I have just received my Phone book from Anyware and I am having mixed feelings with the product. I have gotten the product at 149USD and I am glad to be part of the early group to receive the product.
This is a kickstarter product and it took quite some time to deliver. I am just glad that it delivered even during the Covid19 period. However, there were certain things were affected due to this covid19 such as the lack of parts. My phonebook came with a US charger even though I opted for a UK charger. The various keyboard layout was also no longer available
Out of the box, was barely any accessories. The box comes with just the phonebook as well as instruction manuals and a charger. The charge has a very short cable, approximately 1 meter long. I had to rearrange my desk just to make sure the phonebook can be charged.
The device feels rather solid but the case itself attracts finger oil easily. Based on the stretched goal, this is an aluminium housing?
The device has an external battery that can last for a few hours before requiring your to connect to the power. The kickstart page claims 8 hours of battery, which I have not really tried. This is partly due to the fact that this device does not have have indicator for battery. As such, I usually maintain a power connection with the device so that I need not worry about power being cut off suddenly.
The device has 2 USB A port, 1 USB C port, 1 HDMI, 1 power port and 1 3.5mm jack.
The device also comes with a 15.6 inch screen that is also touch screen enabled. The screen itself is full HD and seemed to be slightly washed out. But it is still much better than my laptop display.
There appears to have some QA issues as several others (me included) have issues with the screen. I’m this issue happens occasionally on my device which goes away after I shut down and let the device “rest” for 15 minute. I how that this is not a permanent issue and can be fixed by software. Additionally, if you connect the HDMI without powering the device on, it will make a continuously disturbing beep sound.
How it Works
The phonebook is basically a monitor with a bluetooth keyboard attached. When you connect the phone with the phone book, you are still required to pair the device with the bluetooth. There seemed to be issues working with iOS devices currently as you cannot press “enter” on any icons. Anyware state that they are currently fixing this issue.
Before you connect to android devices, you will need to sideload the Anyware app and install it onto the device. After installation, you can connect the device via a USB cable. You can use either USB A to USB C or USB C to USBC cable for the connection. Once connected, the phone will rotate to landscape with the custom Anyware launcher.
The Anyware launcher has a bluetooth widget for easy connection to bluetooth with the keyboard. However, I’m not sure how to reset the bluetooth connection on the PhoneBook if I need to switch devices. It seems that I need to unpair the current device and restart the device before I can pair with a new device.
As the Anyware app is really just an app launcher, you can really only launch apps. The apps are sorted in a barely alphabetical order as it’s rather hard to find the apps that you need.
When portrait-only apps launch, there is a distinct black bar on the left and right of the app, maintaining landscape mode. In fact, the launcher itself has little meaning as it is easier to use another app to force the device to rotate to landscape.
Additionally, the touch screen actually works. Multi touch is enabled as you can pinch zoom images in the gallery or even try to play games.
In this mode, you can also initiate touch screen mappings so that you can use the keyboard to play games. I’ve tried a few games and it seemed to work rather well.
However, do note that the audio comes from the phone and not the Phonebook.
The phonebook does not support the use of Dex mode in the USB connection. Dex mode is only supported with the HDMI input. However, using HDMI disables the touch screen. Most of the things do work, including a 2 finger trigger on the touchpad for right click. Audio, however, comes out from the phonebook when connected to phone book. The speaker is not great though.
Connecting to all other things
It seemed that I can only connect USB cable to android devices as my laptop refuses to display on the phonebook via the usb c to usb c connection. (I’m not sure if my cable is wrong). However, HDMI works fine for most of the devices I’ve tested including the audio.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard and touchpad are rather bad on this device. The touchpad is kind of laggy on windows and android devices. I’ve stopped using the touchpad and switched to use a mouse instead.
The keyboard has a malfunction shift key. The keyboard testing on the Anyware app states that it is able to detect the shift key but it is not triggering anything. As a result, it is rather hard to type with the shift key whenever you start a sentence. Additionally, you are not able to type any of the second row symbols.
With this, I ditched both the keyboard and mouse if I do need to use the phonebook.
I have also tested the devices with Mirror mode, Dex Mode and Windows devices. All platforms have issues with the shift key.
Anyware has repeatedly stated that they will be fixing this issue soon and I will do an update review once the patch goes live.
The phonebook is an excellent device that can mirror your android phone with touchscreen support. Nobody should buy the product until the shift key is fixed. Rather than using the phonebook with an external keyboard and mouse, I would think that a portable monitor is better.
However, if the shift key is fixed, I do think that this device is worth considering. However, I do think that the NexDock might be a better buy compared to this device even though it is more expensive. NexDock touch is on pre-order and will launch in August 2020 and their record seemed to suggest better reliability.
*Update 30 June 2020
Anyware have fixed the keyboard and shift key works now. I can finally type properly on the keyboard. I have tested on Android phone and Windows Laptop. With this, you can also use the function keys for various functions including disabling the track pad. It’s too easy to touch the track pad when typing due to the off center keyboard.
A battery indicator is also added when you don’t connect the device to anything