There was a time when QWERTY keyboards were a must-have feature for smartphones. These days your real option is to buy a BlackBerry device.

But that’s set to change this summer. A startup called F(x)tec is introducing a new Android phone called the F(x)tec Pro 1.

The company is showing the phone to reporters at Mobile World Congress this week, and it’s set to launch in July, but you can pre-order one now for $649.

If this idea sounds familiar, that’s because F(x)tec evolved out of a project to build a slide-out keyboard Moto Mod for Motorola’s Moto Z smartphones. Last year the developers at Livermorium announced plans to scrap that product and just design their own phone. And last month they rebranded as F(x) Technology… before becoming F(x)tec.

The most distinctive characteristic of the F(x)tech Pro 1 is clearly the keyboard. It features 64 backlit keys that are arranged in f5 rows. The keyboard slides out and tilts the screen to a 155 degree angle when you’re using it, and hides behind the display when you don’t need it.

The result is a phone that you can use as a touchscreen device or as a thumb-typing device that gives you tactile feedback as you type and prevents the keyboard from covering a substantial portion of the screen.

F(x)tec as also built a custom Android launcher app that’s optimized for use in landscape orientation. And thanks to the arrow keys you can use the keyboard to navigate the user interface without touching the screen at all. You can launch apps, scroll through your news feeds or web pages, and perform other actions.

While the keyboard sets this phone apart, the rest of its specs and features seem to be a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there’s a 6 inch, 2160 x 1080 pixel AMOLED display, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage plus a microSD card reader that can theoretically support cards up to 2TB (if there were any cards that large).

On the other hand, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. That’s not a bad chip by any stretch of the imagination — it’s the processor powering my Pixel 2 smartphone. But shipping a $649 phone in 2019 with a processor released in 2017 does seem a bit odd.

The company says it was cheaper than newer flagship chips though… and the Snapdragon 835 is still a bit more powerful than the Snapdragon 660 chip found in the BlackBerry Key2 smartphone that launched last year for the same $649 price.

Other features include a 3,200 mAh battery, 12MP + 5MP dual rear cameras, an 8MP front camera, dual SIM support (if you’re not using one of those slots for a microSD card), stereo speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB Type-C port, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac WiFi.

There’s a fingerprint sensor on the side of the phone, an RGB LED notification light, and the phone will ship with Android 9 Pie.

Here’s a hands-on video from the folks at PocketNow:

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24 replies on “F(x)tec Pro 1 smartphone with slide-out keyboard coming in July for $649”

  1. I havr been trying to contact the original makers of the phone hoping to share 3 ideas and being able to redesigb the phone.
    1. It could be non-bezel as thw front cam & sensors can be put on thw keyboard half instead of the display half

    2. Split Battery & 2 MicroUSB ports = Dual Charging (Not x2) & Instant 50% Charge

    3. 3 MicroSD Card Slots = Expandable ROM & RAM via builtin Non-Root Manager to partition swap & ext4 then link obb or cache2SDcard (Basic & Advance Options to split a Card or pick 1 Card for Expand Rom & 2nd for Expand Ram) = Lower cost of 128GB Storage to 32GB and 6GB Ram to 4GB and offer a 64GB ROM & 8GB RAM in sequel

  2. I’m also not liking the curved edge display. No idea why OEMs think that’s a good idea.

    I don’t mind the older SoC but, assuming F(x)tec provides post-release support (a big TBD), how does that play into OS update compatibility. A common excuse of OEMs not updating phones is that chip suppliers stop updating their closed proprietary drivers for newer Linux kernels.

    This often happens with 3rd party ROMs where issues with GPU, Wi-Fi, cellular, power managment, etc. aren’t uncommon.

    Anyway, good luck to F(x)tec. I’d really like more OEMs to target the horizontal physical keyboard crowd. It’s unfortunate that software support is hit or miss in the Android world.

  3. Not liking that edge/flexible display. Just because Samsung did it doesn’t mean they should.

  4. Reminds me a lot of the HTC Fuze from about 10 years ago. Great phone. I’d be interested in something like this if the specs were better. I’m getting tired of virtual keyboards.

  5. The funny thing is that landscape keyboards are way more useful today than when they were a dime a dozen. We’ve got the ram and mobile OS features to effectively multitask. Try multitasking now where you’re reading something on one side and writing on the other and the soft keyboard will blind you making hard to not only see information you want to reference in an email but also visibility of what you’re writing is going to be greatly reduced.

    Phones are fast enough and software is good enough to multitask on mobile now, but the soft keyboard ruins it for me.

    1. There’s no difference between a physical keyboard and a software keyboard, besides the tactile feedback and flexibility.

      I think the better solution is to have a standard candybar phone, and an attachable keyboard*.

