Android iPhone and iPad

Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement

Kannon Yamada 02-02-2017

Looking for a way to simplify life? You might be able to get rid of your desktop computer. “How,” you ask? Look to that powerful pocket-PC called a smartphone. Most only need some additional software and accessories to get started.


This article gives you a run-down of the hardware, accessories, and software that folks can use to replace their desktop with a smartphone. Not all the parts and software in this list are required. You can get away with just one or two of them. It also includes some information on hardware compatibility. Most, but not all phones can replace your desktop.

smartphone as desktop replacement

Three Ways to Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop

If you want to convert a mobile device into a desktop, there are three paths — none are perfect. Option one: you can use a docking device. Two: one can go completely wireless. Three: you can use a combination of wired and wireless devices.

  • Docking station: A dock lets you attach a mouse, display, and keyboard to an Android device with just a single cable. Unfortunately, you cannot charge the device if you are also outputting video to an external display.
  • Fully wireless: Android can support multiple wireless devices using Bluetooth. It outputs video using either Miracast or Chromecast. This is the only option that permits simultaneous charging of your device. This route has a few serious issues, unfortunately.
  • Semi-wired: This method allows you to bypass the failings of the first two categories. You use an adapter to connect your smart device to an HDMI monitor and Bluetooth for the mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately, you can’t charge your device.


Unfortunately, some factors can complicate adding desktop functionality to your smartphone. The biggest issue: Outputting a smartphone’s video (also known as mirroring) requires compatibility with either a wired video standard called MHL or a wireless standard, of which there are three varieties:  Miracast, Chromecast, and AirPlay (for Apple devices).

On top of that, Android includes a feature known as host-mode. Host mode allows users to connect USB devices with an On-The-Go cable (OTG). OTG cables sell for cheap at Amazon. They’re great adapters for using USB accessories with an Android device How to Connect a USB Keyboard to Your Android Phone Ever wanted to use a real keyboard on your Android device? It's actually pretty easy to set up! Here's a step-by-step guide. Read More . Unfortunately, they do not permit users to connect both a micro-USB capable and output video over HDMI at the same time.


Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement usb otg android cable

The Hardware

Docking Station

Docking stations (or docks) allow users to create a desktop in a snap. For those interested, you must have four components: a dock (UK), a Bluetooth mouse, a Bluetooth keyboard, and an HDMI-capable display. Furthermore, you must own a Samsung device with MHL compatibility. You can find a partial list of MHL compatible devices. Some other factors can complicate successfully using a dock.

Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement mhl dock samsung phones



For those with newer devices, you’ll have even more problems. USB Type-C (what’s USB-C? What Is USB Type-C? Ah, the USB plug. It is as ubiquitous now as it is notorious for never being able to be plugged in right the first time. Read More ) includes a new connection standard for outputting video known as USB-C Alternative Mode. However, as of January of 2017, only Samsung devices support the standard. In short, if you own a USB-C device or lack MHL, then you must use the fully wireless option.

Phones with USB-C must be compatible with VESA DisplayPort Alternate Mode. Many phones, like the Google Pixel, aren’t compatible with this standard. Phones produced in 2017 might possess Alternative Mode.

Unfortunately, few Android devices offer MHL compatibility, which means a dock won’t solve the majority of users’ issues. The cheapest method of creating a smartphone-desktop is by going fully wireless.

Fully Wireless 

Going fully wireless is the easiest method for creating a desktop. This method requires a modern Android or iOS device, a smart TV (or adapter), and a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard 6 Reasons Why You Should NOT Buy a Bluetooth Keyboard Before you commit to buying a Bluetooth keyboard, consider these drawbacks and issues that may cause you to change your mind. Read More . In theory, fully wireless seems like a great option — in practice, it’s problematic. A completely wireless system can suffer from channel congestion How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes Using a router that supports the dual-band standard can significantly boost your Wi-Fi speeds in many circumstances. Read More — where wireless frequencies trample over one another. The net impact may reduce your network’s data transfer speeds and reliability.


And though fully wireless does have the least number of compatibility issues, it can result in a more choppy or unreliable connection.

If you don’t own a Smart TV, you must purchase a Miracast adapter capable of receiving a wireless video signal. Alternatively, you can use a Chromecast Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway We're giving away a Google Chromecast, so read through our review, then join the competition to win! Read More . (Apple users require an AirPlay adapter.) The Chromecast can function as a wireless display adapter. Unfortunately, not all Android devices work with Miracast (notably the Google Pixel). However, the AllCast app allows some users to bypass this compatibility issue.

Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement Chromecast


You can use any combination of the above two options to create a desktop. But outputting video to an external monitor and charging your device at the same time suffers from issues. Unless you own a Samsung phone, it can’t be done. However, if you want to forego an external display or the ability to charge, you might prefer a semi-wired approach.


