Part 2 Table of Contents:
- The Cables
- The Desktop Web
- Copy and Paste
- Instant Messaging
- Banana Noose
Some friends of mine and I are experimenting with what it’s like to use a mobile device (in this case, a Galaxy Nexus) as a desktop computer. With the addition of a bluetooth keyboard, multi-touch trackpad, and a monitor, I found that the experience is surprisingly good.
I don’t demo all that many applications in the video for fear of inadvertently showing sensitive data, but I think I show enough that you can get an idea for how close we already are to this type of computing model. In fact, I think if you were to set up a workspace like this for someone who didn’t have “professional” needs (such as writing code or video editing), and/or someone who didn’t have a lot of preconceptions about how a computer should work, they would be perfectly happy with the experience. I was able to do all of the following with relative ease:
- Browse the internet.
- Read news.
- Manage my calendar, tasks, contacts, etc.
- Read and write email almost as easily as I can on my desktop.
- Listen to music and podcasts.
- Chat on IM.
- Edit documents.
- Do some light photo editing (in the default gallery application).
- Participate in social networks (Google+, Twitter, and Facebook).
- Watch videos on YouTube and Netflix.
In other words, I was able to do most of what many people do with desktop computers on a daily basis. Of course, there were a few key things I wasn’t able to do such as:
- Write code. I’m sure it’s possible, but definitely not practical, and probably not something I would enjoy.
- Advanced editing of things like photos and video.
- Advanced file management. With this kind of computing model, you definitely want to keep as much data in the cloud as possible since the file system is generally de-emphasized on mobile devices.
Keep in mind that I’m using a stock Android device with whatever capabilities are already in the OS. If you’re willing to go as far as installing Linux on your phone, you can do far more than this. Additionally, operating systems will likely have much better support for this kind of model in the future — in particular, Windows 8 with Metro.
I’m really curious about whether this kind of interaction represents the future of computing. Are we moving toward a model where we use multiple computers and mobile devices with all our data in the cloud, or in five to ten years, are we all just going to use our phones for most of our computing needs? I’m guessing it’s going to be somewhere in the middle (as these things tend to be), but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Update: I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the cables I used to make this work. Here’s all you need to know:
- For the display, I used a Samsung MHL to HDMI adapter (along with an HDMI cable, obviously). If you want to do audio through your monitor, make sure your HDMI cable supports audio.
- For a USB keyboard and mouse, you’ll need a micro USB host mode OTG cable, and a powered USB hub. (I used a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, so this isn’t in the video.)
- For audio (if you don’t have speakers in your monitor), I just used a standard 3.5mm audio cable from the phone to my computer speakers.
Thanks to Matt Pandina for helping to get this working.
You’re right. That was a surprisingly smooth experience and it’s only going to get better.
I think apps are going to be a limitation. For general consuming it shouldn’t be a problem but content creation is a whole new thing. Doable, but not well supported. But it’s only a matter of time before we can write apps on our phones.
Chris, great post. Can you update with a little bit more detail about what cables or other adapters you’re using to set this up? And what size/resolution screen is that? I’m assuming the resolution is limited to what the phone puts out as a phone (1280 by 720, I think).
@Aaron: Updated with cable details.
Have you rooted your phone yet? If so you can change your resolution and it should kick ICS into tablet mode. That would be interesting to try out.
How about copy/paste? Are you able ctrl+c and/or right click or something?
Does the Windows/Apple key have any functionality?
It’s not quite there yet, but we’ll definitely see phones becoming our main computers within a few years.
Thanks for sharing!
Can you please try some games from gameloft if they support keyboard and mouse? I was also interested in this project with my galaxy s2 but didn’t buy a bluetooth mouse and keyboard yet because I don’t know which to get. I have found lots of them in ebay but I’m not sure if they are supported.
I have a doubt.
The Apple Magic mouse works natively on Android?
I mean, the gestures (swype) works for free? Doesn’t need any other stuff?
You could tell if it works on Android 2.3? Or only 4.0?
With Apple Magic Mouse I can use multi-touch? Like pincer fingers?
