Always hanker for a modern-day Android smartphone with a sliding physical QWERTY keyboard? Planet Computers has finally answered your wish.

Let's talk about smartphone designs in general for a while. Right now, all smartphones look exactly the same. It didn't matter which brand you go and look at, all of them are pretty much identical to their next-door rival. To make matters worse, various brands kept pushing out new models nearly day by day. Some people would argue that it would welcome more competition, but I only see it as a gateway for much worse device fragmentation. Perhaps, it's not a surprise to see smartphone sales are not doing as well as a certain brand would hope. After all, most people didn't change their smartphones every year.

With the current wave of stagnant and generic design, you may be wondering if there is any smartphone out there that can totally stand out from the crowd. You want to see that one special smartphone where people would go "WOW" and get their jaws dropped while looking at that fantastically amazing device that they never even see or heard of.

Planet Computers Main Page.
Planet Computers Main Page

Enter Planet Computers, a UK-based company from Bromley that didn't bother with any current trends such as punch-hole cameras or even triple-digit megapixel cameras with Nona Bayer pixel binning. No, this is a company with a seriously high focus on maximum productivity. The company's first product of their fruition was the Gemini PDA. First seen in 2017 as an Indiegogo campaign, it harked back to the days of Psion PDA from the 1990s era. But unlike the Psion, the Gemini was powered by Android OS with dual-boot capability for other Linux-based mobile OSes such as Sailfish OSKali Linux and Debian. In short, it wowed all the tech enthusiasts around the world, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of a landscape physical QWERTY keyboard.

In 2019, Planet Computers launched their second product called the Cosmo Communicator. Like the Gemini PDA before, it was first seen as an Indiegogo campaign in 2018. In essence, the Cosmo was essentially a mildly updated version of the Gemini with a 1.91" OLED screen at the front and Android 9.0 Pie out of the box. With the Cosmo Communicator, Planet Computers has now established itself as a niché brand for someone who wants to step away from the current mainstream, generic (and possibly dull) smartphone trend in favour of something extraordinarily special. And now, they are progressing forward even further with the latest third product.

Astro Slide 5G Transformer's screen slide mechanism in action. Illustration courtesy of Planet Computers.
Astro Slide 5G Transformer's screen slide mechanism in action.
Illustration: Planet Computers

Welcome to the Astro Slide 5G Transformer. At the time of this writing, Planet Computers are running an Indiegogo campaign for it with an astonishing 1,350 backers having already slapped their deposit on this wondrous device. At first glance, you would immediately remember the days of the Nokia E7. That is because Planet Computers had developed a clever hinge system called RockUp, which allows you to tilt the screen at an angle towards your face at the push of your thumb. If you don't prefer a tilted angled screen, you can leave the screen flat √° la Motorola Droid 4.

5G is now the mobile network's latest buzzword, and Planet Computers doesn't want to miss out on the action. Powering the Astro Slide is Mediatek's Dimensity 1000 chipset with dual 5G modem and WiFi 6. Planet Computers claimed that the Astro Slide is the fastest 5G device to be announced to date. As for the phone itself, you get a 6.53" screen with 1080p+ resolution and their signature five-row QWERTY keyboard. Furthermore, you also get two - yes, TWO - USB-C (Type-C) ports on each side and a nano-SIM card slot. 3.5mm audio jack, microSD card slot, and 4000mAh battery with wireless charging and NFC support complete the whole package.

Memory wise, it will have a minimum of 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage. The camera hardware is not that exciting as it only has a single 48MP sensor with flash on the rear and a 5MP selfie snapper at the front. But then again, camera performance is not what this phone is all about in the first place. It will run Android 10 OS out of the box with the usual compatibility for other Linux-based mobile OS.

The Astro Slide is expected to be priced around US$900 and will be expected to ship worldwide starting March 2021.

You can find out more about the Astro Glide after this break. In the meantime, the Indiegogo campaign is still open for backing with up to a 40% price cut. The campaign will end on May 09th, 2020.

Astro Slide Indiegogo Campaign Video from Planet Computers on Vimeo.

Astro Slide Features from Planet Computers on Vimeo.

Martin Riddiford talks about Astro Slide design from Planet Computers on Vimeo.


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