Why Is Your Cellphone Not A More Useful Computer?

Sometimes when you are browsing randomly through the tech feeds, up pops an article that just crystallizes a nascent thought that had been simmering below the surface for a long time, and is enough to make you sit up and say “Yes! I agree completely with that!”. Such a moment came with [Cheapscatesguide]’s post: “My Fantasy: A Cellphone I can Use as a Desktop Computer“, in which the pertinent question is asked that if smartphones are so powerful, why are they not much better at being more than, well, smartphones?

Readers with long memories may recall that the cellphone-as-computer idea is one that has been tried at least once before. The Motorola Atrix appeared in the early years of this decade, and was a high-end smartphone that could be slotted into both desktop replacement and netbook-style base stations and used as a Linux-based personal computer. Unfortunately it was both eye-wateringly expensive and disappointingly slow due to a hobbled operating system, so it failed to set the market alight. There was a brief moment when unsold Atrix netbook docks were available on the surplus market and became popular platforms as a Raspberry Pi desktop interface, but this experiment seems to have put paid to the idea of one device to truly rule them all.

If we had to hazard a guess as to why this has failed to happen, we’d finger both the manufacturer’s desire not to undermine their lucrative sales in other sectors, and both their and the carriers’ desire to lock down the devices as much as possible. A manufacturer such as Apple will for example never  produce an iPhone that can replace a desktop, because it would affect their MacBook sales. Oddly in another form we’re nearly there, this piece is being worked on with a Chromebook, a device that has a useful browser, a functional Android layer, and (because it’s a 64-bit model) an officially supported and useful Debian layer. We don’t expect this to translate into a phone any time soon though.

From another angle, we’ve asked in the past why we aren’t hacking old cellphones.

Moto Atrix lapdock picture: ETC@USC [CC BY-SA 2.0].

Via Hacker News.

130 thoughts on “Why Is Your Cellphone Not A More Useful Computer?

  1. The answer for this question is the same as for other questions about truly open or hackable hardware – the demand and market is too small to make it profitable. It’s sad but it won’t change before “normal” (not nerd) people will start to demand hardware on which they will have full control.

    1. More to the point, it’s not even about the hardware.

      It doesn’t run x86 software and it doesn’t run Windows. Therefore it’s useless as a desktop machine for about 97% of the market.

      1. Though you could subtract about 10% mac users from that, unless they’re running boot camp, and for some reason Chromebooks seem to be really popular in the educational market.

        Point being that when you go outside of the Windows land, you lose all the productivity software and the games you used to have, so all you can do is browse the web and watch youtube, or use one of the “libre” software that kinda sorta does half what you want it to do.

        1. I would love to see somebody actually explain what MickeySoft Office does that people actually use and none of the alternatives offer. I mean seriously, in my own professional life I occasionally write a document containing instructions or an email that includes a few pictures. I doubt I could use all the features of AbiWord if I tried to let alone Libre Office. What are people using their computers for that requires so much?

          I do know that far too many office dwellers like to pretend that Excel is a programming environment. I don’t know? Can Libre Calc be abused that same way? Honestly though.. if you are going to go through all that effort just learn a scripting language already!

          I’ve asked the same of several Photoshop users. Usually the answer involves the large community of Photoshop script writers. That’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy now isn’t it?!

          I don’t know what “Productivity Software” requires Windows (or Mac) that I haven’t just addressed with those two. Really, what are you windows users doing with your computers? Besides filling them with ad/spyware?

          Ok, I ignored games. Gamers, I wasn’t really talking to you. I don’t have much time for gaming but as far as I can tell gaming on Linux has improved but is ever a step behind. I’m not sure that problem is even fixable until the kernel devs give the video card manufacturers a more stable binary interface and the library devs give the game programmers a more stable interface. Neither are going to go full open source so that a simple recompile can fix the updates.

          1. Unfortunately, MS Office runs (almost?) arbitrarily complex code inside of Word. My employer’s expense reports had to be done in a specific Word document, and I can’t fill it out unless I use a Mac or a Windows box. I took the plunge and went full-time linux at work several years ago, but there are still these one-off cases. At least the expense reports went to a web-based system and it is actually better than what we had.

            Powerpoint presentations are a serious problem, and I have to be able to at least read them. MS has trouble making them compatible between Macs and Windows. It seems nothing less than heroic that LibreOffice even tries. I’ve literally never seen it completely correct (page margins must be impossible) but at least half the time I can read it well enough to get the gist.

          2. Being a Mac guy I would recast the question as Office versus iWork. On that score I say iWork is 2/3 of the way there.

            Pages and Keynote are fine replacements for Word and PowerPoint.

            Numbers…? No. Numbers is an abomination. It’s Mac software that is impossible to figure out, which is downright miraculous in the worst way.

            If Numbers didn’t suck so hard, I’d have no use for Office at all.

          3. Photoshop and the rest of the adobe suite do have some much more powerful tools than OSS alternatives. For photos, yes, GIMP will do what most people need. There are viable alternatives to illustrator, but not to indesign. Also, Adobe software handles colour management correctly – this won’t impact you unless you do commercial printing. If you stick in sRGB (screen/web) you’ll never need that.

            MS software – word is much more reliable than OSS alternatives in keeping formatting correct between machines. Excel has statistical capabilities that alternatives lack. But yes, if like most people you use word as a glorified notepad, OSS alternatives will satisfy you. I think everywhere I’ve worked in industry has needed the functionality of Word and definitely Excel. Outlook is only any good when paired with an exchange server, when it far exceeds any alternatives; but without exchange, it’s worse than anything else.

          4. Outlining. I tried so hard to get the openoffice idiots to add outlining to their Write software. They just don’t understand the concept as they’ve never used Word. I’m not alone on this. I’d switch in a heartbeat if openoffice could handle proper outlining like MS word. I submitted a change request and it was closed as they said navigator did the same thing (which it doesn’t). Then after 10 years, they finally agreed and took another submission from me. The dumbshit it was assigned to looked at the original request and said it was already solved and closed the request. I gave up at that point and figured I’d be stuck with Microshit for the rest of my life.

          5. My preference is to program in python, but for deployment to non programmer colleagues, it’s way easier to add some code into Excel and deploy a tool as a spreadsheet by email. Just tell them “open this spreadsheet”. Instead, try to get python installed on a corporate computer and train the user with a new piece of software. They all already have office installed, so it’s pretty easy to drive adoption of a tool.

            I’m sure libreoffice has something similar, but developing on the same tool that is used for deployment makes life easy. I love the foss software, and often push for it’s adoption, but it’s a chicken and egg problem. Until it’s more widely adopted, it’s impractical to be on a separate platform.

