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Turn Your Android Phone Into a Laptop For $99 With the Superbook (techinsider.io) 126

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: A company called Andromium is attempting to harness the processing power of your Android smartphone and turn it into a full fledged computer. The 'Superbook' consists of a 11.6-inch laptop shell, which you connect to your phone via a USB Micro-B or Type-C cable, and run the Andromium OS application (currently in beta, but available in the Play Store)... The leader of the project and Company co-founder Gordon Zheng, previously worked at Google and pitched the idea to them... They refused so he quit his job and founded Andromium Inc.

In December 2014 the company had introduced their first product which was a dock which used the MHL standard to output to external monitor. That campaign failed, however their newest creation, the Superbook smashed their Kickstarter goal in just over 20 minutes.

And within their first 38 hours, they'd crowdfunded $500,000. In an intriguing side note, Andromium "says it'll open its SDK so developers can tailor their apps for Andromium, too, though how much support that gets remains to be seen," reports Tech Insider. But more importantly, "Andromium says its prototypes are finished, and that it hopes to ship the Superbook to backers by February 2017."
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Turn Your Android Phone Into a Laptop For $99 With the Superbook

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  • by ArtemaOne ( 1300025 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @05:39PM (#52567949)
    Is there any reason to have highly customized hardware, which inevitably drives up the price in comparison to similarly capable products, rather than just using, say, a Chrombook? The integration seems more like a reliance when all the relevant information can simply be synched anyway.
    • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @05:45PM (#52567979)

      The theory I think is that you "upgrade" your phone every 1-2 years, but don't do the same for your laptop. They now want your "laptop" performance to improve with the phone upgrade as well.

      Probably the most interesting part of their plan is the $99 device, its very cheap and includes everything you need. Most likely it also has a processor on board, and that processor needs to be capable enough to send the app data over the cable. It seems the app communicates over the chromecast protocol, so the processor needs to be powerful enough to decode the video codec in real time. If it can be bought independently, its probably very nice as a throw-away laptop, or for schools.

      • Sounds kind of neat, but also like something that could be pulled off in software updates to regular Chromebooks. However if it does require data speeds in excess of whatever USB standard is being used now, this could be nice. Thanks for the insight.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          How do you run a software update to update your chromebook from quad-core A8 to 8-core A9? A USB-C phone and USB-C laptop converter will be good for 5-10 years, at least as long as the average laptop today, and much longer than the average phone.
          • I guess the confusing thing for me is that I don't use Chromebooks. My wife had one and I hate them, and she did too. I wouldn't upgrade crappy slow processors like that.
      • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @06:18PM (#52568059)
        The only problem with that is my laptop that is around 7 years old is still massively more powerful than the best modern smartphone, hell even my 10 year old one would be preferrable. why would I want such restrictive performance of a phone without the form factor benefits?
        • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 )

          I'm not saying you're wrong, but what 7 year old laptop do you have?

          • Lenovo W500 with a Core 2 (actually it is 8 years old, I also have an almost 6 year old W520 it was top of the line at the time with an i7 with 16GB of ram and 256GB SSD, I also have a 7 year old more budget lightweight oriented laptop I bought for travel an ASUS i5 with 4GB of ram can't remember the model as it is in car, but it is prior to them bringing out zenbooks.) all of which decimate any current phone.
            • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 )

              Here's the thing about your laptops. They are large, heavy, loud, and hot. While they do have more performance than a Samsung Galaxy S7, it's really not by much, and it won't be noticeable to this products target.

              This product will let people perform productivity tasks using a device they're probably carrying around with them anyways, and a keyboard/display/battery combo that will be light, thin, quiet, and cool. Not only that, they won't have to throw it away when they get a new phone, and the performance/f

              • The ASUS is not loud heavy and hot and it is 7 YEARS OLD, it was purchased because it is basically silent, extremely light and cool, yet still beats the very top of the line Galaxy s7 performance wise. The whole point is if you are carrying around a laptop shell you may as well carry a lightweight laptop, it will perform a fuck load better than a Galaxy s7, will have far better resolution that the POS screen coming with this shell and you won't be reliant on your phone as your only means of computing power.
                • by tepples ( 727027 )

                  The whole point is if you are carrying around a laptop shell you may as well carry a lightweight laptop

                  A laptop shell would probably be a lot cheaper than a lightweight laptop (including the Windows license) and the tethering upgrade for your existing phone's data plan.

