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We're Andromium. Making the Superbook, a $99 Android Laptop Shell. AMA
146 points by ajiang on Aug 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 147 comments
Hey HN!

There have been a couple HN posts that others have posted about our Kickstarter for the Superbook, our shell that turns any Android phone into a laptop for $99. We didn't see them until fairly late, so wanted to do an AMA, answering questions about the technology, its applications, our production schedule, manufacturing costs (how we can price it so low), or just anything else in general.

Also wanted to put out an open offer to stop by our offices on 5th and Mission and play with the current working prototype (bring your Android phone too!). Just email me at andrew@andromiumos.com.

Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andromium/the-superbook-turn-your-smartphone-into-a-laptop-f

Whats your plan on competing with China copycats, who are no doubt already working on a lower cost clone of your product?

Since its such a great idea, but uses mostly off the shelf parts and doesn't require much specialization, its a perfect target for them.

Look at the patterns: They quickly cannibalize and eventually completely commoditize the market for easy-to-copy products by flooding ebay, amazon, aliexpress, etc with comparable but cheaper items, some of which are probably going to be made by your own supplier/factory in China. Eventually the best of these these get on Engadget or Gizmodo and that's it.

Examples: Android tablets, Google Cardboard, Android Phones, Phone Batteries, etc.

Certainly many will have inferior packaging and engrish manuals. But some will be good enough or better than your product... I would be terrified to base a business around this type of item.

Oh man, passed out (it's like 5 AM here in Shanghai). Great question.

The hardware for the Superbook isn't hard, to be perfectly honest. We actually fully expect that we'll have copy cats, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about that. We are at heart a software company, and if you look at the various attempts at doing this, getting the software experience right has been the challenging part. One of the reasons why we price the item low is so that we can get it out to as many individuals as possible. By building up a large user base, we can build the only thing that's defensible here - a great software experience with a sophisticated developer network, building software for the Andromium experience. In fact, we'd actually be pretty happy if someone else built and sold the hardware - and really just got it out there. We can build a big enough business on the software side, owning the home screen for the desktop environment.

Btw, if you're reading this and you are an Android dev interested in working on a really challenging technical problem (and not 'just an app'), reach out - we're looking to hire employees #1-3.

Great question. The copycats will be agile (quick to market, quick to iterate through changes) but I imagine their software side would be lacking. Should Andromium be more afraid of Samsung/HTC/etc? Xiaomi? (in between a generic copycat and a Samsung)

With so much data being pushed off devices and onto 3rd parties, I wonder if the real competition is Apple and Google?

Much more afraid of Google here. Or correction - much more afraid of us delivering such a bad experience software wise that no one will use it, meaning no developers will care to build software for it, meaning no one will care. And after that we're much more afraid of Google.

But they don't need software. You are doing that work for them by giving away your core platform for free. I would imagine that if you change that now your userbase would likely rebel and/or clone/fork your software. Do you plan on hardware locking Andromium?

Hardware locking is an option, but to be perfectly honest, we can be a lot more creative than that: - Freemium tier pricing - Software licensing for enterprise (security features) - 'Preloading' apps - Direct app integration into desktop features

Given how critical the software experience is (and by the way how difficult building an OS experience inside of another OS is), I wouldn't be too quick to assume people jump to whatever is free.

I have a bunch of possibly naive questions.

I have an Android tablet (Samsung Tab Pro - the 12" beast). An experiment at replacing a laptop on some outings. I bought the A$140 Logitech keyboard / cover, which is good but not great, with some keys being a bit recalcitrant.

Some UI features are frustrating (example: alt-tab brings up the alt-tab switcher - you need to alt-tab twice to move to the most recent process, and toggling between two or three apps on the top of the stack is a common use case for me if I'm trying to do Real Work). An Android problem, I concede.

Given that context - how good is the keyboard, and how are you shipping keyboard + screen at less than a Logitech keyboard - I know, retail, scale, brand mark-up, two years later, etc ... but nonetheless?

