In the course of the review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, I spent quite some time evaluating DeX. With the Note, Samsung introduced apps for both Windows and Mac that would have a kind of desktop interface for your phone on the computer that you are already using.
My view of these DeX apps is simple: they are not great. If you just use them for simple tasks such as texting, copying and pasting small pieces of text, or dragging and dropping a file or two, it's fine. If you push harder, it's probably a recipe for grief, because things are slowed down rather quickly. I think that is more the fault of the desktop software than the telephone hardware, but anyway, it is somewhat disappointing.
I don't think that's a reason to prevent you from buying the Note 10, which is still an excellent phone. But experience has made me think: why did I and so many others have the objectively irrational hope that DeX would unlock new ways of interacting with your phone?
I think it's because the idea of making a single computer right next to flying cars is in the "this is what the future will be" part of our collective subconscious mind. Telephones are all our primary computers, and they are certainly powerful enough to create a large screen, so why not?
That is the question I am investigating in this week's episode processor. To answer it, I searched my gadget cabinet to grab one of my most prized possessions: the unpublished Palm Foleo. In addition to the Celio Redfly and Motorola Atrix, it predated DeX in trying to make your phone the source of truth for your entire computer life.
Although the Foleo was doomed from the beginning, it still has lessons to teach us. The most important of these is: if you make every effort to build a laptop with Linux, you might as well build a laptop that really runs Linux instead of one that only tries to mirror your phone.
The most important lesson that Foleo, Atrix and Redfly teach us is that we have built a different future than we had imagined. It is much more convenient to simply store data in the cloud and access it via a computer such as a Chromebook or an iPad than trying to put everything in your phone. The world we built is not as cyberpunk as making your phone the ultimate source of your data truth, but it is much more practical.