You Now Have 7 Ways to Turn Your Smartphone Into a PC 
Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Advertisement

You left your laptop at work, and you have an urgent report that needs completing and emailing to your boss. And you’re just arriving at the hotel on the first night of your holidays.

What should you do?

Well, as long as your documents are stored in the cloud, you could finish off the report using your smartphone — not as a phone, however, but as a PC. Just plug it into the hotel room TV, finish off the report, email it, and enjoy the rest of your vacation.

meizu ubuntu phone

But is it as easy as that? Yes it is! In fact, there’s a good chance that the phone in your pocket has the ability to transform into a desktop computer. Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and Ubuntu Touch all have desktop user interfaces available for when connected via HDMI. All you need is a keyboard and mouse (optional) to get started!

Why Use a Smartphone?

Having a portable computer in your pocket at all times — for any eventuality — makes sense. Unfortunately, pockets aren’t big enough for even the most compact ultrabooks. Smartphones, on the other hand, slip into a pocket with ease.

While we’re no doubt a long way from this being the perfect solution, smartphones can be used as substitute PCs in an emergency. The limits of the small screen are no longer a problem: wireless HDMI Wireless HDMI: What It Is and Why You Need to Start Using It Wireless HDMI: What It Is and Why You Need to Start Using It If you're sick and tired of HDMI cable jumbles and knots, then you may want to invest in wireless HDMI. Here's how to get started. Read More (see below) provides a solution there. Similarly, Bluetooth keyboards and mice can be connected.

The real magic of this context-aware dynamic, however, is in the presentation of a desktop UI (user interface). Once displayed on a compatible TV, you won’t be looking at the phone’s current UI. Instead, a traditional, familiar desktop is presented.

You’ll Need a Wireless HDMI Receiver

To use one of the various smartphone desktops, you’ll need some form of wireless HDMI receiver. The one you choose will depend on which smartphone operating system you use. Some wireless HDMI dongles support various wireless protocols while others are specialized.

The best thing to do is research which one you need before you start trying out your smartphone as a desktop computer.

You may also (depending on your smartphone platform) want to use a keyboard and mouse. Bluetooth should work here, but if not, USB On-the-Go should enable you to connect your hardware How to Connect a USB Keyboard to Your Android Phone How to Connect a USB Keyboard to Your Android Phone Ever wanted to use a real keyboard on your Android device? Lucky for you, it's actually pretty easy to set up. Read More .

Carry a Linux PC in Your Pocket With Ubuntu Touch

Ubuntu Touch devices are equipped with the Convergence system, which enables a different user interface depending upon the size of the display. For instance, the smartphone version of Ubuntu Touch is compact, while the tablet version is a bit larger.

ubuntu touch convergence activate

When the phone is connected over wireless HDMI to a TV, the UI is a full Ubuntu Unity desktop How to Turn Ubuntu Phone Into a Desktop PC With Convergence How to Turn Ubuntu Phone Into a Desktop PC With Convergence Newcomer to the mobile space, Ubuntu Phone, has its own mobile-to-desktop software. If your device is compatible, and running the OTA-11 update (or later), you can turn your phone into a PC. Read More . The operating system comes pre-installed with various tools, including LibreOffice. Having a smartphone that is ready to use as a desktop at a moments notice is excellent for productivity!

However, Ubuntu Touch has been abandoned Is This the End for Ubuntu Touch? Is This the End for Ubuntu Touch? The Ubuntu Touch project is officially over, but that doesn't mean your Ubuntu phone is dead just yet. Here's what the cancellation means for you and what you should do next. Read More by developers Canonical. This means that while existing devices still work, no further in-house development is planned. Happily, a development community has sprung up to help maintain the operating system, centered around ubports.com.

The Windows 10 Phone That’s Also a PC

Continuum is the name given to Microsoft’s display-centric UI, and was initially used to determine how a touchscreen display would differ from a standard one Continuum: Switch Between Windows 10 Desktop & Tablet Mode Continuum: Switch Between Windows 10 Desktop & Tablet Mode Windows 10 recognizes your hardware and instantly chooses the best display mode. When you connect your Windows 10 Mobile to a larger screen, you'll get a PC-like experience. That's the smoothness of Continuum. Read More . These days, however, it is also the technology that turns a Windows 10 Mobile device into a PC. Currently, this is the ultimate in smooth scaling, and is superior to run-of-the-mill display mirroring.

Once connected over Miracast Stop Using HDMI: Miracast Is the Wireless Alternative You'll Love Stop Using HDMI: Miracast Is the Wireless Alternative You'll Love The next time you need to stream media between devices, remember the flaws of HDMI and consider using wireless Miracast instead. It's the technology we all need and deserve. Read More , Continuum allows you to use your phone like a PC (and access the apps installed on it, like Microsoft Office Mobile). You can also use the phone as a phone while connected, which is a major advantage. While Microsoft has produced an expensive dock for your monitor, keyboard, and mouse to attach to, you don’t necessarily need them. Not only can the on-screen keyboard be employed when required, but the phone’s display can be employed as a touchpad!

For added flexibility, Windows 10 Mobile devices can also be connected to a Windows 10 PC and used in the same way. Three phones are available with Continuum: the HP Elite 3, the Lumia 950 Microsoft Lumia 950 Review Microsoft Lumia 950 Review This could be Microsoft's final flagship phone. With many declaring Windows 10 Mobile dead on arrival, just what is the point of the Lumia 950? Read More , and the Lumia 950 XL.

