Announced in March 2017 alongside the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Samsung DeX provides an Android-based desktop experience. The initial release was accompanied by a DeX Station, which could be used to connect handsets to a display, keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals. (And other USB-C hubs worked similarly.) But with the release of the Note 10 and 10+ this week, Samsung is expanding its DeX ecosystem with a DeX app for Windows and Mac.
I’ve always been intrigued by this kind of thing, and by the desire to reduce complexity by carrying around fewer devices. (And, yes, I remember Microsoft’s earlier and similar Continuum efforts on Windows phone, which worked similarly.) It’s never really worked out in my case, for whatever reason, and I still prefer traveling with a laptop and mini tablet in addition to my phone. But it’s pretty clear that DeX or something like it could simplify life for many.
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But bringing DeX to PCs and Macs may seem like a bit of a paradox since you’re not eliminating a device: You must have a PC or Mac to use it. Maybe that’s not the right way to view this solution. Instead, the DeX app simply provides another way for Galaxy handset users to access their favorite apps and documents. In this case, you’re not so much replacing a device as you are better taking advantage of a device you already have. It’s not hard to imagine someone doing most work on the phone and then needing to switch to a bigger display a PC keyboard to finish it off.
That’s the theory anyway. In practice, the DeX app is a bit more of a curiosity than it is useful. The primary issue is speed: Everything happens after a slight pause, whether you’re launching an app, watching it draw itself on the screen, switching between apps, or whatever. I’ve not used DeX Station, so I’m not sure how this compares to a hardware solution, but the speed issue makes the DeX app less compelling for productivity work than it should be.
The interface is straightforward. DeX provides a desktop similar to that in Windows, with My Files, Internet (Samsung’s web browser), Gallery, and Settings icons. And there is a taskbar at the bottom, like that in Windows and Chrome OS, with visually separate areas at the bottom.
On the left, there is a navigation bar with DeX, Apps, Recents, Home, and Back buttons; the Apps button launches a full screen All Apps view. On the right, there is a Notifications bar that duplicates the notifications you see in the Note 10’s notification shade, a Quick Settings bar with connectivity, battery life, and other quick settings, and a System bar with volume, search, and the date and time. In between is an area that contains icons for pinned and running apps.
Apps run in 4:3 floating windows by default, which is kind of interesting: When you run phone apps on Chrome OS, the app windows take on the same aspect ratio as a phone by default. This mostly seems to work fine, but some apps don’t work properly in DeX. For example, when I tried to test media playback in Google Play Movies & TV, I was told that it “can’t show protected content on your computer.”
The DeX All Apps view also provides a link, “Check out apps for Samsung DeX,” that opens a web browser and displays the Samsung website rather than highlighting the apps on my phone, or in Samsung’s Galaxy Store, that explicitly support DeX, which is a missed opportunity. Figuring the Galaxy Store must highlight these apps, I ran into another issue: The app doesn’t support the scroll wheel on my mouse, so I had to fake a scroll flick gesture with the mouse instead. This worked poorly.
Other apps do support the mouse’s scroll wheel, fortunately. Web browsers all worked normally at least, and Microsoft’s Office applications did as well.
Not that it matters: Until and unless Samsung can overcome the performance issues I’ve seen, the merits of this unique desktop environment will remain elusive, at least on a PC. Perhaps the hardware solutions are superior in this regard.