Does the app smooth out some of the frustrations (f.e. the alt-tab problem) of working with Android with a keyboard & mouse as though it's a real grown-up DE? Is the app going to offer an increasingly customisable experience, or does it defer to the phone's native Android (and skins) features?

How does it feel - I know you're biased, but have you tried some phones that it just doesn't work on, and/or have some benchmarks or recommendations? I'm on an original Nexus 5 - which still performs adequately, but with low expectations on a phone interface - how well would it drive the Superbook?

Yea totally - trust me when I first started on this, I had a lot of the same question.

Keyboard: Think of the keyboard of your standard Chromebook. That's the keyboard. We have to use off the shelf, component parts that are fairly common in order to keep costs low.

Screen: Basic screen is a TN 768p. It's not fantastic, but at a 11.6" screen size, it's fine. For an extra $30, you can get the IPS 1080p upgrade. They're pretty solid.

Keyboard / Mouse / Alt-Tab frustration: Yep. Our software mainly spends a lot of time making the experience of using keyboard and mouse decent. We do take on a number of the phone's native features, but desktop experience optimization is why we built our app - it's the missing software link. For those of you with tablets and usb mouse / keyboard that want to give it a try, test out the beta: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andromium.os&hl=en

Phones that don't work: Yea, definitely lower end phones, phones with <2GB RAM run a little rough. There are still a bunch of software features to add / fix / optimize. It still has a bit to go before we hit full desktop parity. We see this as a software problem that we just need to spend a bunch of time on.

Hi Jedd, I don't think it's possible yet but RemixOS is an Android based OS running on both intel and arm that makes Android usable with keyboard and mouse. The same goes for ChromeOS. Both are running on Arm hardware. Another option is to install Linux Deploy on Android, install a Linux distro and view the display by connection with vnc, X or framebuffer to localhost. Even though pricey, an Acer Transformer T300 (wintel) as tablet and computer gets the job done as well.

Yea totally. I'm actually on board with this. If you're trying to turn a tablet or laptop into an Android laptop, use Remix. We aren't trying to do that - we believe that device convergence (a world where they only computer you'll have / rely on is your smartphone) will happen and will happen on Android.

I have to tell you 'Yea totally' is probably a better name for your company than 'Andromium', which sounds like fake ``natural'' Viagra.

I'm serious about the offer to visit our office. We know Kickstarters have a bad rap for vaporware that takes forever to deliver. You can visit and play with our working prototype. You can try our software beta on your Android phone. And if you're in Shenzhen next week, you and I can kick it at one of the CMs we're looking at (currently in Shanghai myself).

I think one of the reasons for the reputation is that in order to attract funding, the price has to be highly competitive and the features have to be remarkable and it's hard to one, let alone both with hardware [with software the price is easier because free to use is possible since revenue can come from advertising and data sales and subscriptions].

I think another reason for the reputation is that crowdfunding is often a necessity when there is a lack of sufficient capital to carry out the project to completion. For hardware, with long lead times and multi-level supply chains lack of sufficient upfront working capital. The attractiveness of crowdfunding when faced with working capital shortfalls means that projects likely to run out of money are more likely to wind up with overly optimistic pre-sales pitches on crowdfunding sites.

Which leads to my question: Since crowdfunders are investors, is there a place where prospective investors can see the full company financials including cash on hand, operating expenses, accounts payable, receivables, and all the other documents that due diligence would suggest?

The basic premise here that crowdfunders are investors is wrong. They're idea backers - people that are willing to donate money to see great ideas come to life. Kickstarter says this themselves, and it's a little strange to make the jump that a backer == and investor. Wouldn't you agree?

I think the reputation stems primarily from crowdfunders ultimately receiving less than was expected earlier when the money changed hands. So I think "investor" might be overly generous for crowdfunding projects where the sales pitches that are structured like advertisements for consumer products.

That's not to say that there are not crowdfunders who are having fun funding projects while recognizing there is little or no chance of delivery. What I am saying is that the reputation comes from people without that view of the world.

