Is Android the Transition of the Smartphone As Primary Data Device?

Small lightweight Notebooks, Netbooks and UMPCs have spurred much interest in the Mobile Workforce, Early Adopters and cutting edge Smartphone users to find solutions in the marketplace to pare down the costs and hassles of owning and syncing multiple devices.

This is why Android is on its way to being the OS of choice. The Android OS is open to developers who have this kind of mobile productivity in mind… to drop the need to have a UMPC, a Netbook or a Notebook. These Data Devices are high cost, high maintenance and the time a user spends trying to keep multiple computers in sync – they are finding it’s just not worth it and are looking for simpler solutions.

One immediate solution is the Celio Redfly. The Redfly is currently priced at $199 and extends Windows Mobile Smartphones via a direct connection through USB or Bluetooth, without synchronization, to a larger display, keyboard and touchpad for easy use of Smartphone email, attachments, web, and applications. With the Redfly you can eliminate the need to carry a Laptop with you – there is no Operating System, CPU, Hard Drive or Software Licensing issues. Additionally, the newest Smartphones are able to accept 16gb to 32gb MicroSD memory cards which is plenty of memory to deal with all but the largest of data projects before synchronizing to your main computer. Or – the Redfly has USB ports that can connect to huge hard drives allowing a user to download any number of files such as music collections, movies etc.

With the proliferation of multiple inexpensive sources of online storage the Smartphone is becoming positioned to actually become a pocketable Primary Data Device. With additional vendors making Smartphone companion devices similar to the Redfly in the near future, the Android OS is positioned with all it’s application developers to become the driving force that shrinks the user’s main computer down into the pocket of his/her pants.

The Android platform – I predict will be the game changer in this new category of Smartphone as Primary Data Device.

Jay Rephan

Nashville, TN

Article image source:


  1. What Android will need in order to be my primary device:

    1) Bluetooth HID and Bluetooth BIP — the ability to control an android phone with an external keyboard (maybe mouse), and to remotely display itself on to a bigger screen. This will give you a standard interface for building that “redfly/folio” type computer. It would also help if it had an OpenSSH server and VNC server, for a more traditional (and less proprietary way than “Remote Desktop” apps from MS and Apple) way to remotely control it.

    2) More CPU speed, RAM, and display size. This will follow over time, but for now, Google Reader is CPU bound due to its heavy use of Javascript. Don’t get me wrong, Reader is the best RSS reader I’ve found. But it’s still SLOW. I can’t imagine using the non-mobile version on the G1 (it’s barely usable on my Nokia N810), and the mobile version of Reader isn’t what Google should promote on android devices.

    3) Migratable processes and threads. This would help #2 a lot, but having that external device from #1 lend its CPU (or CPUs if its a desktop) to the process would help quite a bit. Just transfer the application’s running image from the CPU in the mobile device onto the CPU in the companion device. VMware can do it with their distributed computing clusters, Google should be able to figure out how to do it too.

    4) This is going to sound odd, maybe, but I wont ever use my Android device as my primary computer until Google offers me a multi-protocol “chat bouncer” (IRC concept, look it up on Wikipedia). That means “a place where I can park my AIM, Yahoo, MSN, IRC, ICB, and Jabber/Gtalk sessions, and have them be persistent even when I disconnect”. Right now, Google doesn’t even do the “Multi-protocol” part, even though Jabber supports it, much less the persistent part. Until I can get something like that, I’ll always park my chat sessions on a desktop computer.

    5) Support for native compiled apps. I don’t see some apps ever being ported to Java, so limiting their official API to java is going to limit their horizons. For a smartphone, no problem. For my primary device? No. And since I want things like OpenSSH and VNC (where I can tunnel my VNC sessions through OpenSSH for security) on my primary device, that’ll happen a lot easier and faster if I don’t have to wait for someone to port OpenSSH to java. (don’t suggest Putty, I have yet to find a mobile version of Putty that does port forwarding, and thus it is not acceptable for this requirement)

    (so, yes, I’ve just said in #1 and #5 that I wont both “OpenSSH client and VNC client” and “OpenSSH server and VNC server”, each serving a slightly different role; the client software so that I can remotely access and remotely control other computers, like servers … and the server software so that I can remotely control the android device from larger devices)