The World’s Biggest Mobile OS as a Desktop

In 2016, Android overtook Windows as the most-used consumer operating system on the planet. It makes sense, therefore, to explore its potential as a desktop OS.

While Google and the Android Open Source Project are yet to declare any intention to follow Canonical and Microsoft into providing a desktop UI for their smartphone OS, others have been working at providing a solution.

Most notable is Maru OS, an Android fork that currently only runs on the 2013 models of the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7. Ports for other hardware are in development. Once installed How to Use Your Android Phone to Replace Your Desktop PC How to Use Your Android Phone to Replace Your Desktop PC Your phone is powerful, so why not use it is as your full desktop operating system? Read More , you’ll see a version of Linux Debian with an Xfce desktop, ready for use as a desktop computer.

Maru OS isn’t the only option for Android devices. Two apps can be found on Google Play:

  • Leena Desktop UI — This is essentially a desktop-themed launcher for Android.
  • Sentio Desktop — Previously known as Andromium OS, this solution works reasonably well on its own, but benefits from the addition of the Superbook hardware. This is a sort of laptop/dock combination that uses your smartphone as its brain. Find out more at sentio.com.

Obligatory Low-Budget Option: Android + Chromecast

If it all seems a bit fiddly, expensive, or a combination of the two, then you might consider the easy option. Need to access your Android phone’s word processor in an emergency? Got a keyboard handy? Have a Chromecast plugged into your TV How to Set Up Your New Google Chromecast How to Set Up Your New Google Chromecast If you own a brand new Chromecast but have no idea how to use it, let our easy-to-follow guide help you get started in mere minutes. Read More ?

Chromecast Android screen mirroring

Then it shouldn’t take long for you to load up the document that needs attention, connect a keyboard (either Bluetooth or USB should be fine, depending on your handset) and share your display over Chromecast. Produced by Google, this is another HDMI wireless streaming technology, but different to Miracast Chromecast vs. Miracast: The Differences and Which One You Should Choose Chromecast vs. Miracast: The Differences and Which One You Should Choose In the last couple of years, Google Chromecast has become a must-have smart TV accessory. What you probably didn't know is your smart TV has a Chromecast alternative: Miracast. Read More .

Do You Even Need a Desktop?

We’ve looked mostly at solutions that require a desktop UI (Android excepted). And iOS is conspicuous by its absence. But it’s fair to say that you don’t really need this. After all, your phone already has an operating system, and probably supports a mouse already.

All you really need is a suitable connection cable or wireless hardware, mouse and keyboard, a stand for your phone (or a dock), and the right apps to enhance your productivity.

If you’re planning on this as a solution, then you should take a look at our guide to turning a standard smartphone into a PC Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement Want to ditch the desktop and just use your smartphone? You can do that! Read More .

Why Aren’t You Using Your Smartphone as a PC?

With so many mobile operating systems capable of turning a phone into a PC, it seems odd that so few people use their devices in this way. Is it the wireless HDMI? Or the lack of a physical keyboard to hand?

Whatever the case, corporations looking to cut back on desktop and notebook outlays in a world of ever-shrinking IT budgets are deeply interested in the handheld desktop form factor. It just needs a bit of ironing out.

Have you tried out any of these mobile operating systems in their desktop guises? Did it go well or did you find things fiddly? Can you see connecting your phone to a wireless monitor, keyboard, and mouse as something that will catch on? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credit: By ndq via Shutterstock.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Barry Groves
    July 2, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Sentio desktop gets low marks for failing to have any sort of users guide - at least, that I could find. The web site, even the Knowledge Base, has been taken over by the marketing dept as a sales pitch for the Superbook. The main problem I couldn't solve - without their help - was window resizing. Some font sizes looked like the 72-80 range.

    In all my browser research, the most promising looked to be Remix Singularity, which unfortunately isn't here yet. It apparently will be a custom ROM, requiring root access. OK with me - if that's what it takes to get it right, I'll root.

    Current setup, all of three days now - ZTE Axon, just loaded with a 256GB SD (doubling my current laptop). Miracasting to an Actiontec ScreenBeam Mini2 (best reviews). Bluetooth keyboard & mouse. Probably let it sit for awhile, unless I can a) learn, b) get help with, the Sentio.

    • Christian Cawley
      July 5, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      Some interesting thoughts on Sentio, thanks Barry.

  2. Kelsey Tidwell
    June 28, 2017 at 1:39 am

    Wow, Christian, I was JUST talking to my son about this very subject (phone as PC) this afternoon when we were discussing laptops. Then this article hit my inbox and I was happy inside because I wasn't quite sure I was going to be able to actually execute things when later on he decides that he'd like to try it.

    Thanks for bailing a tech dad out!

    • Christian Cawley
      June 28, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      From one tech dad to another, happy to help!

  3. skooobie
    June 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Umm... Unity and Convergence are dead now! Please keep up with news in Linux land.

    • Christian Cawley
      June 21, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Unity for mobile is being carried on by ubports.com, which you would know if you had bothered to read the article. (Additionally, it still actually works on an Ubuntu Touch phone.)

      Please keep up with news in Linux land.

  4. Groovy
    June 20, 2017 at 10:33 am

    I really like the above concept. I thought the Samsung DeX thing was the only option for this kind of thing. Apparently not! :)