            I have migrated to various platforms over time, but windows is the only one where all my hardware development tools are easily supported. There are sometimes Linux support options, but it’s always an oddessey to get everything working. I have already ended up shifting back to windows, typically with data loss and file format issues resulting from the experience that plague me for a few months afterwards.

          6. It’s because the typical not-nerdy end user is too afraid to step out of their comfort zone. They have been using a Mac or PC running M$ software for years now. For the, learning Abi or even Google Docs is like trying to teach quantum physics to someone’s dog.

            And business is hesitant to change because they have spent billions on their infrastructure which more than likely contains 75% equipment running Microsoft software and services that the entire chain of command would need to relearn, and even though it’s give the Unix/Linux admin great pleasure, a lot of people would either need to retrain/re-certify or lose their job over it.

            The usual people running computers think
            – Apple for home
            – PC for work/gaming
            – phone for social media and texting
            – ipad/tablet for Candy crush

            None of them are willing to try nuts stuff like plug their Android into a USB-C docking Station or put a Sim card in their laptop.

          7. It exchanges documents with people who are using MS Office at full fidelity with full change tracking and runs the scripts embedded therein the same way other MS Office installations do.

            Honestly, I think that’s it. I’ve been using LibreOffice most of the time for a few years now without too much trouble, but I wouldn’t be able to use it to exchange business documents with external clients without having a colleague first check to make sure my edits are appropriately rendered.

            If I needed to edit other peoples’ Office documents on a more frequent basis, I’d be forced to keep a VM with Office running on hand just to sanity check before sending them out.

          8. Until Libre Office/Open Office can do outlining as well as MS Office it will not be widely adopted by commerce, government/legal organisations or in acadaemia. And no, Navigator doesn’t suffice as a substitute for outlining.

          9. Total Commander – I haven’t been able to find any substitute for it on any other platform. It boost my home productivity easily by 20-30%.
            The best alternative to MS Office I’ve found to be WPS Office. I use LibreOffice all the time but it still feels buggy, slow, outdated. Not to complain about free software, but it just doesn’t work for me in professional environments.
            MobaXTerm can handle *nix sessions with ease.
            A lot of HW development tools are windows-only. For drivers it’s the same deal.
            For development it doesn’t really matter which OS you use, until you start moving files around. For me TotalCmd is where everything shines.
            Photoshop et. co? LabView? ArcGis?

            Anyway, the most painful thing for me against recommending Linux to other people is the lack of drivers and the strange UI bugs. It’s much better than it was 10 years ago and I think most people coming from XP would not know the difference.

        2. While you probably can’t get the windon’t programs you are familiar with a great many alternatives in the opensource world exist. Many of them even more feature rich than their windows counterparts. You just have to learn to use them. (and in the case of Arm chipped phones and tablets probably compile them – not that compiling from source is usually hard, its just another thing to learn)

          1. The vast majority of end users don’t want to learn how to compile the applications they’ll have to learn how to use. They just want them to run and get out of the way so they can work (or goof off on the Internet).

            FOSS applications might cover 90% of the functionality of their commercial counterparts, but oftentimes that last 10% takes as much (or more) effort as the rest of the program and only affects edge cases and the professional market, so the developers don’t bother implementing it. At best requests for those features get a handwave-y “well it’s open source so if you need it so bad, you write it” response.

          1. Linux SysAdmin in my day job, but I definitely prefer MSWin+Office on my home laptops and desktops. Windows is the gold standard OS for productivity/CAD/CAM/graphics/etc. Software may or may not work right on Mac or Linux, but it had _better_ work right on Windows or else.

            The laptop I’m typing this on currently has Libre but I will be installing MSOffice tomorrow. Libre or Google office are decent 80/20 solutions good for the masses but I’m squarely in the camp where some of the missing 3-20% of features are deal-killers for me.

            This could change but it will probably come from powerful Android/iOS tablets with detachable keyboards that are effectively laptop-type devices. Currently there are more UNIX-based devices in the world when counting phones and tablets. We always thought Linux would take over the world but we always thought it would be on the laptop.

      2. 15 years ago people explained me that linux could not succeed because of photoshop, autocad and MS Office. If I told them that only small percent of useres actually need that advanced software I was called ignorant. Today the same people use only phones and tablets and try to convince me that Google Docs is enough to replace MS Office. And since Autocad and Photoshop can’t be installed so easy without paying licence their design and graphics ambision is much smaller.

      3. I beg to differ. If it can run Linux and provide users with a browser like Firefox/chrome, a desktop editing suite like LibreOffice and a media playback like VLC, then it makes for a very useful desktop for at least 85% of non-gaming users. It would also make a decent software development platform.

        The reason why it wont succeed is that there is little to no money to be made if smartphone users could simply use their phones as a desktop. Microsoft loses money, laptop/PC manufacturers lose money, heck even Google will lose money since such a solution would render Chromebooks irrelevant.

        1. Even for gaming, Linux support is getting there. I can run between a quarter and a third of my steam library without having to touch the command line or fiddle with compatibility settings.

          Chromebooks are kinda cool but they push users even more into the ‘Google owns everything I do” territory.

          1. I would wager that linux gaming is pretty close now. “Steam Play” enables a LOT of windows-only games to just launch and run on linux, although with a performance-loss. Almost all games that support Directx 9 just runs on linux, and a lot of newer games are also getting linux versions, since a lot of the developers making these games likely prefer a linux environment, and favor cross-platform solutions and would like to see more games support linux, and thus a linux-version is cheap to make after release. Look a Metro for example, along with a lot of indie-games

    2. I call BS on that. It’s not that they couldn’t make money marketing to us it’s that they only want to focus on the larger market and don’t care about us. Look at it this way. There was a PC market long before the “normal people” bought them. And no, it wasn’t just a side production for the office machine suppliers. For example, Tandy existed. Today’s equivalent of yesterday’s early home computer adopters would buy it if they would produce it. Just maybe not at the price they want to charge.

      Business executives just don’t seem to be capable of recognizing a smaller but under-served market that could easily be theirs for the taking when they can see a larger one. It’s like walking right past a free brick of gold which is there just for the taking because you think you are on your way to rob Fort Knox.

      Just look at the Rat Shack. Had they reduced their number of locations to something more like one per-drivable area, increased their variety of “maker stuff” and reduced their prices to something closer to reasonable I think they would still be here today. Instead they saw the cellphone market. OMG It’s so Biiiiig. They completely missed the fact that EVERYONE was already in ahead of them in that market and the competition would be intense. They dropped their comfortable niche only to go get steamrolled.

