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My Fantasy: A Cellphone I can Use as a Desktop Computer


I've been waiting ten years to buy a cellphone that I can use as a desktop computer (or laptop computer). Where is it?!

All the technological hurdles were overcome a few years ago. We now have cellphones with fast CPU's, plenty of RAM, and large enough storage. We have micro SD, micro HDMI, and micro USB slots and ports. We have over 700 Linux Distributions. Why can't we seem to combined them into a cellphone that I can also use as a desktop?

Remember the Motorola Atrix? Motorola built the first Atrix 4G in 2011. The reviewers liked it so much it won a "Best of CES" award that year. In addition to a desktop dock, it had a "dock" that turned it into a laptop--a rather nice-looking laptop, at that. Unfortunately, Motorola later sabotaged the laptop dock by making the Atrix 2 incompatible with it!

From everything I've read about the Atrix 4G, it was a great idea that was poorly implemented. First, the version of Ubuntu that ran in the desktop mode was implemented on top of Android. This made it run too slowly to be useful as a desktop. Then, upset about it's inability to fully control the phone, AT&T complained about Motorola giving users root access. Why Motorola put AT&T's interests above those of the people who bought the phone, I don't know, but it took away root access! From that point on, customers could not easily load a different operating system. They were stuck with hardware that had great potential but was hobbled by poorly-integrated software.

This seems to be a general trend in the computer industry that I've commented about before. Having spent three decades working as an engineer, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of engineering managers who don't care about their products and companies run by marketeers and accountants. We need CEO's who care about their companies' products the way Steve Jobs did. Perhaps if he were still alive, we would now have a cellphone that could double as a desktop. Of course, it would be completely incompatible with non-Apple hardware and software and have semi-proprietary connectors. We really need more of an Elon Musk of cellphones with Steve Jobs' ability to deliver a user-friendly, bug-free product.

The irony of the situation is that cellphone manufacturers are fighting over the tiniest cellphone improvements, desperate to stand out from their competitors in the smallest ways. To them, this means putting "wedges" on their phones' screens, making their phones thinner, reducing bezel sizes, taking away headphone jacks and user-replaceable batteries, seeing how many lenses they can cram into their cameras, and adding post-processing to pictures. But, just think how nice it would be to not only have a cellphone handy to listen to news or podcasts as we commute to work, but also to replace our work computer (with our employer's consent) by plugging it into our work monitor when we get there, to surf the Internet in the evening on a 24 inch monitor, to watch Netflix on a 100-inch living-room TV, and to listen to music at night as we fall asleep. We could use one computer productively at every computer-related task that comes up during our 24-hour day.

For some reason, cellphone manufacturers absolutely cannot see the enormous boost in sales they would receive by giving their customers a computer they can take everywhere with them and use for everything. Perhaps it's because we would no longer have to purchase a desktop computer, a laptop computer, and whatever device we now use to watch Netflix. So, why do cellphone and computer manufacturers seem opposed to giving their customers more useful products? Why are they focusing on things customers mostly don't care about, while taking away functionality (e.g. getting rid of headphone jacks, replaceable batteries, and ports), and substituting mostly useless or unwanted features in their places? Is it because they plan to bring back useful features at some point in the future and make us pay for them all over again?

These are my fantasy cellphone features:

The software that would come with my fantasy cellphone would have well-designed hardware drivers and function equally well in cellphone and desktop modes. It would be open-sourced and well-supported by the manufacturer, meaning it would receive regular updates as new hardware comes along and as new security threats are discovered. In my fantasy world, many companies would be selling these phones, so I could walk into Walmart and buy one with reduced capabilities for under $100.

This is obtainable now. We're already using all the technology in various applications now. Rolling it all together into a single package and selling it for a couple of hundred dollars would not even be much of a challenge. So, why hasn't it been done? I'm talking to you Apple, Motorola, Huawei, Nokia, and Samsung--standing atop the bully pulpit of my tiny, unknown website.

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said on Dec 04th 2019 @ 01:04:33pm,

The new Ipad OS is moving in that direction

said on Dec 05th 2019 @ 06:12:56am,

That's excellent to hear. I'll be watching for Ipad developments. Thanks.

said on Dec 14th 2019 @ 01:14:45pm,

Ipad?!? Somewhere near the top of things that I don't want... A desktop platform where I can only install things through the manufacturers marketplace and I cannot develop anything myself unless I subscribe and pay for that manufacturers developer's program.

said on Dec 14th 2019 @ 03:11:38pm,

Samsung Dex?

said on Dec 14th 2019 @ 08:25:29pm,

said on Dec 15th 2019 @ 06:00:20am,

Yougot, you are the second person to mention the Samsung to me. It falls short of at least two of my requirements. It cost more than $700, and it runs Android, not a Linux desktop distribution. Having tried to run Android on a desktop computer a few years ago, I can say it wasn't a pleasant experience. But, maybe it has improved since then.

said on Dec 15th 2019 @ 06:10:34am,

Anon, thanks for bringing up the Pine Phone. I have been hearing about it for years, but there was never an actual product. Just now I found a link ( with a price of $149.99. However, it seems to be in very limited supply, and I couldn't find a single review. But I will definitely look into the Pine Phone more. It could be just what I want. Thank you!

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