The downside? You’ll need to either recharge your device periodically or read everything off a tiny 5-inch screen. A natural limitation of Android’s 5-pin microUSB port is that it can’t simultaneously run in OTG mode and output video.

For this approach, you need a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, an MHL-compatible smartphone or tablet for video output, and an MHL-compatible HDMI to microUSB or USB-C adapter for video output.

smartphone as desktop
 For most users without a Samsung device (and even some Samsung devices lack this ability), this is the only available option.

The Accessories

The Keyboard

The most important desktop accessory is the keyboard. A keyboard distinguishes between the mobile and desktop experience. It also dramatically increases productivity. After all, who in the world would write an essay on a smartphone touchscreen?

There are two kinds of keyboards: Bluetooth and USB. Out of the two, wired, On-the-Go (OTG) keyboards pair with Android devices easier than Bluetooth — although both have a few issues. Unfortunately, not all Android devices offer OTG support.

Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement logitech keyboard keys to go

If you want the best Bluetooth keyboard around, go mechanical. A great option (not yet available in the United States) is the $80 Anne Pro keyboard. If you prefer a more mobile keyboard, the $30 Logitech Keys-to-Go (UK) ranks among the best devices out there.

The Mouse

Pretty much any old Bluetooth mouse works great with Android and iOS. I recommend a cheaper option if you just want to experiment. But if you need the best Bluetooth mouse around, Logitech’s $80 MX Master (UK) represents the pinnacle of wireless mice.

Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement logitech mx master

The Phone Stand

Phone stands keep your mobile in an upright, readable position. They can be purchased cheaply on Amazon and Ebay. Some phone stands include charging capabilities, such as the $26 UNITEK docking station (which doesn’t include HDMI compatibility), but they won’t be able to charge your device if you’re using a wired keyboard or mouse. Other stands come integrated into the keyboard, such as the $45 Logitech K480 (UK).

Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement android dock no external display


Powered USB Hub

For those seeking to use a wired keyboard while charging, you might have problems. Using multiple USB devices simultaneously may require USB host mode and a powered USB hub. And on top of that, your device won’t charge if you’re using OTG mode. In simple terms: you cannot power your device and use a mouse and keyboard at the same time.

Ditch Your Desktop! Turn Your Smartphone Into a Desktop Replacement powered hub otg mode

The Software

Many Android apps replicate the desktop experience, and because of that, you can use an Android device to accomplish many of the same tasks you would on a desktop. However, many desktop functions just don’t exist in the mobile world.

For more apps, try browsing through MakeUseOf’s directory of some of the best software available on Android The Best Android Apps on the Google Play Store for 2019 Looking for the best Android apps for your phone or tablet? Here's our comprehensive list of the best apps for Android. Read More and iOS The Best New iOS Apps of 2015 (And Our Favorite Updates) We've sorted through the stream of new apps that arrived in 2015 and devised a list of our favourites just for you. Read More .


Word processing and office: There’s a variety of office productivity apps that can come close to their desktop counterparts. Opinions on which software reigns supreme vary, although I personally recommend Microsoft Word for Android, because of its feature set. For those with iPhones, QuickOffice Pro QuickOffice Pro HD: Create, Open And Edit Office Documents On Your iPad [iOS] Apple doesn’t offer an all-in-one office suite, so users who want to handle these tasks on their tablet must turn to a third-party solution. One of the most popular is QuickOffice Pro HD, a $19.99... Read More offers one of the best experiences. If you perpetually have online access, you may want to consider Google Drive A Look At Google Drive, Google's Long-Awaited Cloud Storage Service After more than 6 years of rumors and a long-ago cancellation because "files are so 1990", Google Drive is finally here. Coming with 5 GB of free storage space, a Dropbox-like desktop sync client, and... Read More .

Music and Podcasts

Music: Spotify is probably the best music player on iOS, although opinions vary Music Lovers: Why Aren't You Using SoundCloud? Discovering a new artist, album or record label that corresponds with your tastes and expectations can be a rewarding experience. These golden discoveries can be few and far between and that’s where I turn to... Read More . For Android, I suggest Pandora 5 Cool Things You Can Do With Pandora Music Radio Read More or TuneIn Radio. For podcasts, my two favorite apps are Pocket Casts and the official Google Play Music app.

Photo Editing and Video

Photo editing: I prefer Aviary for its hipster filters and ability to add ironic fashion accessories to animals and grandparents. It’s available on both iOS and Android. Other photo editors worth mentioning are PicShop 3 Free Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop for Android Adobe makes a couple of great Photoshop apps for Android (Express and Mix), but what alternatives are there? Read More  or even the standard Google Photos.

smartphone as desktop replacement

Watch Movies: MX Player Is MX Player the Best Do-It-All Movie Player for Android? If you're looking for a solid video player for Android, MX Player might be your best bet. Read More  remains one of Android’s best video apps. iOS has It’s Playing, as well as many others. However, the absolute best video player is VLC Player for Android.