      Well.. anyway.. enough ranting. My point is that corporate culture is rather brain dead and just doesn’t work for us. We WILL have our hackable devices however. Look at the way SBCs are getting so much more powerful. We will build them ourselves!

      1. I’m not sure what side you’re arguing here. For example “Tandy” was a RadioShack house brand long before it became a PC brand. I seem to recall they sold wood burners among other things.

        1. Yes. Tandy started out having nothing to do with computers. In fact they actually started with leather goods. That’s not really relevant.

          The point is that for 10 or 20 years, during a time when only the “geeky fringe” had home computers they successfully made a business selling them. In other words a business could possibly profit selling something that is designed for us today. They just won’t do it because they all either think they are going to take on the big corporations already marketing to the larger non-technical crowd or they are those big corporations and either way they don’t care about us.

      2. Radio Shack and their computers, and Coleco, were started by *leather goods and crafts* companies. Diablo printers were invented by then spun off from Singer sewing machines. There were other pioneers in electronics and computers who initially had zero to do with any of that. But most of them, after the electronics or computers part of the business eclipsed their original products, lost their inventive nature and tried to stay on the same path while other companies that started out with electronics and computers sprung up with new ideas. Many of them went on to make the same errors and they’re also gone.

        It’s the people and companies who repeatedly examine what they’re doing, and what others are doing, and look for unfulfilled needs then invent stuff to fill those needs, who survive. A survivor has to be able to come up with something good that does something useful, then *tell other people* their thing exists and why they’ll find it useful.

        You often have to *make the market*, especially when people don’t know they’ll want something until they can see it and go “Oh! Wow! I never would ever have thought of that but now I see it *I want it*.”

        You have to understand that what’s advertised the most, promoted the most, put on sale the most, sells the most. Unless of course the product is total crap, then no amount of marketing will (usually) make it sell.

        Is pepperoni the best pizza topping ever? Oh heck no. It’s greasy, spicy, tough, a long list of negatives. Yet it sells the most. Why? Because it’s always on sale or special or just the cheapest, most heavily promoted pizza topping ever – to the point where if asked to draw a pizza the vast majority will draw something resembling one topped with just slices of pepperoni, even if they don’t like it. Pepperoni has become the Xerox, Kleenex, and Velcro of pizza.

        But swap any other topping with the same long record of promotion and low price, that topping would be the universal shorthand for pizza.

        So if a cellphone company really wanted to make a Chromedock to plug a cellphone into, they could make it sell, by aggressively promoting it, *making ti not suck*, and pricing it right. Currently that would be even easier than it was with the Atrix because of MHL and other audio/visual connection methods through USB-C. MHL seems to have had a resurgence with USB-C after having a short fling on some phones with USB 2.0 Micro B.

        What I’d like to see is a Chromebook that’s usable on its own, but with a way to mount a phone on the back of the lid, connected by USB-C. The keyboard and display then would work as peripherals for the phone. The same thing could be done with a full size desktop keyboard with some USB ports and an HDMI port. Chromeboard? Then jack in a phone to crank up the power.

        1. I don’t know whose pizzas you are eating, but if the pepperoni is “tough” you might try like…not eating their pizzas anymore. I’ve never even heard of that. As far as greasy, pepperoni aside usually that’s mostly a lot to do with the hot mozzarella cheese.

          1. That pepperoni comment really shook you, huh? Regarding grease, the fat content in pepperoni is extremely high, so yes: if you put the “pepperoni aside”, the grease would come from the cheese. Mozarella isn’t a low-fat product either (although you can get reduced-fat versions), so without the pepp you may still have a greasy pizza, depending on the type and amount of mozz used. I find that people who get super defensive about something so insignificant are “usually…mostly…a lot to do with…” personal preference, rather than actual evidence. ;)

    3. Sadly I think it’s much worse than that, and demand alone would change nothing.

      The problem isn’t the size of the market, it’s the mechanism for monitization. It is more profitable to monitize a locked down platform shackled to subscriptions than it ever will be to monitize a device that you cede control of. The first thing rational people do with general purpose computer hardware is figure out how to do all – or at least the vast majority – of what they need to do without paying anymore. And it’s easy, because general purpose computers are powerful old technology. There is almost nothing that people want to do that hasn’t been done a dozen times or more already, and can be recreated for free.

      The only way to keep the cash flowing is to lock the tool down. Even if that means literally paying people to accept the locked device over a better alternative.

  2. f(x)tec Pro1 seems to come pretty close? No connection – just an (im)patiently waiting customer.

    Seems to me the typical smartphone is an excellent computer, it’s just that the people who own them make the mistake of thinking they are the user, rather than the various data collection outfits.

    1. “…it’s just that the people who own them make the mistake of thinking they are the user, rather than the various data collection outfits.”

      Same could be said about ISPs and their customers. Good thing the cable modem is a freebie.

    2. I’m also waiting on one, although the only unusual things about the Pro1 are the hardware keyboard (especially in landscape slider layout) and the level of device openness, software-wise there are plenty of similar Android devices out there.

  3. Samsung Dex was also a reasonably decent attempt at it, but Samsung ruined it. Good job, idiots.
    It boggles the mind why it hasn’t been tried more.
    Some sort of system akin to the Nintendo Switch / Samsung Dex that makes it trivial to put in place and charge it while also having access to a full, proper desktop. And maybe optionally even faster. Maybe not with current crappy thin smartphones that have a meltdown when used at high loads constantly. Thin-crap is the worst think to happen to computing.
    Give me big fat bulky feature-rich devices, not some junk that bends if I look at it the wrong way.

    1. I don’t think they ruined it. There’s a few nagging super-annoying issues like the “Shift-Space” problem that they refuse to fix, and it won’t properly put my monitor to sleep. Also supports too few resolutions.

      But overall it’s super useful and I use it a lot. I work whole ays from it when I’m abroad, admittedly with some use of MS Remote Desktop over VPN (MS has made sure it works really well with DeX).

      1. Resolution!

        To me that was the problem that killed Dex.
        Admittedly, I don’t really want my cellphone to double as a desktop. I want it to double as a laptop!

        I still reserve my desktop position for a machine powerful enough to render complex parts in OpenSCAD and also slice them quickly. Maybe someday that will be my phone too but given the realities of processing power costing battery life and producing heat I doubt it. I think there will always be a place for a real Desktop in my house.