All that with the caveat that my definition of 'donate' appears to have a different connotation.

As someone who has been burned on about 50% of Kickstarters, I find it totally underwhelming. There's a 50% chance I save like 20%, and a 50% chance I lose 100%. Bad expected value for sure.

Your making an effort to combat that perception is a good move.

Thanks Matt. Totally get it. I think because Kickstarter starts feeling like a store, its easy to forget the situation of the campaigners: super early on, having invested their own funds to come up with a prototype that they're now crowdfunding to come to life. Thinking about it in terms of expected value, Kickstarter never makes sense. Thinking about it in terms of providing an incremental X% chance that something cool will succeed and come to life is I think a much more realistic representation of what Kickstarter provides.

You're right. And I think it feels that way for inexpensive items. If I put $30 into a board game and it never gets made, oh well.

But if I buy a $300 smart lock and it never ships or it ships to me a year later and is so poorly-designed as to be completely useless, it starts to feel like a really bad store.

I think if it feels to backers like a store, it'd be nice if Kickstarter and the people who put projects up treat it like one too.

Wouldn't the availability of financial data allow individual crowdfunders to better assess the incremental X% chance of delivery?

+1 for a community meeting in bangalore, india : you will get a very eager test audience (both quality & quantity :D)

I'm a big fan of this idea. We have a lot of active Andromium users in India. We are really liking the idea of going to market after Kickstarter to India.

Hijacking my own comment to say that it's 1 AM in Shanghai. This has been awesome. I'm taking a nap!

Will be back on in a couple hours to answer any remaining questions. Thanks HN.

Hi I love the superbook. However I totally feel like calling 11.6" a "Large screen" is a stretch. Is there any plan to bring an actually middle-sized screen such as 13.3"? If there was a 13.3" 1080p screen I'd buy it right now.

PS, would love that it was backlit, that is literally the only complain I have with my Asus UX305CA

Yep, it's marketing - can't deny that. You wouldn't believe how easy it is to fail at Kickstarter and how important preparation and good marketing is.

Yes, we've gotten a ton of good feedback that people are willing to pay for a premium version. If we hit the 2.5M stretch goal, backlit will be a possibility :). We like it, but we also did a survey of our backers that said ~50% would pay for it.

Hi Andrew,

Congratulations to you and your team for making this real!

I'd like to add one more "no" vote for backlight keyboard.

It requires a board layout change, and carries higher risk of production delays.

I think the most important thing is to get this one out of the pipe, and get to the next version of the product, like Pebble did.

Here's hoping that the 1080p screen doesn't require physical or electronics changes.

Can't wait to use your device!

By premium you mean backlight, right? 13" is not an option so far?

We're definitely considering 13" for our next version. But we want to deliver this version out first. 13" would require us to design a new shell and also source a few more components, including new packaging. Gets a lot tricker.

You mention that you can write code on the Superbook, but I've yet to find any good ide in Android. Any plans to create or partner with someone to get something like Atom running in Andromium/Android? Do you have a particular favorite that you always use right now?

If you're a terminal person, definitely check out Termux[1], it's really, really good (Android 5+ only, however). For a text editor, I really enjoy Quickedit[2]. But I'm not aware of any decent quality IDEs, either. Personally, I'm really hoping Blackberry knocks it out of the park at some point with an Android phone with PKB. I do a lot of traveling, and Termux (with ssh, vim, go, tmux, fish, etc.) would handle 99% of my computing needs if I had a good keyboard. (But I'm not willing to get a phone without a removable battery, and I don't see BB going back to that anytime soon.)

[1] https://github.com/termux/termux-app [2] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rhmsoft.ed...

Generally agreed.

YES! We want to. Please reach out to us Atom guys. We're working with some friends working on a cloud IDE, but this is an area where we admit theres a gap in software. We intend to close this gap.

I suppose that makes sense. With a 10000 mAh battery you should be able to run atom for an hour or two.

Have you looked into wine / crossover? They already have the Windows version of Steam and playable games running on x86 android.

