Smartphones, tablets and PCs are ALL computers. Read article 04.1–What is a computer?-2012/01/16 to convince yourself. The main differences between them are in the accessories and the operating system they run on, as we will see later. This article shows how a majority of computer users, most probably including you, could satisfy ALL their personal computing requirements using their smartphone with the right accessories. In addition to reducing costs and simplifying your life, this approach has a lot of advantages. Keep reading to learn more.
The MAIN differences between smartphones, tablets and PCs are:
1 – The size of the screen (monitor). Desktop PCs will generally have a 15 to 28 inch monitor, laptops will have a 10 to 17 inch screen, tablet sizes vary between 7 and 12 inches, while smartphones have a 3 to 5 inch screen. You can get touch screens on all these devices.
2 – The variety of input/output devices such as keyboard, mouse, … Desktop PCs generally come with a large keyboard and a mouse, in addition, laptops also have a touchpad, a camera, a microphone and speakers. Tablets and smartphones touch screens support finger navigation and use a popup keyboard to input text. They also have cameras, microphones and speakers.
3 – The type and size of storage devices, such as main memory, hard drives, SD drives, … PCs generally have a large main memory, between 4 and 16 Mb, to satisfy Windows requirements. They also have a large hard drive, up to 1 or 2 Tb, to store all of the computer files plus the operating system. You can also add external drives. Tablets and smartphones don’t need a large main memory since their operating system does not require it. Their auxiliary memories are also generally limited, since they usually use the Cloud for storing large data files, in addition to main memory and SD or Micro SD cards.
4 – The type of operating system that runs them. PCs generally run under Windows 7 or 8, while tablets and smartphones run under Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS. The operating system is the software that runs the device. Read article 04.1–What is a computer?-2012/01/16 to learn what is an operating system is and what it does. The capabilities and limitations of the operating system are what determine what the device (smartphone) is capable of what it cannot do. With the evolution of tablets and smartphones operating systems, like Android and iOS, and the numerous applications (Apps) that are now available, most of the stuff that was once limited to PCs can now be done one a tablet or a smartphone. The limitations are often in the peripherals (screen size, keyboard, mouse,…). Also, a number of specialized applications that were developed for Windows and have not yet been converted to Android and/or iOS may limit some people from being able to use a tablet or smartphone as their only computing device. Other than these limitations, most individuals could satisfy all their personal computing requirements using their smartphone and adding some accessories. Read on to learn how.
Since I have presented, in earlier articles, how to use a tablet as a PC replacement, the same applies to using a smartphone as your single computing device. You should therefore read the following articles sequentially, by clicking on each of the following links, to complement the current article and become more familiar with the subject:
Assuming that you have read the above referenced articles, I will not duplicate their content and will only focus the rest of this article on presenting the accessories that will facilitate using a smartphone as your single computer. Since I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone running Android KitKat version 4.4.2, I will only cover the specifics of this technology. Since the same principles apply to all other technologies, such as an iPhone running iOS for example, you only have to search for similar accessories to achieve the similar results on the specific technology you are using.
Because of the computing power requirements of certain applications, I strongly recommend a newer top of the line powerful smartphone. Not the low-end low cost old smartphone. Smartphones with:
- 2.5GHz quad-core processors or comparable computing power.
- 16GB or more of main memory and/or expandable storage using micro SD cards (not available on Apple products).
- 4G network capabilities (3G is a minimum).
- MHL enabled phone with micro USB connector.
Here are some examples: Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 or S5, LG G Pro 2, iPhone S5, Samsung Galaxy Note 2 or 3, or other equivalent devices.
A Bluetooth keyboard designed for the specific smartphone device you are using will work once paired and enabled with your smartphone. You will find pairing and enabling instructions below. One nice low cost Bluetooth keyboard, that should work with iPad – All versions / iPhones – All versions / Toshiba stack Widcomm BTW / IVT Bluecoleil / Nokia S60 second edition and above / Smartphones with Android 3.0 and above / Bluetooth-enabled iMac / Windows Mobile 5.0 and above / Bluetooth-enabled PC s / Laptops with Windows 98 / ME / 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 OS systems, can be purchased for U$21.99 currently at Amazon: Rocketek Ultra-Slim(1/4 inch) Wireless Bluetooth 3.0 Keyboard for iPhone 5 5S 5C, iPad Air / iPad Mini 2 / iPad Mini /iPad 3 / iPad 2 / Galaxy Tab and Other Tablets – Built-in lithium battery / Aluminum Body (Support Android, iOS, and Windows)
Using this keyboard you can switch from one operating system to another by pressing the appropriate key on the keyboard. Quite neat!