What is the workaround with apple/bluetooth? I’d like to use an Ipad to control the Gnex.
Where did you get the vintage Mario Bros. sound bites for your various notifications? As a huge Mario Bro fan, I would love to do the same with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Great videos!
Thank you for this, it is truly amazing.
I saw it last week and I immediately ordered the adapter to try it out. I bought this: Samsung Genuine MHL to HDMI Smart Adapter and in the package it says HDTV Adapter. I have a Samsung SyncMaster 245T with HDMI in, but as I connect the Galaxy Nexus with the adapter and the HDMI cable (which I usually use with another device, so I know it works) nothing happens. I try to change the source in the screen but the only thing that shows is DVI. In your case you connected it and it worked without a problem?
@Cat When it works, it plug and play. My 2 y/o Phillips TV recognized it as an MHL source, and started repeating the screen as soon as I connected it.
@Kent, thank you for your answer, I wasn’t connected the extra micro-usb entrance to power, that’s why it wasn’t working!
@Chris, once more, thank you! It works as a charm with the apple bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
I was opting for Ubuntu on Android, but I prefer the stock Android. I have a few questions tho:
– Is there a way to use an usb camera? or a mic? (but I guessing you can use the phone’s mic).
– Is there a dock station than can do that? like the one the guys of Ubuntu on Android were using on their demo video. If so, someone tell which one to buy, cuz is kind a pain switch my TV and Monitor to MHL enable ones.
Can you tell us what resolution it puts out?
Anyone tried with a DVI monitor? I used an a HDMI-to-DVI adapter, and I get output on the monitor but goes blank as soon as you stop scrolling/tapping. Maybe some sort of power-saving feature? Has anyone else seen this?
That is a DVI problem. Set a live wallpaper and it gets a little better, but never stops flickering completley.
Christian, I finally broke down and bought a magic trackpad, worked great for a few days.
I must have changed something, because now it show paired but I get no cursor. Ideas?
Nevermind, it was a kernel thing.
But I did pre-order a Leap Motion device. Your thoughts on these?
May be a dumb, basic question: Is it possible to connect the galaxy nexus to a [2008 model Sony Vaio CS series] laptop monitor? Or these things are meant to be connected to only the stand alone [LCD] displays (as you showed, may because those monitors have some part that accepts signal input from PCs or phones, that is missing in a laptop monitor)? I am excited about the possibility of what you demoed, but don’t want to invest on an LCD computer/TV monitor just yet. So was just wondering. Thanks.
Thanks for the informative videos. I was wondering if you tried hooking up an external hard drive (AC power) via micro usb? I’m thinking of buying a Galaxy Nexus and following your example, only I was hoping to use the HDMI Portrait Dock from Google and connect with a MHL HDMI/USB Hub. That would give me a dedicated HDMI out to a monitor and a usb port for the external drive.
The thing is, I don’t know if Android will recognize the drive without some painful, time-consuming workaround. I know I could probably get a Seagate or Kensington bluetooth drive but I already have a 500GB drive just sitting around.
Any advice would be appreciated.
I can’t get my Samsung Galaxy Nexus to pair with my Apple wireless keyboard. Can you share which model Apple wireless keyboard you used? I am trying to use a A1314.
Great videos. I’m using a Galaxy Nexus paired with an Apple bluetooth keyboard and mouse to post this comment. The experience is surprisingly good. But, magic mouse gestures aren’t working for me – any ideas about why? I’m on rooted, stock Android 4.2.1.
I tested my ICS Nexus S and it supports magic mouse gestures. So it appears gestures aren’t supported in Jelly Bean.
I’ve been trying to think of ways to use the smartphone as a full desktop. I think I’ve found a way!
Boot Ubuntu from Android, (ubuntu will run within Android) for things that need full desktop power. ie: file managing, video/photo editing, etc. I’ll try to make this setup until Ubuntu’s phone OS come out!
Very nice work Christian.
I have a question. Could you use the camera of gnexus to make videocalls(skype or google hangout)?
Hi, John. Yes, you can use the camera for Skype and Hangouts.