Update: Is the Smartphone Becoming the PC Replacement?

Last December, I wrote the following in this newsletter at http://bit.ly/2nNh4gC:

“Today, the smartphone can become a person’s only computer, used alone when away from home or the office, then used with a “docking station” when at home or at the office. Of course, most smartphones already have internal cameras, even webcams. With a docking station to accommodate a keyboard, a larger screen, stereo speakers, printers, scanners, and more, today’s home computer may soon become a thing of the past.”

I also wrote:

“Will your next PC be a smartphone? Do you really need a desktop computer for checking email, surfing the web, or doing genealogy research? The smartphones of today will do most everything your present desktop computer can do.”

It looks like some people agree with me. One company with plans for converting a smartphone into a desktop or laptop computer is a rather well-known producer of personal computers and of smartphones: Apple.

A new patent application from Apple shows the company is toying with the idea of a laptop powered by an iPhone that’s docked face up where the touchpad is normally positioned.

Apple calls the laptop an “accessory device.” That is, the computer with memory, storage space, and wireless networking is in the smartphone while the “accessory device” adds a bigger display, a full sized screen, and a real keyboard.

In the drawing above, you can see the smartphone (which we can assume is an iPhone) simply drops into a cavity in the “laptop” and supplies all the computing power, local storage, and networking. The “shell” that looks like a “shell” performs like a laptop and supplies everything else.

The user can carry the smartphone easily in a pocket or purse and have all the basic functionality of a computer with him or her at all times. Obviously, that combination will be hampered by the small screen and limited keyboard. However, the same user also could pull out the laptop “shell,” drop the smartphone into a cavity in the shell, and use it in the same manner as a laptop.

Optionally, the same user could take it home and connect a 30-inch screen or larger, a larger keyboard, and whatever peripherals he or she wishes. He or she obviously would not be limited by today’s smartphone technology.

Why purchase a smartphone AND a laptop AND a desktop computer? One device could perform all three functions, provided it had the proper accessories. I suspect the total price would be significantly cheaper than purchasing all three separate items.

As I wrote in December,

“Yes, I believe that a smartphone will become a desktop replacement within a very few years. In fact, it has become my primary computer today.

“Oh, yeah: you can also use a smartphone to make phone calls.”


I foresee in the future that even a ‘shell’ will be obsolete quite quickly when our phones will have the ability to ‘project’ a keyboard onto whatever surface we set our phones on, while at the same time project a larger image of our screen onto, say, a wall or other blank surface. This is already somewhat possible with my phone, the Moto Z Droid, which has a magnetic projector I can clip on to the back of the phone. The projected keyboard I propose will happen some day would be completely operable, and we can ‘virtually’ type without having to lug around a shell. I’m hoping this will be possible sooner rather than later, since I hate typing on a phone, even with the faster swype feature. I do love using voice to enter text, but there are WAY too many times when I can’t make noise (at work, etc) so have a virtual keyboard would be fantastic!!


Apple’s design makes sense and addresses limitations with these smartphones, which nearly everyone has. This has the potential to be the next big wave in tech buying and Apple, of course, will be leading the way in capturing various segments of the marketplace.
I’d really like to see this design in action!


One of the comments says nearly everyone has a Smartphone. No-no, not around here they don’t. Not a one of our close friends and relatives have one. I have no intention of owning one. I will use my little flip phone as along as possible. I don’t like cell phones in the first place.

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    I agree completely, Linda. In fact, my flip phone is setup to forward incoming calls directly to my land line when it’s off. I only turn it on when I’m out of the house or traveling.

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    I don’t have a portable phone of any type but I do use a laptop a lot especially for genealogy.

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I looked at the sketch of the proposed cell phone/lap top and I really hate reaching over the cell phone to get to the keys. Other than that, it is a great idea.


    I’m not sure there would even be a “reaching over” sensation, as the cell phone in the illustration appears to be in exactly the same place where the trackpad usually is, e.g. even on the MacBookPro I am typing this comment on, and I assume that when in place, the screen of the cell phone would provide the function of the trackpad.

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Smartphone? Not for me! Keyboard & screen way to small for my handicapped hands/eyes. Too much “stuff” on screen. Also, living in mountains, cell tower access problematic. I like having split screen access, which I ‘think’ would be disaster on a cell.


I understand that people are chosing phones as their primary instruments, not because they are the best, but because it’s too expensive to pay for phone service and internet service. The mobility of the phones is the primary argument for them. And I’m not interested in this. I have a marvelous desktop with lots of memory and a great big screen. Have a new laptop with Windows 10, but am not interested in transferring everything to there. I will not watch movies, read books, nor organize my genealogy in a phone of any kind.


Clarifying my previous comments: I live in the mountains and have no service (smartphone or flip phone signal) most days until I reach the office, so I kept my landlines at home. I have a desktop PC at home and at work, and a solid smartphone signal at work. Will Apple’s design do it for everyone in all situations, no. But it’s all about having more choices for your needs in a particular setting.


From some of the comments, I think there may be a misunderstanding as to what is being advocated. Except perhaps for teenagers, I really don’t think that many people read books or watch movies on their cell phones. One point being expressed is that anything resident on a small screen device can be cast wirelessly onto a large screen device like a large monitor or a TV set. Another point being expressed is that data stored in the cloud can be accessed from any device, large or small. The best tool for the task can vary according to the task, the user, and the location, so it really doesn’t matter what size or type of devices you choose to own, as long as they suit your lifestyle and convenience, and as long as you are open to the consideration of new devices as they become available and suit you. Age or physical limitations should not limit one’s choice of devices, as often newly introduced devices, e.g. the cell phone, actually enhance one’s ability to overcome their personal challenges. That’s been my personal experience and I am 81, have usable vision in only one eye and have other challenges but am eager to always consider newly introduced devices precisely because often they make my life easier.

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