Asus has lately become the king of anime-style transforming electronics, with their Transformer tablet line and Padfone devices. It looks like Google is paying attention, at least when it comes to conceptual hardware. US patent 8,649,821, granted to Google in February of this year, describes a laptop with a built-in and detachable cell phone, with the two working in tandem for various functions. While Android and Chromebooks aren't specifically mentioned in the patent documentation, it's easy to assume they were on the engineers' minds, since it was filed in September of 2012.

patent 1

The basic idea is that the laptop can borrow the cell phone's wireless connection for on-the-go Internet access, as well as use the removable handset as a speaker and microphone for VOIP calls and other obvious functions. In turn, the phone can use the laptop's larger speaker as an amplifier when docked (or I suppose just let the user answer the call in a laptop mode, not unlike the desktop integration currently available from Google Hangouts). The phone could presumably use the laptop's larger battery as an external reserve. The patent drawings definitely show a device that slides into a specifically-made slot, not just a simple USB tether, which can do pretty much all of these things right now.

The idea echoes Motorola's Lapdock designs seen on the original Atrix and other phones, but almost in reverse: the documentation seems to indicate that the phone is only being used where a full laptop would be impractical, and that the laptop portion of the hardware can work independently of the phone. (That's not possible with the tablet/keyboard shells on the various Padfones.) As such, this hardware combination would combine two full and independent devices, not just a primary device and accessories. That would cost a pretty penny, and for frugal consumers, buying a pair of specially-made devices that might not work with the next generation of either one is a daunting prospect.


Still, as Android and Chrome grow closer this sort of hardware crossover becomes more likely, and more attractive. If Google could create a system whereby the power, connection, files, apps, and settings of all the separate pieces work together, it could be very compelling indeed. Keep in mind that this is a patent, not a prototype; while it does indicate that someone at Google is at least thinking about a laptop-smartphone combo device, it doesn't mean one is anywhere close to being created.

Source: US Patent and Trademark Office via PatentBolt

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • http://www.arcane.org Mystech

    Uhm, Asus care to chime in here?

  • Zargh

    Is it a pad? Or a phone in a pad?

    • redsnowfox

      Its a phone in a laptop.

  • http://silverfang77.tumblr.com/ Silver Fang

    Asus did this with the Pad Phone and was not successful. What makes Google think this will work any better?

    • Ali

      Because it's Google.

    • mark boyle

      It just seems like a WiFi connect would be easier to share data and would be more convenient.

    • Tony Ceralva

      Cause Google is the owner of Android and Chrome OS and can merge both in some way, while the PadPhone only use Android for both laptop and smartphone.

    • Gold Fang

      Who said they did? It's a patent, not a promise that this will ever be a product or that they guarantee it will succeed.

  • RarestName

    This patent is okay because it's from Google.

    • master94

      Well Moto made it first and is owned by Google when the patent was filed. So yeah, its okay. Just be glad it wasnt Samsung or Apple. Too many lawsuits already.

    • MostCommonName

      Patents, from anyone, are peachy.

      ...until they start getting litigious/anti-competitive over them.

      Has Google been doing any of that over their patents?

      Nice try, though. :)

    • Serge

      It's OK because Google didn't patent 'a laptop with a built-in smartphone' but rather patented switching audio from laptop to smartphone in a specific way. The patent was actually acquired from an Israel company Modu in 2011 as part of a patent package useful for project Ara and/or Android Wear.

    • mike steve

      exactly this is good, because. . . http://bit.ly/1kisAY2

  • Chris

    Motorola did this with the OG Atrix.

    • jak_341

      I'm surprised that idea didn't take off more.

      • Chris

        It was way too expensive. You had to spend 200 on the phone, and then like 400-500 on the laptop part (if I'm remembering correctly) to use it. If google could make a nexus phone for 350 off contract, then make this laptop "shell" 100, they'd have a hit. Otherwise...

        • Bob G

          I got my Lapdock for $50, but thanks to no updates it now sits as a giant paperweight for my document stack.

          • Chris

            Yeah, I saw that on woot also, 2 years after it was first released.

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          But this ISN'T a laptop shell according to the article. It's a full computer. So they can't sell it that cheap. But they can sell it as cheap as a Chromebook.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      Except based on the article, this is nothing like the Atrix implementation.

      • Chris

        How? Because it docks differently?

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          Because the Atrix WAS the computer. It was running a virtualized copy of Ubuntu being output to the external laptop add-on that had no functionality of its own. It was a glorified keyboard, display, and touchpad that were dead without the phone.

          This patent appears to be for a fully-functional Chromebook device with a docking port for a phone.

          • Chris

            Then why would the phone need to dock into a fully functioning computer? And if that is the case, this crap is gonna be way too expensive.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            Read the article. It explains a decent portion of this.

