This might be taking this thread on too much of a detour, but I often daydream about an "ultimate portable device" that would just be a pocketable computer with a streamlined/simplified, SmartPhone-like OS touchscreen interface on top of a real desktop OS. For example, something like the upcoming Pyra Handheld
(clamshell, touchscreen, full physical keyboard, game controls, expansion and docking ports, debian OS, powerful enough but also with extremely good battery life, user-serviceable and replaceable parts (no soldering BS), etc etc). I actually own the predecessor to the Pyra (the Pandora) and while it is an excellent device with amazing battery life, the supported linux distribution is a dated mess (will be fixed with the Pyra).
However, I would add two things to the Pyra:
First, use a swivel hinge for the clamshell so that the screen can be rotated to face outwards or inwards. For one-handed typical smartphone use, the screen would face outwards and one could interact with the touchscreen as usual to make phone calls, send short messages, do simple web browsing, play simple android games, etc etc. Then, when one needs access to a more capable user interface (say to use a desktop application, play a "real" game, use the terminal, write code, ...) one could rotate the screen back around and use it in the typical a two-handed open-clamshell fashion. Whenever I'm out of the house I always find myself wanting to bring both my smartphone and my pocketable computer because the smartphone is too limited and the pocketable computer does not have a one-handed, simplified interface. The Pyra developers actually considered a swivel hinge (several times) but all of the good solutions are apparently patented by unfriendly individuals.
Second, to complete the "ultimate portable device," in addition to the usual LCD/OLED screen, incorporate an E-Paper screen on the opposite side of the of the LCD/OLED--like the Yota Phone
. With this, the battery life could be extended to weeks and reading would be comfortable. There are many applications that do not always warrant power hungry, eye-straining OLED/LCD screens (reading books, phone calls, messaging, simple web browsing, terminal usage, coding, ...) and this would be a great way to save both your battery and your eyes (if you're interested in an ePaper-only smartphone--which does last weeks, check out the Onyx MIDIA InkPhone
A device that incorporates all of these things would amalgamate the cellphone/smartphone, portable computer, tablet, mp3 player, handheld gaming device, and e-reader all into one device that has a modern OS and both open software and hardware. And if your desktop performance needs aren't that significant (and you don't need to, e.g., run multiple monitors), then with the docking ports many of your at-home needs are covered too. I would really love to do away with all of the clutter, redundancy, synchronization, closed and gimped software, soldered and underutilized hardware, etc etc of modern devices and just amalgamate it all into a single, open device.
The Pyra will be pretty close. It will not have a swivel hinge, a secondary epaper screen, or simplified apps for smartphone-like usage (although it will, like the Pandora, run Android), but it pretty much has everything else covered, so I think my "ultimate portable device" dream is certainly a possibility. When the Pyra ships I may actually look into 3D printing a custom case design that uses a swivel hinge (of course incorporating a custom epaper screen is beyond me). There is also work being done on an Android compatibility layer for ARM-based linux OSs (at this point in time each Android app requires that the user write some "helper functions" but the Pandora community has many apps running this way), or perhaps Android itself could be run within a VM.
Edited by woah, 25 April 2014 - 10:16 AM.