        Anyway, I still have my Motorola Lapdock. Ever try that with Dex? Dex only supports wide screen. You get huge bars on the top and bottom of the screen, everything else is so scrunched in between that the text is unreadable. And does Samsung manufacture a lapdock for Dex? Of course not. They are entirely focused on dongles to be used on a desk! Not that I expect it would be worth the price they would charge if they did build it.

        I’ve heard that HP built docks for Windows phones that work well with Dex. I only bought my Lapdock after it was discontinued and I am kind of tired of dealing with stuff that wasn’t made to be used the way I want to use it and keeps getting harder to replace as it is no longer produced. I’m going to try for a homebrew solution after the holidays I think.

        1. I have an HP x3 dock that I use with Dex and it’s pretty good. There’s a mini version of office, a fuller version of chrome and RDP; but the real fun happens when you download the linux for dex ap and put ubuntu on your phone in a container. I now have visual studio code, full python, git, mysql explorer and all the other little dev tools I normally use.

          1. I do the same thing…. Seems to be a little known secret that it works so well. I just wish Samsung hadn’t aborted Dex just when it was becoming such a viable solution for this!

    2. It hasn’t been tried because smart phones are so locked down to google and manufacturer spyware and spamware you can’t really use them for anything but covert personal tacking and monetization devices. I’d be perfectly happy re-purposing cell phones as computers except for the fact they are closed systems and user controllable OS’s are unobtanium. Heck, I can’t even stop or un-install garbage processes like facebook and google play store and 10^4 other useless “apps” on my phones.

      1. ” Heck, I can’t even stop or un-install garbage processes like facebook and google play store and 10^4 other useless “apps” on my phones.”

        Buy a Huawei phone. Be free of all that. ;-)

        1. “Buy a Huawei phone. Be free of all that. ;-)”

          Say what??

          I bought at Huawei T3 craplet, and I actually got three products in one from Huawei: first, only, and last.

          It’s filled with crapware, so out of 16G approx 5G is available – but hey man, just install LinageOS – ohh no, the boot loader is securely locked, and Huawei will not supply the unlock code, “to protect their costumers”.

          And all buttons, connectors, and camera are located totally counter intuitive.

          Probably the worst piece of E-waste I have ever bought.

    3. Maybe if you want a real pocket computer, you should try the Sony Xperia line with SailfishOS. They’re unlocked, and the OS is linux optimized for the hardware. Yes, it costs a premium amount of cash, but it’s pretty unique in that nothing else is competing with it.

        1. Hmm, I forgot Sony existed, deliberately when I was left with a useless PS3.

          Never again will I buy anything they make and actively discourage anyone who asks for my opinion on their stuff.

    4. Samsung had a Smart Dock that worked with their phones (possibly some others) with a Micro B connector and MHL. Plug in a wireless receiver for keyboard and mouse, and a USB hard drive – you had a media station and web browsing computer with a monitor as large as your TV. Despite the phone sitting upright on the Smart Dock, the dock made the TV display in landscape.

      Unfortunately that era of Samsung phones (like the Galaxy S4) weren’t quite powerful enough to play 1080p x265 video. Having MHL enabled me to be able to recover everything from two S4’s with destroyed displays and digitizers. One issue with the S4’s MHL (at least with the cheap dongle I bought) was to get both the mouse and HDMI working at the same time, it had to be connected to HDMI first then the mouse plugged in. I tried a hub to get a keyboard working too but it wouldn’t work. I didn’t have a wireless keyboard and mouse combo but was able to use just the mouse to copy things to the phone’s SD card.

      1. Funny to see this because I’m using an s4 right now, used a logitech unifying wireless dongle with it just yesterday to have both mouse and keyboard, use the mhl to hdmi adapter often, and have used a usb hub in the past. Must have just been the [un]luck of the draw that your hub didn’t work with it.

    5. I have been using Samsung Dex for all my office work for the last few months. I am able to use it for programming, write docs, dspreadsheets, presentations, etc. I only use my laptop when I travel.

  4. This is most definitely a thought that is not lost on me. Here is this quad core ARM running at 1+ Ghz in my pocket, and doing …. what? Being locked down is certainly an issue, more so with some phones than others. One of the biggest drawbacks for the things I like to do is that I like to develop code. No way I am doing that without a decent keyboard.

    Nonetheless, the phones in our pockets are most definitely an underutilized computing resource.

    Why aren’t we hacking old phones? Well, inexpensive ARM boards are available that offer the same resources in a much more accessible way, so the pain and inconvenience is largely not worth it.

    1. Also most phones are bricks without manufacturer support: My Landvo V1 can attest to that. If I could find a ROM somewhere to flash it, I could use it for something, but I had to botch a root attempt, and the thing is so weirdly set up, my backup attempt is useless. ( Not that the ancient Android version it is supposed to run would be useful, given the anemic amount of storage it has… )

    1. Not only the drivers but also the Linux kernel with constantly changing ABI for drivers.
      Companies such as Qualcomm do not release an open source driver but only blobs and as a result we end up with drivers strongly linked with particular Linux kernel version.
      In theory this should not be a problem as companies would merge drivers into upstream. In practice… we see.

      1. Qualcomm has long behaved as though they’re like Nintendo, total end to end control. They wanted JAVA style app portability for feature phones but didn’t want to deal with whomever were the current owners of JAVA.

        So they created a JAVA-ish system called BREW or Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless. One would wonder why BREW didn’t take off in the time before iPhone and Android. Because Qualcomm insisted on dictating *everything* with BREW. The BREW SDK cost money so nobody could afford to write and release freeware apps and games for it. Then to get any BREW apps approved, both the cellphone service provider *and* Qualcomm had to approve every BREW app. When a BREW app was downloaded and installed it was locked to that specific device. Then there were the many different display resolutions, portrait and landscape. Apparently, BREW didn’t have a way (or at least not a good one) for handling display differences – which Android does a very good job on.

        Thus there was poop-all for good BREW apps and games. Mostly whatever few freebies Verizon, AT&T etc had – which they would bill the customers’ data limits to download.

        If Qualcomm’s people ever wondered why BREW flopped, all they had to do was reach out their arms, bend their hands towards their chests, and extend a finger, preferably middle.

        Making the SDK free, and allowing the telcos to approve whatever apps they wanted, and having sideload capability for 3rd party apps (which would mostly have been freeware) could have created a viable ecosystem for BREW long before iPhone and Android hit the market. The 3rd party developers would have been a useful resource for making improvements to BREW, same as they’ve been for other systems.

  5. While a plugged in phone is no longer constrained by the battery, the it is still constrained by its thermal budget. A typical phone has a total power budget around 5W, and the CPU is about 2W of that (the others being display and rx/tx circuits). Even a low end laptop uses a CPU with a 15W thermal budget, though most people opt for more powerful models.