          • 17" PowerBook.
            Mate ofc.

        • by Teckla ( 630646 )

          The only problem with that is my laptop that is around 7 years old is still massively more powerful than the best modern smartphone, hell even my 10 year old one would be preferrable. why would I want such restrictive performance of a phone without the form factor benefits?

          How much power does the average user need for their web browsing, email, music, and videos? Is your typical smartphone fast enough for that use case?

        • My 6 year old MacBook is a pig. I got tired of looking at the spinning rainbow and bought a Chromebook. It's fast, responsive and does most everything I need. I can see that a phone with an ARM processor would make a good laptop.

        • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

          Convenience of having your data anywhere...
          With the docks being cheap, many of the advantages of the form factor are not lost - for instance you can keep a dock at work, one at home, and only carry one with you when you know you're going to use it but always have your data accessible to you.

    • the new design allows you do drop your laptops guts into the toilet. Whereas before it was fairly hard to drop your chromebook in, an android phone will slip into the porcelain bowl of doom easily.

      • Do you have a problem dumping phones in the crapper? How do you do this? Most people put their butt over the crapper, not their head.

    • If performance is anything like http://maruos.com/ [maruos.com] on the Nexus 5... no thanks, I can get that performance from Raspbian on $60 worth of Pi + $20 for Keyboard and mouse.

      • Pi + power supply + memory card + HDMI cable + HDMI monitor + USB keyb and mouse.. It's not that expensive, but you can get a 2016 or 2015 phone instead (SIM card optional)

        The problem is to get one that is well supported, respects user freedom and doesn't get orphaned, the latter is the hardest part.

        • Maybe it was a "special sale", but I recently saw a Pi3 + 2A power supply + class 10 memory card + case + HDMI cable for $57... BYOKMM.

    • I don't live in a world where I can synch everything for free from A to B. Especially if you consider the time involved.

      And actually my devices are like books. 90% of all things I don't want to be synched but on a particular device. Just like my notes in my paper notebooks.

    • The one benefit I see is to maintain state. You pull out your phone and start on something, realize you need something better for typing and viewing on and you can just continue to work on the expanded interface without starting over.

  • A bad feeling (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fnj ( 64210 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @05:50PM (#52567989)

    I have a feeling at that price the display is going to be a joke. What would be the point of connecting a 2560x1440 phone to a 800x480, or even a 1280x800 display?

    • I have a feeling at that price the display is going to be a joke. What would be the point of connecting a 2560x1440 phone to a 800x480, or even a 1280x800 display?

      The kickstarter site says it's a 768P HD screen, so yes. It will be exactly as you say.

      • So it's exactly the perfect resolution on an 11.6" laptop.
        Seriously, go get one and put some Linux Mint Mate or something on it, it's all crisp and if you make it higher res you'll just run the risk of making things unreadable.

        You don't NEED 400 or 500 dpi everywhere, especially if you're going to use this as a desktop replacement (just run real desktop software such as LibreOffice, a web browser, a real file manager etc.)

        • by phorm ( 591458 )

          No, but at least 1080p would be nice.
          And yes, one can easily tell the difference between 720p or 1080p on a 12" display, given the normal eye-distance between my face and a laptop. It's not just about the clarity either, but about how much space you have for multiple windows etc. Since this is like just a projection of your android OS onto another screen it doesn't really matter though, since the mobile OS doesn't really do multi-window.

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )
      Because you don't hold a laptop 6" from your face.
    • 2560x1440 phone on 1280x720 display produces full-scene antialiasing.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @05:51PM (#52567993) Journal
    No doubt. I am using chromebook. I use my home desktop only for connecting to VPN to work. This will be great. The shell must have enough space inside to store some really long life batteries. Even a small glove box for cables?
  • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @06:05PM (#52568031)
    I mean seriously at this point a laptop with similar levels of performance as your phone is a fraction of the price. If you are going to carry around a laptop shell you may as well make it a real laptop that won't have the shit ton of limitations that this is going to have.
    • by Teckla ( 630646 )

      I mean seriously at this point a laptop with similar levels of performance as your phone is a fraction of the price. If you are going to carry around a laptop shell you may as well make it a real laptop that won't have the shit ton of limitations that this is going to have.

