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A guide on converting smart Android devices into an Android desktop computer - With large screen and extra storage

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Johncoool

Senior Member
May 9, 2020
62
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I remember back in 2011 when I was working at Toshiba in Cyprus that they had a 10 inch Android laptop (no touchscreen), those type of devices seem to have been discontinued. On the same note, I wanted to convert my 2016 Sony Xperia Z5 compact smartphone into a desktop instead of throwing it away after it got dead zone on the touchscreen that keeps on getting worse and makes the device almost useless (The lighter piezo solution did not work for my device).

The 1st method is from videos that are available on Youtube that are not tested by me. The 2nd method is my own way that I tested on two devices. One is Running Android Lollipop 5 and one running Oreo 8. Each one has a different solution because the floating of any app option only works on Android Nougat 7 or above.

Method 1:

The below videos explain about benefit of using the dock. It requires purchasing a Dock and might only work with USB-C devices. There are many more videos available for this subject. The dock will also charge the device while in use. Tips from the 2nd method may improve some features for this method. I did not fully research this method as it can easily be researched by anyone because it is a readymade solution. You can research it further if it interests you to find out if your device will work well with this solution.

Videos on the dock solution



Method 2:

Not tested for gaming

The two devices that I tested this solution on are Sony Xperia Z1 Compact smartphone 2014 model running Android Lollipop and Sony Xperia Z5 Compact smartphone 2016 running Android Oreo Custom ROM. Both devices have been rooted for maximum features. Both devices use micro USB connection so it might work differently with charging for USB-C devices. Results may differ with different devices and different versions of Android but I believe that it will work very similarly to mine.

Flagship devices should work well and should be able to support all the below requirements for this method.

Holder

To have the camera for video chatting or close to the face then you will need a phone / tablet holder like in one of the below links.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gritin-Phone-Stand-Adjustable-Holder/dp/B07C3MQYQV

or

https://www.amazon.com/Phone-Holder-Gooseneck-Stand-Recording/dp/B07JM5435F

External Screen

To display the Android device onto an external screen then you will either need a screen that supports screen mirroring or a Miracast device. Miracast include Chrome cast and any other screen mirroring dongles. I tested the method with Anycast version 1 and a Chromecast knock off one, it worked well on both of them. If you get the Error HDCP then it can be solved with an internet search and a rooted device. These devices come with two modes and only one of them will work with your Android device. Mircast uses HDMI and will send the image and the sound to the connected external screen wirelessly. (Compatible with any screen that supports HDMI connection, make sure that your device has screen casting support before purchasing).

Keyboard and Mouse

For this you will need an OTG cable (OTG cable converts USB to micro USB or to USB-C connection) with a standard USB hub as well as the keyboard and mouse. Or you can also get the OTG hub that is a combo between the OTG cable and the USB hub. USB Wired or wireless keyboard and mouse should work normally.

On some devices the USB mouse and key board need to be connected before the device is turned on. USB mouse and keyboard can also work in TWRP recovery.

It should also be possible to just get the OTG cable with only the wireless keyboard and mouse that need only one USB receiver connection.

If there are issues for the device to detect the Mouse & keyboard then connect them before turning on the device.

On most devices the on screen keyboard will automatically stop appearing while the USB keyboard is attached. This can be controlled from the phone settings options.

If there are issues using the external keyboard then of the apps from the below links should resolve your issue as they are made for the external keyboard.




USB Storage

I tested this with USB flash drive and external USB drive and worked well with both. It is possible that not all the USB flash drives will work with the Android device. Sandisk did not work well on my devices but other models worked normally.

For USB flash drive. Connecting USB devices one by one might not work well enough. It sometimes will not work unless I connect all the devices to the USB hub and then connect it to the Android device while the device is on.

Connecting the USB external drive might need extra power. So plug the 2nd connection that comes with the external drive into either a USB device charger or a power bank. I recommend using this in all situations to avoid causing damage to the Android device. Connect the drive after the device has already loaded the O/S (The reason is explained under charging section below).

The apps in the below link are the best free app for browsing External USB devices. The app in the 1st link did not detect USB on Lollipop but it worked well on the newer Android O/S and the one in the 2nd link did not open on Oreo. So test both until satisfied. If you get the message that the drive is empty and needs formatting just ignore it and try the below apps.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mobisystems.fileman&hl=en

http://www.estrongs.com/

Charging: It is not possible to charge and use the USB devices at the same time even if all are still connected (might not apply to USB-C Android devices, I don’t have one to test that on.) Connect the External USB drive that is using external power after the device is already on because it might start charging the device when the power is connected and if that happens then it will ignore the connected USB devices. It is an either or situation. Some devices have a 2nd way to charge the device, like a 2nd USB port or Qi charging (wireless charging). I was able to keep the Z1 compact charged with the 2nd option that it has.

Apps for desktop mode

There are many available in the play store but I found the below to be the best amongst them.

SecondScreen - better screen mirroring for Android

SecondScreen App from the below link needs either a rooted device or an ADB command. The ADB command will appear after installing the app and loading the profile. Multiple profiles can be created with this app. This app has several features. Some of the features include changing the resolution and density of the screen as well as reducing screen backlight. The lower the density the higher resolution will be which is to fit more things on the screen. The device might do a soft reboot when loading and unloading the profile.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.farmerbb.secondscreen.free&hl=en

Taskbar

The below app is only useful on Android Nougat 7 and above because it has a feature that is called freeform that allows to float any app when it is launched from this app for multitasking. It is made by the same developers that created Secondscreen and has a feature in the Secondscreen app to auto launch when the profile is loaded.

Set this app as default launcher. It does not have an option to minimize the apps to taskbar. To restore apps to freeform after being maximized then go to recent apps and click on the 1st icon on the left.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.farmerbb.taskbar&hl=en

For Lollipop 5 & Marshmallow 6 devices. Use the app in the below link It works on newer Android devices as well. It will creates a landscape desktop with a taskbar and launcher. It comes with its own set of apps and more apps can be added from the 2nd link which contain the additional apps. Only the apps that are provided with this program can float and to open multiple apps on the desktop at the same time.

This app will lock the screen in Landscape mode. To get out of this mode you will have to turn off the features that are turned on during the setup process. You might also need to force stop the app. That can be done from settings or by installing a specific app for that like the one in the below link.

KillApps : Close all apps running


Sentio Desktop

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andromium.os

Sentio Apps (Lollipop, Marshmallow)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sentio.apps

The below link is from the same developer and made for newer Android devices to float any app for Nougat 7 or above but it did not work for me so you can try it if you want to.

Sentio Desktop

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sentio.desktop

Hanna Baggili (John)
 
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