Social: Aside from the Facebook app (try Facebook Lite What Is Facebook Lite and Can It Replace Facebook? What is Facebook Lite? Here's everything to know about what Facebook Lite is and how it differs from the standard Facebook app. Read More ), there are a lot of good social apps, such as Twitter. But if you haven’t tried it, give Talon a try on Android. For iOS, try the official client. However, for you workaholics, you may want to try out Slack.

Play Games: Believe it or not, you can play classic arcade and console games on your Android How to Emulate Android and Run Android Apps on Your PC It's actually pretty easy to get Android apps running on your desktop or laptop! Here, we step you through the best methods. Read More . It just requires one of many emulator apps. iOS offers a great emulator How to Install Emulators for iPhone Using 4 Easy Methods Here's how to get emulators on iOS using several methods, plus the best emulators for iPhone. Read More option, as well.

Did It Work for You?

Ideally, the best method is using a dock. Unfortunately, only a select number of Samsung smartphones work with docks. Most users will need a fully wireless system. But if you can stomach a wireless configuration’s shortcomings, a smartphone-desktop might be in your future.

For anyone who wants to save space in their apartment, or simplify their life, ditching the desktop and the laptop just got much easier. If you’re in the market for a smartphone capable of this, make sure to check out our round-up of the best smartphones What's the Best Android Smartphone in 2016? Buying an iPhone is simple -- if you want the best device, you buy the newest one. If you want a cheaper one, you buy one that's a year or two old. Read More .

Did you manage to get your smartphone or tablet operating as your desktop computer? Which method worked for you? Let us know in the comments!

Originally written by Kannon Yamada on February 19th, 2013.

Related topics: Chromecast, Keyboard, Workspace.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. J Brooks
    July 29, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    I'd love to completely ditch the laptop. Unfortunately, mobile software just can't handle it.

    Specifically, I need an app the would completely replace MS Word, MS Excel, and Visio (100% file compatibility, create, read, edit, every feature, every object) and haven't found them.
    (FYI, the MS mobile products are horribly insufficient for this request as well).

  2. Levi Fetzer
    April 29, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    I use my Razer phone 2 on my 50" vizio4k all the time! Plays Minecraft,and other games at 4k 60fps. Plus, I can slowly wireless charge at same time on a pad to reduce heat. Ana amazing app that actually turns into a desktop environment. All of that worked much more flaw5, and automatic with my daughters galaxy s8+. That thing is a demon. Like a console for her in her pocket it loves an external display.

  3. LoneStarNot
    February 28, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Great article!
    The bandwidth issues seem a matter of not designing for external KVM use. Surely a HD-video Miracast link can stand a few keyboard or mouse clicks.
    Do you know of any phone _designed_ for full-wireless KVM use?

    • Kannon Y
      April 29, 2019 at 8:30 pm

      If not mentioned in the article, I believe Samsung's DeX standard (DeX docks) should be what you're looking for even though it would connect a wire to the dock. DeX docks support HDMI, USB, and ethernet, so just by dropping the phone into the wireless charging cradle, it should automatically initiate connection of the external elements to the phone. That's full wireless for the phone at least (no connection to it at all).

      If you're referring to a phone that can simultaneously do bluetooth, Miracast, and wirelessly charge, technically any phone with Qi charging can do it. But every device that I've heard of except Samsung's will suffer from bad input lag on some or all of the wireless inputs. The biggest issue is usually wireless video. I'd bet that that issue has been solved on the latest 802.11ac phones though. But I can't say for certain.

  4. Anselm
    April 20, 2018 at 5:07 am

    I would think that this is the direction technology would go. The ability to use the cell-phone with a keyboard, mouse, charger and large display whenever possible to increase productivity. ie as a replacement for the PC, which one is forced to use, for more serious work. But for some reasons, the cell-phone manufacturer seem oblivious to this need.

  5. ogn dulk
    March 27, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    my iphone se is a competent computer and supposedly Apple has patented a dock that provides a laptop type screen and keyboard. it seems simple enough and reasonable but knowing Apple it would probably cost too much. then i realize what i really want is my iphone's data connection which i get when i plug the phone into the PC as a hotspot.

  6. Scott Johnson
    August 22, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    I replaced my laptop for over a year with a Samsung Galaxy S4, no mouse or keyboard. I used an OTG cable to copy files to and from external devices. It's rather easy with so many website out there with mobile versions. Even did my income tax twice.

  7. Lump
    August 6, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    In fact it works to charge and use MHL in same time with some specific phones, for instance Sony z1! Which have an extra magnetic charging capability! Not even Sony support are aware of this! ...but it works! ;)

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 6, 2017 at 11:49 pm

      Thanks for the comment! For those who want to check their own phones for wireless charging capabilities, I believe you are referring to phones with wireless Qi charging abilities (or similar wireless charging standards)

    December 30, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for this post.