      Do average users want to, and are they capable of, properly administering an OS like Windows?

      • why does it have to be windows? what is wrong with Linux or chrome if you don't like windows? though a user that is not capable of managing windows is unlikely to be capable of handling all the scaling issues and problems that come up with running a niche solution like this as well.
        • by Teckla ( 630646 )

          why does it have to be windows?

          I didn't say it had to be Windows. That's why I said an OS like Windows. For what it's worth, I don't think your average user is even remotely capable of safely and effectively administering Windows, OS X, or desktop Linux.

          what is wrong with Linux or chrome if you don't like windows?

          I didn't say anything was wrong with ChromeOS. In fact, I think Chromebooks are probably the ideal solution for 95% of average users.

      • Do average users want to, and are they capable of, properly administering an OS like Windows?

        Yes. Turn it on. Done. Administered.

        Microsoft has dumbed it down to that point for us. Updates? It'll work itself out. Viruses? Just hit the refresh button if it goes tits up and windows defender can't fix it. Backups? You mean your files weren't on Onedrive?

        Seriously if you're "administering" a windows machine without being paid a salary to do so then you're doing it very wrong.

        • by Teckla ( 630646 )

          Do average users want to, and are they capable of, properly administering an OS like Windows?

          Yes. Turn it on. Done. Administered.

          Microsoft has dumbed it down to that point for us. Updates? It'll work itself out. Viruses? Just hit the refresh button if it goes tits up and windows defender can't fix it. Backups? You mean your files weren't on Onedrive?

          Seriously if you're "administering" a windows machine without being paid a salary to do so then you're doing it very wrong.

          We'll have to agree with disagree. My non-technical Windows-using and macOS-using friends get themselves into trouble all the time because taking care of their Windows and macOS systems is far too hard for non-technical users.

          • Not taking care or actively damaging them? I don't recall the last time I "took care" of anything on my windows PC. I think that may have been about a year ago when I changed my password.

            There's no administration required on a Windows machine, and the other side of that statement is there's nothing magical about Android that prevents the system burning down in a blaze of virus glory. Both systems will run fine without intervention. Both systems will fail spectacularly with the wrong intervention. Both syste

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      I think this is aimed more at people who have a fairly expensive phone and don't really need a fullblown PC, but still would like have better keyboard etc. for home use (not so much for dragging around). That, in my observation, is a LOT of people.

  • Not bad idea... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @06:27PM (#52568089) Homepage

    Quick fix for cracked screen phones which seems to happen to me with every phone. Now make it a touch screen too.so the phone can act a a big tablet.

    • A quick fix for a problem with a broken device is to use a device that is 4 times the size to restore functionality?

      Not to mention it would be cheaper to just get your screen fixed.

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      New life for outdated/discarded phones, too.

      Wonder if it works with phones that are in provider limbo, but still work fine otherwise.

  • Atrix (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @06:33PM (#52568111)

    Motorola did this [amazon.com] five years ago with ATRIX. Didn't catch on then, but I though it was interesting at the time.

    • I'd like to see this with bluetooth instead of a dock so you can just leave the phone in your pocket. Not sure if the bandwidth would work though.

      • Re:Atrix (Score:4, Informative)

        by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Sunday July 24, 2016 @01:12AM (#52569341) Journal

        I'd like to see this with bluetooth instead of a dock so you can just leave the phone in your pocket. Not sure if the bandwidth would work though.

        One of the big things the Lapdock provided was POWER to the phone... Can't get that if you leave your phone in your pocket.

        And no, bluetooth doesn't provide remotely enough speed for screen updates... WiFi is faster, but still not realistically fast enough, and you'd have to lose your internet connectivity to use it that way. Not to mention your phone would be consuming a lot of power just to refresh the screen, instead of doing any useful work.