    An ideal device, to me, would be something like an updated version of HTC’s Universal (with a 4.5″ 800×480-ish touch screen), a version of linux that had all of the advantages of Android and Maemo (Android apps and GUI, Maemo apps and native capabilities, and maybe Pandora games), with Micro-DVI-I out, USB Host/OTG in addition to USB-Client, and a real/dedicated 3.5″ audio out port. And for the companion devices, something where you could slide it inside shells like the Samsung Q1 Ultra and/or Fujitsu Lifebook U810, and use their battery/CPU/screen/keyboard for heavier work. And the ability to slide it into a desktop for even larger screens and full size keyboard/UI. I say “sliding it inside” because it would allow you to leverage a bigger battery for your device, not require them to use power-draining wifi or bluetooth to talk each other, and offer some similar advantages, but you could also just have them talk via bluetooth (like a redfly or folio).

    While we’re at it, I’d like a decent way to transfer shows from my Tivo to my G1, and a video player, so I can watch my shows while riding the train to work :-)

  2. Android will evolve and evolve much faster than many think. It will unleash creativity where in people will build different devices and will try to use Android for platforms ranging from PDA phones to gaming consoles to many other devices.

    There will be pressure to enhance android to do many more things that it was initially designed for but that it how it is. Android will now determine its own destiny beyond what it was originally designed for.

    There is no doubt it will be game changer. The key is who all will survive. Android will be to PDA phones what Windows was to PC. Here in this case the opportunity is much bigger and there are many non Nokia guys ready to take advantage of Android. For some companies this is the last hope like Motorola. This is it. If they miss this bus they may windup their cell-phone business and the same is true of Samsung, LG, Sony Erickson, HTC etc.

    The key is what happens to RIM, Symbian and Windows Mobile and in how much time.

  3. TareX: Interesting concept. But, if they’re going to just revise the G1’s design, I’d do more than just make the screen bigger, the chin smaller, and add a tilt screen (though, I _do_ love the tilt screen idea). I know that for some people, a device as big as the Nokia N810 is too big, but that’s what I’d want. And instead of 1 chin, why not two shoulders (more like a sidekick slide in that regard). I also don’t want a trackball — dpad please, or maybe both (one on each shoulder).

    So, 4.5″ish screen, 800×480 resolution, sidekick slide type form factor with tilt screen or HTC Universal type form factor.

    (and dear god your screen is WAY too busy, but that’s personal choice, so I wont harp on that)

  4. Well John the N810 was never meant to be a substitute for the cellphone, hence the relatively big size. I guess the iPhone set the standard to how big a phone is allowed to be. More than that and it’s too big to be pocketable.

    I’d even say the iPhone is a tad too wide. The G1, regardless of its thickness, for me, has the best dimensions a phone could have. But the dead space on the front is way too much.

    I added another photo, with the back shot showing a fancy Macbook-style illuminating “G” and of course, a flash. :)

    Whole collection:

    You’re spot on regarding the Trackball. While it may look elegant, I think a stick or 8-direction Dpad is a lot more functional. You can’t constantly press “down” on a trackball, for instance.

  5. First and foremost, (unless it’s been sorted already), the OS needs to be capable of creating its own folders. To have to connect to a computer to set them up kind of dumps all over the notion of Android being all that viable, if there is no on board method of organisation.

    Although, in all fairness, that approach completely obliterates the card makers’ notions of interchangeable data, since, for example, a Nokia will not acknowledge the files present on a card from a Motorola.

  6. We have to be brutally honest here. For most of the computer users on this planet, if you remove the requirement for playing the latest games, any smartphone is a suitable replacement – the Celio Redfly’s key failing is not that it needs a Windows Mobile smartphone to be used, it’s that it costs so damn much. Computer companies have spent huge amounts telling us that we need the latest processor with as much memory as we can pack in, but the ugly truth is that a student can just as easily fulfill their PC requirement for typing up a thesis on a Symbian phone with Quickoffice (ideally with a bluetooth keyboard – cannot stress enough how the smartphone as computer experience needs a decent keyboard).

    In terms of essential computer needs – word processing, spreadsheets, email – the smartphone is already there. Multimedia wise, it’s only a little bit out, but then again, if you don’t have a divx player, don’t download the files. Latest games? Get a PS3 or 360.