    I will check it out and akso with MHL witth hdmi otg cradle with charger. BTW for Samsung S3 would need to have 5 pin to 11 pin cable too. #TXTNLRN_apps_test

    • Kannon Y
      January 3, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      This article is several years old already. There are many things that can now be done to turn an Android device into a desktop. Most important are Bluetooth devices and Miracast wireless display technology. Most set-top-boxes now support the standard, meaning you can just skip a cabled connection to a display. It can cause network issues, though, but overall the future is really promising.

  9. Jim M.
    April 2, 2016 at 3:07 am

    Consider a college freshman living in a dorm. Smartphones are almost ubiquitous. Yeah, smartphones do have some limitations. But I think a smartphone, with this setup, would work just fine for say English 101, History, and many other entry level college courses. Why shell out the bucks for a desktop or laptop, if your smartphone will work just fine? Think of the cost savings. I went totally without a pc or laptop for quite a while, my motto was make the most of my phone. And do you really want to tie yourself to your desk? In a pinch, if you're out and about, don't fret; you have the world at your fingertips in your pocket...the world in your pocket.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 6, 2016 at 8:42 am

      It's been three years since this article published so the technology has advanced tremendously. Even so, it's pretty amazing that people are doing just this -- going through dozens of classes writing everything using a mobile device.

    • Isaac
      September 7, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      I really like this idea but I have a few of concerns with it. (iPhone)
      1. No mouse. This means you can't really have your iPhone on a stand. Maybe you can get some stuff done with shortcuts but really you need to be glancing down at your phone if you want to press anything. However this isn't as much of an issue if you just want to watch movies and write essays on it (among other phone related stuff)
      2. The OS simply isn't designed for use with a keyboard. Apple doesn't sell a keyboard to go with the iPhone. This means they've likely made little to no effort to integrate a keyboard into the OS, meaning all your gonna be able to do with it is type.
      3. A little controversial but honestly one of my main concerns. I'm not sure what it's like streaming illegally on the iPhone. If I bought the iPhone 7 to replace my laptop I wouldn't have a penny for Netflix or other streaming services. I'm a student so I rely on pirating videos online if I can't get them on a select few streaming services.

  10. null
    April 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I'd love to see anyone doing some heavy photoediting, 3D rendering (or even working in a 3D space with more than one object), programming and rendering or even running some quick terminal checks without a hassle.

    I use my desktop for what i need to do on it and it most often requires at least a dual or quadcore CPU and a real GPU, not a lightweight downgraded chip that can barely compete with a pentium when it comes to pure number-crunching.

    If you have to, or if you just want to test it out, sure. If you need to do anything else, buy a real pc.

    • Kannon Yamada
      April 26, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      ARM CPU speeds in mobile devices have been doubling in "speed" every year or so, which is a meteoric rate of increase. Using GPU or CPU intensive tasks is still totally outside the realm of feasibility right now, but in the next few years it will likely become an option.

      But you're totally right - right there aren't any ARM CPUs that can even remotely compete with even older desktop CPUs.

      But for general use, most people could probably benefit from using their phone as a docked device. It's kinda a waste to use a Core i5 as a Facebook and email machine. :-)

    • Eyad Loutfi
      February 27, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Now phones like the Galaxy note 5 have 4Gb of ram and 8 cores each wth 1.8 Ghz and a decent cpu and it handles desktop multitasking outstandingly, plus it's only 750 dollars with no contract and ITS A SMARTPHONE.

    • funtikar
      July 9, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      i know this is like 3 years old but IMO most of the problem aren't really from the hardware limitation in terms of processing power but its more to software issue like interface and feature. For example, in touch device they are improvised to zoom in and zoom out using two finger pinch in and out,unless the apps are also programmed to for mouse functions like scroll up or down to zoom. Another example is being able to select text and copy paste anywhere or easy data sharing between apps, this is probably one of the things that would really be missed from a real PC. Ofcourse they are quite minor but there are lots of these problem and once they add up ,they can be quite frustrating. I know some of these have already been overcomed in newer OS and devices but they are still there most of it

      • Kannon Yamada
        July 12, 2016 at 12:14 am

        Thanks for sharing! There's actually an Android version that combines a desktop GUI with the Android operating system. The best thing about it is that it's installable on x86 systems. It's called Remix OS.

  11. Braaainz
    April 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I've been using my old HTC Evo 4g (Sprint) as my desktop for a long time now. I'm rooted and running CyanogenMod 7.2 (a free open-source custom android ROM). CyanogenMod has had bluetooth mouse support since their version 6 which ran on Android 2.2 Froyo (and possibly earlier versions).

    Why use my phone as a desktop PC?

    1. It turns my large flatscreen into a smart TV. Using my bluetooth mouse, I can easily use android to stream movies, tv shows, or play previously downloaded items. I can play local FM, stored digital, or streaming radio thru my home sound system while using the wonderful ProjectM music visualizer app for atmosphere.