        • How do Chromecast, Miracast, "Ipad cast" work? I suppose the wifi hardware can multitask (think MIMO, 802.11n) and it may be why casting things tend to use a special ad hoc wifi link between the two things.
          It's doable, more so with 5GHz wifi but 60GHz wifi is better suited to displays. Given that 60GHz wifi isn't available yet, doing this wireless is a big waste of spectrum and power, I agree with that.

          I supsect someone will make a wireless laptop shell after this one gets wildly successful, but it would be

          • Most phone SoC have hardware H.264 encoding on board (and screen casting uses this in all those cases). It may not always look sharp and clear, but it's definitely not high-bandwidth compared to raw.

          • How do Chromecast, Miracast, "Ipad cast" work?

            Answer: Poorly.

            Big momentary glitches, visible compression artifacts all the time, lots of processor overhead you don't get with a wired link.

            HDMI has bandwidth of 340MHz, and throughput of 18 Gbit/s. Get back to me when your WiFi can support that.

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )
      Microsoft also released Tablet computers in 2002 [wikipedia.org] so why was the iPad successful? Being early is the same thing as being wrong.

      But the ATRIX didn't really have the requisite performance back then, it was just a little too early. Smartphone performance has increased DRAMATICALLY since the Motorola ATRIX. Five and a half years in smartphone advancement is an incredible level of improvement. A dual-core 1Ghz A9 with 1GB of memory (ATRIX 4G, 2011) to quad core1.2Ghz A57 and 4GB of memory.(Samsung S7). Th
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Saturday July 23, 2016 @06:45PM (#52568149)
    i will buy one as soon as they make them available
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So it would be the worlds most underpowered laptop... and I couldn't use my phone while using it.

    Awesome!

  • My smartphone IS a full-fledged computer with a tiny screen. If I want to emulate a desktop with a bigger screen, all I need is a bluetooth keyboard and Chromecast/Miracast.
  • Those sorts of low-powered laptops are already incredibly cheap and nearly disposable, so why would I want one that requires my phone?

    What's going to happen Soon(tm) is your phone will be able to do a decent display projection + keyboard. The whole any-surface desktop idea. + multitouch. Then we'll be talkin'

    Right now I'm just looking at getting a cheap chromebook that converts to a table and running android apps on it. Really only useful for me when traveling, so not a high priority.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      The problem with a projected keyboard is that you can't feel where your fingers are relative to the edges of the keys. This causes typos because the user is unable to rapidly adjust his fingers to stay centered on the keys for the rest of the phrase. Virtual gamepads on a touch screen have the same problem.

    • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

      Right now I'm just looking at getting a cheap chromebook that converts to a table and running android apps on it.

      You'll be pleased to know, then, that we're also working on a chromebook that converts to a chair!

  • Most companies have a policy where anything you develop on their time is their property. How does Mr. Zheng plan to work around this? Or is Google different?
  • I think for most people this will be an incredibly good deal.

    The screen resolution is not great, but its good enough and will serve aging using and younger people ourside the Narrow 25-32 agre group quite well.

    The point is your phone is a tether taxed, flash drive and quick access touch device. Its not a laptop.

    The 'Shelltop' is a light weight cell phone "dongle" that is quick to setup, light weight, smaller than a Huge screen Retina Cinerama that weighs in like an MacBook Pro.. and it just more practical.

    I

  • Give me a case for my phablet with a hardware slideout keyboard that lets me rest the screen at an appropriate angle and include a trackpoint and I'm all set.

    Basically, where are the 6 inch laptops with phone capabilities?

  • Several years ago (4 or 5, I think), I bought a Motorolla Atria and its laptop dock, because the idea seemed so appealing to me. After a couple weeks of the novelty, all the "laptop" part became was a luggable battery for recharging the phone when I didn't have access to an outlet.

    I don't expect much different now. Well, maybe because the Android app ecosystem is bigger with apps that can take advantage of the extra screen realestate, ChromeOS is a thing, etc, but really, I don't think many people are going

  • How long before they big providers are able to detect if you have a larger display attached and insist you buy an extra package to be able to use the added on equipment?
        They already did that with the Motorola Atrix so as to render the laptop keyboard accessory unusable.

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