Here's how you can use your cell phone as a PC replacement (it works!)

Here's how you can use your cell phone as a PC replacement (it works!)
Ready to make the switch away from your desktop/laptop/tablet? Moving to a new place and need to buy a new computer? If you have one of the latest smartphones in your pocket, you might be surprised to find out that it’s got the power to handle easily some mainstream computing. You’d also be surprised it’s fairly easy to connect it to a monitor, hook up a keyboard and a mouse/trackpad, and off you go.

You don’t even need to know much about hacking or rooting your phone as it all should work out of the box, with the stock software of a handset.

To prove the idea, Christian Cantrell took his Samsung Galaxy Nexus to the test. We should note that the Galaxy Nexus features the TI OMAP4460 chip, one of the most powerful pieces of silicon out there, so it’s a good choice for handling more advanced tasks. An equally or more powerful device would be a good fit, but you might be annoyed by slower devices, so our recommendation is to pick your phone carefully for this.

Here’s what Cantrell used to make his Galaxy Nexus work as a computer:

- Samsung Galaxy Nexus (not rooted, stock phone),
- microUSB/MHL to HDMI cable,
- Apple's Magic Trackpad (you can also use a Bluetooth-enabled mouse),
- Apple Wireless Keyboard (you can also try any Bluetooth-enabled keyboard),
- external monitor with an HDMI port.

And that’s it. The cable would cost you around $20, and the price of the keyboard and trackpad/mouse shouldn’t be too high either. You’d also need a monitor with an HDMI port - something almost every contemporary display has.

The demonstration below shows that you can easily do some casual browsing and if you’re a Facebook addict, want to watch a movie, listen to music or do something similarly simple, you should be perfectly content with your new computer in the form of a phone.

Things start to get complicated if you really need advanced features - working with professional-grade graphical, video and similarly demanding applications is just not yet possible on mobile devices.

But for the rest of us - do we even need a computer anymore? Check out the demonstration video below, and chime in with your opinions - ready to make the switch?

Related phones

  • Display 4.7" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP / 1.3 MP front
  • Processor TI OMAP4460, Dual-core, 1200 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 1750 mAh(8.33h 3G talk time)



1. aries.phills

Posts: 161; Member since: May 17, 2011

Haa. Really don't know what to say.

2. ledbetterp3

Posts: 467; Member since: Aug 31, 2011

There is still a lot of features android lacks when compared to a PC. But why not have both if you can? I hope both android and Microsoft windows continue to grow. I'd like to see android smartphones continue to catch up to computers, as well as computers advancing in technology. But it seems like everyone's main focus is only smartphones now...

17. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

You are 100% right, but just as it is right now, you got to be VERY pleasantly surprised! Imagine what a quad-core phone can do, by then it will have jumped the gap & could finally go towards a true PC in your pocket. The smartphjone is the evolution of the PC. PC's are getting smaller & smaller so this could very well be the future.

34. nyteblayze

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 27, 2017

This is potentially is a solid move especially with the migration back to the 70's/80's design of mainframe based environments. Or Server Hosted applications. On Android you can get a very high end functional RDP client by XtraLogic that allows remotely accessing Terminal Servers, or use programs like VMWare Horizon Client to access remote applications from a web based launcher. I can see in the next 5 years companies moving toward Cell Phone based thin clients with all of their applications behind firewalls requiring encrypted VPN connection.

3. kshell1

Posts: 1143; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

i love my LG g2x. i havent had any problems at all with it and frequently use the HDMI port on it to hook up to my tv and macbook works great especially when playing games like nfs shift or shadowgun

4. AndresJ

Posts: 48; Member since: Feb 06, 2012

Mostly i have my laptop for gaming, so i can't use my phone to play modern pc games with it, at least not yet.

5. manuell3g

Posts: 66; Member since: Aug 12, 2011

Hehehehe,can an iphone4s do this?

7. dirtydirty00

Posts: 428; Member since: Jan 21, 2011

notice how it says 'top smartphones'... not mid range phones.

10. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

every Android high end device should be embarrassed as a "mid range" cell phone is kicking your a** in sales, customer satisfaction and lower return rate.... imagine if Apple does deliver a "high end" device.. game over right...

23. ledbetterp3

Posts: 467; Member since: Aug 31, 2011

Funny thing is Apple can't deliver a high end device.

27. Forsaken77

Posts: 553; Member since: Jun 09, 2011

Most mobile users aren't "power-users" and only need the dial pad to make calls and that's it. Most also don't see any need to pay for a data plan when it wouldn't be a highly used feature. Alot of store reps push the higher end phones on customers and when you get a person that really only needed a feature phone but walks away with the latest & greatest.... they have a difficult time learning how to use it. Therefore they take it back and get the phone they wanted in the first place. I just recently went through this situation with my mother. She saw all her children with smartphones and messing around with apps at family events. So she convinced herself she needs a smartphone just so she can download apps. When she got the phone, not only did she not want to take the time to learn how to use it, but never downloaded one single app. She is the type of person that leaves the phone at home most of the time because it's not an integral part of her life. So needless to say, I took the phone back and got her a feature phone without a data plan. I'd imagine there are many more like my mother when it comes to smartphone shopping and is probably a main reason why high-end Android devices are returned more frequently.

29. johnfranckiv

Posts: 17; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

if you buy an iphone through vzw ( their top seller) you can't return it... you are stuck.

8. Victor.H

Posts: 1095; Member since: May 27, 2011

Not sure about the iPhone! Works with the iPad 2. For that, you'd need to jailbreak, though, and install DisplayOut on Cydia to mirror your display to an external monitor.

9. RazaAsad

Posts: 100; Member since: Nov 24, 2011

Hello Victor, Can you please tell me if it will work on Lumia 900?

16. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Why jailbreak an iPhone/iPad when you can just get an Android phone & do that STOCK!

19. MobileCaseReview

Posts: 242; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

the Ipad 2 offers full fledged mirroring as does the iphone 4s. No need to jailbreak.

21. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

Wow i was going to say that no fair. Anyway i hve seen this work on a iphone 4 an its pretty cool.

30. rcrider4

Posts: 118; Member since: Nov 14, 2011

You can do that on an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S using either the Digital AV adapter or using AirPlay through apple tv. No jailbreak needed

6. akmaintu

Posts: 42; Member since: Jan 08, 2012

Just wow.

11. Yankchef

Posts: 76; Member since: Feb 03, 2012

I have considered this as well, especially with the newer motorola phones and their webtop feature I can use my phone to do everything i need to do. I can even search for and download torrents. The limits I have found are as one previous poster said high end gaming and also 1080p dvd files and such the playback is choppy and still not nearly as good as my 4 year old laptop. I could see cell phones being at this level in a year and a half or so and eventually be powerful enough for your cell phone to be you primary computer that you then dock into other things for increased functionality or just use wifi technology to be able to use your devices' computer in other medium's. The future is almost here haha

12. ZayZay

Posts: 571; Member since: Feb 26, 2011

Well, that answers my "Should I get a laptop, Tablet, or stick with my Cell phone?" Question. This is exactly what I will be doing. A moniter on my desk at work and on my desk at home.


Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

Stupid Idea....this is only good just to say I use my phone as a pc. Get a can't do any real production with these items. For casual browsing and emailing it would be fine. Any thing like a spread sheet, and pure work and it will be lame. If you need space just buy a HTPC get rid of the DVD/Tivo/Cable box set up and call it a day. Using web dock when you have it hooked up to a Pc may be fancy, and give bragging rights but for production work like Photo shop and other real intense programs it's a fail. In all the bragging rights is all that can be done realistically with these units unless you just browse the web, and answer mail.