    2. Using my phone's cameras, I can do video calls thru my TV.

    3. It's pocketable. It's nice having a larger screen, but portability is awesome! My bluetooth keyboard folds up and easily fits into my jacket pocket.

  12. Aaron Ashton
    February 23, 2013 at 6:08 am

    this seems pretty cool but what phones would you recommend that could handle this power?

  13. Daniel Escasa
    February 22, 2013 at 7:50 am

    After all, who in their right mind composes an essay on a smartphone touchscreen?
    I did four of my six blog entries (at mostly on my smartphone. MessagEase made it possible.

    Oh wait, you say “in their right mind.”

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 22, 2013 at 8:40 pm


      Great site, by the way! I'm having trouble understanding HOW you were able to put out quality posts with ONE FINGER!!! That's amazing!

      • Daniel Escasa
        February 24, 2013 at 3:10 am

        "Thanks, but that one finger didn't have to travel very far. In fact, in contrast to QWERTY layouts, the q and u letters are on the same key, and it's just a matter of swiping from the center of that key to the upper left and up, respectively. I tried going to the QWERTY-layout Android "keyboard" and just couldn't stand it.

  14. Stacy Arriaza Vander Busch
    February 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    looks really confusing to me just use a phone for a phone and a tower for a tower. And I personally like the little keyboard for the tablets and I Pads!

  15. Bill Fell
    February 21, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks Kannon. Interesting set-up, but since I've got the desktop already, I'll stick with it. Keep these articles coming!

  16. Penny Reed
    February 21, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Does anyone have any ideas what on earth i should do if after re install Office 2010 I have stuffed up Outlook settings and now can't use it ? I have lost emails as well .I help out a charity and it's mostly charit's emails gone and also Outlook we use . I would love to have my own Chromebook as feel guilt ridden about stuffing up charity's Laptop (again)

  17. Guy McDowell
    February 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Wasn't there a laptop-ish device that had a sort of cradle on it that you could pop your smartphone into? The phone provided the brains and the laptop provided a more comfortable computing experience.

    It tanked, but I think it was just a little too early to market.

    Then there's this. I want.

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Actually, yeah, good memory. There was a lapdock for Motorola phones. I think it was only available for their Droid line. But they sold terribly. :-(

      They were on sale a short while ago for like $30-50. Considering what you get, that's a ridiculously good deal.

      Someone eventually hacked the dock so that it would run off of a stick-PC... Making it a stand alone Android laptop.

      • Daniel Escasa
        February 22, 2013 at 8:05 am

        More precisely, that was the Motorola Atrix. I thought it was an ugly kludge since the phone stuck out of the lapdock. I thought that Asus's PadFone was more elegant.

        But we're kinda veering off topic :)

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 21, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Holy moly. ClamCase. Want.

      • Guy McDowell
        February 21, 2013 at 7:15 pm

        I know, right? That is what a netbook was meant to be.

  18. a computer tech
    February 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    this whole "concept" makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine :-)

    completely useless :-)

  19. Richie
    February 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Do not ditch desktop. The smart phone screen is small and not able to see everything there in one place. you have to move sideway to see all. I have a desktop and a monitor that is 23 inch. I can watch movies on my desktop DVD player. Lot of things with desktop.

    There is a big difference between a smartphone and a desktop. The smartphone is good for when you get out of your home to go to other places or on a vacation.The desktop is good for do lot of things at home. You would be able to print out some copies from printer. You do some work. You can see big pictures. So Do Not Ditch Desktop. Keep it in your home. Take smartphone with you when you leave home. Have a good day.

    • a computer tech
      February 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      agreed fully. a phone is an "ultra-portable", NOT a replacement for a desktop :-)

      when I can put a 1 TB hard drive in my phone I might even consider using it as a "computer" :-)

      but it will NEVER replace a 24-inch iMac with all the features it has :-) nor will my iMac be portable in any way :-)

      bottom line to me: devices were designed to be good at the things there were intended for.. leave it at that :-)

      • Kannon Yamada
        February 20, 2013 at 10:36 pm

        Good point. In the article I detailed how we can output video from the phone to a larger monitor.

        Many phones have this ability. For example, the iPhone 4 can output to a much larger monitor using HDMI and a proprietary adapter.

      • Tech Man
        February 24, 2018 at 11:20 pm

        Well, you can get a 256 GB phone, and 1, maybe 2 even, micro SD card slots on it. Plus micro SD cards are up to 256 GB. You could probably have 768 GB. :-)

        • A Computer Tech (still hehe)
          February 25, 2018 at 1:41 am

          well, I can't carry around a screen big enough to be comfortable with... I can't see a small phone screen being useful for general computing :-) That's why I have laptops :-) I use my phone for a phone, works for me...