Most Bluetooth mouse should work once paired and enabled with your smartphone. I personally use the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Bluetooth-Notebook-Mouse-5000/dp/B008TYJC9E/ref=sr_1_6?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1405451510&sr=1-6&keywords=microsoft+bluetooth+mouse NOTE: The price of this particular Microsoft mouse has increased significantly since I first bought it. You can get a reasonably priced quality Samsung Bluetooth tablet/smartphone mouse at: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_23?url=search-alias%3Delectronics&field-keywords=samsung%20bluetooth%20mouse%20for%20tablet&sprefix=samsung+bluetooth+mouse%2Celectronics%2C
Pairing and enabling a Bluetooth device with an Android smartphone
To pair and enable a Bluetooth device with your Android smartphone you need to do the following:
- Open the smartphone “Settings”.
- In “Connections”, turn on “Bluetooth”.
- Then, select “Bluetooth”.
- Meanwhile, turn on the device you want to pair.
- Then, activate the “Pair” or “Connect” button on the device so that it will become recognizable by the smartphone. Usually, a light will blink on the device.
- Then, activate “Scan” on the smartphone.
- After a while, you should see the device identifier appear on the smartphone.
- Select (touch) that device identifier and it should pair. Once paired, it should appear under the paired devices.
- Select (touch) that paired device identifier to activate/connect it. Do this in the future if the device is paired but not connected.
To connect a Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, S5, Note 2 or Note 3, to a monitor or a flat screen TV, you need a compatible Micro USB 1080P 9pin MHL to HDMI connector. The one that I have tested and that I am using can be purchased at Amazon, currently for U$11.99, at the following link: MobilePioneer Micro USB 1080P 9pin 6 feet MHL to HDMI Female CABLE HDTV Adapter FOR Samsung Galaxy S5 i9600 Note 3 N9000 S4 i9500 S3 i9300 NOTE 2 N7100 (Black).
Look for a similar connector for other types of smartphone. With such a connector you can also connect your smartphone to your flat screen TV to view pictures or videos with the entire family, as a matter of fact, anything that appears of the phone screen . Just plug in the HDMI connector into your TV HDMI port, select that HDMI port on your TV and it should work. For example, here’s a YouTube video, for the Apple iPhone HDMI adapter, that shows how to connect an iPhone to a computer monitor or a TV set HDMI port: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vv8kSHWpdaY
UPDATE-2015-06-04 – Different Monitor Connectors
I am now using a different set of connectors to connect my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and my Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet to a monitor. These are the:EEEKit Cable Kit for Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Samsung Note Pro 12.2 Inch Tablet, Micro USB B MHL to HDMI Adapter Cable + Power Cable for MNL Adapter + USB 3.0 Micro B Male to A Male Cable + OTG Cable, which sells for U$19.99 on Amazon.
You should research to find the specific set of connectors that can connect your personal device to a monitor, if different then a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet.
In addition to the above kit, you will need a female/male HDMI cable to connect to the monitor and use a USB power adaptor to plug into a power outlet, to power the whole kit including your phone. You will connect the connectors as showed below:
Once done, it should work instantly. This is the type of connections showed in the monitor picture below.
Any computer monitor or any flat screen TV with a HDMI connection can be used as a secondary smartphone monitor. By connecting the smartphone to such monitor, the image on the smartphone screen will be duplicated onto the monitor. This provides ample space to easily work on documents just like you would with a regular computer monitor.
I have tested the use a touch screen monitor only to confirm that the communication between the smartphone and the monitor is one way: from the smartphone to the monitor. The monitor passively replicates the smartphone screen. It is therefore useless to connect a touch screen monitor because it will not react to finger movements on the monitor screen. For that reason, use a low cost quality monitor or TV set with an HDMI port. Please check that the monitor HDMI connection works with your smartphone since my old monitor does not but newer ones do.
Below is a photo of my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 connected to a large monitor, a keyboard and a mouse, as described herein.
NOTE: All connections, except for the monitor, are Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. You can therefore just take away the smartphone and use it on its own, requiring 0nly ONE wire to disconnect or reconnect. That easy! Furthermore, your smartphone while connected is in charging mode which is very convenient.
