Android 10 Contains Hidden ‘Desktop Mode’ That Users Can Activate And Use The Smartphone As A Workstation

The Android OS version 10 had an interesting ‘Desktop Mode’, which essentially allowed any smartphone running the latest Android version to be used as a fully-functioning and versatile workstation. Although not as powerful or capable as a desktop computer, smartphones running Android OS have been rivaling personal computers in terms of processing power and RAM. For reasons yet unknown, Google hasn’t welcomed the feature or retained the same in its intended form, in the stable release of Android 10. Still, interested users can easily enable the Desktop Mode, which is currently hidden, and use their smartphones as a desktop PC alternative.

Google’s Android smartphone operating system is now on its 10th iteration. Known simply as Android 10, the search giant infused several important functionalities within the OS, as was evident from the earlier beta releases. One of the most promising Android 10 features that first appeared in the developer previews was the Samsung DeX-like desktop mode. Although the feature was quite rudimentary and was nothing more than a minimalistic launcher, it showed immense promise simply because Android was showing the potential of being a Windows 10 OS desktop replacement. Strangely, Google has restricted the feature, and its latest flagship smartphone, the Google Pixel 4 can’t even take advantage of Desktop Mode because Google has disabled the same. Still, other premium Android smartphones with capable hardware, like the latest OnePlus handsets, Essential Phone, and a few others, can activate and use the feature.

How To Use Android 10 Smartphones As Desktop PC?

To use an Android smartphone as a desktop, users will require a handset that is running the latest version of Android 10 OS. Moreover, smartphones must feature a USB Type-C port for data and charging. Additionally, the USB Type-C port must support video output over the USB-C protocol. Several modern-day smartphones come with USB Type-C port, but do not support the video over USB-C standard. Still, most of the premium and flagship smartphones do have the feature, and their internals is anyways essential for the smooth and reliable functioning of Android, an OS optimized for smartphones, on a large monitor.

The last key element needed to run Android 10 smartphone as a desktop PC, is a USB-C to HDMI adaptor, which essentially has a USB-C port at one end and an HDMI port at the other. For a complete Android desktop experience, users could also procure a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo. Once the hardware is assembled, simply follow the next few steps:

  1. Enable Developer Options on the Android smartphone running Android 10.
  2. Go to Settings > Developer options and scroll down to the ‘Apps” section. Look for toggles called “Enable Freeform Windows” and “Force Desktop Mode.” Switch both of them on and reboot the smartphone.
  3. Download and install this APK made by an XDA Developers member. It is essentially a simple launcher (Lawnchair) that offers ‘Desktop’ experience while running Android OS.
  4. Once the APK is installed, head over to the devices’  Settings > Apps & notifications > Default apps and set ‘Lawnchair’ as the default launcher.
  5. Plug the smartphone into a monitor/TV using the USB-C to HDMI adapter.
  6. Users will now see the Android 10 desktop interface pop up on the screen. Grant ‘TaskBar’ the permissions it asks for, namely “display over other apps” and “usage access.”

Once the permissions are granted, Android 10 smartphone users will be greeted with a highly familiar desktop PC-like environment. Coupled with keyboard and mouse, users can harness the full power of their smartphones and use their devices as a workable desktop alternative to Windows 10 PCs. Users shouldn’t expect the same polish, finish or smoothness like Samsung DeX or Huawei Easy Projection, but they will certainly have a capable desktop PC experience. Users can easily run multitask and can confidently operate at a level that would not be possible on a smartphone display.

It is not immediately clear why Google deliberately left out Desktop Mode out of the Android 10 release. It is likely that a smartphone that quickly and effortlessly transforms into a desktop or workstation might prevent people from buying Chromebooks and other ultralight notebook PCs.


Alap Naik Desai

A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.