Oh interesting, looking into WINE some more.

https://c9.io/ can be self-hosted, it's a pretty powerful browser-based IDE.

Where I find Android (and iOS) imho falls behind vs. desktops is the web browser, working without the Firebug-inspired tools and inspectors that ship with browsers today is a big ask! Firefox supports extensions on Android which might mitigate that.

I'm also interested in this. Do anyone knows how something like eclipse che would work in this?

Do you think this will be a viable alternative for coding while traveling and dont have a laptop?

We see coding as a key use case for our product. The current IDEs for Android are ok, but we can make it better with partners and potentially some good Cloud IDEs. Still not there though

I hope you stay focussed on the low end of the market and don't get bogged down by demands of developers since they are likely to be different from everybody else.

You see, you can't run heavy software on crappy hardware and expect everything to go smoothly.

Things you can do:

1. Install a debian chroot (gnuroot is your friend), start an x server and just run eclipse. You're going go to awful performance but hey, that's the hardware.

2. Run eclipse somewhere else and display the output on your tablet. It's going to work mostly okay until connection drops for whatever reason. Also, you need some good hardware somewhere, accessible somehow. And you're likely to have to pay something for it. I had a very positive performance with x2go but you're still under the assumption that network is fast and you have a very low round-trip-time.

You just can't expect to have optimal performance on super cheap hardware with very little resources.

Cloud9 (https://c9.io/) works nicely on my Android tablet with a keyboard.

Not an IDE, but you should really check out Termux.

How well does it work without Andromium? For instance:

Can I enter directly to the phone with the keyboard? Does the phone screen show on the large screen without Andromium? Is the large screen a touch screen?

Even more important -- if I have a rooted/virtual machine instance of a standard Linux distro running on my smartphone, can I use that? Do I have to use Andromium if I have a setup like a rooted chromebook? Turning the smartphone into a laptop it seems the biggest limitation would then be the app store. I don't want it to "feel" like a computer. I want it to be a computer -- OS and all.

One final question. What is your privacy policy, open vs closed source and permission requirements for Andromium and why?

This is a great idea, but I am raising a serious eyebrow at the Andromium aspect of it.

It works fine without Andromium, but it is just a larger version of your phone screen.

The answer is Yes. As long as the device you're working on as a displaylink driver, you can use it. In fact:

Superbook + Surface tablet: https://vimeo.com/176370847 Superbook + Mac: http://imgur.com/a/oZwwN Superbook + PC Stick: http://imgur.com/a/eTbtm

Is it a DisplayLink 3? There doesn't seem to be an open driver for that due to hardware copy protection features.

4 series :)

Final question: Closed source right now. Having spoken to some early Mozilla employees, considering open source.

Full list of permissions can be found on the app page: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andromium....

There a ton of permissions we ask for in order to make the experience smooth. To be honest, we've been focusing less on privacy and more on just making a solid desktop experience. We can definitely be more intentional in our permissions as we mature as a startup.

Please open source the app so that it can be hacked by users and distributed outside of the official channels. I avoid running proprietary software on my phone, in particular I do not have Google Play, so the superbook looks a lot less interesting to me if it requires a closed source app to work smoothly.

I agree on that it needs to be open sourced, I would buy superbook but can't think of using proprietary software. If I could install it via F-droid that would be nice.

A few items that would make me buy two $200+ versions of this:

Video extension for multiple monitors. For example the ability to plug my phone into a dual monitor setup for coding.

A 13" primary monitor.

Touchscreen on the primary monitor for those annoying times when you forget it's not touchscreen.

USB ports on the device so I can plug in a wireless mouse and keyboard.

Standard Linux OS virtual machine or rooted a la chromebooks.

Then I would carry my phone between home and work and plug it in both places. No more need to carry a laptop. You could pick one of them up and take it with you for travel. That would be beautiful.

I currently tote my 13" laptop around and plug in an extra monitor and wireless usb mouse/keyboard at the endpoints.