  20. Tiziano Gregory Perugini
    February 20, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Nice article. But would be great knowing, which solution is available for Mac users

  21. Stephanie Staker
    February 20, 2013 at 8:01 am

    This is SO cool! Who would have thought you could turn an iPhone into a computer? But, when you think about it, why not? Thank you for the info on how to put it together and the hardware/software needed. I am a new iPhone user and totally addicted to it. I rarely make phone calls but I love playing on it. :) Thanks for the article. Saving it for another day.

  22. James Ford
    February 20, 2013 at 5:27 am

    Very interesting, amazing what you can accomplish with the technology these days.

  23. mukhi
    February 20, 2013 at 3:51 am

    good article, but missing lot of points. 1st thing 1st; if i consider (almost) replacing desktop/laptop, i want a full OS there (ubuntu for android is coming, we will check availability and see how it performs). android/iOS is still not there in getting a capable office and other productivity software.

  24. Arthur Amon
    February 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I really like this idea (and thought the cardboard phone holder was particularly cute). I'm also interested in the mouse question (asked by a couple of the other posters e.g. Lester) - how can we get a mouse communicating with the phone so that we don't have to keep using the touch screen when in desktop mode? I can see that it won't work for all of the current things I'm using my desktop for (as Bogdan says - finite elements, CAD), but could be great in my new place (which is on the small side)...

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 2:35 am

      Thank you Arthur!

      Aside from USB-host mode, there's an app that will turn your phone into a trackpad. There's also bluetooth mice for later versions of Android that work. However, they must support the four-digit code entry common in BT 2.0, I think. And you must have Android 3.0 and later, if I remember correctly.

    • Guy McDowell
      February 20, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      If you thought the cardboard phone holder was cute, we've got an article coming just for you!

  25. Nez
    February 19, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I'll pass, I love my phone but I also love my tablet, desktop and laptop. Desktop is custom for gaming and any other heavy load I can and wish to throw at it.
    Laptop is for when I don't feel like going in my office or I wish to work outside or away etc. Tablet is great for lighter work, or play.
    The day I can do some serious gaming or run heavy tasks on my phone is the day I might ditch the desktop.

  26. Victor Ong
    February 19, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Hm, there are also mice that work with android tablets correct? Those would definitely help a lot when working.

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 2:30 am

      Hey Victor, that's a good question - there are a number of mice that are compatible with Android, depending on your version of the OS. Most bluetooth mice are compatible with Android 3.0+. Below that, you are looking at specially designed software that turns your phone into a trackpad mouse:

      It's really cool.

  27. Bogdan Chirita
    February 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    I'll use a phone like this when it's capable of running CAD and finite elements software.

  28. David D Short
    February 19, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Call me silly, but it seems we are attempting to regain lost functionally of the desktop. by continually adding accessories to a mobile device.. My man pouch is not so large as to accommodate all the cords and such .. I'll stick to a Laptop.

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 2:21 am

      You make a good point David. I'm currently working on a successor to this article that doesn't use any cords at all. It would require some setting up, but after you've finished, placing the phone on a wireless charger would immediately switch turn the device into a desktop.

      No cords at all! I'll be ready to write this is about a month.

    • Daniel Escasa
      February 22, 2013 at 8:02 am

      Kannon, correct me if I'm wrong, but this isn't for mobile use, is it? IOW, you'd set this up at home or at the office.

      • Kannon Yamada
        February 22, 2013 at 8:17 pm

        You could also do this for mobile purposes - except there'd be no external monitor, for obvious reasons.

        The basics of such a setup would be that you'd have a Qi charger - place the device on the charger and it would automatically connect to the bluetooth mouse/keyboard and desktop OS.

        I won't lie, though, this could require some expensive software and hardware. But I imagine we could get the price in right around $100, depending on how awesome your phone is.

        • Daniel Escasa
          February 24, 2013 at 3:13 am

          On second thought, it could work for a mobile setup as well. I've seen ads for portable LCD monitors. Haven't looked closely at them, but I presume you can run them off battery power. And in any case, you can sure set up your workstation in a coffee shop, for instance, and plug in the monitor.

  29. Zoe
    February 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    This would a good supplement those with main limited data plans. Esp. if you're somewhat rural. I have a 20Gb data 4G Hotspot as my household internet.
    I also have two (5Gb data) 3G smartphones.
    I would like to USE that 5Gb that I'm paying for w/o the extra tethering fees.(ripoff)
    So this here could at least make it so I can see what I am doing in a reasonable fashion and then transfer files from smartphone to my desktop via USB. I can live with swapping a couple of cables for that if needed.

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 2:09 am

      Hey Zoe, thanks for the comment!

      Are you under contract right now for the 5Gb of data phones? And do you have a GSM (AT&T/Tmo), Sprint or Verizon phone?

      By the way, that's a HUGE amount of a cap, for a mobile phone. It's unethical for those companies to be charging you for a service that you are unable to fully use.

      Right now, depending on which of the big cell providers you get reception for and whether you're off-contract, you can switch to an MVNO.

      MVNOs charge about $40-45 for almost the same service. They cap at 2GB.

