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Modding the Atrix Lapdock for the Droid 4

Donovan Colbert walks you through the steps of modding the Motorola Atrix Lapdock so that it's compatible with the Droid 4.

Recently, I saw the Motorola Atrix Lapdock on closeout for $59. I hesitated and missed that deal, but a few days later, another site offered the Lapdock for $69. A quick Google search showed that with a simple hardware modification, the Droid 4 was compatible, so I jumped on it. This worked great while camping over the Memorial Day weekend when I forgot the charger for my TF300 at home. I was able to keep connected and enjoy a full desktop browsing experience and wireless connectivity through my docked phone.

The mod is simple. The orientation of the USB and HDMI ports on the Atrix are flipped on more recent phones. You just turn the orientation of the connectors 180 degrees, and that unlocks access to the Webdock mode of your Droid 4. Being that the very similar Motorola Lapdock 100 still retails for $250, this isn't a bad deal if you're willing to void your warranty and risk destroying a $70 piece of equipment.

The significant difference here is that the touchpad on the Atrix Lapdock does not support multi-touch gestures. Keep in mind that neither TechRepublic nor I are responsible for any damage you cause to your phone, your Lapdock, or yourself while attempting to perform this hardware modification. Proceed at your own risk.

First, gather the tools that you'll need.

A small Phillips head screwdriver.

An Exacto knife. A pair of tweezers or small needle-nose pliers are also a good idea to have on hand.

Open the cradle on the Lapdock. There's an adaptor plate you can remove and put aside. You won't need it again. On each end of the cradle is a small black sticker covering a screw. Pry the dots off with the tip of your knife, and put them aside for later.

Once the sticker is removed, remove the screw. Place the screw aside for reassembly. Repeat this for each side of the cradle.

Once the two screws are removed, pry the cradle open along the top lip. I used a small flat metal "spreader" to unsnap the top assembly from the bottom of the cradle. This will reveal the HDMI (on the left in the picture above) and the USB connectors held in place by a metal bar screwed into the top assembly of the cradle.

The cable for the HDMI is attached to the left screw by a piece of reinforced fabric that broke for me during the reassembly process. There's also a rubber spacer between the HDMI and USB cable. Remove the screws and place them aside. Pry off the metal bar and place it with the screws. The rubber spacer is firmly held between the two connectors. I took the sharp end of a pencil and pried it toward me. Once you've removed the spacer and placed it with the other parts, gently remove the connectors from the top assembly of the cradle.

The top assembly will now be free of the dock. Take your exacto knife and carefully trim the edges that face the front of the Lapdock when the cradle is in position for a phone. This will allow you to flip the ports orientation so that they'll work with your Droid 4.

A note of caution here: On my first attempt, I didn't trim the plastic aggressively enough. This caused the USB port to sit at a slight angle and prevented it from protruding far enough through the top of the cradle when I reassembled it. This in turn caused the Lapdock and Droid 4 to occasionally fail to connect to one another or to disconnect an active session. After disassembling the cradle again and doing a little more trimming on the USB port opening, I was able to resolve this issue.

Now, simply flip each connector 180 degrees. Insert them in the trimmed holes on the Lapdock with the rubber spacer between them. As you look at the cradle from the front of the Lapdock, the USB is on the left and the HDMI is on the right. This does not change. You flip the actual connector, but they still retain the same orientation to one another after the mod.

Screw the metal bar back in place and make sure the wires are routed so that they won't protrude from the bottom of the cradle once you put it back together. Snap it back into place, and replace the screws that hold the top and bottom assembly of the Lapdock cradle together. Replace the black dots, and connect your Droid 4. In a moment, the Mobile View screen should appear and you can launch Firefox from the Application dock at the bottom of the screen.

Here is the Droid 4 running desktop Linux Firefox on the Atrix lapdock.

This is a rear view of the Droid 4 docked in the Atrix Lapdock.

If you have any questions, ask in the forum, and I'll be glad to help if I can.

Thanks to XDA-Developers forum member Nowell29 for posting the original screen shots and guide I used when modding my own Lapdock.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

9 comments
Zeblue_Prime
Zeblue_Prime

I bought the Atrix 4G lapdock simply because I thought it looked better than the 100 or 500, and figured, hey, it's just two connectors, so what could go wrong?

