Laptop ban on airlines will lead to more support for the docked-phone idea?


Back in 2005 I suggested a dock for a mobile phone that would enable consumers to imagine that they were using the phone as a desktop computer. Twelve years later it still hasn’t happened on any large scale and there has been a convergence of CPU capability in the handheld and desktop worlds (which means that putting a CPU in the dock might have become a dumb idea, except for video editing).

In response to global jihad, the U.S. government is now talking about banning laptops on Transatlantic flights. Might it be time to defrost my old idea? United Airlines has given up on seatback screens in favor of the world’s most cumbersome download-an-app-and-register-before-boarding system. Why not beef up the seatback screen into a mobile phone dock with keyboard and mouse? Or does it make more sense to tell everyone who is going to fly Transatlantic “buy a monster-sized mobile phone”? Or do we just admit that flying time is TV-watching time for most “business” travelers who claim to be working?

I will be pondering this on my London to Boston flight today!


  1. it's out there

    May 17, 2017 @ 7:47 am

  2. Mitch Berkson

    May 17, 2017 @ 9:30 am


    Maybe this?

  3. FA

    May 17, 2017 @ 10:49 am


    Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu Linux) has had this idea since 2013 and bet much of the company on it. They called the platform “Convergence”:

    They started selling phones in 1Q 2015:

    No one bought them.

    Earlier this month they gave up on the whole project:

    My guess is it was getting expensive to maintain a separate software stack (Unity, Mir, Convergence, etc) that wasn’t getting buy-in from the rest of the Linux open-source ecosystem for phones that no one was buying. But there’s always money in Linux cloud server consulting, so they are only doing that now.

  4. Zapiens

    May 17, 2017 @ 11:10 am


    Slightly off-topic, but apparently after all these years Samsung is going to implement Philip’s idea about a dock turning a smartphone into a computer.

    “Samsung Dex” is a $150 Galaxy S8 dock that makes your phone into a desktop.

    I remember reading a poor review of this product somewhere, though.

  5. Tony

    May 17, 2017 @ 11:15 am


    I left my laptop at home and picked up a smart keyboard for my iPad Pro on a recent trip to London and Stockholm. It wasn’t a perfect replacement, but a little advance planning meant I could bring enough of my work along to be productive. Double bonus: 1) an iPad typically doesn’t have to come out of your carry-on luggage at security, 2) the lack of a touch pad on the keyboard means the device takes up much less room on your tray table.

  6. Jackie

    May 17, 2017 @ 10:09 pm


    “Android Auto” lets you dock your phone to your car’s screen (via USB). Something like this might be good enough for seatback entertainment. Not that many people do heavy duty typing on a plane.

  7. jay c

    May 18, 2017 @ 12:40 pm


    I had the Lumia 950. Best camera phone I have ever used, and it had the dock. Battery was terrible, Micro$oft customer service, even worse. Phone with dock on hotel TV was great for browsing web and reviewing 12-tab Excel spreadsheets that should have been done in a DBMS but that is a separate gripe. Observation: cell phone processor/GPUs are about 10 years behind high-end laptops in terms of processing capability, so definitely capable of replacing a laptop. Without all the spyware crap my company puts on the laptop, the Lumia was not that much slower than my current laptop.

  8. Michael Bluett

    May 18, 2017 @ 7:07 pm


    The new Samsung Galaxy S8 has a dockable mode:

    In other news, the most recent suggestion I read about going to the US was to delete apps and data on both your phone and laptop:
    Any dockable phone would then presumably want to download its apps and store data in a cloud.

  9. John V

    May 19, 2017 @ 2:45 pm


    Just take storage? We gave a few staff MacBook pros w/ USB C in December. I ended up with a Samsung T3 SSD, seems like it would make a good boot device. land in Europe and buy a used MAC air, or maybe a larger company could have a pool of loaners.

  10. Fazal Majid

    May 21, 2017 @ 4:50 am


    The ban is supposedly because a Israeli mole within ISIS reported they are planning on putting bombs inside functional laptops and tablets, so that even if an airport security screener asks a terrorist to show the laptop works by booting it, they can pass and carry out their attacks. Hence the ban on anything larger than a cell phone.

    They have not put any limit on the number of devices, however, so you could get by with:

    1) a phone. The iPhone 7 has better single-thread performance on Geekbanch than my 2015 Retina Macbook (12-inch) and not far from my 2013 Mac Pro.

    2) a small folding bluetooth keyboard like the long gone and lamented Targus/iGo Stowaway. Alternatively you could use one of those laser-projected virtual keyboards

    3) a pico-projector like the Sony MP-CL1A

  11. philg

    May 21, 2017 @ 10:22 am


    Fazal: Maybe they would let me bring my Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 then? It has never been “functional” for more than a few minutes at a time.

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