The Astro Slide is a smartphone with a 6.39 inch AMOLED touchscreen display, a MediaTek Dimensity 800 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 4,000 mAh battery and support for wireless charging. But those aren’t the features that make this phone unusual.
It also has a physical keyboard that slides out from behind the display, allowing you to use the Astro Slide like a tiny laptop computer. And while it will ship with Android, the phone is also working with mobile Linux developers to ensure that it will be able to support GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu Touch.
Planet Computers first unveiled the Astro Slide almost two years ago when the company launched a crowdfunding campaign. But that was also near the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the global supply chain shortage that was at least partially caused by the pandemic.
So it’s unsurprising that things haven’t exactly gone according to plan – when Planet Computer showcased the Astro Slide during the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, the company expected to begin shipping the phone to backers in June, 2021. That didn’t happen.
But Planet Computer says its manufacturing partner began mass production of the Astro Slide this month, and the phone should begin shipping to customers in March, 2022. The company is showing off the final version of the phone at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show this week.
BlackBerry is fully dead, but @planetcom2017 is launching a new #5G (@mediatek Dimensity 800) qwerty angled slider based on classic Psion PDA heritage: the Astro Slide. @showstoppers #ces2022 pic.twitter.com/Tv0zoJzKkv
— Avi Greengart (@greengart) January 6, 2022
This week the company announced it’s also now taking pre-orders for the Astro Slide through the Planet Computer Store. But since the company is charging £719 ($975) for the phone at its store, I’m not sure why anyone would order one that way when the phone is also still up for pre-order for about $650 through an Indiegogo InDemand campaign.
The Astro Slide will be available with multiple keyboard layouts including UK English, QWERTZ German, and Arabic. And Planet Computer has begun testing support for 5G mobile networks in multiple regions including the United States, where the phone seems to work well with T-Mobile and Verizon, but which only seems to support 4G on AT&T so far. It’s also been confirmed to work with DoCoMo in Japan and Telia in Finland.
While the Astro Slide is the most powerful phone from Planet Computers to date, it’s not the company’s first phone-that-looks-like-a-mini-laptop. It’s also not the first to take longer than anticipated to ship.
The company introduced the Gemini PDA in early 2017 and began shipping it more than a year later (after running into some delays). Then the company introduced the Cosmo Communicator in November 2018 and began shipping phones to backers about a year later (although it took a while to fill all orders).
But those devices were more mini-laptops than phones, as they had limited functionality when the clamshell-devices were folded. The Astro Slide has a new design that allows you to use the touchscreen display whether the keyboard is visible or hidden, allowing you to choose whether to use the device in phone or mini-laptop modes.
Here’s a run-down of key specs for the Astro Slide:
|Display:||6.39 inch, 2340 x 1080 pixel|
|Processor:||MediaTek Dimensity 800 (4 x Cortex-A76 + 4 X Cortex-A55)|
|GPU:||ARM Mali-G57 MC4|
|Cameras:||48MP rear, 13MP front|
|Ports:||2 x USB-C, 3.5m audio, microSD card slot|
|Wireless:||5G (global), WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, FM radio, GPS, GLONASS|
|Charging:||10W Wireless + fast charging (wired)|
|Biometrics:||Fingerprint sensor (on side of phone)|
|Keyboard:||Backlit, slide-out, mechanical, with support for 24 language layouts|
|Dimensions:||172.4mm x 76.5mm x 18.7mm|
This article was originally published December 31, 2021 and last updated January 7, 2021.