The Smartphone PC - A New Approach

Hello everyone. I would like to try this again with a different approach, especially for new readers.

This topic is about the concept of using your smartphone as your PC and general do-it-all device. By using the desktop mode of my own smartphone and observing the multitasking capabilities therein, I have discovered that these handy little devices are significantly more powerful than most people likely know. Super-apps like Nomad Sculpt have played a large part in this discovery (in addition to getting me into 3D sculpting and digital visual artwork). While this concept is not ready for the mainstream yet, a number of people believe that smartphones will be the future of personal computing, and I am inclined to agree in light of my discoveries. Therefore, I think this concept is worthy of discussion in all branches of personal computing, hence this topic.

Everyone please feel free to ask questions and express your thoughts, ideas, approbations, reservations, and/or objections regarding this concept. I will strive to answer your questions and present counterarguments to the best of my ability.

To get the ball rolling, here are some pictures of my own personal smartphone-based workstation, with captions underneath:


The smartphone (Galaxy S10) continues to function normally while desktop mode (DeX) is running. It effectively functions as a second display, and the mouse pointer can move freely between both screens.
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The smartphone can also function as a trackpad. This is necessary for tool selection when using a graphics tablet, because the tablet is directly mapped to the monitor and is not suitable for ‘clicking’ on things.
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Smartphones are how powerful, again?! :exploding_head: :joy: This is what really sold me on the concept. True multitasking like this isn’t really possible or practical on a phone screen or a tablet. Things are still a little cramped on one monitor, however. Multi-display support on future phones would solve this problem.
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Thermal throttling doesn’t need to be a problem when taxing the phone really heavily. It isn’t much of a problem anyway. The phone already has a vapour chamber inside it, but I like to keep things as cool as possible (in more ways than one :wink:). This is a thermoelectric cooler. I would recommend using one of these only when taxing the phone heavily, otherwise it could form condensation inside the phone.

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Ever since designing in comfortable positions (a.k.a. not sitting) I’ve never really liked designing at my computer as much.
I find myself avoiding sitting at it. Instead I lay or sit in bed, on the couch, etc.

Your setup, for me, would seem like a step backwards from comfort & portability and back into what I feel was uncomfortable and restrictive. Also, in these new positions I’m able to design in, I find I can design for longer and I’m able to focus and lose myself in a project a lot easier.

I’m glad that you’re able to find positions in which you’re comfortable doing your work. :slightly_smiling_face: It’s all a matter of personal preference; whatever works for you.

Being able to use your mobile device on the go and at your workstation is the pinnacle of convenience and flexibility, and a workstation is still the king of multitasking, although devices with multi-display support would help a lot. :slightly_frowning_face: Soon enough, hopefully.

As for Nomad, a tablet or phablet with pen support is ideal for this concept, although a phablet is truly best, because you can still put it in your pocket and use it with one or both hands easily.

Pretty cool setup! Liquid cooling is a nice touch!
But what about 3ds max and After Effects users?

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Thank you! :grinning: It’s really cool that all the components work together as well as they do! Just to clarify for other readers, the phone has a built-in vapour chamber which is a small, passive, closed-loop liquid cooling system. The thermoelectric cooler on the outside is a solid-state device; it has no liquids, and the fan is the only moving part.

Currently, the closest apps you can get to 3DS Max, Blender, etc are apps like Prisma 3D, Spacedraw, and SDF 3D. You can do an impressive level of work with those apps, but they certainly can’t compete with full desktop 3D modelling programs, at least not yet. A setup like mine is already sufficient for some uses, but not for others (yet). Now, if someone was to create a 3D modelling & animation app as advanced as Nomad Sculpt… that would be awesome!!

The current situation is better for users of Adobe After Effects (and Premiere Pro). The closest apps you can get to those programs are apps like NodeVideo, LumaFusion, KineMaster, and PowerDirector. Each of these has an impressive feature set, especially NodeVideo, which looks more or less like After Effects on mobile. I’ve used KineMaster and it’s buttery-smooth, even on the monitor. Others have some kinks and bugs to work out, like NodeVideo not being able to fill the monitor. That’s really too bad, because it seems to be the best one! Can anybody say “Feature Request”? :grin:

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I would add LumaFusion to that list, it’s about the price range of Nomad and also well worth it, works great on Dex too.

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Consider it added! :slightly_smiling_face:

Well, I was hoping there would be some kind of emulator, because my professional pipeline is closely tied to those apps.
Anyways, it’s a cool thing to have all those programs working on a phone.

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Definitely stick with your PC/Mac for now. It’s still more powerful than any phone/tablet, all things being equal (especially if it has more than 6 cores and a mid-range graphics card or better). An emulator would ruin the performance. I don’t venture there anyway because the legality seems hazy to me at best, unless I’m missing something.

For now, I think the best thing to do is to spread the word. Enough consumer interest would get the attention of big software companies. Just imagine ARM64 ports of mainstream PC/Mac programs running natively on our Android/iOS devices. Several apps already provide strong evidence that this is possible:

  1. NodeVideo –> After Effects/Premiere Pro
  2. Krita –> Photoshop
  3. Nomad –> Zbrush (although Nomad is apparently better than ZbrushCore and costs roughly 1/10 as much)
  4. Cubasis –> Cubase

They would only need to add touchscreen controls and a resizable interface. Nomad and Cubasis can already resize their interface for phones and monitors quite well, as I have seen firsthand.

