Smartphones as we know them killed off physical cellphone keyboards over a decade ago. No one carries flip phones, Sidekicks or BlackBerrys anymore, because iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphones have eliminated the need for us to type on bulky keyboards to email or text someone. More often than not, people struggled to type messages because the keys were too small for their fingers or, if they had a flip phone, they had to press the same key multiple times to get the correct letters.
It seems like forever since we’ve transported phones with physical keyboards. Now there’s a passionate community of retro tech geeks working to resurrect these devices as a laptop/smartphone hybrid called the Astro Slide 5G. It’s the first 5G transformer smartphone made courtesy of UK-based phone developer Planet Computers, and it’s currently up for pre-order, with deliveries expected in April.
Is it a laptop and a smartphone?
The Astro Slide 5G follows on from the Gemini and Cosmo Communicator, which had fully functional QWERTY keyboards but were designed as flip phones. The Cosmo Communicator, for example, took on the outward appearance of an old-school flip phone with a 24 MP camera with flash and a 1.91-inch AMOLED touchscreen on the lid. Open it up like a compact mirror and you get the physical keyboard and 5.9-inch touchscreen that acts like a normal PC, except it was running Android 9.
As its name generously suggests, the Astro Slide 5G features a full external touchscreen that slides up to reveal the classic PC-style QWERTY keyboard, complete with shift keys, spacebar, arrow and number keys laid out in all their bulky glory thanks exclusively to its newly patented RockUp slide-hinge mechanism that gives the screen the support it needs to turn the phone into a true handheld. The keyboard is backlit with five different levels of brightness that can be adjusted manually or automatically depending on the environment it is in, and it is available in 24 different international layouts, including English (US and UK), Arabic, German, Japanese, French, Polish, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Korean, etc.
The Astro Slide 5G runs Android 11 with support for Linux operating systems and a multiboot option, and it’s equipped with all the apps you’d normally see on an average Android phone, plus the Vivaldi browser and apps. developed by Planet Computers such as Airmail and OneSearch. Everything is displayed on a 6.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen protected by Gorilla Glass. It also comes with Microtek processor which supports 8GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage, microSD, 3.5mm audio jack, stereo speakers, 48MP Sony sensor camera and two USB ports -VS.
It takes all the elements of your average smartphone and PC and combines them to become a veritable “laptop in my back pocket”, to quote Eminem’s song. god of rap.
What took so long to come out?
Planet Computers launched an Indiegogo campaign for the Astro Slide 5G in March 2020, aiming to raise $160,000 or more to produce it. Once the crowdfunding campaign hits its target, the phone was expected to launch and ship to its backers in the summer of 2021. But the COVID-19 pandemic has plagued the tech industry with shortages in the chain. supply of the components necessary for the factories to manufacture their products. It didn’t help that the company was a small fish swimming with sharks like Apple and Samsung, which, according to All About Symbian, often put it second or third on the waiting list for parts ordering. and production cycles.
The delay in shipping the components needed to build the Astro Slide 5G forced Planet to delay its release by six months. In December, the company said printed circuit boards (PCBs) shipped from the factory in Wuhan, China, to the surface mount plant, which would ship the first units to the company by Christmas to be delivered immediately to donors. But earlier that month, he explained that the delivery of PCBs to the SMT factory had been delayed because the sister factory in Wuhan in Vietnam was suffering from COVID-related supply chain issues, straining PCB production.
Now that COVID is receding in some places, Planet is confident that it will ship the Astro Slide 5G to its backers and others who want to buy it next month without further ado.