      …Just make sure the quality is high: IP68, proper bluetooth, good battery life, option for fast charging AND wireless charging.

      *not just keyboard, it could be a gamepad, speaker, camera, or other module.

      1. And… screen real estate. Software keyboard hogs it particularly in multitasking, hardware keyboard preserves screen real estate. That’s what I was referring to above, apologies if it wasn’t clear. But tactile feedback is no small thing either.

        There is something to be said for attachables, but Motorola was not a great partner for any indie mod maker, much less this company. As far as bluetooth keyboard you can get from asia for galaxies and iphones, the quality can be horrendous, and it’s a pretty bulky case-like attachment. And more importantly, attachable keyboards place the full weight of the phone in an unwieldy configuration, while an integrated tilting slider like this only tilts the lightweight screen itself out while most of the phone’s weight will be in your hands. Over time, sliding the weight of the entire phone out while you grip the lighter keyboard attachment is uncomfortable at best.

        Samsung offered a little portrait keyboard cover that was very low tech and stole a lot of screen real estate itself. I think it may have actually tapped the soft keyboard with capacitive backed buttons. Not my cup of tea on any front.

        1. Software keyboard hogs screen estate…. TEMPORARILY.
          A hardware keyboard PERMANENTLY steals the screen estate.
          Thinking portrait mode see Most Phones versus the recent Blackberry Phone. Thinking landscape mode, see This Phone versus Huawei Mate X Fold.

          Just because there are bad implementations of Bluetooth and Attachables, does not mean the concept is bad. You can just as easily find phones with a Slider mechanism that have a crappy keyboard, make the phone unnecessarily thick, rob the battery capacity, and have a very undurable structure (or all of the above).

          That Samsung keyfront was a neat idea, giving you the ability to pocket a thin/light membrane in your pocket. However, it wasn’t implemented quite too well, and eventually was taken off stores due to a C&D by the BlackBerry company.

          Now imagine having a thin 5mm phone with only 2,000mAh battery. Then have a base that clips on flush with the device and brings it to 8mm thickness, providing an extra 2,000mAh capacity and the ability to hot-swap. Now imagine another module that brings it to 11mm thickness and has the extra battery AND the keyboard. If the implementation is high calibre, then it’s the better solution than a sliding phone. You get the choice of a high quality software keyboard AND a high quality hardware keyboard…instead of a medium quality hardware keyboard implementation.

          1. We’re a long way off before the $2600 mate x can compare favorably to this slider at $650 that does make the standard smartphone screen far more multitask capable. And that tech may never really go mainstream. Price can’t come down if there aren’t many early adopters.

            For anyone who doesn’t want to spend thousands (plural not a typo) on experimental tech with unknown wear and weaknesses for better multitasking and tactile feedback, this is a pretty sweet piece of kit.

    2. Couldn’t agree more! And who knows: maybe they’ll make a comeback. After all, electric cars were absent for about 100 years, but they’re back now and pretty popular (yes, they have a long way to go still, I just mean that they are ready to stay this time around).

  6. This device will only have a limtied life. A flood of foldable
    phones will kill it in a few years. The new devices are so
    big, the manufacturers could devote the bottom half of
    the folded screen to keyboard area, just like with tablets.

  7. “These days your real option is to buy a BlackBerry device.”

    Or a Planet Computing Gemini PDA or Cosmo Communicator or the Livermorium phone…

    1. Livermorium is now Fxtec, this phone. Gemini isn’t a phone. Cosmo isn’t out yet, just like this phone.

      1. Cosmo isn’t out yet, but it’s up for pre-order, so that’s no reason not to mention it. Pre-order = Buying in advance, so anything you can buy should be mentioned, esp. in this niche market.

        And yes, the Gemini isn’t a phone, but you can still call with it, so it counts as a PKB device.

  8. Very reminiscent of the Nokia N950. I briefly used a developer version (with the MeeGo OS) around 2011 and loved the form factor but it never went into full production.

    1. It wen in production, but without the keyboard. I also have a developer version of the Nokia N950 in a drawer. 🙂

  9. Don’t know if they will get to production. During their Indiegogo
    campaign days, they reported so many problems in getting the
    keyboard mod developed.

    1. You don’t pay until just before delivery so it is a better bet than something from Indiegogo.

  10. Well, it’s at least faster than the Gemini and the Cosmo who both are relatively expensive while using slower processors, but yeah I rather not spend that much on a phone with such old specs even if it has a keyboard.

    Now if it had a keyboard + gamepad ala the Pyra, that’s a different story…

    1. The Cosmo is $569 (€499), which is almost $100 cheaper than this F(x)tec phone, so I’d say it’s relatively cheap.

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