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It really is, isn’t it? Smartphones and tablets are incredibly powerful. When it comes to efficiency and performance per watt, they run circles around desktops and laptops. Also consider that some of the very latest smartphones have hardware-accelerated real-time ray tracing. I see no reason why they couldn’t replace our desktop PCs and laptops very soon, except for highly demanding tasks of course.

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NexDock | Nex Computer Concept has been around for a while but only really viable now that phone tech has caught up to the idea

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I partially agree. The tech did have to catch up, and still does somewhat, depending on usage. For basic tasks, phones have been good enough for several years now. For more complex tasks, they’ve matured more recently, depending on specific use. My 2019 phone blew the doors off my expectations when I first used DeX a couple months ago. I knew it was powerful, but I had no idea it was this powerful.

Our devices are entirely capable of being PCs, but the execution is severely lacking; very few models have a real desktop mode. The two biggest problems are a lack of consumer awareness and a lack of widespread implementation.

How do you calibrate a wacom board in Android OS or in Samsung DEX?
Do you need a special software for that? I can only access half of my screen.

Make sure the touchpad is running on the phone screen (activate with the icon in the lower left corner). You may have to first rotate the phone to lanscape mode, but you can put it back to portrait after.

There’s no special software or app afaik. It’s class compliant/plug-and-play. You can adjust parameters in Nomad.

You may be interested to know that, afaik, the largest pen display/drawing tablet with Android support is the XP-Pen Artist Pro 16. I can’t say for sure that it would work properly with DeX and Nomad, as I don’t own one.

Quick Correction: The tablet is a Wacom Intuos Medium Bluetooth (CTL-6100WL) connected via USB. While it supports hover mode on my phone screen (classic mouse pointer following the pen), it doesn’t on the monitor. However, the bullseye in Nomad still follows the pen, and menu icons are still highlighted when the pen is over them, so it’s still easy to know the pen’s position and have a streamlined experience. Samsung could easily fix this, but this is why we need the ability to install 3rd party drivers for this concept to go mainstream. Class compliance is too hit-or-miss.

I’d like to clarify some things for everybody, just to clear up any potential misunderstanding.

I don’t think that smartphones and tablets should completely replace desktop and laptop computers, and I don’t want them to. I’m well aware that some people want or need to swap out and upgrade the components in their PC. Such people should continue to have the option to do so. Also, as I’ve said previously, extremely heavy tasks will inevitably require a powerful desktop, so traditional desktops aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The point is that everyone should have the option to use their phone or tablet as their main desktop computer and/or laptop (via lapdock). For most of us, a phone or tablet is all the computer we actually need, but we are currently handcuffed in this matter. These devices are hugely capable. Being able to use them as our main computer would:

  1. be wonderfully convenient by seamlessly merging the mobile and desktop worlds
  2. save a lot of money on total hardware cost
  3. continually save money on electricity cost
  4. save a lot of physical space at a workstation
  5. eliminate noise from fans and hard drives (the thermoelectric cooler shown at the beginning is very quiet, and I rarely need it).

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After some more research, I may have to somewhat correct this. The flagship phones coming out in 2023 seem to be about as powerful as upper-mid-range and lower-high-end laptops, according to benchmarks. Taking the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for example, the eight-core CPU closely matches the Core i7-1260P for single-core performance and very nearly matches the Core i7-1255U (ten cores) for multi-core performance. The ray tracing GPU (Adreno 740), on paper, seems to be equal to an Nvidia RTX 2060 (desktop) underclocked to about 1,000MHz. The actual 2060 is still a really good card for 1080p gaming, and even decent 1440p gaming.

So apparently, phones and tablets actually can handle some highly demanding tasks, as it were. As long as they have a good vapour chamber/heat pipe cooling system built into them like my S10 has, they won’t throttle hard (I ran the test shown in the 3rd picture without the cooler attached and it didn’t slow down or overheat, according to DevInfo). If you attach a good phone cooler to the back, they should really scream.

Some sculpts coming soon.

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Here’s something that falls firmly into the “Other Stuffs” category. This is another example of how and why our phones could be our everything-everywhere PCs:
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I think it’s time for the future.

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Haha love the keyboard setup comparison with the iPhone :rofl:

:laughing: That is actually pretty funny now that you mention it, but it isn’t a comparison. It shows that the same software is perfectly usable in both form factors. If you have some great ideas when you’re away from home, or you just want to get some work done on-the-go, your computer is right there in your pocket.

In some ways I wish it was an iPhone. Of course the iPhone and iPad are included in this concept. :slightly_smiling_face:

A massive issue here is overheating. Computers are designed to deal with high heat, either with enough passive cooling or with fans.

When phones and tablets overheat, they either underclock themselves, or just turn themselves off. That’s not reliable for a desktop environment. Not so much of an issue for just editing google docs or gentle web browsing, but amusingly you’re posting on a forum with the worst possible use case for this; high performance 3d graphics.

John Carmack talks about this in depth in one of his oculus session, the huge headaches he had fighting the thermal safety switches first in the samsung gear vr, then the quest 2. One of the biggest differences between the quest 2 and the quest pro isn’t the processor, its the amount of passive cooling and heatsinks the pro has.

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