Before that, there was Motorola. Its Atrix phone worked the same way, but its laptop dock cost $500, the software you used with it was half-baked, and the phone was only “strong” by 2011’s standards. Again, few people cared.Still, the dream hasn’t died. The latest group to give it a try is Andromium, a startup headed by alumni of Google and Y Combinator. Its new Kickstarter project, the Superbook, essentially flips the Atrix concept, and applies it to various Android phones. At its core, the Superbook is just a laptop shell. It’s got an 11.6-inch display with a 1366x768 resolution, a QWERTY keyboard with Android-specific keys, a multi-touch trackpad, and a battery that Andromium rates at eight or so hours of use. (Though that’ll move closer to 10 hours if Andromium reaches $500,000 in funding, which currently looks likely.) In a recent Reddit AMA, the company said the device is composed of soft plastic.In other words, it’s small and basic. It makes up for that by being cheap — it starts at $99 through Kickstarter, and the company expects it to start in the $129 range if and when it hits retailers. (If the campaign hits $1 million, the company plans to offer a slightly more expensive 1080p display option as well.)
To power it, you activate the Andromium OS app — which is available in beta form in the Google Play Store — on your phone, then plug it into the shell over microUSB or USB-C. You’re not limited to any particular model, but the company says the phone should have at least 1.5GB of RAM, a dual-core chip, and Android 5.0 or higher. (It also has to support the USB-OTG standard, but that shouldn’t be an issue for the vast majority of devices.)The idea, as it’s always been, is to leverage your phone’s power with a laptop’s form factor. In Andromium’s eyes, buying a new phone then becomes akin to buying a new laptop. Now, that probably won’t hold true for everyone. A cheaper phone won’t be as smooth as a pricier one. Plenty of Chromebooks are affordable and perfectly capable. And while your phone is a tiny computer, it’s not a tiny laptop — much of the Superbook’s success will come down to how well Andromium OS turns Android into competent desktop software.
That said, it does seem to have the basics down — a browser, a file manager, a taskbar, a launcher, some level of multitasking, etc. — and as we’ve seen on Chrome OS, Android itself has plenty of apps that translate well enough to desktops. You can watch videos on YouTube, write documents with Microsoft Word, and play a bunch of games. The Superbook’s display isn’t a touchscreen, though, which could make using those a little less natural.Andromium says it’ll open its SDK so developers can tailor their apps for Andromium, too, though how much support that gets remains to be seen.In any case, the campaign has raised more than $400,000 in a couple days of funding, way past its initial target. While the usual risk with crowdfunding projects remain, Andromium says its prototypes are finished, and that it hopes to ship the Superbook to backers by February 2017.Either way, given how strong today’s smartphones have become, the time might finally be right to make this nerd fantasy a reality. Again.
A Thursday report from The Verge points toward a major potential problem with USB-C, the new cable standard that powers an ever-expanding group of devices.The power stream through USB-C cables is reversible, meaning a laptop can power a smaller device through the same port it uses to charge. When Verge writer Dieter Bohn plugged his phone into his laptop, it drank too greedily from the computer’s battery:I used a cheap cable I found on Amazon to charge my Nexus 6P and it drew too much power from my MacBook Air’s USB ports. Apple did a remarkable job engineering the MacBook’s ports — they shut down temporarily to protect themselves — but when they came back online, they only worked intermittently.I’ve experienced firsthand the pain of a faulty charge bricking a device, so this story resonates.Gadgets are built to pull as much juice as they can handle from power sources, and generally those sources aren’t build to cap the flow through their ports. A cable’s job is to let a gadget sip as hard as it can without overtaxing the source.
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Bohn found a Google engineer, Benson Leung, who destroyed his Chromebook Pixel with another faulty cord. Leung’s made a small reputation for himself online as the sole qualified person reviewing USB-C cords for safety online. He posts those reviews on Amazon. Here’s his review of the cord that destroyed his laptop. But those reviews are hard to find — though an enterprising group of internetters have aggregated them online here.The problem here, which Bohn identifies, is that it’s too easy to buy a USB-C cable that can fry your computer, and it’s not enough to simply trust a few reviews. If USB-C is to succeed at becoming the universal data/power cord for gadgets, there needs to be a simple, quick method for anyone to determine if a cable is safe or not. And Amazon has to stop selling faulty ones online.Today, Lenovo took the wraps off the Yoga Book: A new tablet/laptop hybrid, offered in both Android and Windows 10 flavors, focused squarely on helping users be productive.