            I'm not saying it's a genius idea. I'm merely pointing out that this article very clearly states what this is and what it does, and how it's nothing like the Atrix or Fonepad (or Padfone? I mix up the two).

          • Jason E Perkins

            However, if I'm reading the article right, the patent itself doesn't say anything about the laptop being a fully functional Chromebook device. That's an assumption Android Police is making.

            Furthermore (and correct me if I'm wrong), the patent doesn't say anything about he laptop being fully functional on its own. From what we have here, it could be exactly like the Atrix implementation.

            Then again, it could be nothing like what Motorola did. It's a patent, not a prototype. It's quite possible that Motorola only bought it to shore up their Atrix line and that Google will never actually use it for anything.

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            Just read over more of the patent to try to better understand.

            Honestly, it doesn't go into that either way. It certainly isn't the same as the Atrix concept, but I think it's purposefully vague on these elements because they're not relevant to it.

            The core concepts seem to focus on the ability of the computer, when the phone is docked in it, to be able to "amplify" its wireless functions using the phone, to change power modes based on whether the phone is connected, to make use of the phone's audio and video capabilities for VoIP calls, and for the phone to be able to be removed from the computer and continue such calls uninterrupted.

            So it seems to IMPLY that the computer would change what it's doing depending on whether or not the phone's connected, which IMPLIES that the thing it would change into doing isn't being a paperweight, but it's not extremely clear.

            It's still completely different from a device that's nothing but a shell for a virtual desktop OS being run entirely by the phone.

  • KapteinStein

    I don't change laptops even half as ofte as I change phones. To much comitment with an all-in-one device. Thats one of the reasons I stay the hell away from apple - don't wanna be trapped in one system

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Well, this is... Odd? I don't know how to react to this... Not that the padfone hyped me up at any rate

  • Timothy Anderson

    Perhaps its related to the project Ara capabilities. In that case, the tricky thing here would be having the laptop be able to recognize the components that have been plugged in on the phone. A big benefit would be that you could, for example, upgrade you phone CPU/GPU and make use of that upgrade on your laptop.

    • abobobilly

      Good Point. Possibilities are endless, but i don't see it happening anytime soon. Consumer tech is growing at the speeds of a tortoise. Actually, less than that.

  • Cuvis

    Isn't there a god damn mountain of prior art here?

    • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

      That's what I thought at first. Pad Fone and Motorola alike these don't apprear to be generic patents as far I as I can see. They look to be patenting specific functions.

      • Cuvis

        Even then though, it's all been done before. Lots of phones can make specific subsystems available to a host system today; just connect your phone via USB, and you can access the storage, camera, and modem. Then there's that Android tablet that docks to a Windows system to become a laptop that Lenovo was hyping a while back. This is seriously nothing new, and the fact that they got a patent on it is absurd.

    • Civis

      Prior art doesn't mean squat until there's a product and someone is suing over it.

      Any product?

      Any suits?

      Well, okay then. Prior art is irrelevant.

      • Cuvis

        The patent office is supposed to review this stuff before issuing the patent. Sadly, they don't.

  • Sean Lumly

    I would love a smartphone that had a "ChromeOS mode" when connected to a larger screen. It would be a best-of-both-world scenario. And since there are chromebooks that are running smartphone internals (that people really enjoy using), I bet the experience would be great as well.

    Android needs some serious work before it can be considered a productive OS. It works very well with a mouse, but just the task of opening two instances of a document (eg. 2 pdfs) or having two or more things displayed on the screen at once are often more hit than miss. And switching away from an app, often means that it will be closed. Even Chrome for Android only seems to only allow one active tab at a time.

    • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

      So... You want it it boe like the failed Ubuntu for Android?

      • Sean Lumly

        Only somebody malicious (or insane) would wish for a failed implementation. So no, I don't want it to fail like Ubuntu for Android. :)

        Just because it didn't work with one implementation, does not mean that it cannot work. Remember, the first LG Prada "failed" though that didn't stop full, touch-screen smartphones from being successful.

        • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

          You mean this thing?


          Wow it doesn't look bad at all, kinda cool design

          • Sean Lumly

            Yep. It was showcased long before the iPhone was unveiled, and even won design awards. Of course, then the iPhone came out and was praised for "changing everything."

            The Prada was pretty innovative and LG didn't get the praise that it deserved. But the phone had a tragic flaw: it used flash as the app layer on top of the OS and it was sadly slow.

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            Well I'm glad that after all these years LG is back on their tracks and rolls out fantastic devices, preparing 3 new tablets, made 2 awesome nexus phones, and the G3 seems to be definitely in the top 3 devices this year.

            I am really glad for them, now if only HTC started rising back to their throne of pre-2012 era that would be amazing

          • Sean Lumly

            Indeed! The G3 looks fantastic, and very slick. I really love the volume/power button on the back of the device. I hate accidentally hitting side buttons on my mobile devices.

