM, and other specs. Canonical says you only need basic video decoding capabilities.

The Cloud Smartphone concept makes use of the Anbox Cloud solution Canonical first introduced more than two years ago. Basically the idea is to install a complete Android operating system in a cloud container using the Anbox is an open source Android virtualization tool.

Vodafone is demonstrating a Cloud Smartphone prototype at Mobile World Congress this week, but it’s unclear if the company has any plans to bring the product to market.

I can’t help but think that this sort of system could have some down sides. Not only does your phone become a lot less useful in airplane mode or in wireless dead zones, but you’ll need both a speedy internet connection and an affordable data plan to truly make the most of a cloud-based operating system on a mobile device.

Then again, prices for cellular service seem to be falling at the same time as prices for smartphones with flagship-class specs are rising. So maybe it’ll cost less to pay for a cheap phone and a good data plan than an expensive phone and a cheap data plan?

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