UPDATE-2016-05-02 –Screen Mirroring Alternatives
A variety of easy low cost alternatives, to display a smartphone screen onto a large screen smart TV, are available and new ones are announced regularly. I was asked by a reader to add such alternatives in this article. Meanwhile, I have just recently started using this functionality myself on my new smart TV. These alternatives eliminate the need for using connectors, as references above under “UPDATE-2015-06-04 – Different Monitor Connectors”.
Using the Screen Mirroring functionality of your smart TV
If your smart TV supports Screen Mirroring (also called AllShare Cast on older Samsung smart TVs) and your smartphone does too, it is very easy to project your smartphone display onto your smart TV screen. It is even easier, if both are late Samsung products as the ones I am using.
Example using a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with Android 5.0 and a Samsung Series 620D smart TV.
To activate screen mirroring on both devices:
- Make sure that both devices (your smartphone and your Smart TV) are on the same internet network. My internet network router is a Linksys WRT1900AC-RM which offers two network speeds: 2.4GHz and 5.0 GHz. For data streaming, I use the 5GHz network speed for better performance with movies (Netflix) and music (Google Play Music).
- Push the Source button on the TV remote, and select the Screen Mirroring option.
- On your smartphone, select Screen Mirroring, in Settings under Connections, then select your smart TV amongst the connected devices to connect both. Your smartphone screen should appear on your TV screen. Your smart TV screen is now an extension of your smartphone and will replicate everything you do on your smartphone.
- At this point, you can also easily link a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, as described above in this article, to work on your smartphone while looking at your large smart TV monitor, just like you would do on a laptop computer.
- If supported, you can also use a smartphone pen on your smartphone, while looking at your smart TV large monitor.
This type of functionality should be available, in one form or another, on a many of the recent models of smartphones and smart TVs. Since there is a multitude of brands and models, you will have to research how Screen Mirroring works on your particular devices. Do Google Searches to help yourself out. Please do not ask me questions on how to do screen mirroring on different types of devices other than the ones I refer to inhere. I will not be able to help you cannot answer such questions.
If you do not own a smart TV but have a smart phone
If you do not own a smart TV, don’t wary, you can easily transform your regular TV set into a smart TV with the Google Chromecast device. To learn more please read the following article: 14.1-Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player (From Google). The best there is for the price and ease of install and use!-2013-11-01
Using the Screen Mirroring functionality of Chromecast
To activate screen mirroring on both devices:
- Change the source setting on your TV to the HDMI port that you connected your Chromecast device into.
- Make sure that both devices (your smartphone and your TV) are connected to the same internet network.
- If you have not already done so, download Google Cast from the Google Play store onto your smartphone.
- Start Google Cast on your smartphone. Then, select Devices. You should see your Chromecast ID on your phone.
- In the upper left corner Menu (Left of the Search box), select Cast screen/audio and select Cast to you network.
- Your smartphone screen should appear on you TV screen. Your TV screen is now an extension of your smartphone and will replicate everything you do on your smartphone.
- At this point, you can also easily link a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, as described above in this article, to work on your smartphone while looking at your large TV monitor, just like you would do on a laptop computer.
- If supported, you can also use a smartphone pen on your smartphone, while looking at your large TV monitor.
There is a variety of Chromecast like devices on the market: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, … Which ones support screen mirroring, I could not tell. You will have to research how Screen Mirroring works on your particular devices. Do Google Searches to help yourself out. Please do not ask me questions on how to do screen mirroring on different types of devices other than the ones I refer to inhere. I will not be able to help you and cannot answer such questions.
UPDATE-2016-05-02 – Connect your smartphone to your sound system
With Bluetooth technology, you can connect any Bluetooth enabled device, such as a smartphone, to any other Bluetooth enabled device, such as a sound system. Don’t wary if your sound system is not Bluetooth enable. For U$25, you can buy on Amazon a HomeSpot NFC-Enabled Bluetooth Audio Receiver for Sound System that you plug into your sound system to enable Bluetooth reception.
I recently bought a Pioneer SP-SB23W Bluetooth enabled sound bar system. A Cnet top rated price/performance sound bar. Below, I will present how to connect via Bluetooth my Android 5.0 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone to this sound system.
- Make sure your Bluetooth smartphone and speaker bar are powered ON and the Bluetooth source is selected on the speaker bar (the Blue light above the Bluetooth logo is solid blue).
