Remix 2.0: The Android Desktop is Real
In recent weeks at the Dark Android Project, amidst a barrage of rumors, I talked about the supposedly coming “Google OS”, which may be (key phrase, “may be”) a desktop-centric version of Android for laptops and actual desktop devices. Not that desktops/laptops trying to run Android are anything new, HP and Acer have both tried with seemingly little success. Maybe it was the premium price of what they tried to build, and consumers inability to see Android as a serious enough desktop OS.
And those concerns are somewhat well-founded. As much as I will often connect a bluetooth mouse and keyboard to my ASUS Zenfone 2 and crank out emails, novels, stories, and blogs (honestly, it’s the best email machine I’ve ever owned), one of the fatal flaws of Android being connected to a mouse (a staple for any desktop activity) is that you get a very inconsistent experience, and part of that inconsistency is the inability to use “right-click”, which most find quintessential when using a mouse. Keyboards generally work fine, however, but the lack of right-clicking is a serious issue, for sure.
Another problem with Android as a desktop OS is the lack of tablet-sized apps. Many apps either can’t work in landscape mode, or they are just monstrous phone apps that end up looking ridiculous on any screen larger than six inches. Also, if you have a lot of apps installed, and you want to access them quickly, you don’t have the good fortune of a “Start Menu” of sorts like you would on a Windows desktop, per se, and so getting to the app you want may be a slight pain in the ass.
Recently a newcomer in the Android space has tried to solve all of these problems. The company is called Jide, and they have been developing Remix OS–now up to version 2.0–for some time. Remix OS is literally Android, with some clever tricks in it to make the ubiquitous operating system function more like a desktop should. Yes, you get full right-click capabilities. Yes, there is what passes for a “Start Menu”. There’s even a traditional taskbar. A unique and powerful file manager is also included. It’s quite the thing…
As far as all the things you expect from Android, they’re here, too. Notifications slide out just as they would on Windows 10. The Google Play Store is compatible with it (not that I care much about that, with Dark Android I recommend F-Droid). And it even adds in a trick that only Samsung to date has really been able to lick: multi-tasking.
Remix OS 2.0 can run multiple apps at once, and it runs them as if they were desktop apps, spreading them out throughout the screen, and they are movable. Next to the custom right-click capabilities, this may be the most impressive feature of the OS. It completely solves the problem of not having tablet-compatible apps, since the apps will just all run in sizes that they would normally function within on a smartphone screen (though you can epxand their size to a degree, if need be). Take a look:
Not bad. That’s a very useful trick, and one that I’m shocked Alphabet/Google hasn’t implemented in the Nexus 9 or other hardware already, but then maybe a similar feature will be available in the aforementioned theoretical Google OS. Of course, you’d think the uniform right-click option would have been implemented already, too. Perhaps it’s all stuff for the future of Android/Google OS.
No need to wait for Google to catch up, though, Remix OS is available now. As far as what hardware can run it, if you’re looking to run Remix OS 1.5, that can run on the Nexus 9 and the Nexus 10 as far as hardware that I’m willing to recommend and that is readily available. If you want to run Remix OS 2.0, that is only available on the Jide Remix Mini. The Jide Remix Mini is a miniature desktop “PC” that is severely underpowered for everything that Remix OS can do, so I don’t recommend it (but for only $70, you’re welcome to try it). But if Remix OS 2.0 is made available for the Nexus 9, that would be a far more interesting setup, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Perhaps in the future Jide will develop Remix OS 2.0 for Google’s Pixel C, and that would be great option, as well. I think it may be impractical to run on the 2013 Nexus 7 as far as screen size goes, but I wouldn’t mind if it were available for that, too.
The amount of solid DAPS-compatible secure messaging and Tor-accessible apps that are incredibly easy to use on Android make having Android desktops a very attractive prospect, as I’ve always said. Consider OpenKeychain, which I think is the easiest implementation of PGP-encrypted email when used in conjunction with K-9 Mail, from creating your first PGP key to sending off your emails. If more people could use this in a desktop environment, the more people could be emailing with PGP. How could I not want that? And there are other great apps that could change the landscape of communications if more people had access to these tools in a productivity environment that Remix OS provides.
Hopefully, like other custom ROMs (ie: CyanogenMod), Remix OS will get developed for more Android devices, or at least Jide could offer better in-house hardware. What I’d give to have Remix OS 2.0 run on a the 500GB model of the NVIDIA SHIELD TV. That would bring an already impressive device to the next level. Or perhaps Jide could go the AMIduOS route and allow Remix OS 2.0 to run in emulation on PC’s, giving people these abilities on desktop-ready hardware while being able to utilize drivers on the OS you already have installed (thus making development time practically nill). And, of course, there’s a good chance that many of the now-unique features of Remix OS 2.0 will be a part of the (potentially) coming Google OS.
Either way, this is one step closer to the Android desktop that I’ve wanted to be a reality for the average consumer and the Dark Android Project.