Phones have become more powerful over the years. Today, even a cheaper smartphone has more power than a standard computer or laptop from a decade ago. So why can’t you use your phone instead of a computer?
The good news is you can. There are several ways to use your phone as an alternative to a traditional computer and many reasons why you should consider it. Phones are far more portable, you’ll probably always have it with you, and if your phone meets all of your computing needs, it can even save you a few hundred dollars.
Your phone alone is probably not enough
While your smartphone may have enough power to perform most of the day-to-day tasks you rely on your computer for, it has some serious limitations. The primary problems are focused on device input methods. Sending text or tweets without typing errors can be challenging, so typing a few thousand words on your phone’s keyboard would be a real nightmare. And even without taking into account the strain on the thumb.
Some phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, are designed with more work usage in mind. The S22 Ultra comes with a pen that offers an additional input method. You can use a stylus, as you would with a regular notepad, and the app will turn those slates into typed text. Although handwriting applications occasionally make mistakes, it’s a much more convenient way to write longer documents on your phone. But it is still not a keyboard and it is not an effective way to write more than a few hundred words.
Bluetooth keyboards change games
Fortunately, Bluetooth keyboards are widely available and easy to connect to your phone. Several manufacturers make keyboards with smaller devices in mind, such as phones and tablets, so there are many portable options on the market. Finally, there is a trade-off between functionality and portability.
You can buy a foldable keyboard that folds into a small enough package to fit in your pocket – but it’s probably not the most comfortable thing to type. Equally, you can bring a full-size keyboard with you, although you might want to consider a laptop at the moment. There are also many options, so you can easily find something that suits you.
Connecting a mouse to your phone via Bluetooth may seem pointless, but it’s worth considering. Yes, you can use the touch screen, but you don’t have to tilt whenever you want to choose something that helps with your workflow and saves you a little strain on your back. Equally, the pointer helps with precision and can save you a lot of frustration when working on a small phone screen.
Other useful accessories include a phone stand and a way to charge the battery during long work sessions. I use a folding phone cover that serves as a phone stand. You may be able to handle the charger that the phone came with, but a small power bank is a worthwhile investment if you don’t want to risk your phone dying when you don’t have access to a wall outlet.
The Logitech K380 keyboard offers a good balance between quality, size and price. Up to three devices can be connected to the keyboard,
Samsung goes a step further
If you are intrigued by the concept of using your phone as a computer, and you have a compatible Samsung phone, you are in luck. The Korean company has accepted the concept of using a smartphone as a computer since the release of the Galaxy S8 2017. As a result, Samsung is far ahead of the competition in terms of this concept.
Samsung’s DeX mode or “desktop experience” initially required a dedicated docking station, but now all you need is a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, along with an HDMI to USB C adapter to connect your phone to a monitor or other display device. The optimized OS will start automatically and you can use it for most standard tasks for which you would use a PC or laptop. It is not suitable for games and video editing tasks, but office work, video calls and writing are within the limits of the phone. DeX is compatible with all Samsung Galaxy series phones from S9 onwards, along with several Samsung Notes and tablets. Some tablets do not require a monitor and can run DeX on their built-in screens.
Regular Android and iOS users also have options
While Samsung’s DeX is the brightest way to use your phone as a computer, DeX-type setup is also possible on generic Android phones and iPhones. Unfortunately, these options are nowhere near as simplified. They require additional equipment, applications and a certain level of technical knowledge.
If your phone is running Android 10 and supports “alt port display mode”, you can try enabling “Desktop Mode” in the developer settings menu. Once enabled, you’re still far from it and you’ll need to install the APK, install Android Debug Bridge, install an app called Second Screen, and run a line of code. Desktop mode features are limited and Google does not currently offer support or assistance. Pixel 4 users will also not be able to access the operating mode. It probably doesn’t pay to bother until Google decides to implement it properly as a function.
IPhone users can connect their phones to the monitor with a Lightning to DVA or Lightning to Digital AV adapter before pairing the mouse and keyboard via Bluetooth. However, the screen will reflect the iPhone screen, and there is no optimized OS that you can use to make life easier.
Alternatively, you can switch your phone to TV using Apple TV or Chromecast. Make sure your phone is on the same Wi-Fi network as the device you plan to stream to, and select the mirroring option on iPhone or the screen broadcast option from Google Home on Android.
The phone can make your desktop portable
Desktops are powerful, but this often comes at the expense of portability. However, you can use your computer remotely from your phone, and the software you use for that is often free. Alternatives are available, but Microsoft Remote Desktop offers a way to access your home computer or laptop from any approved device with an Internet connection. In theory, this means that your phone is as powerful as your host computer, has access to all its files and can use all the programs you have installed on it.
To get started, download the Microsoft Remote Desktop Assistant to the computer you want to use and their Remote Desktop app to the device you want to access your computer from. The wizard will help you connect the two devices. Then make sure your computer is turned on and Remote Desktop Assistant is running when you want to access it from your smartphone.
All of this is great in theory, but it is worth noting that Remote Desktop can have problems and shortcomings like any software. Slow or bad relationships will cause problems such as lagging behind. Your desktop must also be turned on for this to work, so if it is turned off or off at any time, you will have a lot of trouble establishing a connection. Likewise, if a Remote Desktop program crashes, you’ll have to get someone to restart it before you get back to work. However, the possibility of using your computer remotely changes the game and it is worth solving all the problems you may encounter.
It’s the perfect backup solution
You should try once or twice to use the phone instead of the computer so you know it’s there for you if you need it. If you have work to do and you have managed to destroy your computer, your phone may be all you need to get out of the situation.
Apps can also play a big role in your experience. Microsoft and Google’s office software is available as an app, and each app works like its desktop version. Depending on your personal preferences, you may find it easier to use email and video calling apps on your phone than on a PC or Mac.
You can also take the time to agree on what you might be doing with your phone and what accessories will help you achieve that. From a personal point of view, I use my phone and Bluetooth keyboard as an easier alternative to my laptop when I travel. Whatever you decide, phones are a viable option when it comes to most tasks, and as time goes on it will only get better.