- On your smartphone, in Settings, under Connections, select Bluetooth. Then, activate the Scan function.
- On the Pioneer speaker bar, press and hold the Bluetooth pairing button until the blue light starts to flash slowly.
- Your speaker bar ID, in this case “Pioneer SP-SB23W”, should appear on your smartphone. Select it to connect the devices.
- After a little while, the two devices will be paired and you can start playing your smartphone music on your sound system.
There is a multitude of sound systems and smartphones on the market. Which ones support Bluetooth pairing, you will have to determine yourself. You will have to research how Bluetooth Pairing works on your particular devices. Do Google Searches to help yourself out. Please do not ask me questions for your particular type of devices other than the ones I refer to inhere. I will not be able to help you and cannot answer such questions.
A 64GB micro SD storage card
To increase your device storage capacity you can buy a 64GB micro SD card at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CHHTOII/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 This should allow you to store more on the device itself if you have the need.
Using a smartphone without using Cloud storage is like driving a car with one seat and no trunk. You can phone and do internet searches but you dramatically limit yourself to the cramped storage space of your phone . Furthermore, you have no constant live backup. All those afraid of Cloud storage security should not walk outside their house nor drive a car. They have more chances of being hit outside their house or driving a car than losing stuff on Cloud storage. To get familiar with Cloud storage read the following articles:
To effectively use a smartphone as a single computing device and as a PC replacement you should store your stuff on Cloud storage. I have written enough about this subject already in the above referenced articles. I will not elaborate!
Some people will argue: why do I need a keyboard, a keyboard pops up on the screen when I need it? Others will say: why do I need a mouse, I can move the screen with my fingers? Finally, some will ask why do I need a large monitor? The only reason you would buy any of these accessories is to make your life easier and be more productive. Since we are looking at replacing your PC/laptop by a smartphone, such accessories would provide more viewing real estate with a large monitor, more productive typing with a keyboard and easier Office type work with the use of a mouse in addition to finger navigation. That’s why! Remember that you are your own boss and can and should select what you feel is better suited for your own needs.
Using your smartphone as an Office computer
Since both smartphones and tablets use the same operating system, Android KitKat 4.4.2 for the recommended Samsung devices, most of the applications, with very few exceptions, operate on either type of device. Since I have covered how to do Office type work in a previous article for the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, please read this article to get acquainted with Office type work on an Android device. Most of what I have covered in that article applies to an Android smartphone. The article is at: 12.7 – Using the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 with Keyboard & Mouse as a laptop replacement-2014-07-22
This article also covers connecting a printer to a tablet or smartphone if you have that need. For Office type work, I personally recommend OfficeSuitePro, but you can also use Google’s QuickOffice, Polaris Office 5,…
UPDATE-2015-06-04 – Using Microsoft Office 365
Now that Microsoft Office 365 is available on Android and iOS, I strongly recommend that, if you have been using Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint …) for years and are very familiar with their use, you install and use Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Office Mobile. You can currently get an annual license for CAD$69 for Microsoft Office 365 Personal good for: one PC, one tablet and one smartphone. This way you will not have to adapt to different office Apps. This is what I have done lately.
Other Windows Applications
If you use Microsoft Windows applications other than Office, you have to research if there is an Android version of these applications. In my case, I use Quicken for my accounting. The full Quicken application has not yet been converted to Android. In the meantime, I am compelled to use a laptop to satisfy my accounting needs. Therefore, before you can fully convert to an Android smartphone environment, you need to verify that the applications you require all operate under Android or have equivalents Android Apps.
If you use a computer mainly to access the internet (search info, send/receive emails, use a calendar, maintain your contacts, participate in social networks, use Skype type telephony, read magazine, books, newspapers, download and watch videos and movies, play games, do online purchasing and banking, book travels, consult your stocks and enter orders, take pictures and videos, use the Cloud, … you don’t need a computer and should use a smartphone or a tablet instead. A smartphone is generally less costly, easier to learn and use, is portable and mobile, and is the ideal solution to fulfil such needs right now. There is a large choice of smartphone size and power for anyone to find exactly the model suited for its particular needs. If you occasionally (a few times a week) use Office type applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint then the addition of a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor would greatly facilitate your work. I hope this article has enlighten you as to if and how you can use a smartphone as your single computing device and eliminate the need for any other computing hardware. This will save you money and will definitely simplify your life!