Real talk on limitations: really intensive apps will be hard to run in Andromium. Also, phones with <2GB RAM will run into latency issues. Most apps will currently run in full screen mode, with only those with our SDK included having resizing / multi-window capabilities.

What about the multi-window support coming in Android Nougat, will that enable more out of the box functionality?

YES! And also more apps that have tablet mode either built in or capable of being included.

Is it plausible that this could work with a raspberry pi?

Or hell, even as a tty/dumb terminal for a random linux box?

Haha..keep it a secret: http://imgur.com/PViKxMD

Actually have only sneaked this to our commenters. Will do an update to everyone soon...

Hmmm ... aren't there little stick sized computers (not the HDMI ones for media centers) that could be the brains of this and plug directly into the USB port without a cable/dongle ?

I would be very interested in that - a fully functional laptop whose brains are the size of a quarter or a pack of gum ...

Comments ?

EDIT: ahh, I see your picture of this running off of a pc stick: http://imgur.com/a/eTbtm that is very, very interesting.

However, the intel compute sticks male plug ("the plug") is HDMI ... are there any compute sticks like this whose plug is male USB and could be connected without a cable/dongle/adaptor ?

Cool! Have you considered embedding a Raspberry Pi Zero so the Superbook can get on the web when there's not a phone attached? I know that's like reinventing the Chromebook, but the CPU and memory are so cheap...

It is really cool, but for our vision, it is just a neat feature. We want to empower device convergence, so that Android smartphone can be leveraged as laptops for learning and productivity use :)

> It is really cool, but for our vision, it is just a neat feature.

If you release it for Raspberry Pi, you could get a lot of exposure on techy blogs, that's essentially free advertisement to reach many more core customers, I think you're underestimating what level of goodwill it might bring.

How about an intel nuc? I suppose that would also work right? Edit: already saw the picture with the pc stick and mac.. awesome!

Awesome, my 12 yr old has been pestering me as to why laptops don't work that way for his pi.

I'm interested in the second one? Is there any way to run code on the DisplayLink-like chip? Would a dedicated CPU module with 2G+ ram be an option?

Likely not for our product. Our focus is bringing device convergence to Android smartphones - everything else to be honest is kind of a nice to have

A few technical questions also covered in our AMA on Reddit a couple weeks back: https://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/4ty163/were_androm...

Also XDA did a little bit of a technical dive into our product: http://www.xda-developers.com/andromiums-99-superbook-conver...

Particularly relevant is the portions on the use of the DisplayLink 4xxx chipset, USB-OTG, and battery size

Another question, how does it all work internally? Is it just an USB Hub? Would I be able, for example, to connect my main Laptop to the Superbook and use it as another screen+keyboard+mouse?

USB hub + a display link chip + power circuitry. Yes you can!

Check it out:

Surface + Superbook: https://vimeo.com/176370847/ddd187ceab Mac + Superbook: http://imgur.com/a/oZwwN PC Stick + Superbook: http://imgur.com/a/eTbtm

I really want to try it then in pair programming or while teaching programming to someone. Looking forward for the 13" version, thanks!

YES we really want that to happen.

What I want is to sit in my recliner at home, and put one device--that includes monitor, keyboard, speakers, and mouse--into my lap, with one shared cable--for USB, audio, video, and power--running down to a MiniITX shoebox on the floor next to my chair.

Can Superbook do that, with any combination of commodity cable adapters?

I want to turn a large self-assembled home computer into a laptop, not just my phone. That is, something with a powerful processor and dedicated high-resolution video hardware. I think you probably know what I'm getting at, here. I want to put my feet up and play 3D games with WASD+mouse, without juggling all the human interface devices in my lap or building my own custom swing-arm stand for them. Right now, I can handle a regular laptop and wireless mouse, but if the monitor is not affixed to the keyboard, it all falls apart. More specifically, the monitor falls over.

So will Superbook be able to connect with DisplayPort/HDMI in addition to connecting the human interface devices through USB? If not, extra bonus stretch goal?

