I was recently asked if mobile quantum computing is in our distant future. I replied that I use a 6-year-old smartphone, so mobile quantum computing is here and now!
This is from my device information screen. This beast among smartphones now goes through several batteries per year, but that’s mostly because I can’t locate originals; the cheap knock-offs extend device longevity several months each. I still use the original screen and even the original tempered glass. And, although I’ve had to rebuild it a few times from factory resets to recover from file corruption, the hardware remains almost fully functional.
The moral of that story is that you don’t need a top-of-the-line, brand new smartphone to do mobile quantum computing.
IBM Q Experience
I normally crop screenshots, like the previous one, to focus attention where appropriate, but the following screenshots are unedited so that you can see they are from a smartphone. They are from IBM Q Experience, where I do the vast majority of my quantum computing.
I will also note that I use Google Chrome, but for no particular reason; my personal preference is to have all quantum-related browser tabs in one browser, and all non-quantum-related browser tabs in a separate browser. I was using another browser first, and all my bookmarks are there, so when I started quantum computing I simply used the other already-installed browser. Therefore, if you prefer a different browser, go ahead and give it a try; I have not tested other browsers.
IBM Q Experience changed recently; I could no longer access it from my smartphone. There was some kind of message about how the experience is better on a larger screen, and there didn’t appear to be any way to continue on a small screen. It worked fine before then.
Thanks to a suggestion from Dr. James Wootton at IBM, I tried tricking the site into thinking I’m using a desktop. Not only does that work, but the desktop version is much better. There were many parts of the screen that I could never see before, but I can see now. And, as you will see below, I can zoom in and out as needed.
This is my dashboard, albeit zoomed out all the way. I usually only go to this screen to check device statuses, which you would have to scroll down for. I have to zoom in to tap the navigation buttons on the left, but, at this point, I already know how to get everywhere I want to go.
This is my favorite IDE in the past, present, and future of IDEs. For the record, I write OpenQASM. The drag-and-drop circuit builder didn’t initially work on my smartphone — which is how I discovered the code editor long ago — and I haven’t bothered trying it since switching to desktop mode. One major improvement that desktop mode provides is the ability to see the circuit being constructed gate-by-gate on the right as I write code on the left.
Speaking of writing code, I definitely zoom in for that. This screenshot hopefully shows that the code is quite readable — I can also scroll up and down — and you can see the same keyboard that I use for messaging, social media, and so forth. In fact, I’m using it right now via the Medium app.
All kinds of useful information is merely a screentap away.
It is worth noting that this is not maximum zoom, and I’ve never actually tried testing the zoom-in limit. I zoom in and out, as needed, to write code and view results comfortably. The limits are more generous than I personally need.
IBM Q Experience has Jupyter Notebooks, too. Even if I could use Qiskit locally, I would probably still run my notebooks here. Yes, you can write code to determine available devices and to view historical results, but the dashboard is thoroughly informative and a single screentap away.
I have used Jupyter Notebooks on several other sites, and it definitely poses challenges on a small screen. However — and this is the most important part — it works. If you definitely, positively have to use Qiskit on the go, and you don’t have your laptop with you but you do use IBM Q notebooks, you can still write, edit, and run your code.
I don’t use IBM Q exclusively, but 99% of the time is not an exaggeration. The next two screenshots are from D-Wave Leap, which I checked out because it is also freely available on the cloud. I use desktop mode, again, but that’s more for practicality. Small screens are not blocked, but you really can’t do anything of value with them either.
While I admit that there is a lot of information in this screenshot of my dashboard, it really is not a problem. Like being inside IBM Q Experience, I can zoom in and out to view everything comfortably.
I will not go through redundant screenshots, but you can see that I’ve run code on the D-Wave device. The Jupyter Notebooks work the same as all other cloud-based Jupyter Notebooks out there.
More Mobile Computing
Although I have not been able to work on any other providers’ real hardware, I have explored other quantum-related sites without difficulty. From memory, there are at least two sites with drag-and-drop circuit builders, and both work fine (simulators). One site had Jupyter Notebooks for Rigetti Forest, but everyone seemed to be using Qiskit so I stayed with Qiskit, as well.
And, although this is off -topic a little bit, I am routinely amazed by how much can be done from a smartphone. For example, I’ve played with Machine Learning (ML) a little bit on IBM Watson. And while I assure you using a smartphone has many hard limitations, many of those limits are pushed back really, really far.
If the question meant to ask if we will have quantum smartphones in the distant future, that is something very different. That may be the subject of a future article, but not by me!