All the major smartphone makers gave up on physical keyboards years ago. But a handful of smaller companies are keeping the dream alive — and the new Astro Slide smartphone from Planet Computers is the third phone from the company that not only has a QWERTY keyboard, but also a laptop-like design.

That said, while the Cosmo Communicator and Gemini PDA featured laptop-style clamshell designs that meant you had to open them to really get anything done, the Planet Computers Astro Slide has its screen on the outside, which means you can use it as a normal touchscreen phone and only slide out the keyboard when you need it.

Oh, and Astro Slide is also the first keyboard-smartphone I’m aware of to feature 5G… although the phone isn’t expected to actually ship until March, 2021.

It’s up for pre-order now through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

While there’s always a bit of risk involved with crowdfunding, Planet Computers has successfully delivered two previous devices. But some features may not be available at launch (the company promises the Astro Slide is “Linux OS compatible,” but the Cosmo Communicator launched with the same promise, but when it first shipped it only ran Android and Linux support wasn’t officially added until just last month).

It’s also worth keeping in mind that global supply chain issues related to the coronavirus could make crowfunding campaigns like this a little riskier than usual.

That said, there’s no other phone on the horizon that looks quite like the Astro Slide.

The closest competitor might be the F(x)tec Pro1, which is a 6 inch touchscreen phone with a slide-out keyboard:

Left: Planet Computers Astro Slide / Right: F(x)tec Pro1

But the Pro1 features a smaller keyboard that’s obviously meant to be used with your thumbs, while the Astro Slide is designed for touch typing thanks to a keyboard designed by former Psion designer Martin Riddiford. It also has a “RockUp” hinge that allows the keyboard to be roughly the same size as the display, unlike the Pro1 keyboard, which is maybe half the size of the screen.

In terms of specs, the Astro Slide features:

Display: 6.53 inch, 2340 x 1080 pixel
Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 1000 (MT6889 octa-core 5G SoC)
GPU: ARM Mali-G77 9-core
RAM: 6GB LPDDR4x
Storage: 128GB
Cameras: 48MP rear, 5MP front
Speakers: Stereo
Ports: 2 x USB-C, 3.5m audio, microSD card slot
Wireless: 5G (global), WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, FM radio, GPS, GLONASS
Battery: 4,000 mAh
Charging: Wireless + fast charging (wired)
Biometrics: In-display fingerprint sensor
Keyboard: Backlit, slide-out, mechanical, with support for 24 language layouts
Dimensions: 164mm x 76.6mm x 15mm
Weight: 300 grams

The phone will ship with Android 10 software, but Planet computers says it’s designed to support a multi-boot setup for folks that eventually want to run Linux on the same handset.

Planet Computers says the Astro Slide will have a retail price of just over $900 eventually, but it’s going for $634 during crowdfunding, or $544 if you snag one of th eremaining early bird specials.



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7 Comments

  1. Still waiting for a device like this, with Windows 10 ARM :/

    The GPD win (which i own) is too large, and the GPD win 2 is even larger. Furthermore they dont have any access to 3G/4G or 5G.. So no mobile internet.

  2. Still needs a built-in mouse pointer to make me get this for desktop Linux distro use. I’ve seen how Debian runs on the previous 2 devices: pretty unusable without a built-in mouse unless you’re just trying to convince yourself you didn’t waste your money.

    As for Android use. Pass.

    1. Yeah, the Linux support seems almost useless without a built-in mouse. I saw a video of someone using the Debian image on his Cosmo Communicator with his finger. He eventually gave up and used an external mouse which, to me, reduces the usefulness of the device if you need external accessories to make it usable.

    2. You could try using Phosh. It seems to work well enough on debian that a sizable portion of pinephone users have been using it instead of plasma mobile.
      I say try using Phosh, since Planet Computers “Linux” options actually use an Android kernel and there’s no way I can guarantee how well Phosh, Phoc, and Wayland will work on an Android kernel or with this thing’s graphics drivers. It’s not exactly feature complete either but well, with any luck, it should have things like landscape mode sussed out by the time this thing both ships and actually gets “Linux” support.
      So, don’t count on anything amazing. You really can’t with Linux on phones. Even making a phone call tends to be too much to ask for. And this thing’s port selection is too much to ask for already.

  3. I just took a look at Planet Computers’ Cosmo Communicator IGG page. Seems like they haven’t even finished fulfilling everyone’s perks. Seems like a slap in the face for their current backers.

    1. I have Gemini and Cosmo….and just backed Astro the other day.

      Planet has shipped over 98% of devices to Cosmo backers. There are only a very small amount that have not shipped yet for variety of reasons, not to mention what is been going on in China for awhile…..

      Planet is a legitimate company.

  4. I know it’s a typo in the fifth paragraph, but “Astro Glide” is totally what I kept reading Astro Slide as.

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