  7. Shaun,

    As stated in TareX’s post above – check out the nVidia Smartphone chipset coming our way called Tegra. This will give *great* graphics to the smartphone platform – and I’m sure will be a great gaming chipset for extending the Smartphone onto large display, keyboard and mouse peripherals.

    BTW, the $199 price for the Celio Redfly is a great price for what you get… you don’t think so?

    Jay Rephan
    [email protected]

  8. If we ever see a phone like nVidia showed earlier this year (made Touch-Flo 3D look bland), then we are looking at the mobile phone replacing far more than just mobile gaming, sure.

    In the UK, the latest price for the Redfly is £135 – so yes, I would have to agree with you, and say that it is far better value now than it was at its launch price. It would be a tempting proposition if I knew for definite that it would work with a Touch Diamond (and possibly forgo Android this time around). Then again, if Celio were to commit to an Android version, it would be all up in the air again (come on OpenOffice, give Android a chance!).

    The reason for my dismissive attitude was the eeePC, since it was recently quite cheap, but all the prices have gone up again, so Redfly makes sense again.

  9. Yes, and in addition to nVidia’s Tegra chip, Android should include support for LynkSystem chip technology that allows wireless monitor and HDTV connections. Coupled with Bluetooth external keyboard and mouse, we’re on our way.

    I think Redfly is offering a great product for $199, and i would buy it in a heartbeat if it supported the G1. I already use my G1 for plenty of web surfing and music usage and Apps, so the only thing really prevening Android from replacing my laptop, are the following:

    1) Flash and SilverLight Support (for browsing and video streaming support, including NetFlix)
    2) Outlook Email Syncing support and/or virtual BlackBerry Connect support for *secure* corporate email
    3) FileFolder (similar to Windows Explorer) management
    4) OpenOffice and/or Google Docs support
    5) External monitor and keyboard/mouse support
    6) Read ability for Microsoft Office

    I think that most of this stuff will be added to Android 2.0, and if that’s the case, we’re looking at not just an iPhone killer… but a Windows killer.

  10. Windows Mobile will not die. If anything it’s up for a big year, in 2009. Having NVidia’s full support with its Tegra chip, we may be looking at next-gen smartphones, and they will be exclusively running WM7.

    Android would be great if it matures QUICKLY and gets a Tegra-like chip.

  11. Not that I have too much hope for it, but I am rather hoping that the Xperia rumour comes true, even more so considering the memory situation.

    I have seen comments that the Touch Diamond is better than the Touch Pro when it comes to video playback, which could be traced to the distribution of its memory. Out of the 192 mb of memory in the Diamond, 64 is for video acceleration (I assume that this is the same with the G1), whilst the Touch Pro may have to make do with just 32 mb (I am basing this on the fact that there were concerns over the MDA versions, which were at one time listed as being 128 and 256 mb, whereas the HTC originals were 192 and 288). The Xperia lists 256mb of memory, yet contains 384, with 128 being handed over to the processor, suggesting a device that could certainly shift.

    With Android being an OS that is not as power hungry, it should be an impressive performer in something like the Xperia – it just needs a network to make it happen. My first thoughts were that Xperia Android was a techie dream, but it seems that 3 is going to get a YouTube device built for them by Sony Ericsson (at least in Italy), so perhaps we will see more custom devices, which would suit Android down to the ground.

    In terms of Tegra, NVidia made a gorgeous looking device themselves, then waited for everyone else to say that they would make it. Shame really, because that looked ready to go, hopefully we’ll see something soon, but the big question is from who?

  12. Soon we will have phones as powerful as computers and computers as small as phones…but we will also have twice as many operating systems!!! I would LOVE to have a phone where I could just copy my Mac/Windows XP/Linux apps straight onto the phone and have it work. Doesn't matter how great these smart phones are I just can't get the apps I use every day on them. I will need to wait for someone to re-write them for Windows Mobile/Symbian/Android/Obj-C. Am I the only person who wants to stick with the apps I currently already use? Why re-invent the wheel

  13. It is a pertinent poser in view the technological advancements taking place perennially in the electronics industry. It is a nice discussion. I’ve enjoyed reading the post. keep it up.

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