This $99 device can turn your smartphone into a full-fledged laptop – Tech Insider


Andromium Superbook kickstarter
The Andromium Superbook.
Andromium

For years, consumer tech companies have dreamed of convergence —
that is, the idea of one device being the nexus of all your
computing needs.

Basically, they’ve tried really
hard to have you buy a smartphone (the computer you carry in your
pocket) that can also be your laptop (the computer you use at
home).

Microsoft has been the most
visible proponent of this idea in recent months;
its 
Continuum feature allows Windows Phones to run a lightweight
version of Windows 10 when plugged into a display dock. The
problem, in a nutshell, is that 
nobody buys
Windows Phones
.

Before Microsoft, there was
Ubuntu. It’s long struggled to gain traction with similar
promises, dating all the way back to its


failed Edge
project


in
2013.

Before that, there was
Motorola. Its 
Atrix
phone
worked the same way, but its laptop dock cost
$500the software you used with it
was half-baked, and the phone was only “strong” by 2011’s
standards. Again, few people cared.

Still, the dream hasn’t died. The
latest group to give it a try is Andromium, a startup headed by
alumni of Google and Y Combinator. Its new Kickstarter
project, 
the Superbook, essentially revamps the Atrix
concept and applies it to various Android phones.

How it works

At its core, the Superbook is
just a laptop shell. It’s got an 11.6-inch display with a
1366×768 resolution, a QWERTY keyboard with Android-specific
keys, a multi-touch trackpad, and a battery that Andromium rates
at eight or so hours of use. (Though that’ll move closer to 10
hours if Andromium reaches $500,000 in funding, which currently
looks likely.) In a 
recent Reddit
AMA
, the company said the device is composed of soft
plastic.


In other words, it’s small and
basic. It makes up for that by being cheap — it starts at $99
through Kickstarter, and the company expects it to start in the
$129 range if and when it hits retailers. (If the campaign hits
$1 million, the company plans to offer a slightly more expensive
1080p display option as well.)

To power it, you activate the
Andromium OS app — which is available in beta
form 
in the Google
Play Store
 — on your phone, then plug it into the
shell over microUSB or USB-C. You’re not limited to any
particular model, but the company says the phone should have at
least 1.5GB of RAM, a dual-core chip, and Android 5.0 or higher.
(It also has to support the USB-OTG standard, but that shouldn’t be an issue for
the vast majority of devices.)

The idea, as it’s always been, is
to leverage your phone’s power with a laptop’s form factor. In
Andromium’s eyes, having buying a new phone then becomes akin to
buying a new laptop.

Familiar questions remain

Now, that probably won’t hold
true for everyone. A cheaper phone won’t be as smooth as a
pricier one.


Plenty of
Chromebooks


are
affordable and perfectly capable. And while your phone is a tiny
computer, it’s not a tiny


laptop

— much of the Superbook’s success will come
down to how well Andromium OS turns Android into competent
desktop software.


That said, it does seem to have
the basics down — a browser, a file manager, a taskbar, a
launcher, some level of multitasking, etc. — and
as 
we’ve seen on
Chrome OS
, Android itself has plenty of apps that
translate well enough to desktops. You can watch videos on
YouTube, write documents with Microsoft Word, and play a bunch of
games.

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.

In any case, the campaign has
raised more than $400,000 in a couple days of funding, way
past its initial target. While the usual risk with crowdfunding
projects remain, Andromium says its prototypes are finished, and
that it hopes to ship the Superbook to backers by February
2017.

Either way, given how strong
today’s smartphones have become, the time might finally be right
to make this nerd fantasy a reality. Again.

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