If you’ve been online at all in the last few days, you’ve probably noticed people funding the Superbook. What looks like a laptop you plug your phone into is something a bit more technically complex, though. Here’s what the Superbook is, what it’s for, and everything else you need to know before you decide whether to hop aboard.
What Is The Superbook?
Essentially, the Superbook is what’s called a “laptop shell” for Android phones. You’ve likely seen these before; they’re devices where you can slot in your phone to convert it into a PC. The idea of an all-in-one type device has been around for a while, not least because smartphones have plenty of power, from a computing perspective. All your phone really needs is some software tweaks, a full-sized keyboard, and a larger screen and it’s suddenly a laptop. Andromium is delivering all of that, and doing it at a tempting $99 price point.
Needless to say, that raises the question of why — if this concept has been around so long — it’s just now taking off on Kickstarter. The short answer is those software tweaks. Most laptop shells don’t work because they’re essentially a smartphone with a keyboard bolted onto it. The Superbook is a bit different, thanks to who’s behind it.
Who’s Making The Superbook?
The Superbook is coming from Andromium, a company best known among productivity wonks and tech nerds for creating “desktop” spaces on smartphones. Smartphones aren’t really designed like computers, after all. We’re supposed to poke at them, talk to them, and swipe around their screens. The “grammar” of communicating with our smartphones is different from our laptops, where we move around a mouse, move our fingers on a trackpad, and tap at a physical keyboard.
The Superbook bridges that communication gap, so to speak, with Adromium’s software and DisplayLink. Hence the many, many product images you may have already seen of people just plugging in a phone and seeing a laptop light up. The phone still works as normal. In fact, you can buy a Superbook with a mount so you can take video calls. Consider the Superbook a sort of translator.
Do I Need A Superbook?
While the Superbook is undeniably impressive, there’s not much it does that a laptop doesn’t. Anybody with a laptop already in the house would likely only use it as a backup computer, or possibly a way to offer a bigger Netflix screen for their guests. Similarly, for those who like a layer of redundancy in their data, or are a bit clumsy with their phone, having a Superbook as one’s primary computer probably isn’t a good idea. A broken phone also means no computer in this scenario.
That said, those who are between laptops, need to edit files they keep on their phone, or who just want all their computing and data in one place will have a lot to love out of the Superbook. It might also be useful in workspaces that regularly need to loan out or swap laptops, letting people plug in their phones instead of having to poke around a generic laptop. In fact, Andromium has a charity option where backers can donate a Superbook to South African schools, so kids can store their homework on their phone and just use any Superbook, instead of worrying about a computer.
Ultimately, it’s a neat idea, and the software behind it is fascinating. We’re likely going to see more Superbooks in the future, as well. While it’s undeniably a bit of a niche product, with about 8700 backers at the time of this writing (and more than $1.4 million raised) it’s clear that the interest is there, and tech companies tend to take notice of successful Kickstarters. It probably isn’t for everyone, but the Superbook is definitely worth keeping an eye on.