      Google designed a series of phones to be able to tether and then disguise the tether so that the carriers wouldn't know what was going on. All phones in their Nexus series can do this. But unfortunately, they're also made using GSM technology.

  30. Jr
    February 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    How ridiculously stupid is this?

    • Guy McDowell
      February 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      Yep, just as stupid as putting a keyboard on an iPad or tablet.

  31. CB
    February 19, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    You've got to be kidding me. A laptop can be used instead of a desktop but a phone? Nope.

  32. Lester Landgren
    February 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Is there a mouse app or option?

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 1:49 am

      Lester, that's a great question. For my desktop setup, I used the phone's touchpad as the mouse, but for a lot of folks that's just going to be too weird.

      There's several ways.

      1. Many bluetooth mice/keyboards can connect with Android 3.0+.

      2. If your device has USB-host, it's possible to connect a huge number of devices, provided that you use a powered USB-hub. Otherwise you are limited to a single device. However, keep in mind that using a normal desktop mouse will have very high energy requirements.

      3. For older versions of Android that don't support USB-host and external bluetooth devices, there are special mice/keyboards that must be used in combination with special software.

  33. Nohl Lyons
    February 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Even though Motorola has been shipping phones designed to by a replacement computer, I think this article points to the more realistic route: attaching a bunch of stuff to your handset. This way you don't get stuck with one echo system (Apple).

    Nice stuff.

  34. Ramamoorthy
    February 19, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Not having HDMI in my android ..! :P

  35. Shawn Dreelin
    February 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I'd add a couple more pieces of useful software for a office on the go:
    Camscanner - turns your phone into a scanner
    Printershare - Wireless printing from your phone (also to Google Docs & FedEx)
    I use these with QuickOffice a lot on the go.

    • Guy McDowell
      February 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Good points.

  36. Guy McDowell
    February 19, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    With maybe a $150, you can get the cables, keyboard, and maybe a monitor.
    Since most people just use Facebook, Google and e-mail, this becomes a legitimate solution for those that don't have a laptop or desktop computer.
    Plus it takes up less space.
    Then you have a computer you can put in your pocket, so your data is always with you.

    • dragonmouth
      February 20, 2013 at 12:35 am

      "Then you have a computer you can put in your pocket"
      I would think you would have a bit of a hard time sliding the monitor in your pocket. /grin/

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 1:38 am

      Thanks Guy! I've been looking at NFC tages + wireless charging + wireless display technology. It's looking like we can basically dispense with the wires entirely.

      Just plop your device on the wireless charger and automagically connect to all your peripheral devices. Just requires an app like Tasker.

      • Guy McDowell
        February 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm

        I'm a little put off by NFC and RFID tags. I have a copy of a magazine that had an NFC tag inside of it. It was left a little too close to the microwave. It burnt right through to the front and back covers of the magazine.

        I've got pictures to prove it too.

        • Ron Lister
          February 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm

          Wow! I would never have imagined that could happen. Thanks for the heads up.

  37. Ron Lister
    February 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    I think I'll just stick to makeing phone calls on my phone.

    • Ron Lister
      February 25, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      I like my PC to much to try to replace it with a smartphone. But isn't it amazing how far mobil phones have come and what they're capable of?

  38. Igor Rizvi?
    February 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I liek that keyboard...its awesome !!

  39. Martik
    February 19, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    This sucks!

  40. dragonmouth
    February 19, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    As a "proof of concept" it maybe a great project but other than that why would I want to do it??? I already have a device that saves me more space and clutter that this Rube Goldberg, it is called a "laptop". Maybe you've heard of them? There is no need for a free standing monitor or a flimsy cardboard "phone stand" and there are no wires trailing all over the place. I can easily take my device into any room in the house and the surrounding area.

    While you are using crippled apps on a limited operating system such as iOS or Android, running on a one-lung toy processor, I am enjoying full-featured applications on a robust Linux distro, running on a reasonably modern i7 processor.

    While your Rube Goldberg requires the cloud for storage, my laptop provides tons of storage on its 1 TB HD. Unlike you I have instant 24/7 access to my data. I am not subject to the vagaries of Internet connections, corporate policies or corporate existence. My data is not going to get hijacked, held hostage or sold to the highest bidder.

    I will grant you one advantage, I cannot make phone calls on my laptop, although if I install Skype................

    • Vaegar Ulvang
      February 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      I love smug "why would I ... blah blah blah" comments. Congratulations on the Rube Goldberg reference and your ability to point out obvious issues.

      • dragonmouth
        February 20, 2013 at 12:36 am

        "Congratulations on the Rube Goldberg reference and your ability to point out obvious issues."
        Thank you. I try my best. :P

      • Melanie Groves Von Fange
        June 30, 2013 at 9:04 am

        I agree, the D-bag force is strong in that one.

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 1:32 am

      DM: Thanks for the feedback! You're absolutely correct that this was simply a proof of concept experiment. So, I can only reply to a couple of your points.