    Although the clock rates don’t seem to far off between a cell phone and a laptop CPU, the laptop CPU gets a lot more work done per cycle.

    1. The 2nd part I forgot to mention is that certainly today’s cell phone CPUs are faster than the desktop CPUs of 10 years ago, so the question is why does the software need so much CPU horsepower to feel usable.

      1. “why does the software need so much CPU horsepower to feel usable.”

        Ray-traced and real-time rendered, high resolution graphics. Many of today’s games put at least as high an emphasis on the way the game looks as they do the way it plays. Their developers would rather you have a beautiful game that isn’t playable on your old/low-end phone than give you a game that has low-resolution graphics, but is perfectly playable and responsive on low-end hardware.

        1. Then again, we now have games which have pixel art graphics, but where every single pixel is physics-modeled so you can play a game like Worms in real time with the environment reacting to your actions rather than being just static. See “Noita”, or Kerbal Space Program, etc.

          These things just wouldn’t run on a phone CPU.

      2. That’s the real issue; bloat. Remember when 66mhz, 32MB of ram, and 200MB of hard drive made for a serious AutoCAD workhorse? I do. Today AutoCAD really doesn’t do much more than it did then, but struggles to run on a 3ghz machine with 4GB of ram. That’s an extreme example of course, but far from isolated. For something more common, look at Excel, Word, Photoshop, Illustrator, even Acrobat Reader. If the software runs on the latest hardware, then it’s ‘efficient enough’ and the devs would rather focus on adding new features to justify the next annual (or even faster) release target.

        Somewhere along the way releases went from “when it’s ready” to “sometime next year” to “January next year” to “before the end of the same year”, and we are currently in the process of going to a “sometime next quarter” cycle.

        And all that means is that the latest software can’t run on a phone even if they wanted to port it…and they don’t want to port an old release that highlights how pointless their new releases are of course (especially when they design new releases to make incompatible files…which is the only reason most people upgrade anyway).

        All that said, the greed is reaching a sort of nexus if you have enough money and bandwidth. Web-based subscription services are the dev’s dream because no one can just keep using the software they already bought that does everything they need…and that means that some software that is intended for desktop use only now works in a phone browser, assuming you have a bt keyboard and mouse with you.

        1. Our main database at work is something that I ran with 8 megabytes of RAM on a 486. It actually works fine if you forgo being able to use it online. We did try an online database that was based on Modern SQL, it was online but it was too slow and unreliable for what we needed.

          I have to laugh the youngsters at work who wonder if this 4 GB desktop is powerful enough to run our old database.

        2. Wow, my first AutoCAD machine was exactly those specs. Today’s AutoCAD is radically improved. Perhaps your work doesn’t push the system to it’s limits, or need those features, but speak for yourself. I couldn’t go back to the DOS version without a massive hit to my productivity and income.

      3. >”today’s cell phone CPUs are faster than the desktop CPUs of 10 years ago”

        No they’re not.

        >That’s the real issue; bloat. Remember when 66mhz, 32MB of ram, and 200MB of hard drive made for a serious AutoCAD workhorse?

        Back in the day, AutoCad was nothing but a fancy 2D vector drawing program. Today your CAD suite runs finite element modeling of a 3D model in real time. There’s a wee bit of difference what a 486DX2 could actually do and what we’re doing with computers these days.

          1. yea but without a thermal solution on par wtih a i3 it cant out run it for long. you can put a 100% cpu load on an desktop chip, using the bare bones CPU cooler for a month and not much is going to happen.

            I had my LG G6 in my pocket during a hot day and it went into protective shutdown while in idol

        1. 2d autocad hasnt fundementally changed since r12. the user interface, addition of parametric dimensions and smarter blocks. the interface has become extremely bloated. now 3d program like solid works or inventor, they have a reason to load a little slower. 2d autocad should be crazy fast but the bloat has bogged it down.

  6. Wait… Gemini PDA, Cosmo Communicator, Pinephone – isn’t that devices could be used as smartphone and desktop? If you want to talk about legacy – I still periodically use my Nokia N9 as desktop, connecting it to TV, using bluetooth keyboard/mouse and running exactly same programs I run on my Linux desktop. Works perfectly, without any problems.

    The problem is not with devices at all, the problem is only with OSes of smartphones. Both, iOS and Android intentionally designed to be unable to run any desktop software. Google intentionally broke linux kernel to remove any possibility to run X natively, and Apple intentionally design iOS to be incompatible with OSX. Alternative OSes was pushed out from market by mass internet services like Facebook/WhatsApp, banks, payment systems etc. who are do not provide apps for alternative platforms, and actively and agressively pursue people even for attempts to create clients for their services for other OSes.

    1. i hope that pinephone and librem 5 will bring native phone support to linux, then desktop options are only limited by screen size. liberm’s interchangeable modem is a nice idea to prevent carrier lock in. if carriers allow it on their network…

      1. Both the Librem 5 and Pinephone support USB-C DP output. Further the software is being designed with responsiveness in mind, meaning you can hook it up to a external monitor and get a full desktop environment with full desktop Linux applications (not just mobile ones). On at least the Pinephone, on PostMarketOS which uses Plasma Mobile by default, their plan is to literally start a normal Plasma desktop shell on the external monitor and share as much code as possible between Plasma Mobile and Plasma desktop.

  7. The major manufacturers saw the dumpsterfire that Motorola made out of the Atrix and its lapdock, and are steering clear, not wanting to take a risk on something that failed so spectacularly.

    Leaving aside the fact that the cell phones at the time lacked the horsepower to really make a reasonable desktop/laptop computer and the fact that there were full-fledged laptop computers with similar footprint and weight as the lapdock, the thing was just as expensive as the phone it was meant to be used with.

    Today, you can still find people making similar devices at pretty reasonable pricing, but if you don’t watch crowdfunding sites like kickstarter and indiegogo, they’re easy to miss. Two devices that finished crowdfunding campaigns this fall and are expecting to start shipping near the end of the year are the PhoneBook and the NexDock2. Both are accepting preorders from people who missed the crowdfunding boat. I’ll post links below.

    The NexDock2 is the closest to a direct analog for the Atrix Lapdocks, because it’s designed as a true KVM (Keyboard-Video-Mouse) device. If your computer supports displayport over USB-C, you can do everything with a single USB-C cable. Otherwise, use a USB cable for keyboard/mouse and video over HDMI.

