Breaking Down the Barriers Between Smartphone and PC In just a decade, smartphone processors have shown an incredibly fast evolution. The first iPhone had a Samsung 32-bit RISC ARM processor underclocked to 412 MHz and 128 MB RAM. Today, the average flagship smartphone has at least an octa-core Snapdragon system-on-a-chip clocked at least 2GHz, paired with at least 2GB of RAM (usually more) and a powerful GPU capable of a considerable 3D performance and playing even 4K videos without a flaw. This puts smartphones in line – or even above – with any desktop and laptop computer people use for everyday tasks like most types of work, following the news and social media, and playing all types of media. Their only major shortcoming is their size and their input methods – it’s hard to write an article or work with a large spreadsheet on a 5″ screen and with an on-screen keyboard. The bigger the screen, the more the fun, we all know that. It’s always better to watch a movie on a big screen, games feel different on large screens too when done on at least a 30″ TV – not to mention working that’s damn near impossible on the (relatively) small screens of smartphones. This is probably why more and more smartphone makers and third parties are working to break down the barriers between smartphones and PC.
Miraxess is a French startup that made it its goal to create a “laptop shell” for Windows 10 smartphones with Continuum support. Windows 10 for smartphones wasn’t the hit they expected it to be, but this didn’t stop them from working on their idea. The result is Mirabook, a laptop shell that works with smartphones capable of DisplayPort over USB Type-C (the list of models is not very long right now, but it’s growing with each release), as well as some Raspberry Pi models and computer sticks. And it turns these into a pretty decent laptop, with a 13.3″ 1080p screen, a full-sized keyboard, a trackpad, a power bank, and all the necessary ports – audio jack, two USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader. The product will begin shipping this May and will cost $249.
Another startup called Sentio (grown out of Andromium) offers a similar shell with fewer restrictions. Called the Superbook, it will work with pretty much any Android smartphone capable of USB On the Go (USB-OTG) running Android 5.0 or above, and having at least 1.5GB of RAM. What it offers is a shell with a full-size keyboard and a trackpad (the premium model has a backlit keyboard), an 11.6″ screen (the premium model has a 1080p IPS screen), a power bank, and all the necessary ports. The two models can be pre-ordered for $149 ($129 at a limited pre-order price) for the standard model and $209 ($189 at a limited pre-order price) for the premium edition. But smartphone makers themselves are also working to break down the barriers between their products and the PC. You’ve all heard of Microsoft’s Continuum and Samsung’s DeX – if not, turn to Google to find out more.
Chinese smartphone maker Huawei also wants a piece of the cake with its latest Mate 10 flagship. Its home-grown user interface, EMUI 8.0, comes with a built-in “PC Mode” that will turn the smartphone into a desktop-like computer when connected to a big screen. It does have its shortcomings (right now, it can’t be charged while used with a big screen – I’m sure we’ll see adapters that solve this issue released in the near future) but it works like a charm when used with Bluetooth peripherals like keyboards, mice, and even game controllers. Could this mean the end of the PC era? It certainly might…