<p>One can typically share data from any smartphone simply by connecting it to your PC or Mac via USB. I'm not sure how much additional value is added here.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451492">In reply to obarthelemy:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yes, I understand how it works, It's the value that I question. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451506">In reply to obarthelemy:</a></em></blockquote><p>I don't agree that mobile is in any way "ahead" of Windows except for communications-specific apps. The functionality on Windows is a superset of what smartphones are capable of. Name a non-communications capability that isn't available in Windows but is available on Android or iOS? I'm obviously not talking about specific apps that exist only one platform or another.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451512">In reply to obarthelemy:</a></em></blockquote><p>Audacity isn't a ringtone maker application, it's a sophisticated audio application. Why didn't you try Audacity on your phone first? That's right, it's one of those programs that aren't available on Android and for which there's no equivalent. In any case, you were trying to swat a fly with bazooka. A quick search on Google came up with a link to an article reviewing 5 free ringtone generators for Windows. </p><p><br></p><p>Can't evaluate the quality of your transit authority website but if you were visiting the site from a phone browser of course it sucks.</p><p><br></p><p>I'm sure that there are specific games on Android that aren't available on Windows and vice-versa but that's not really relevant to the issue.</p><p><br></p><p>I don't know much about podcast software or RSS clients but I suspect best is subjective.</p><p><br></p><p>Again, are we talking about Web apps running on Windows with an average sized monitor or Web apps running on tiny smartphone screens? In my experience Web apps on Windows work well as long as they are web-oriented apps e.g. twitter, maps, google calendar. If it's an application that has no natural web aspect than the native (Win32) program is usually better. </p><p><br></p><p>Unless you are paying $300 or less for your smartphone, the cost of Windows is comparable to the cost of your phone. </p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451557">In reply to obarthelemy:</a></em></blockquote><p>Of course at the end of the day you can have Android for mobile apps and Windows or Mac for productivity. It's not like it has to be one or the other. If Android satisfies all of your needs you don't need to invest in desktop machines or their peripherals. </p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451514">In reply to obarthelemy:</a></em></blockquote><p>So there are no apps on the Android store with malware because safe garden? A safe garden is really a techie issue anyway. Clueless users don't buy a device because it protects them from themselves, that would require them to be "cluefull".</p><p><br></p><p>Since there is no longer a Windows phone there's no consistent experience there, but Windows tablets (i.e. 2 in ones), desktops, and laptops are consistent and more importantly appropriate. You may not want consistency to mean that an Android app fails to take advantage of a large screen when one is available.</p><p><br></p><p>Simpler capabilities can allow a simpler interface sometimes, but not always. "Share to" is a good option if sharing is the function you wish to perform but cut-and-paste is a more general function. Not really the same thing. </p><p><br></p><p>You can buy a Windows box for $100 too with the advantage of being to able to run standard productivity programs. But in both cases it's going to cost more than $100 by the time you add the peripherals necessary for a functioning system. </p><p><br></p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451570">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>I don't agree, but of course that argument works both ways. Can't find your favorite Windows program on Android? Then Android doesn't cut it.</p>
<p>This might be a side issue, but I cannot understand in 2019, why I cannot designate my android phone as My Phone in Windows, which allows me to give permission to Windows to AUTOMATICALLY, through bluetooth or a Wifi hotspot, connect my phone as an external device that is accessible in my Folders and run apps from my phone (using the phone's CPU) on my desktop. This must be done seamlessly without me having to give permission on my phone. Also, I don't understand the technology's limitation that is current today that forbids me to watch a movie on my SD card that is in my phone that is connected via USB to my Windows machine. Maybe I'm wrong about that, perhaps it was an installer program I downloaded on my phone once on my SD card and I tried to just connect my phone and run the installer directly from the phone's SD Card, but in either case, the SD card seems to be unable to be treated like a normal SD card that is directly inserted into your computer.</p><p><br></p><p>In my opinion, This is what DeX should be … an extension of your phone onto your computer that is seamless, automatic, and wireless. I have my phone in my pocket, sit down at a desk, open my my laptop, go to my Files and BOOM … there is my phone's file system. No permissions, no clicking … it just happens. </p><p><br></p><p>By the way, I believe it was Motorolla, a long time ago, had a laptop that you inserted a Motorolla smartphone into, and it ran your phone's OS on the screen. There was no CPU/GPU in the laptop, your phone was the internals. </p><p><br></p><p><br></p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451493">In reply to mister2forme:</a></em></blockquote><p>If it really can satisfy the "one device" requirement, you shouldn't have any reason to stop using it that way on day 31. Then again, DeX is inherently a multiple-device setup. If we don't want to count mice, monitors, and keyboards as devices I suppose we can call the DeX one-CPU unit setup. But no, that would apply to laptops and desktops too. </p><p><br></p><p>If we forgo a mouse, it's really laptops and stand-alone smartphones and tablets that represent the only true one device products.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451554">In reply to Jules_Wombat:</a></em></blockquote><p>I don't think Android is the leading OS in any category but smartphones and there's little indication that that will change.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451706">In reply to Jules_Wombat:</a></em></blockquote><p>You're evidence? OS's in cars and TVs are a bit of a niche, but do you have any statistics to show Android leads in those categories? Kiosks have been dominated by Windows for years, it would take quite a while for Android to catch up. IoT applications seem to be the most unsuitable place to use Android given that many don't even have a video UI. What advantage would Android have over pure Linux?</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451706">In reply to Jules_Wombat:</a></em></blockquote><p>After doing a little research I believe you may be right about cars and TVs but the fact that both use Android as a base doesn't really add any cross-value to consumers. If you own a Android-based TV but a different type of OS in your car it's not loss because it's just a technical detail. What matters to the consumer is what the functionality is and how easy it is to use. There are many Windows-based Kiosks but the fact that they are Windows-based doesn't make one's desktop Windows experience any better or vice-versa.</p>
<blockquote><em><a href="#451685">In reply to Waethorn:</a></em></blockquote><p>Isn't the whole idea of thin clients is that the data is stored on the server? Adding a smartphone sounds like a sneaker-net solution to me. </p>