    The PhoneBook’s design reminds me more of a thin client than a lapdock. Video is handled via either HDMI or USB-C as above, but user input is handled via bluetooth. The main reason they’re doing it this way is so they can use an app to emulate taps/gestures on your phone’s screen when you press a key on the keyboard. You can set up different control profiles using their app, so you can play unmodified mobile games using the keyboard/mouse interface of PC gaming. The main downside is that you HAVE to use bluetooth for keyboard and mouse, so that limits its usefulness as a console for SBCs and computers that are normally run headless.

    Phonebook:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1031149173/phonebook-turn-any-smartphone-into-a-laptop-computer

    NexDock 2:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nexcomputer/nexdock-2/

    Both have multiple photos, videos, and descriptions on their campaign pages, and links to websites with more information and a place where you can still get in on the preorder.

  8. His fantasy, my reality since 2010 or so. The problem these days is that the duopoly of mobile OSes are hobbled out of the box. If you root Android and install Busybox shell and then a desktop Linux distro in a chroot, it becomes a much more useful computer. I first reached desktop-like mobile capability with a Nokia N900, it was easy in those days because the phone had root access easily available from the factory with just a couple of on-device commands, plus it ran something very close to a desktop Linux distro out of the box.

    1. Ubuntu Touch by UBPorts as well. I’m personally really interested in postmarketOS once my braveheart Pinephone arrives. I currently use a Nexus 5 i refurbished and loaded with Ubuntu Touch, but that’s becoming a bit dated and does have some problems, plus postmarketOS was extremely unstable on my Nexus because of the freeduino drivers.

  9. Good to see a post on this, there are indeed many opportunities to exploit powerful silicon we carry around, simple Basic like coding from the screen would be a start, especially if it can get to primitives such as realtime screen data without bring overly complex and do something useful – even simple logging or better to fill an SMS or web page or excel fields. Eek Object Link Embedding (OLE) again, surely it can be done at a much simpler level than at present…
    Thanks

  10. Sometimes I think that using a Raspberry Pi, a GSM module and a few miscellaneous add-ons to *make* my own phone that I have full control over sounds like a good idea… But then I realize that my skills need leveled up a bit before I can do that.

  11. I can’t believe MaruOS was left off the list. It is new, but they are basically doing a moonshot with this exact functionality. I’m going to be testing it shortly, once the binaries are released for my model.

  12. Two thoughts, one the flip side of the other.

    Given the compute resources, why does the software suck so bad (i.e. Android).

    Given the phones don’t do much, why not use a 100 Mhz processor and give weeks of battery life.

    Now I realize that people actually do things like render video (probably the most compute intensive thing I can think of that a typical phone does) and this shoots big holes in the above. I am always disgusted by the lag when I pull my phone out and
    ask it to do something. Why is the user interface so sluggish on this quad core 1 ghz gadget?

    But no, I don’t thing time is well spent repurposing cell phones. Please prove me wrong.

    1. Because modern software is bloated. Developers care more about flashy effects, getting data on usage patterns, and spending as little time as possible to throw together an application. This means unlike the old days where applications were optimized down to the last byte to make the most out of the hardware, developers just go and do whatever they please, usually with some kind of web-based framework which is heavily bloated.

      I’m personally really excited for the Pinephone precisely for this reason, as i plan to write my own applications that are hopefully pretty decent performance wise.

  13. It’s not a more useful computer because “app” design basically removes the things that would make it a useful computer. On a computer you would never even think to have a video player that doesn’t have a way to organize a playlist, with app design conglaturations, VLC for android doesn’t even have a way to organize a playlist or access an external drive internally. Basically they’re not more useful than computers because they were specifically paired down by “app” design to be less useful than computers.

  14. What I find the most annoying of mobile phones is that the icons are relatively huge, simply because you need to be able to see them (because the screen is so small) and because you need to be able to touch them with your finger (without touching six other buttons surrounding it).
    Therefore if the phone is to be the wonderful desktop computer with the great screen with all your wonderful programs… you will not be able to use them on the road in a practical way (unless you take a set of input and output devices with you). The only way to change that is to go bigger and then we are back to square one, the laptop or tablet computer.

    So what’s the point of having one device that does it all if it cannot do all under all conditions. I can understand the wish for “one device that does it all” but sometimes you must be careful what you wish for. Checking my mail quickly on my phone is fun, but replying with a serious response is out of the question, banging that tiny screen with that silly virtual keyboard that blocks 50% of my screen and still is too small. And than that annoying auto correction correcting my typing mistakes… even if I did not make any… I’m still not fully aware of how many people I have insulted unintentionally since I decided to answer some small emails on my phone. Ahhh… progress, when does the hurting stop?

    1. You could hook a phone up to a external monitor or some kind of laptop dock. As for using it while it’s mobile, a external keyboard would do wonders, like the old PDAs often used to have.

  15. Outside of the OS issues, the big issue is heat. Even modern I7 notebooks can be coaxed into thermal shutdown if you run them hard. Add decent graphics and you have another big heat source. It is one thing to run lite apps when the CPU is not stressed but when you start to make it work, it gets hot. Surely you have some programs that when you kick them over on your notebook you find the fan coming on pretty soon after. The Outside of not being able to hold giant graphics cards, the reason that even notebooks have not totally taken over the world of high end computing is you can literally milk a desktop for all the CPU it has and if it has a decent cooling system, which is not hard on a desktop, it will not go into thermal shutdown. The same can not be said for notebooks. And the smaller the notebook, the easier it is to overheat it. Tell me you have never noticed the upper left side of the keyboard even feeling hot on a notebook.

  16. Your Android phone is already a Chromebook computer. Get a bluetooth keyboard, mouse, and USB to HDMI cable to attach a full size monitor.

    You’re still platform restricted. Your ARM based phone isn’t going to run x86 applications. Still, for most common things, your new improvised Chromebook will work fine.

  17. I use Samsunf DeX, the S6 tablet especially, but all phones after the S9 have it. Activate it and you can use an external monitor in desktop mode with multiple windows.
    Samsung’s new ads might be teasing this.

  18. Its quite funny that for example Odroid XU4 soc has the same processor as Galaxy S5 and it is much faster than the Raspis. You can run Ubuntu smoothly on it and have it to do almost whatever you want.
    Still a phone is only a phone and it is very limited compared to a desktop computer.

  19. There are some parts of the consideration not currently included in the article or conversation and it is in regards to portability and minimisation.
    To lug around a laptop that doesn’t work as a laptop on its own doesn’t seem like a particularly efficient use of space for a road warrior like myself.
    If you consider that a tablet with a detachable keyboard (especially an S6 with DeX already does this well)
    As 5g becomes more prevalent, people can rdp into their desktop machines for heavy use cases.

