iPhone 13 could run iOS and macOS — and replace your MacBook

iPhone as MacBook replacement? Look to the future
(Image credit: Ben Geskin/Smazizg)

What if the iPhone 13 transformed into a Mac when you plugged it into a desktop monitor? Theoretically, it could eliminate the need for many iPhone owners to own a separate desktop or laptop computer.

As it turns out, a new rumor from leaker Mauri QHD on Twitter claims a future iPhone could be capable of exactly that, all thanks to Apple's decision to transition future Macs to Apple Silicon.

With next-generation Macs running processors with similar architecture to the A-series chips Cupertino already bakes into its smartphones and tablets, there's no reason Apple's mobile and desktop platforms couldn't one day exist side-by-side on the same device. 

Mauri QHD seems quite confident Apple will take advantage of this potential, referencing two kinds of prototypes they say Apple is currently trialing: a "Linda" use case, and a "DeX" one.

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Linda refers to Razer's Project Linda — a concept developed by hardware and gaming peripheral manufacturer Razer in 2018 that envisioned how a Razer Phone could power an ultraportable laptop. The handset would be placed where you'd normally find the trackpad, and essentially drive the shell of a computer. That's one way Apple could enable macOS on an iPhone, in the body of a MacBook.

Razer's Project Linda from 2018. What looks like the trackpad is actually a Razer Phone that can be removed from the laptop's body.

Razer's Project Linda from 2018. What looks like the trackpad is actually a Razer Phone that can be removed from the laptop's body. (Image credit: Razer)

As for the DeX prototype, that refers to Samsung's DeX system that actually has launched, and been present in the last several iterations of the tech giant's Galaxy S and Galaxy Note flagships.

With DeX, you could either plug your phone into a specialized dock or, if you have a newer device with one of the later iterations of the software, plug it directly into an external monitor through the use of a USB Type-C cable. The monitor would provide a desktop experience that was still technically Android, but behaved more similarly to Windows, with support for a mouse and keyboard.

Mauri QHD says Apple has tested both, but will ultimately choose only one of those approaches to kick off this initiative. There's no timeframe for when it could launch, but the earliest we see it happening is in tandem with the iPhone 13's launch next year. By then, Apple will have ideally delivered to market several Macs powered with its own silicon, as opposed to Intel's, so enabling macOS on iPhone as well should be more feasible. Mauri QHD says they're "95% sure" it's coming eventually.

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If Apple goes with the DeX pitch, the leaker believes the solution will be a wired one to begin, involving a Lightning-to-USB-C cable. That's similar to the way DeX already behaves on Samsung products. Apple is also researching some kind of wireless connection between the device and monitor, though that's surely further off in the distance.

Many tech companies have attempted the phone-that-turns-into-a-PC experience over the years, dating all the way back to Motorola's long-forgotten Atrix 4G. However, none of those implementations have ever set the world afire, and so most have been abandoned, save for DeX. If Apple can finally execute that idea in a way that demonstrates value to users, it could actually change desktop computing as we know it. Surely, if any phone maker's going to pull that off, it's going to be the one that builds the iPhone.

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Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.