Smartphones are essentially small computers and they can be turned into actual PC. There’s a ton of potential functionalities that lurk under the hood. It is even possible to use smartphones with damaged display. Turning a smartphone into PC often starts with using MHL ports and USB OTG capabilities. With MHL port, we will get additional HDMI output capabilities, such as 7.1-channel digital multi-channel audio support and 1080p resolution. The micro-USB port of the phone could be turned with remote control functionality. Smartphones with USB OTG capability will be able to connect with many USB peripherals, such as input devices and storage devices. By combining MHL and USB OTG, users are able to connect to external large-screen display and various peripherals, such as mouse and keyboard.
We can find companies that release multiple proprietary docks that leverage both USB OTG and MHL capability, although they could be a bit expensive. Alternatively, we can choose cheaper multi-function docks for a few bucks that are nearly universal. Using MHL and USB OTG support should be very straightforward and simple. A good multi-function dock should have a HDMI output that’s connected to the external screen. It is possible to connect to additional monitors if we have HDMI-to-DVI conversion cable.
Keyboard and mouse can be plugged into the dock that has full-sized USB ports. If we have standard USB HID drivers, it is also possible to use wireless mouse and keyboard. Once we have set up physical connections, the external display should be configured to accept the correct input and when the smartphone is connected to the multi-function dock, its screen will go dark and the external display will immediately show the phone’s touch interface. So, it is very simple to have a lightweight Android PC. The phone should be rotated into landscape view for better appearance on the external screen.
Navigating around the Android interface may be somewhat clunky, especially when we are using mouse and keyboard. However, once we start poking around, the whole system should become fairly intuitive. Right-clicking the mouse button will simulate long-press, while left clicking will simulate the normal tap on the touchscreen display. Even if we have a smartphone with Full HD resolution, icons and menus could appear oversized, but they are fully functional. It may not be a good idea to trade an actual desktop PC for a smartphone and its MHL/USB OTG dock, but having a lightweight PC that can carry in our pocket, should be quite convenient. Smartphones, dock and associated cables could be carried inside loose pockets.
There are other alternatives that can help us turn smartphones into a fully-functioning desktop PC. Andromium Computer Platform is designed to allow smartphones interact with mouse and keyboard. It has a special interface that combines UI elements of Mac OS X and Windows 7. It means that we won’t need to deal with the oversized Android interface on the screen. Users of Windows 10 smartphones can also use Microsoft-issued Display Dock and then plug external displays, mouse and keyboard. By far, it is the best solution that’s provided by Microsoft itself.