I remember a while back there was the similar ClamCase Clambook[1] (all manufacturer links now non-existent). It never shipped. Any relation to that project? 1 - http://www.zdnet.com/article/clambook-turn-your-smartphone-i...

None at all! Although we've gotten in touch with the founder, who is a super nice guy. He mentioned about the challenges of software - near impossible on iOS.

And actually of all of the various attempts at this, the primary failure was that the software experience was so poor. We've been working on the software side (Andromium) for over 1.5 years, with a bunch of feedback from a pretty awesome community :)

There was also Motorola Atrix and one can get that laptop/shell for $75 on eBay. I wonder if their app works with it.

Haha yes! But when it came out, the laptop shell was $500-$600. Unsupported hardware has a tendency to get cheap ;)

I've been using the Atrix lapdock for a while with a Raspberry Pi, and the one thing that bothered me is that keys for adjusting things on the dock itself (like screen brightness, or keyboard backlight) don't work unless the USB is connected to a device that recognizes it. Is this the same for the Superbook, or does it process its own key presses?

Already bought the Nexdock..

I would really like to see a slot for the phone, like the old Asus Tablet where you could insert a telephone in the back.

That's cool! We're big fans, and Nexdock is great for Windows mobile phones. We are not compatible with Windows mobile phones at all.

The slot is interesting, but makes it hard to fit with every phone. One of the biggest challenges of Android is the fragmentation across devices, OSes, and experiences. We wanted to make this accessible to ALL Android devices, so that's why we opted for the side mount option instead.

By the way, the one thing I will say if you want to use your Android phone as a laptop is that there's a major difference in using USB vs. using casting. Aside from the latency issues of casting, you can only send video screens in casting -- and you have to buy the casting device. Android devices typically don't have a video out, so outside of using USB / DisplayLink, the experience is really poor.

Does my phone needs to have MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) to be able to connect it? or how does it work via USB?

No MHL needed. We use a DisplayLink 4xxx series chip that converts video data over USB. Works with Lollipop and above.

See: http://www.displaylink.com/downloads/android

It's also why we can work with almost any modern android device. Only USB-OTG support is needed.

Doesn't that mean that there are serious limitations when it comes to 3d games or video watching on the bigger screen ?

Yes totally for 3D games. We see the Superbook as more of a productivity tool. You would most likely still play your games on your phone. But for video watching, no. There's virtually no lag. See our Surface demo to get a sense of how well it works: https://vimeo.com/176370847

Btw because we use DisplayLink, you can also use the Superbook as a secondary monitor / keyboard / mouse for windows tablet,s laptops, and PC sticks.

DisplayLink is pretty neat and supports the one-cable solution really well; but can you share some of the thought process behind choosing it versus MHL (the old, USB-micro-B one) or one of the new USB-C alt modes (DP or new MHL)?

How's performance with this approach? Can it push the 1080p display at 60Hz?

Great question - and spot on in your assessment. The answer right now is not always on 1080p at 60Hz depending on what's happening on the phone, but generally not noticeable to the user.

Wouldn't have been possible to put a slot inside the keyboard dock where you could insert your phone and close it inside?

Not an Ubuntu touch expert, but would it be compatible? Just plugging it in and have what ubuntu want to reach? a complete linux distro on the go? If not, are you able to support it?

You could, buuuut Android phones are so fragmented that it would be really really hard to do it for every phone and have it be aesthetically pleasing. That's why we opted for the universal side mount option.

I'm curious about how the Superbook is charged. It seems you're shipping a custom charger, but also somewhere on the Kickstarter it talks about micro-USB. So, would a regular USB charger be able to charge the Superbook, or does it only work with your own charging brick?

Great question. The Superbook is charged using a standard micro-b cord. A regular charger works fine. To charge the phone however is a little complex. We have a custom USB-OTG cord for that. The reason is because we need to send data one way and power the other.

Any chance that the Superbook could be charged over USB-C instead? I'm trying (with middling success) to avoid purchasing any devices with other charging ports at this point.

