How to turn your phone into a computer with a mouse and keyboard

Docking stations, apps and features built into the operating system are all options for using smartphones and tablets with all the comforts of a laptop or desktop

If you're contemplating buying a computer, pause for a moment. If your phone or tablet is a latest generation device, perhaps a top of the range one you just bought, why not try using it by connecting it to a whole range of accessories that "convert" it into the engine of a laptop or desktop?

It's a phrase you often hear and read: the latest generation smartphones and tablets are mini computers. They are powerful, fast and reliable that only lack the convenience of using them with all the typical comforts of a notebook and desktop. Whether it's a docking station - in most cases equipped with a screen, keyboard and mouse - or applications that enable the connection of peripherals to portable devices, or functions integrated into the operating system, a solution exists for all those who want to use smartphones and tablets in a more relaxed way, without giving up mobility.


Maru OS is an Android ROM based on the Linux Debian distribution created to offer a complete desktop experience by connecting your smartphone to an external display. At the beginning it only supported the Nexus 5, but from a project in the hands of a single developer, it became open-source last year and from here the turning point. In fact, the update to version 0.4 has just been released and it brings important news. Although it still supports Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, Maru OS is now able to work - still in beta - even with the Nexus 7 2013 tablet. The team, meanwhile, is working to expand the reach of Maru OS to the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P as well, and the first fruits should be available in the coming months. An important new feature is the addition of data encryption that makes communication much more secure with an eye on privacy. The option can be activated from the Security section in the area dedicated to system settings.


It's not a real laptop, but a dock station - with a 14.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1366×768 pixels, bluetooth keyboard, built-in 10 thousand mAh battery and a series of ports from HDMI to two USB through the audio jack - that allows you to connect a smartphone or tablet - Android, iOS and Windows 10 - and use it with the comfort typical of a laptop. Lacking, of course, RAM and processor, because it is precisely the connected device that acts as the "engine". NexDock is the brainchild of Nex Computer that in 2016, through a fundraiser on Kickstarter that had yielded about $ 300,000, had managed to produce the first generation of this "shell" for smartphones. A very recent innovation is the second generation of NexDock designed to also host Intel's Compute Card, a complete system of CPU, GPU, RAM, internal memory, wireless connection the size of a credit card. The new NexDock includes a slot to host Intel's Compute Card, offering a display with HD resolution (or higher), a comfortable keyboard, a touchpad, a battery and a USB Type-C port to eventually connect other devices such as the Raspberry Pi, and will continue to support Windows 10 Mobile via the Continuum option. The second edition of NexDock is not yet available but, on the manufacturer's website there is a "Notify me" option that alerts you when it will be ready for purchase.


Sentio's Superbook project, like other similar solutions, also allows you to turn any Android device - starting from the 5.0 release with at least 1.5 GB of RAM - into a real laptop. Superbook features a keyboard, a multi-touch trackpad, an 11.6-inch LCD display with 1,366×768 pixel resolution. There is, of course, no memory, RAM or processor: everything comes directly from your smartphone once connected via USB. Superbook supports both devices with Type-C and Micro-B technology, and the battery life is over 8 hours. Superbook supports, as mentioned, only Android smartphones and tablets, but if needed it can also work as an additional display for Windows laptops and tablets, Mac laptops and Raspberry Pi devices. Pricing starts at $119, but options are available to upgrade the configuration.

Samsung DeX

It's a solution - compatible with the all-new Galaxy S8 and S8+ - that allows users to access their apps (Android and Windows), edit documents, browse the web, watch videos, reply to messages and more, simply by connecting their smartphone to an external display. Samsung DeX, in short, transforms the two Samsung jewels into a desktop environment. How? Simply place the Galaxy S8 and S8+ inside the DeX Station to connect them to a compatible HDMI monitor, keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth or USB. The DeX Station, for its part, has two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a power system via USB Type-C and a fan for cooling. Finally, there is no lack of Adaptive Fast Charging (AFC) technology to charge the two new smartphones from the Korean giant much faster when the terminal is connected.

Windows 10 Continuum

It is a feature already integrated in Windows 10. We are talking about the "Continuum" mode, which allows you to switch between the screen view of a Windows 10 Mobile smartphone or tablet and the classic desktop view of the Microsoft operating system. It is sufficient, also in this case, to connect your Windows device - if compatible - to a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse.

Apple Patent: iPhone + MacBook

It is not yet a reality, but Apple has recently filed a patent - at the US Patent and Trademark Office - that has all the air of turning an iPhone into a MacBook. Cupertino's idea, similar to the next-generation NexDock, involves a slot in front of the keyboard, where the touchpad is now, to insert the smartphone and merge the two devices. This fashionable docking station from Cupertino, closely resembles the look of a traditional MacBook - at least from the drawings attached to the patent - equipped with a large screen, a physical keyboard, a GPU and also several ports for various connections. But on its own it is, like the others, just a kind of "cover". The details are still not enough to outline a precise technical picture, but it is provable that there will be no shortage of connections from WiFi to Bluetooth.