My Samsung Galaxy S4 is my PC

Marc Bilodeau/ ItsADevLife, Minimalism

My Samsung Galaxy S4 is my PC, but this transition didn’t happen overnight. My journey began back in 2001. I remember sitting in my office dreaming of the day where my Motorola StarTAC mobile phone, Compaq Aero, office phone, and IBM ThinkPad were one handheld device.

When I got my first smartphone in 2010, the Apple iPhone 3GS, I was hopeful that I could achieve my dream. I enthusiastically began to search the web on how to make the iPhone my PC. Sadly, the technology still wasn’t quite ready for how I wanted to use it.

In 2013, the frustration of multiple devices crossed my internal threshold. I knew it could be done, and I was determined to finally make it happen.

The Requirements

My first order of business was to clearly define my requirements so I could work completely from a smartphone. After keeping track of my daily computing behaviors, I narrowed down what I had to research further.

  • A keyboard and mouse – I want the experience to be the same as a typical PC. My keyboard and mouse must be wireless.
  • Monitor – A flat screen monitor that can render 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  • Applications – All tasks I perform with my laptop must have an equivalent smartphone app.
  • Mobility – I travel for work. Therefore, my setup must be mobile so I can work anywhere.

Hardware

My workstation at the time used a Logitech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse. It still is one of my favorite keyboard and mouse combos to date. However, my Apple iPhone 3GS could only connect to Bluetooth devices.

After some frustrating and disappointing searches, I found the Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock Multimedia Hub. Not only did it provide a charging station for a smartphone, it had HDMI and three USB ports. The HDMI port would work with my existing monitor, the Asus VW246H 24-Inch Full-HD LCD Monitor.

My SmartPhone can be my PC with a Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock Multimedia Hub
Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock Multimedia Hub with the Samsung Galaxy S4 fit my hardware needs perfectly.

However, the Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock Multimedia Hub wasn’t compatible with my Apple iPhone 3GS. Therefore, I would have to upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S4, the latest Samsung smartphone at the time. I still had to answer an important question. Are there apps out there for every task I perform with my laptop and smartphone?

Day to Day Tasks

Cloud base services and applications have already revolutionized the way we store and transfer information across devices. Some applications that I use daily already had smartphone apps, however, many did not. Therefore, I would need to find equivalent app on Google Play.

I took the time to make a list of applications installed on my smartphone and laptop. Then, I determined why I used those applications.

  • Calendar to maintain a schedule
  • Camera to take pictures
  • Cisco AnyConnect for VPN
  • Contact Manager
  • Development Environment – IDE, compiler, test environment
  • Email client capable of multiple accounts and IMAP/Exchange
  • Evernote
  • File Manager
  • GotoMeeting
  • IRC Client
  • Office Applications (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint)
  • Password Manager
  • Photo Editor
  • Remote Desktop Client for Linux and Microsoft Windows
  • Skype
  • SSH Client
  • Text Messaging
  • Two Factor Identification
  • Voice Recorder
  • VoIP Client, to eliminate my desk phone
  • Web Browser, preferably Chrome or Firefox
  • WebEx

My biggest challenge was my development environment since there are no equivalent apps available via Google Play. However, my company uses VMware to host Virtual Machines for development and testing environments. Therefore, I can use a VNC Viewer and Microsoft Remote Desktop to remotely connect to my development environment and test servers.

Applications

With my requirements established, I searched through Google Play to find applications that met my day to day needs. This took some time and a lot of testing, but in the end I found apps for each of my tasks. Even today, I still test new applications that may help me perform something more efficiently.

My homescreen of my PC, a Galaxy S4 Smartphone
The home screen of my PC, a Samsung Galaxy S4

I keep my smartphone tidy and uninstall any apps that I no longer use. The only exceptions are those pesky preinstalled apps. Additionally, I’ve grouped together and reduced clutter down to a single screen of applications and folders, which allows me to be no more than three clicks away.

Success with my Samsung Galaxy S4

After nearly 3 years of using my Samsung Galaxy S4 as my PC, I find that I’ve become quite fond of the mobility. I have a Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock Multimedia Hub, Asus Monitor, and Logitech Keyboard and Mouse setup at work and home. This allows me to simply take my smartphone to and from work each day. All I do is dock my smartphone and I’m ready to go.

Samsung Galaxy S4 is PC

I answer emails, search the web, edit presentations, reviews spreadsheets, take meeting notes, join conference calls, make phone calls, entertain myself, and writing code day in and day out whether I’m on the go or docked.

Drawbacks

This setup is great and works really well, however, it does have its drawbacks. Although powerful, smartphones still can’t always do the same detail work as a PC. For example, image and video editing are still more powerful on a PC. Android 5.x cannot open multiple windows at the same time. However, I’m playing with Android 7 which adds support for displaying more than one app at the same time.

In truth, it’s only a problem if I can’t adjust my workflow. To this day, I’ve successfully worked through every issue. Also, mobile apps are improving all the time which helps me increase my productivity with new and better ways of getting things done.

Regardless, I feel far more efficient and productive with everything accessible from my smartphone. I can stay on top of my priorities much easier.

Traveling

Traveling with this setup allows me to reduce the overall equipment I need to pack. Instead of a laptop, I pack my Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock Multimedia Hub, a Logitech Tablet Keyboard, Gigabyte M7700B Compact Bluetooth Mouse, cables to charge my phone, and an HDMI cable. It sounds like a lot, but it takes up less space then a laptop and charger.

From the comforts of a hotel room, the Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock Multimedia Hub charges my smartphone and the HDMI plugs into the room’s TV. The Bluetooth keyboard and mouse connect to my phone and allows me to be just as productive on the road as in the office. Access to my work’s corporate network is a VPN connection away. I can use my carrier’s Internet or hotspot when a wireless LAN isn’t available.

What’s next?

I am quite happy with the results and thankful that Samsung has made such a great product. However, my Samsung Galaxy S4 is not the latest and greatest smartphone. Although it held up very well over the last 3 years, it was time to upgrade.

I’m currently testing a newer phone with different hardware requirements. So far, it’s going well. After some more testing, I’ll happily share how I continue using a smartphone as a PC.