Totally - I think we'll do this if we can, but there are some certification challenges w/Type C if you ONLY use it as a charging port. At least that's what we've heard - would welcome anyone who'd know more about this from a hardware mfg standpoint

I'm kind of in the same boat. Basically everything I use is USB-C now, except for my e-cigarette. For that I carry a USB-C to micro-USB cable, so I can use the same charger and battery pack for everything.

Okay: Will you opensource you app?

On a related note, will you have a well-defined API for other apps to have first-class support for this thing?

I think that's everything... ooh! ooh! No it isn't!

You said that the superbook would be suitable for coding. so will you provide any of:

1: A terminal emulator

2: An X Server

3: Emacs

Thank you for your time.

You can get Termux on Android and run Emacs! I even run Spacemacs.


I don't think Termux comes with an X server though... However, looks like X server is available on Android for a while now:



Have you guys heard about the Casetop? https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lividesign/casetop-ever...

Cleaver way of docking the phone! (Especially the option to slide it in under the keyboard.) I wish you could do something similar :)

Are there plans to bring the Superbook to retail later at a similar price point (or even just selling off your website)?

I'm tempted to back this but I'm in the middle of a move and some personal expenses so I'm trying to be good and conserve money right now, so it'd be nice to know that the Kickstarter won't be the only opportunity in the next year or two to get this.

Please don't worry about it! We intend on having it up for pre-sale + online purchase.

I read that someone mentioned it already, but didn't find a good response, so I'll ask again.

When doing web development the browser dev tools are indispensable. Is there any possibility to run a full desktop browser on an Android phone to get those tools? Or some other way to inspect elements, live edit CSS properties, debug JavaScript etc.

Yea we see developer work as a key use case for the Superbook. We have a decent desktop browser in the Superbook, but it's going to take some work to integrate a full dev environment. Something that we're keen on doing.

Ohh, you have your own browser? What other browser is it based on? Do you have any screen shots? Does it support plugins?

On a more theoretical question:

Is a solution technically possible where the phone is connected to a normal desktop/laptop via USB, and I could extend in to the phone via a semi-full screen portal?

What limitations are there that are preventing this from happening?

In that configuration the computer is the host and the phone is the 'device'. You'd have to either install some kind of remote viewer on the phone (e.g. Chromecast), or reverse the host relationship and put something like the DisplayLink chip in the middle.

Yep - spot on

I love the idea of the device, but I have doubts about international shipping costs. It's hard for me to imagine buying a product, 50% price of which is shipping costs :/

I don't know if this feature is on the roadmap, but touchscreen would be cool (and probably super hard to implement) because of how much of the mobile experience is geared towards that.

100% possible and in the roadmap for v2. We couldn't add it to this version and keep it at $99, but trust me - I've touched the screen more than a few times.

How does the display work? I know my phone doesn't support MHL or Slimport so is there some sort of HDMI over USB or something?

How does this compare to the user experience on Remix OS?

Remix is unabashedly better of a user experience right now. It has to be. They rewrote Android to be a desktop OS - you can't get more integrated than that. However, two things: 1) they had to break Android, which means no more access to Google services, including the play store. 2) you have to install Remix OS, getting rid of your Android Os. Which wouldn't work on a phone. So you still have to stick with multiple devices.

Apparently one can still get to the google play store [1], similar to Cyanogenmod missing Play Store out of the box.

Is there inspiration or parts you can share with Remix?

[1]: http://liliputing.com/2016/01/remix-os-for-pc-how-to-install...

Totally. We will absolutely love to get as pretty and as functional as Remix, with just downloading an app. I think that's the key - it needs to live on the phone and it can't require installing a new OS.

Best wishes! It would be very neat to see how this proceeds!

I see no mention of audio on your Kickstarter page or amongst these comments. Does the Superbook have audio support or does it use my phone for that?

It's in the FAQ, a bit hidden..