      First, I would point out that Ubuntu Linux is widely available on Android handsets, so many of the things you can do on Linux can also work with an ARM-based system.

      Second, Android handsets can access external drives, network drives, etc... so it's not dependent on cloud storage to the same extent as one might think. However, as you pointed out, twenty years from now will Android still be around? Will we still have access to our data? That's a great question and I cannot answer it.

      Third, yes, ARM chips are far slower than Intel/AMD. It's bad. Even though most users are fine with the computing power in a handheld, for the hard core, like you and I, no amount of CPU power will ever be enough.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • dragonmouth
        February 21, 2013 at 3:04 pm

        1. Do Andoid handsets use a full-blown version of Ubuntu, or some cut down version? Android O/S is Linux based.

        2. Not being a smartphone user, I was not aware of that. Twenty years from now, will any of our O/Ss be still around? I'm sure that their respective developers fervently hope so. Some of them are still hoping to be "the one and only." /grin/

        3. Handheld CPUs, like all microprocessors, are constantly getting faster. While I don't expect handheld CPUs to ever catch up with PC CPUs, one never knows. Stranger things have happened. All we need is a serendipitous breakthrough.

        • Kannon Yamada
          February 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm

          According to what I've read, the phones that dual boot Android and Linux will allow users to dock the ANDROID phone, which triggers the launching of a full LINUX desktop, including the monitor. I'm really looking forward to that kind of implementation

          RE: #2, err... man, I don't know. Probably? :-)

          #3, Yes, that's a very relevant point. I think the Intel Haswell CPUs will be squeezing Core i7 into a 20-ish watt TDP with a high end integrated GPU. It won't be long before we see that kind of firepower inside of a handheld.

  41. Scott Krupnick
    February 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    I'm sure this is a possibility, but how much productivity would you accomplish?

  42. Scott Macmillan
    February 19, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Its a very interesting experiment but not one I would use.I have a desktop,laptop,smart phone and tablet because they all do different things.I don't really need to hack one of them to perform another function.

    • Abe C.
      February 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      I would have to agree you cannot replace a full blown pc at times. Being a technician I buy my equipment based on use my desktop is my media center, laptop dose gaming, and everything else because I'm constantly on the go, and finally my android helps me get info when I have no internet connection, stay connected with friends, coworkers, and customers, and also helps me with setting up networks. I love my devices for that very reason their divers functions.

  43. Susan
    February 19, 2013 at 10:33 am

    After my harddrive died about a year ago, I was forced to "make do"with my laptop. While it works wonderfully, I still miss my large screen especially when I am working on photo shop or making videos. Admit it, its too darm hard to edit a photo on the IPad and find all flaws. That said, this little tip is one I will be using immediately and I suspect often! Finally an app that actually is useful!

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 1:21 am

      Thanks Susan!

      Your laptop should have some kind of video out, such as VGA or HDMI. If your monitor has the corresponding inputs you can simply just buy the right cable and use your laptop as a desktop.

      If your monitor doesn't support the same video technology as your laptop, there's a lot of cheap converters on Amazon that will do it very easily.

  44. Réy Aétar
    February 19, 2013 at 5:03 am

    good for watching media and surfing web

  45. Chris Hoffman
    February 19, 2013 at 4:57 am

    You could definitely do this, but the idea terrifies me. What's it like using Android on a huge monitor with a keyboard? I'd think the one-app-at-a-time part would be pretty bad, although I guess you could use floating apps...

    • Nevzat Akkaya
      February 19, 2013 at 8:16 am

      I love the idea of using my phone as a computer :) Am I too geeky? :)

    • Kannon Yamada
      February 20, 2013 at 1:19 am

      Feels a lot like using a regular desktop. However, even a quad core Nexus 4 runs slower than a dual-core Intel Celeron. And Android as a desktop leaves a lot to be desired. No desktop.

      The lack of multimonitor support causes the most difficulties. And using the touchpad on the phone instead of a mouse felt bizarre.

      By the way, the Nexus 4 has the Miracast, wireless display technology. I've been thinking about setting up an NFC tag that will switch the device into a desktop, simply by placing it on the wireless charger.

      • Daniel Escasa
        February 22, 2013 at 7:56 am

        And using the touchpad on the phone instead of a mouse felt bizarre.

        +1. Similar to the screen on a Windows Surface notebook. And Google has just released the Chrome Pixel, touch-enabled Chromebook. Wondering if that'll be any better, but I doubt it, since you have to reach out to the screen. Just tried simulating that with my laptop, and I didn't enjoy it.

        On the other hand:

        1) You can just lay your phone on the table and use it as you would a touchpad. For that matter, you might put it at the base of the keyboard.


        2) I've seen a video of a Galaxy Note where the user moved the cursor with a Bluetooth mouse.

        Oh wait, was that a Galaxy Tab? Regardless, I think even a Note might support a mouse.