When Apple announced that the iPhone 5s would be the first phone with “64-bit desktop-class architecture”, I hoped that it might at some point replace my desktop or laptop.
Just think: one device that you always have with you that you can plug into a docking station whenever you’re at home or the the office. But this future never seemed to arrive, and four years on, I'm still waiting for a phone that can replace my work laptop.
Finally, Samsung appears to have caught on that it's something people actually want.
On the DeX
"But wait!" I hear you scream. "I'm a designer/photographer/gamer and I still need a desktop PC!" Of course, there are many people for whom a phone just won't have the raw computational horsepower to do what they want. But the rest of us have moved on. We do everything through a web browser.
A couple of years ago, we might have cautiously bought a Chromebook and found out that they work just fine. Or we ditched our laptop and bought a Surface or an iPad Pro. The next step, naturally, is for us to go one step further and just use our mobile phone to do everything.
This is why I think Samsung’s announcement of DeX is actually the most exciting aspect of the S8 launch. Yes, the phone is relatively expensive at £689, but if I can sell my desktop or laptop, it suddenly looks a lot more appealing. I imagine it'll be a similar sell on the enterprise side: "Don’t upgrade my laptop and phone this year, Mr Boss Man, just buy me an S8 instead!" That's what I'll be trying with my boss, anyway.
Of course, I can already see areas where I'll have to compromise. You also still need to factor in the cost of a mouse, a keyboard, a monitor and of course a desk. I can also spot some serious flaws in the hardware — USB 2.0 ports? In 2017? Transferring large files is going to take aaaaaaages. And of course we don’t know how much the DeX is going to cost at this stage. We think it’ll be around the €149.99 mark in Europe, or about £130, which isn't cheap when you can buy a Chromebook for around the same price.
But I can see lots of positives. The Samsung S8 will output at 4K resolution — my MacBook Air 2014 maxes out at 2560×1440. The Ethernet socket and built-in 802.11ac wifi should help those transfer speeds when necessary. And of course your phone fast-charges while it's in the dock, meaning you'll never have those instances where you're heading out after work and realise your phone is close to death.
Using your phone as your main work device also reflects how people communicate in this day and age. I depend on sending WhatsApp messages from my desktop right now, but Samsung’s phone lets you send texts in desktop mode, so everything’s kept in one place. Although this isn’t confirmed, I imagine this continuity will also extend to all my bookmarks, photos and videos as well, so if I’m halfway through a film in desktop mode, I can carry on where I left off when I take the tube into work.
What’s encouraging is that Samsung has clearly gone all-in on DeX: desktop mode is no half-arsed gesture. There's support for Microsoft Office apps, which are still a necessity for a lot of businesses, plus Adobe Lightroom for "creatives" (or those who like to think they're creative) like me. There’s also a cooling fan built into the dock to regulate temperature if indeed you are using it for a full workday.
Posh and DeX
There’s a lot left to find out about the DeX, but I like what I see so far. If nothing else, it’ll hopefully force other phone manufacturers to follow suit. Right now though, I can't wait to try the S8 as a work machine, and I'm optimistic about finally ditching my laptop and embracing this mobile computing future.
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