Here's a list of features that have been requested of us that we WON'T be considering for our Kickstarter model (but maybe in the future):

- Audio speakers (trust us, the ones on your phone are much better than any speaker we could source affordably)

Ah, that's too bad but I guess it makes sense. Would buy a "pro" version of this if it had a built in low latency audio interface or even just a DAC. I'm not sure if the Android APIs support such a thing, however.

A Bluetooth speaker is a fine compromise.

Not for realtime audio applications, way too much latency.

How do regular apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter etc. look like on the device. Are they stretched out versions of the Phone apps?

Right now, landscape mode versions of the phone apps. Part of the work we need to do as a company is to build out our developer ecosystem, so companies can allow the Tablet versions of their apps to show in multi-window mode when plugged into the Superbook.

Hi, with all the experiments you made on android smartphones, have you documented the performance of the smartphone over the time?

Do I have to run Andromium to use it or can I also use my current setup and have it simply mirror my display with keyboard/mouse?

You don't need to, but the mirror of your smartphone display sometimes ends up being a fully portrait screen - not the best experience.

Works well with Termux (especially with Emacs)?

Yea it works with Termux just fine. We're working on getting a better solution for programming though :)

What marketing did you do prior to launching the Kickstarter? Did you use paid ads to build an email list?

Everything we did that mattered, I actually detailed out in a piece for Startup Grind: https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/how-we-blew-past-our-crowd...

Great article. Did you use an outside marketing consultant or do all this yourself?

We had some great mentors who provided guidance from their on Kickstarter experience :)

We did the work ourselves. Except for the video. That was all Glass and Marker

Hey - I'm thinking about pulling the trigger - but I have one question - does it work with Continuum?

Haha don't pull the trigger! It doesn't work with Continuum. Windows mobile is hard to support -_-

Is that just the lack of a compatible DisplayLink driver? Would it be possible to support HDMI in (without HDCP)? Is that a limitation of the DL chip since there are USB monitors that support HDMI in as well.

Also, on Reddit it was mentioned that you have a headphone jack, does this involve a codec and pre-amp hardware? Does this increase the price or complexity?

Yep - that's exactly right.

We could at some point, but our goal isn't to support windows. Our belief is that device convergence will happen and Android phones will lead the way.

We don't have a headphone jack! Sorry if there was any misinformation / if I messed up there. Lots of chefs were in that particular AMA kitchen. This one: just me.

How really does this work? I plug in my android 5+ smartphone, and I can access my apps on it?

Yea. Andromium (our App) makes Android function like a familiar desktop OS, and gives apps with our SDK some additional capabilities (resizing, multitasking, etc.). Every other app simply opens up in full size mode, so you can still use all of your regular Android apps. Check out the beta: play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andromium.os&hl=en

How is this different than airdroid?

Airdroid is for your laptop to have access to Android apps. We're big proponents of device convergence, that our smartphones are so important and powerful now that we don't need to maintain multiple computing devices. Consider how often you upgrade your phone and how much of your life / data / files / apps are on it. For most people, 90% of their computing needs happen on the smartphone. The remaining 10% of the time is spent mainly on things like browsing, writing long documents etc - things that are simply made better by a larger screen and laptop form factor.

The benefit of having everything on one computer is that you don't need to sync files and constantly upgrade multiple devices. You get to stay in one computing ecosystem.

Btw for $99, we hope in a lot of mobile-first economies it'll replace the need to buy a laptop. Most people in those economies are Android users, familiar with Android apps - and we can extend the OS they're already familiar with to the laptop environment.

Are you going to deliver, unlike most hardware Kickstarter projects?

Haha I sense no underlying tone here at all.

Yea we're going to try. I mean honest to god we're like any other SF startup. If we don't deliver, we're screwed.

Slightly off-topic, but is there something similar that exists for iOS? I have an old iPhone 5 in my car that I'd like to control using a much larger touch screen that is to be mounted on the dashboard somewhere.

How much are you anticipating this will cost after launch?

Current plan is to launch at $129 post-Kickstarter

Love how the website in the demo is theverge.com. That pretty much convinced me it's good hardware.

all the processing happens on the phone...

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