    I tried out the Microsoft Go but was underwhelmed, it’s what happens when you stretch hardware out of its niche.

    I do think getting to the point that your desktop essentially operates as your cloud service letting you run Autocad, photoshope etc. remotely is the future.

  20. I guess I’m easily impressed. Just the other day I had to come up with some sort of a schedule/list/table/etc. on a very short notice that I ended up doing using Google Sheet and I did it basically during my lunch hour all on my phone. Shared it with a couple of people who needed to review it and we accomplished what we needed to do. I was amazed that we pulled it off on the go just like that.

    I’m probably not going to do dev. work on my mobile anytime soon, but that’s mostly because the screen’s too small. Although, I played around with casting my screen to a TV via Chromecast with a keyboard and mouse connected via USB-OTG, and it’s surprisingly usable. May be I’ll try accessing some web-based IDE and see how workable it is.

  21. OK. I do some work for a small school – a mix of paid and volunteer. The school has an MSOffice 365 Education subscription which costs AUD$8.00 per month per seat for students and AUD$11.20 per seat per month for staff/faculty. For that you get the full suite (excluding Project). You also get your own sharepoint site (with multiple sub-sites) and exchange online to manage email, shared calendars, and the like. You also get 1TB OneDrive storage per seat.

    I keep a record of my work on a sharepoint sub-site labeled “IT”, in the tasks category. The default data fields in the “tasks” category can be supplemented by additional fields, and you can make small changes to existing fields, e.g. date formats, or more or less decimal points in a numeric field. I also keep a backup of documentation there under the “documents” category.

    I can use a query in excel on my computer at home to access the tasks list, and extract work records (for tax purposes) – dates, hours spent, description, notes, paid or volunteer, percent complete etc.

    I agree that 95% of users won’t need that functionality, but it’s good value for me.

  22. We don’t use phones as laptops because of the form-factor. Try it – VLC from a phone to a desktop and you’ve got all the desktop power and software, but it’s unusable on a mobile screen.
    So you’d need some hardware to plug a phone into… son why not just put a CPU in that and call it a laptop?!

  23. I have been wondering this same thing. I have several old Samsung phones. They are a Linux (Android) computer, lots of memory and touch screen. I want to put them to use, but I don’t know how to program them. I wish there was a reasonable way to learn to do this without expensive training and tools. Any thoughts?

    1. The tools are free, there are plenty of free android development resources. What’s not reasonable is thinking that this is expensive. Time consuming and perhaps frustrating, but the cost is really minimal.

  24. The answer is pretty simple, the manufacturers would be stepping on their own foot. You don’t even need to really have the smartphone be a full fledged computer, beck you can’t even easily turn it into a magic mirror without jumping through hoops. This isn’t so because the tech isn’t there, it isn’t so because #1, ‘magic mirrors’ are too useful, #2 they can’t make any money off that industry if all one has to do is ‘dock’ any ole smartphone into said mirror. Let me ask, what is the issue with controlling a smart phone with a larger independent touch monitor? The answer is simple, by in large software, that already exists, just not in the right configuration. CEC and hid already has some of this tech, as well as plain old tv’s. Imagine this friends, I have a touch monitor, 12×24, mounted to my wall, I come home, dock my smartphone into said monitor, I can now surf the web, as well as the phone can, I can get text messages, I can make phone calls, check weather, whatever. It already is ‘possible’, but not yet widely available because the manufacturers would have to make a dedicated device in order for them to capitalize on it. Can’t have people hobbling anything too useful together without making money on it, gosh forbid. Google had some seminar, some guy in charge of some tech aspect, talking to a room of developers, talking about resizing stuff, making use of larger screens and such, I’m thinking why aren’t they doing this already? This is what is preventing me from making my own ‘hub’ out of an old smartphone, aka software.

    1. by the time you are done with all the connectors and adapters and dongles and doo-hickeys you might as well get an intel NUC and then you can have a real computer. As a bonus it can record your shows while you sit in the subway tunnel with no reception, and it keeps on working even after you drop you phone down the storm drain.

      You’ve never actually used a big-screen touch display, have you? Arm fatigue sets in after just a couple of minutes.

  25. Q: (title)

    A: This is probably because a phone being more useful means also being wildly more flexible (i.e. all-purpose), means also being entirely too complicated for the typical mobile device’s target audience. Those *without* the appetite and wherewithal for maintaining and administering their own all-purpose machines would see that as taking a huge step backward, then they would just go buy something else– something more like an iPhone.

    It’s depressing in one way, depending on your hopes and expectations, while I like it this way. I like having an absolutely reconfigurable *workstation* that runs *programs* and I have very little patience for phones and apps and app stores. Windows 10 is so very confused. I wish I could say right now, “But that’s none of my business” but the sad fact is I’m busy sorting it out for someone else, lately…

  26. I can already see this. A smartphone that actually runs Linux with GUI designed for mobile devices and apps for that gui that support usage of basic things like social media, mails and so on. And than a connector below that is used for docking station. That docking station is nothing more but a thin client with battery so your phone can be also charged from it. Anyway if you change phone you can still use the station because it is a standard. What makes it different is that on the station you are being served by whatever you prefer – terminal or GUI of your choice (whatever is in repo – from gnome to KDE). It comes to market with a nice price and promise to be evolving PC style – you update until hardware really can’t make it anymore.

    And then you read comments:
    – What is the point? It won’t run AutoCAD and Photoshop! Better buy Chromebook!
    – For this price? You add 200$ more and you get 2nd hand MacBook Air or some Android Tablet.
    – People need Excel! Libre Calc is not enough!
    – This could cover some basic needs but still better buy some similary priced Android device. Lack of updates after 2 years is not a problem because you buy new device anyway and it’s not a great expanse. I never update my system to keep it running fast.

  27. I run windows 8 on a modded Sony UX490. I tried running linux on it…by tried I mean I attempted to switch to linux. The UMPC had no issue running it. Ive seen one running OSX as well…but not a mac guy. As long as I can still connect with 3g Ill stick with my UX but times running out so Im hopeful that another pocket format PC will pop up soon.

    1. Windows Phone wasted away all its own. Did you see that app store? Everything had a bootlegged feel to it. And WP was most definitely listening to you. It had just as much telemetry baked in as Windows 10 does, now.

      Not mention that the best devices that showcased WP’s potential were astronomically expensive. Looking at YOU, HP Elite X3.