It was a very simple mod to rotate the cables in the lapdock and, hey, my Droid 4 fits. I plug it up, open the lapdock, see the webtop interface, but have no functionality from the trackpad or keyboard. I can see that the lapdock is working fine, based on the fact that I can turn the trackpad on/off, but I don't see either peripheral interfacing in any way with the Droid 4.

I've checked the USB cable, and it seems to be intact. I don't have another phone to experiment with. The lapdock seems to be in like-new condition.

Any suggestions, other than buying the Lapdock 100?

My Droid 4 is running Android 4.1.2 system version 98.72.18.XT894.Verizon.en.US and the lapdock has the SSN: AC03A3D42000000, if any of that helps.

PoundCake
PoundCake

Just to follow up on my post above, I received my lapdock a few days ago and the Droid 4 fits perfectly with no modifications.

PoundCake
PoundCake

The lapdock should hopefully be here this week. I'll update after the holidays once I can get a good look at what it is going to entail. Thanks for the reply. Some good info there.

PoundCake
PoundCake

I recently purchased a Droid 4 and now have a Lapdock for Bionic coming my way. I got such a good deal on it that if I can't make it work I know I will make my money back. Does anyone know if the procedure above, or something similar will work to make the Droid 4 work with the Bionic Lapdock?

dcolbert
dcolbert

I've since found that when I'm in a location without WiFi or with poor WiFi, pulling out the lapdock and docking the Droid 4 is almost ALWAYS more convenient than tethering my Transformer to the Droid 4 and surfing that way. The BIG win here is having a true desktop version of Firefox. Also: I do have the tethering plan for my Droid 4. I don't know if Verizon knows enough to detect when a Droid is in a Lapdock or has the ability to block this if you haven't paid for tethering. When you buy the Lapdocks from AT&T they "require" a tethering plan, and I'm not sure what Verizon's policy is on this.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Somehow I missed when this post published. I can't say for sure if it will work for the Droid 3 - but my gut hunch is that ANY Motorola with this port orientation *and* Webdock installed on the phone should work with this mod. I know there are at least a couple of other models that this mod has been used for. I do know that it won't work with the Droid X, despite the X having the right ports. I think that is because the X doesn't have Webdock installed on the phone. I also understand that you can take this a whole lot further if you're willing to root your phone. Evidently some people have full Linux installations running on the Atrix lapdock on their rooted Motorola Android phones. The *awesome* potential here is probably only as limited as your ability and willingness to risk bricking hundreds of dollars of electronics. Have fun... and remember, just because I told you that it would be fun to jump off the bridge, doesn't mean that you should have listened to me. Mom was right, I *am* a bad influence. :)

Matthew G. Davidson
Matthew G. Davidson

Thanks for the info Donovan...would this work on a Droid3? I will ask the same on the XDA forums, but it looks like the ports are in the correct place, I am just not sure of the compatibility with the dock though?

dcolbert
dcolbert

The only thing that could improve the Lapdocks is a touch-screen interface on the LCD. I find myself often wishing that I could use touch-gestures with the device when it is in Webtop mode. That would be pure awesome - but would certainly have driven the cost up beyond reason.

dcolbert
dcolbert

If you can get the HDMI and USB connected, it'll throw it into Webtop and you'll be in business - and Webtop 3.0 is pretty awesome. It basically turns your Droid 4 into a 10" ICS tablet... so instead of that Weird "mobile view" where you had your phone's screen in a window on the Webtop desktop - you now have your Android device scaled up to a large format screen, and if you're loading apps that are tablet optimized, instead of streching, you'll get the tablet view of the app. This is a much better way to go about doing it. Depending on your modding skills, my assumption is that ANY lapdock will drive the webtop on any Motorola Droid with Webtop installed. You might have to extend the HDMI and MiniUSB ports on the lapdock somehow, and that could include cutting, splicing and soldering - but if you can do it without wrecking the Lapdock - you should be in business. Here is one way to look at it... If you hook up your Droid 4 to a LCD via HDMI and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you can drive Webtop 3.0 and use your Droid 4 as a desktop. That is all you're really doing when you hook it up to one of the Lapdocks.