Turn your Galaxy S3, S4 into a tablet and a laptop

Turn your Galaxy S3, S4 into a tablet and a laptop

Summary: The concept of using a smartphone as a core module for a tablet or a laptop is nothing new. This upcoming product kicks it up a notch by turning a Galaxy S3 or S4 phone into both a tablet and a laptop.


Chinese firm Migoal is preparing to release an interesting accessory for the popular Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 smartphones. The TransMaker is a tablet that uses one of the phones as a core module. The phone is slid into a dock on the back of the tablet which activates the 10.1 or 11.6 inch (two sizes available) display, turning the phone into an Android tablet.

Migoal hybrid
Migoal TransMaker tablet docked in laptop -- Image credit: Migoal

The tablet has no processor, wi-fi, memory, or storage as the phone serves all of those functions. There are no cameras on the tablet and it looks like the phone would have to be removed to use its camera.

A tablet using a phone as the core has been done by Asus with its Padfone, but it's not been a big seller. Where Migoal is hoping to make a difference is the TransMaker doesn't stop at just a tablet. Like hybrids before it, the Migoal offering includes (not clear if extra cost) a laptop dock that the tablet can be plugged into to turn the 3-piece gizmo into an Android laptop complete with trackpad.

Migoal detached screen
Migoal TransMaker hybrid -- Image credit: Migoal

The TransMaker from Migoal is the first device I'm aware of that can be used as both a tablet and a laptop, using a smartphone as the core module. Both the tablet and laptop dock have batteries so run time should be quite long.

There is no indication what the pricing will be for either the 10-inch (TR-10) or the 11-inch (TR-11) model and they are not available for purchase yet. According to the product web site Migoal will be showing the TransMaker at the IFA show in Berlin in September.

Let's hope this product actually makes it to market as it is an interesting concept that is different from all the hybrids currently being sold. The Galaxy S3 and S4 are phones with enough horsepower to easily power a tablet and the laptop dock. 

Motorola tried running a laptop with its Atrix smartphone, a failed effort given its high price and clunky docking mechanism. The price of the TransMaker will have to be low enough to give it a chance to succeed where the Atrix failed, and the added functionality of being both a tablet and a laptop brings more to the table.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Laptops, Smartphones

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  • A TR17 and dual boot Android/Linux

    Would make it a hit.

    When it comes out. I'll get one.
    • Pad phone was too expensive.

      If it would come in between 200/300 dollars like any notebook, then I would sell.
  • Be interesting to see how Apps respond to it

    Dealing with different screen sizes on phones and tablets is an art for Android programs. I wonder if the program would receive a different answer for DPI when in the tablet sleeve compared to the phone screen.
    Robert Crocker
    • Is it?

      What, developers have to code for every PPI possible and change everything if they think it might be used on a tablet? Do they really?
      Little Old Man
      • All 1920 x 1080's are not equivalent

        The S4 is 1920 x 1080 at 441 PPI.
        The Nook HD + is 1920 x 1080 at 256 PPI
        A 11.6" 1920 x 1080 screen would be at about 192 PPI (approximately 10" horizontal)

        This affects both how fonts appear on the screen and more importantly static image elements. Android itself tries to help out with concepts like dp (density independent pixels) when you are laying out GUI's.

        (If you really want to dive into this you can look here: http://developer.android.com/guide/practices/screens_support.html)
        Robert Crocker
        • That's not what I asked, was it

          I asked if developers need to code for every PPI or screen size.

          Most people here know the correct answer to that.
          Little Old Man
        • Nook is 1920x1280

  • This is the direction, but cost and long term usability will tell how...

    well it will succeed. Coming up with something that will last a couple of generations of phones will be important (I don't want to buy it now and then have it obsolete in 18 months). Having it made by Samsung (or at least endorsed/supported) would help to deal with any orientation/software issues, AND help insure an investment in it now would keep it useful for 36 months or so to make it cost effective (I know that some people just pay whatever $$$ is asked for their computing needs, I am not one of them).
    James, please review this again when specifics are available (pricing, functional details, etc...) as it looks very interesting.
  • I use to think this sort of thing would be cool,

    but I'm not interested anymore. Because of the cloud I can share my stuff amongst devices. I know the idea is that all your stuff can be shared with the device itself - docking it into different devices. These days its not necessary. And if I am going to be using a 'laptop' or PC, I want it to be a powerful desktop system with dual monitor. Otherwise I will use my phone or small tablet.
    What would be cool, though, might be to dock the phone into the where the trackpad would be. Then you'd have a 2nd display and touchpad.
    • Cloud is hot air

      You have 300 megs of files and 30 gigs of photos you want to bring on a 2 day trip with you. You'll be home before you ever got those files into the cloud.

      Right now I have 4500 photos on my phone. The idea of uploading (quickly) then downloading them just to view them on my tablet is insane. This is where non cloud storage will always come in
    • But BUSINESSES will be very very interested

      Think of the infrastructure savings. This particular implementation won't cut it, but something like Ubuntu phone (especially if they enable Active Directory integration of the device, like is easily doable for desktop Ubuntu) could get critical mass.