18. Cwebb

Posts: 501; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Or just Splashtop or eventually Onlive

28. justtesting

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

You're kidding, of course? Remember the PDA's of a decade ago? Like the Sharp Zaurus series? Like today's phones, they ran Linux inside, they came with Office packages, you could compile and run any Linux software on them. you want software that needs X? install an X server! Then install OpenOffice or gimp or whatever... The difference is that they ran at a fraction of the speed of today's (even single core) processors. Want software that REALLY files? Get packages that once flew on half-MIP microVAXen under 4.3Reno, or Mt. Xinu's More/BSD (or even VMS)**, compile the free VAX emulator, boot /vmunix from the "a" partition of an emulated RM03, then run application software that was written when people still had to take "combinatorial algorithms" classes (among others) before anyone would hire them to write software. For gods sake, The 19 campus California State University system had hundreds of students and faculty members running programs simultaneously on a single 20 MIPS Control Data Corp. "supercomputer" in the eighties, Today's dumb phones contain processors that run a couple of orders of magnitude faster. Your phone is not underpowered. Just the people programming it are! Today's users have learned to think of a 1 Ghz CPU as "slow" because the overhead of todays code (written by self-styled programmers who lack formal training) is astronomical. Similarly, the acceptance of "blue screens" as a "fact of life" is mind blowing to those who *are* formally trained. That todays' programmers have to code try to avoid them says volumes about how badly written today's OS's are. When an application triggers a "blue screen" it is not the app author's fault. It is purely the OS's fault (sorry about the double entendre). I am forever thankful that industry chose to use linux for the embedded OS used by phones, etc. For a phone call to be prematurely terminated due to an embedded Windows OS incurring a "blue screen" (even if it were, as would probably be the case, hidden to keep the user from becoming aware of what had actually happened) would be unconscionable. **: Even more fun would be running RT-11 software on a pdp-11 emulator! Imagine an 11/23 sped up to half a gigaherz

14. ryan5609

Posts: 107; Member since: Nov 01, 2011

This is a great demo that really shows the capabilities of ICS and Android phones. But I think that this would be amazing if someone could find a way to make the user experience just a little better. Everything is way to big (Icons, stuff like that) because the monitor is mirroring the display of the phone, thus lower resolution. It would be awesome if your phone could recognize the LCD monitor resolution and match that with the ICS tablet interface, I know ICS can display both tablet mode and phone mode, it is built into the software, you need to change some parameters. I have no interest yet, in this being a true desktop replacement, but it would be great to use it like this when you don't want to carry your laptop or just for fun.

15. RamyRamz69

Posts: 390; Member since: Dec 12, 2011

Or... Get the LiveDock from Sony Ericsson then connect one cable to your pc...

26. spiderpig2894

Posts: 597; Member since: Jan 10, 2012

i guess sony is the only one who is featuring HDMI capabilities on their videos.


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

Hurraayy!!!! It only took you guys 2 months to come out with this story (great story by the way)!! Yeah, I've been doing this on my DROID RAZR™ since early December 2011 and, as I have previously posted, all apps' work via HDMI Out (No liMiTations, unlike iPhone 4S, 4T, 4U-V-W-X-Y-Z). Everything displays full screen, flawlessly. And, everything works flawlessly, e.g, Netflix, Browser (Stock), Skyfire, MX Video Player Pro, Gmail, Music Player, etc. Haven't tried a keyboard though (but will, just not a [kr]Apple keyboard). And, have a few Shē€py friends with iDuds; they can not do this at all!!!

22. ChafedBanana

Posts: 409; Member since: Sep 20, 2011

Where can I get the mhl to HDMI cable from? I tried one of the Samsung MHL adapters and a standard HDMI cable but ended up returning the adapter because although I had the Samsung charger plugged into the mhl adapter, it did NOT keep my Galaxy Nexus charged or even charge it at all. The phone said it was charging but wasn't.

24. Mobile-X-Pert

Posts: 565; Member since: Dec 20, 2010

When smartphones can play Crysis maxed out, then I will replace PC for a smartphone. Lol

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