Samsung DeX is the best product that nobody cares about

In 2017, Samsung showed off a way to turn your Galaxy S8 into a desktop computer. Called Samsung DeX (that stands for DEsktop eXperience — the erratic capitalization bothers me as much as it bothers you) it required a $150 docking station, ruined Samsung SideSync, and was generally written off as a gimmick that had been tried before and fabulously failed each and every time.

DeX started with a handicap in the form of a required $150 docking station.

Samsung didn't just can the idea, though. In fact, it addressed one of the largest pain points for consumers when, with the release of the Note 9 and Tab S4, changed how DeX operated. You no longer needed an expensive dedicated docking station — any USB to HDMI connection would work — and once hooked up and engaged your device acted as a touchpad for navigation and text entry. But still, no one paid attention to it.

Meanwhile, Google was busy turning Chrome OS into something that people wanted and Microsoft was busy building the Surface Go, which runs Windows 10. Both are desktop operating systems (yes, they are used on laptops here but I don't get to coin the names of things) that are slim and light, run on inexpensive hardware, and can do everything your phone does with a more "comfortable" display and keyboard system. People seem to love these ultra-portable form factors.

So why does nobody care about Samsung DeX? Or rather, why do consumers seem to not care? Probably because Samsung doesn't seem to care.

The release of the Galaxy S10 was Dexless. DeX still works the same as it ever did, but the entire presentation went by without anyone mentioning it. But there was one thing that did happen that makes me think someone at the company is ready to charge forward with the idea and try to make it something we want: 12GB of RAM on the Galaxy S10+.

There is only one reason you would ever need 12GB of RAM on a Galaxy S10+: DeX.

You will never need to use 12GB of RAM on your S10+ out of the box. You just won't. I'm not saying that phones will never turn into a thing that need that much memory, but if they do, your S10+ will be old and in a drawer or landfill by then. So why in the &*#@ would Samsung put that much memory inside a phone?

The easy answer is because it can and it gives buyers something to whip out whenever a contest for bragging rights happens. That's certainly a possibility and a look at the comments section on any smartphone article shows that some people care more about specs than anything else. Samsung makes the RAM so it's pretty cost-effective to put oodles of it in its most expensive Galaxy phones.

But there is one reason you might want or need that much memory in your phone, and it's when you use it as a miniature PC case to run a desktop OS. Enter DeX and Linux on Galaxy. DeX provides an easy way to turn the S10+ from a phone to a desktop. Linux on Galaxy provides a way to make it useful. All that's left is to make Linux on Galaxy something anyone can use. And that might just be coming.

Linux has been around forever. It's also always been a lot more difficult to use than Windows or Apple's macOS because of the available software and how it is installed. Most companies don't build their software to work with Linux, and since Linux can be built in so many different configurations, installing programs means checking to see if a long list of pre-requisite software is installed and configured. Even for the experienced user, it can be a pain.

That might be changing now that Google and Microsoft are interested in using Linux to bolster desktop productivity. You can now use the Linux command line (and subsequently run Linux applications through it) on Microsoft Windows, and Chromebooks now have native support for Linux applications. Because of its open-source nature, Linux can be built by companies who want to use it to make money just as easily as it can be built by companies that just love its freedom. See Red Hat and Oracle if you need further proof.

More: How to install Linux apps on your Chromebook

I think Samsung is waiting to see what Microsoft and/or Google can do with Linux. If either can find a way to make it a thing you want to use, then bam, Linux on Galaxy is now a thing and you can just buy a cheap cable to allow your Galaxy S10+ to do all the cool things. Why buy a Windows ARM tablet or a Chromebook when you can just use the phone you already have? The Galaxy S10+ was already the best phone you can buy and now it's even better. iWhat?

Maybe I'm wrong and the S10+ has a 12GB RAM option just for the higher margins, and DeX is only still there because nobody at Samsung can figure out how to remove it. It wouldn't be the first time I've overreached when trying to figure out why these companies do the things they all do. People have been saying, "This is the year for Linux on the desktop to go big" for years and they have always been wrong.

Or maybe I'm not wrong. In either case, DeX is still a pretty cool thing and if you have a Galaxy S8 or newer, you really need to check it out at least once.

See at Samsung

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.