Samsung’s Galaxy S8 may be announced later than usual this year, but that doesn’t stop a steady stream of rumors from coming through to keep us on the edge of our seats until then. So far we’ve heard that the S8 won’t feature a “flat” variant, will have smaller bezels, no physical home button, a fingerprint scanner on the back, no headphone jack (which was later changed to yes, headphone jack), and the possibility of an external S Pen accessory. But wait! There’s more! If the latest rumors are to be trusted, Samsung has an entirely new feature up its sleeve this year: “DeX”.
Allegedly, “DeX” is a dock that will allow users to turn their Galaxy S8 into a desktop computer that runs on Android. This wouldn't be a first for the industry: Motorola had a couple of devices with additional dock and "lapdock" (pictured above) support; Microsoft has Continuum; even Samsung attempted something similar with a "Smart Dock" for the Galaxy Note II once upon a time. All of these came and went (with the exception of Continuum, which is still around) with very little fanfare.
In both Samsung and Motorola's case, I think the technology was simply ahead of its time. Both company's solutions appeared to do a poor job of simulating a real desktop experience and were poorly optimized. There just wasn’t a whole lot going for either of them, especially once both companies feigned interest in progressing the technology any further.
Microsoft’s Continuum, on the other hand, showed promise by essentially being an extension of the standard Windows PC operating system. The biggest aspect holding it back is the fact that you have to use a Windows 10 Mobile device (and very specific Windows 10 Mobile devices at that) to use it, and most people just aren’t willing to do that given the state of the platform.
So now we're left wondering: Will the second time be the charm for Samsung? Perhaps.
The pros to the idea are obvious. Many people could easily get by just using their smartphone as their PC, especially given just how far smartphones have come in regards to specs. I have smartphones that have specs on par with laptops I’ve owned less than a decade ago, so for basic web browsing, word processing, and media consumption, using a smartphone as a 2-in-1 - assuming it is properly optimized - is certainly doable. People would also (presumably) have direct access to text messages and phone calls while docked, and I could only assume that the phone would also charge while docked as well.
Now that I think about it, everything that I’m doing right now could be consolidated into a docked smartphone PC experience. My phone is sitting on a charger across the room, and I’m using a basic word processor to type this with a few browser tabs open for reference. Additionally, my S7 is connected to SideSync so that I can receive notifications on my PC without having to check my phone. There are still a few things that I would personally need a traditional computer for from time to time, but a docked smartphone still holds a certain appeal, and I think there’s a bright future in store for the concept as technology continues to advance.
There are still potential snags, such as how simple or complicated Samsung’s new dock ends up being, the price of the dock, how it actually performs and how willing people are to adopt the technology over their current set-up, but these are all things to consider after we know all the details. I think Samsung has a good shot at eventually making this a “thing” assuming they take it seriously this time. They don’t have the app gap that Windows 10 Mobile does and as far as I know they're not on the brink of bankruptcy like Motorola was. I would love to see Samsung use their determination, influence, and resources attempt to flesh this concept out into something great this time.