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            I am also hoping that LG puts WebOS to more uses than Smart TV. I've quickly lurked on the web, and found an article by phonearena that LG was looking at options of using the OS on something else, and seeing how the market now has a trend of "bring your own OS, with blackjack and whores" - this could potentially be BIG for LG.

            Sadly I never got to owning any WebOS devices, but if I could get my hands on them in the new iteration AND made by LG - I would at least be interested in playing with one.

          • Sean Lumly

            That would be interesting. Things are going to change so drastically with the "Internet of Things" era -- our homes will be filled with internet connected devices. I'm sure we'll see many interesting ideas!

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            We will, that's for sure. And so far Google seems to be the pioneer in that department, and if partnered with lg for WebOS - this could be SO HUGE for the industry

        • Karel

          Biggest problem with Ubuntu for android was that it was never released.

          • Sean Lumly

            I did not know that! Very interesting!

    • Matthew Fry

      Plug phone into TV, use mouse, keyboard, and flash but still no Java (ugh Google). Regardless, I would definitely be interested in a dual-OS phone.

      • Sean Lumly

        Exactly! In fact, given today's technology, there's no reason why this couldn't be "chromecasted" or done with some alternate wireless technology. In that way, you keep the phone in your pocket, and simply start using your external monitor/mouse/keyboard/speakers!

        Chrome OS is maturing quite nicely and while there is still an app deficit, the market has more than a few gems for even power users. You can actually do game development in the browser these days! (Goo Engine, or Playcanvas)

        • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

          ChromeOS is still far from hatching into a full-time operating system that can put others down in their knees, main reason is that it is absolutely useless for heavy productivity and you are pretty much limited to office suite and cloud programming clients

          • Sean Lumly

            It's great for most of the market, which makes it quite relevant. In 2013 it managed to gobble up 21% of the notebook market -- that's not shabby. And it's very highly rated -- people love their Chromebooks. Expect greater sales in the coming year.

            Chrome OS has the advantage of 1) doing what most people want to do (be on the web, play video/music, compose documents), 2) being maintenance free and very easy to use, and 3) being very affordable.

          • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

            We need to see how well it it will in 2014. I think for the most part only two factors made people to get COS devices - first is the low Nexus-like price, and second is that it's a whole new OS.

            But yeah, the fact that you don't need to babysit the system is very appealing, that is why MacOS also got insanely popular among big time companies and people who do stuff like professional video, music, game and graphic production. Hence why Windows sticks to general usage and Linux is unheard of among average Joe

          • Sean Lumly

            I think you're right about the price and especially the low maintenance. Chrome OS is ridiculously easy to get started on, and just as easy to migrate when changing computers. It basically only requires a login name and password, and machines start in 7 seconds from unboxing.

            It's like gmail/hotmail/yahoo mail: sure you can download and maintain Thunderbird or some other offline mail client, but its so much easier just to use an online service, and there is little risk of losing anything during migration or computer failure. Chrome OS does this with [basically] all apps.

    • abobobilly

      If i am not mistaken, Ubuntu is following the same agenda, and they are trying hard to make a unified experienced across all devices ... with their "Ubuntu OS" and all.

      So it makes sense Google jumping in for that because they (probably) feel the Ubuntu's dream as a threat, so it was necessary for them release such a thing ... Maybe.

      Anyway, whatever is happening is happening for the best of consumers. So lets just wait and let it uncover ... and sink in -.-

      • Sean Lumly

        Indeed. Android running on all screens was a very early vision for the OS, so if anything Google are leaders in this vision. Of course, the interface as it exists now is best suited for touch-screens.

  • Matthew Fry

    If Google can develop a standard of phone/chromebook integration across multiple vendors I could see this really taking off. Maybe Silver is a platform for this. Create a catalog of 5 phones from various manufacturers that will integrate with any of 5 chromebooks from various manufacturers.

  • primalxconvoy

    1/ I'm not sliding my phone into anything other than its case or my pocket. No scratches for me!

    2/ I'm sure thieves would LOVE to see people's expensive mobile phones just attached to the back of laptops. Where the owners can't see them.

    3/ I hate Chrome OS.

    4/ Why not just make a laptop dock that actually works? One that is compatible with most devices, features hdmi out, usb/bluetooth keyboard and mouse support AND usb/external memory ports? Basically, all of the functions of the Samsung Galaxy Smart Dock in a laptop form factor (but make the camera work for voip, etc)?

  • catherinekylie

    the Android Speculation now changed: http://bit.ly/ScLhlI

  • http://knowaircrafts.blogspot.in/ Nitin ‘fLanker’ Balodi

    Does this article is linked with yours?

    I think Google is trying to enter into laptop market also.