Like most tablets made in the last two years or so, the Yoga Book is taking its cues from Microsoft.Unlike most of those tablets, the Yoga Book seems to be inspired not by the Microsoft Surface, which even Apple has imitated with its iPad Pro— but rather the Microsoft Courier, a hotly-anticipated tablet that was first leaked to the press in 2008, and then killed on Bill Gates’ orders in 2010, before it was even officially announced.The Courier would have been a dual-screen “booklet” PC. Rather than a keyboard, it sported two 7-inch touchscreens, connected by a hinge. With those two screens, you could use it as kind of a so-called “infinite journal,” sketching or taking notes with a stylus on one side while reading the news or making appointments on the other.It’s billed by Lenovo as a super-thin, super-light tablet. You may have noticed already that it doesn’t have a keyboard, in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s a funky kind of touchscreen, called the “Halo keyboard” by Lenovo, that basically tries to recreate the feeling of typing with a regular laptop keyboard without actually being one.
The Halo keyboard also gives the Yoga Book its best, and most Courier-esque feature:The Halo keyboard pulls double duty as a sketchpad, thanks to its neat wide-open hinge. If you lay down a piece of paper on top of the keyboard, and use the stylus that comes with the Yoga Book in its ballpoint pen mode (seriously, it switches), any notes you take will instantly be digitized and put on the main screen. It does the same thing without paper and with the stylus in its normal mode, but, well, that’s less fun.Either way, as you can see, the spirit of the Microsoft Courier lives on in the Yoga Book. The second screen isn’t quite the full-on touchscreen promised by the Courier (the Verge reports that Lenovo tried, but the second screen degraded battery life too much), but the core concept of a dedicated sketchpad has clearly endured. There’s a case to be made that despite the hype, the Courier was little more than a science project that deserved to be killed. But times have changed since 2010, and maybe the moment is right for a stylus-driven tablet after all these years.
The Yoga Book will be available by the end of October, starting at $499 for the Android version and $550 for the Windows 10 model. And while it remains to be seen if Lenovo’s gamble on a more offbeat kind of tablet will pay off, it’s very nice to see a company finally think a little different.The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.Since you don’t have all day to scour the web for noteworthy sales and discounts, we rounded up the best bargains for you to shop in one convenient place.Bluetooth speakers are a great way to take your music with you wherever you go. Capable of 15 hours of continuous play on a single charge, this speaker by Jawbone is a great asset for tailgates, camping trips, and when summer comes back around, days at the beach. It also has an internal microphone so you can take calls hands-free when your phone starts ringing.
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If you’re looking for a good value on a laptop, the Dell Inspiron is a solid deal today. It’s thin and light, with all of the specs you want out of a computer at this price point: a 6th generation Intel core processor, a 256GB solid state hard drive, 8GB RAM, and a 1080p display. It also features a touchscreen, which can make toggling through numerous tags a bit more convenient if you prefer the feel of a tablet. Also, for those specifically in the market for a touchscreen computer, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga is available at a discount at Best Buy today as well, so compare the two before you buy to make sure you find which is right for you.We are big supporters of portable chargers here at Insider Picks. They are great investments in that they will save you a lot of stress over time. Just pop one in your glove box, bag, or pants pocket and avoid the panic that can be induced when your phone dies at an inopportune time. This lipstick-tube-sized model is a great value for how much juice it holds.Everyone could use a solid backpack to travel with, whether on your daily commute to work or to fit into the overhead bin while vacationing. And of anything you might pack in your bag, it is likely that none of your worldly possessions are of higher personal value to you than your laptop. For this reason, NIID created a backpack with your computer in mind. It’s waterproof, and has a cushioned compartment for your precious tech.
The NomadPlus is perfect for those who are concerned they’ll forget to charge their charger (if there’s anything more frustrating that being stuck with a dead phone, it’s plugging in your portable charger only to discover it’s dead as well). With the NomadPlus, you can simultaneously refuel both your phone and charger through a wall outlet. When your phone is fully juiced, you can unplug the unit with the comfort that your backup charge is ready to go as well.Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners, including Amazon. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback.