A Google map being operated on the prototyped "virtual smartphone"
A Google map being operated on the prototyped "virtual smartphone"
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Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT) developed a "virtual smartphone" and demonstrated it at NTT R&D Forum 2011, which runs from Feb 22 to 23, 2011, in Tokyo, Japan.

NTT developed a technology to make a smartphone with a thin client technology. It is technically possible to use the virtual smartphone both as an Android-based smartphone and the iPhone by switching between them, the company said.

This time, NTT prototyped a smartphone by adding its own thin client software to an Android-based smartphone. Thin client is a technology or a system that runs an operating system (OS) and software for the OS on the server side and sends only screen information to a client machine.

NTT's system also runs the Android OS on the server that is part of a cloud, and only screen information is sent to the virtual smartphone. Because the smartphone does not have to perform heavy calculations, its performance does not drastically change depending on its processor or memory size.

Though data transmission takes place more frequently, for screen information, only difference data is sent from the server. As a result, the power consumption of the virtual smartphone tends to be smaller than that of the other smartphones, NTT said.

However, the virtual smartphone is not just a small thin client machine because it is equipped with sensor functions such as touch sensor, direction sensor and GPS. The data collected by those sensors is sent to the server in real time. As a result, the virtual smartphone offers, for example, touch operation and location information in the same way as existing smartphones.

Furthermore, the virtual smartphone comes with a virtual memory card function called "Virtual SD." When a picture is taken by the smartphone, its data is stored on the server in real time. But the user can use the image data as if it is stored in the SD card of the smartphone.

The OS of the virtual smartphone can be customized on the server side, and it is technically possible to use the Android-based smartphone as the iPhone or an Windows Mobile-based smartphone. But NTT has not yet realized such a function due to licensing issues, it said.