      The same device convergence concept will work for you in a few years, likely, as the compute power differentials between a desktop/laptop and a phone become less and less important.
    • Too little space for the trackpad

      But using the phone as a trackpad with soft buttons is interesting just place it next to the keyboard. Keyboards in this formfactor have too little space for a usable trackpad.
  • Help industry standard the connection/charge port

    I assume the device is a simple MHL extender passing the display and touch function to larger dependent display. If nothing else, if demand is high enough other Transpad like this one will emerge with connector for more OEM vendors phones result in a push to standardize the connector. Asus and Motorola failed in the past with similar solution only because the price was too high, I hope TransMaker took a note.
  • NT
  • Slight Alternative

    What if they used a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad but used Miracast for the display. Then you wouldn't have to dock the phone at all.
    • That makes two of us

      who thought the same thing.

      The folks who see tablets as being the big thing fail to realize that people go for tablets because they want something to do what their smartphone can do, but they want a bigger screen.

      Docking is inconvenient. Just set it to auto-connect by Miracast and Bluetooth to a display, keyboard and/or other UI stuff and most business users won't even need a laptop anymore.
      Jacob VanWagoner
      • Still need to dock for touch

        Otherwise, the tablet concept just isn't going to work. I don't know of a wireless touch option. I think the wireless options are too slow and not developed with touch interactions in mind.
    • That would make the device pointless

      This notebook dock is promising precisely because it is a DOCK, otherwise it would be pointless and you'd might as well have a small notebook/netbook:

      1. The TransMaker has no radio of any kind--the screen AND keyboard/touchpad are USB connected via the MHL port. You'd have to add a bluetooth receiver to the deviice to even make the keyboard work wirelessly much less the video.

      2. Miracast is expensive and performance is poor for many applications sensitive to latency (for example you could not play any action-based games on such a device). so having bluetooth, miracast receiver and associated extra hardware the expense and complexity approaches that of an entry level netbook yet performance would be poor.

      3. The device would be linked wirelessly to the phone--active wireless links==very poor battery performance. Bluetooth is not too power hungry but it is bad enough when the phone serves as the internet connection too. Add Miracast to that and rest assured battery life would drop to an hour or maybe two. Thus, you'd have to dock or plug in your phone to get battery life--Hey wait...the TRansMaker is a DOCK right? Problem solved and you don't need all the redundant electronics two sets of radios. The big battery of the notebook dock can extend charge lifetime as well as display area and input capabilites.

      4. Bluetooth is standard but Miracast is not (yet a "real" standard. It is not a mature technology and it relies on "wifi direct" links only at this point. Finicky technology==product fail, so I think the strategy taken by this device is better.

      The problem with mobile-computer-with-docks concept is execution not really the idea itself. Even this device has its shortcomings--it has no camera and apparently cannot make use of those built into the docked device. Perhaps that could be solved by positioning the dock such that the front camera protrudes up ove thetop of the display and also does not obscure the rear facing camera? Or, if that is impractical include its own inexpensive camera?

      The big challenge is that mobile devices do not have a standard form factor so there is no interoperability.. Notebooks, phones, tablets--they all share a common overall shape but manufacturers feel the need to differentiate in styling and size. A standard module would make more sense to execute this concept, where the computing device/phone itself is a small, plain standard-sized rectangular box that conained processors, memory, radio and (maybe) battery. Then you have whatever "MHL docks" you want--you could dock it into a 4 inch "smartphone sleeve" or a notebook dock like this one or a desktop dock--which would be a large touchscrreen monitor with matching keyboard and mouse that runs off mains power and has a wired gigabit network connection and maybe even a hard drive for backup/extra storage.

      The disadvantages would be that for the smallest form factor the device couldn't be quite as compact, and that the industry players are so dysfunctional that they'd resist a standard that would let an LG module fit in a Samsung smartphone sleeve, or a Motorola module dock into an ASUS "transformer dock".. I wouldn't be surprised if someone "stole" this idea mentioned here and tried to patent it out of existence. However I think such a standard woudl do for flexible, mobile computing what the VHS standard did to spread the home video industry.

      And to thosse naysayers who think the cloud obsoletes the need for flexible devices, I think you are being proven wrong by recent news. Between NSA and other government agencies demonstrating that the paranoids out there were kind of right about "big brother", people losing access to their data and services through massive outages due to technical glitches or dDOS attacks and so on, that having "autonomous computing devices" still fills an important need for availability, security and privacy.. The cloud is cool and all, but they way too many cloud people want to implement it would ruin the internet by centralising it and balkanising it. The cloud won't work if you surrender all to Amazon, Google or Microsoft. The cloud's potential is in distributing the power as widely as possible, where every residence has a server just as they have a furnace or a breaker panel, and they share data amongst themselves over whatever provider. and with their mobile devices, and the mobile device is a flexible device you would treat as you do your wallet today, and would focus on you and your OWN devices, not on one big central cloud of apps and data.
      Mark Hayden
  • screen resolutions must be the same?

    I love this docking solution. I don't own a Samsumg unfortunately. (I have a Moto Droid razr HD.) I would love a large tablet (10" at least) and if I could dock my phone into a tablet, that would be a great money saver.

    But the resolution of my phone is only 720x1280 - way smaller than I'd like in a tablet. Would the resolution of the phone have to match the resolution of the tablet?

    Also, some apps are written specifically for a tablet. I wonder if I could download and install those apps to a phone and use them only when docked.
  • The problem is it's more

    efficient to buy a tablet and use Skype or something to make phone calls rather then taking a phone and converting to a tablet.