  28. Jide and Remix OS will be sorely missed. It felt like the latest version of Chrome OS, but in like 2016.

    There’s always using a Dell D6000 thunderbolt dock and a Samsung phone with USB-C. Those docks seem to get along with DeX pretty well, even if it is kind of hit or miss. :S

  29. Your cellphone is not a more useful computer for the same reason your instant pot is not a more useful computer. Both contain enough computing resources to support interactive keyboard use… but wait for it … cellphones and instant pots are not general purpose computers! wow, what a revelation!

    1. I wasn’t going to bother to reply to this thread but this comment just cracks me up. And I see you’ve made the same statement many places. I was just thinking about this this weekend, prior to seeing this article. I can’t remember the last time I saw a “cellphone” commercial. What I mean is: there are tons of smart-phone ads. Mostly about screen size and ability to take photos or record video. Not one within my memory span, which isn’t the longest, actually talked about phone call related abilities: longer range from tower, better voice quality, …

      After all is 5G about making better phone calls? Not that I’ve heard advertised. Truth is compared to an actual phone cellphones perform poorly. I constantly call people back on my land-line because it works soooooo much better as a phone.

      In short, unlike your “instant pot”, cellphones aren’t being sold as cellphones, but as; cameras, app running computer devices, really good screens, some sort of TV replacement, video camera, … Almost everything but a cellphone (oh… yeah, you can make calls with it to). And this is HAD so you know, that we know, that there is a computer architecture under the hood, running OSes migrated down from the desktops.

      But your inference is also partly right. They are deliberately designed not to be good computing platforms, despite all the hype about apps. You aren’t supposed to actually own one, as in have admin access (root, jail-break). Data is not supposed to be able to pass freely between apps, although Android is a little better in this regard, but that’s due more to manufacturer decisions. In short in the name of security the owner of the device is treated more like the enemy and the vendors the true owners.

      Data is the life-blood of software. Without the ability for it to flow smart-phones will never be more than toys. Thank GOD for Open Source hardware and software! I have my eye on a few pieces to make an improved replacement for my PocketCHIP and maintain a true computing experience in the palm of my hand.

      In short I think smart-phones suck: they aren’t good phones, worse than a dumb phone in voice call service and they aren’t good computers. I think they really ought to just sell them as digital cameras… but wait you can’t get a good lens selection for them. They do mange to get some impressive results with those little pin-hole cameras though.

      And I really don’t think your comparison applies. :-)

  30. I don’t know what a “more useful computer” would be. My screen time these days seems to be spent behind 3 thin clients (phone, laptop, tv) with a “PC” in the basement (might as well be NAS). Each of these “thin clients” is a super-computer by my reckoning, and I write software for each when I feel like it…but for the most part I spend my time in a web browser, ssh, or a media player. On the rare occasion that I use a bunch of compute power, I like to use my basement PC just because who wants to burn their fingers? I’m enticed into some unfortunate software compromises on occasion but there’s basically nothing I own that can’t host a light debian-ish environment in a container if I want…

    Form factor determines which plays which role. Add a bluetooth keyboard and my phone becomes a passable laptop (btdt). With an HDMI cable, my laptop or phone becomes the TV computer. It’s only my objection to carrying 2TB of spinning media around town that prevents me from using USB to turn any of them into NAS. Which one of these is the “most useful computer”?

    And to top it off, each of these roles is satisfied with a tiny $100-$400 investment if you’re cheap. My current line-up of 4 computers all together is about the same price as the single 286-12MHz my dad bought in 1990.

  31. Seems as though you have mised a lot of the scene out. Ubuntu has an now-unsupported (afaik) OS that does this. Thats years old. Theres a few relative new comers too like Maru but you’d likely need to be comfortable unlocking bootloaders and rooting a phone for example, but i never used it so don’t take my word on that.

    Huawei (EMUI 8+) and Samsung phones for the last 2/3 years can be plugged into a dock with the USB-C cable and gives you a desktop, with a fair portion of your installed android apps that show. Probably anything with a dynamic layout but its still pretty limited for me, probably because I need my tools which are windows based on a majority. Android phones however can install a terminal.. And you would be able to run google sheets and office online no problems, skype.. Oh and the phone becomes a trackpad etc.

    A word of warning though, not all docks work, the cheaper looking crappy ones seem to have a better turn out than corporate style dell and lenovos. In some cases standalone monitors work but you would need a Bluetooth or on screen keyboard so… Its handy in the big corporate AGILE offices that just have monitors, docks and desks.

    1. If you are using the phone as a trackpad then you won’t be able to use your computer while you are on the phone, pretty useless when your co-worker calls to ask about something.

      If on the other hand, you use your instant pot as a desktop computer, then you can enjoy a tasty meal while using the spare cycles on your instant pot for your spreadsheet calculations, and as a bonus your phone is usable.

  32. No one has an open source hacked to use as a spectrum analyzer utilizing all the transceivers on the devices with the widest range of bands or even with any of the devices that I’ve seen… I guess other than the microphone, magnetometer or accelerometer devices there are some spectrum analyzers.

  33. IMO We do not use our phones for our computer “Because Its A Phone.”

    Some of the time my “Smart” phone is pretty dumb. Rather there are Apps that are dumb or the OS has been written to be dumb and won’t do what I want it to do. Or Apps and OS are changed and no longer function like they used too. Which means they don’t work until you waste time figuring out how to accomplish something you used to know how to do. Or worse the “Upgrade” eliminates the ability to do the thing you want. Or the forced “Upgrade” now serves up advertisement.

    Why would I want my computer to do the same thing? Oh wait. My computer forces “Updates” too. At least on my computer I can find a conservative version of Linux that doesn’t break much after updating and will run on my 12 year old hardware. Imagine being able to keep a phone running for 10 years or more.

    My phone on the other hand must easily make and receive phone calls. It would be nice if it paired to each of my cars. Even better if pairing worked even after an “Update”. Its nice if I can wirelessly charge it and not wear out the usb connection. Maps and Navigate are a big plus. So is text messaging, accessing email, and searching the web.

    I have no need to use the phone as the computer. Especially since we may create a hot spot to connect the computer to the web. Its much simpler to carry and connect a small laptop over carrying a keyboard and monitor to attach to the phone. I can expand the laptop memory and ssd and be :). We can choose how much laptop we need for gaming, CAD, programming, or browsing the web and email. Every day you could take a different laptop with you. And linux lets you keep that laptop running a long time. (Written on 9 year old 3lb Toshiba Portege R705 with Intel i3 1st gen, 4GB Ram, 512G ssd, running Fedora 30).

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