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.
I am looking for this or the Fxtec’s Pro1-X, someone had both to compare?
I had the Gemini briefly, but it didn’t quite work for me, partly because if the inability to use it as a plain phone (still continue to like the idea). I would have been quite tempted by the Astro, but have three main issues (one is more of lack of information):
1. I haven’t been able to find out much about the active stylus mentioned on the campaign page, i.e. whether this is actually a proper, at least somewhat pressure sensitive pen. I suspect/hope it is, but I’ve occasionally seen these pens that essentially just emulate finger touch advertised as “active” (probably because some versions of those also emit something?). At least a mention of which pen technology is being used would have been helpful to set aside my worries.
2. I was disappointed by the fact that the Gemini wasn’t offering video out directly over USB-C, you had to get their specific dongle (regular USB-C docks wouldn’t work either). Apparently, this was a restriction of the Mediatek chip, so I suspect the same restriction still holds.
3. I was a bit disappointed by the level of Linux support. Don’t get me wrong, there were (are?!) some very dedicated people in the community producing pretty good distributions. However, without mainline support and given the Android focus at release, this always felt a bit like an afterthought – and you’re stuck on the original Android kernel, which feels like it could become an issue down the line.
I suppose that’s why I’m thinking about having a look at the pine phone + keyboard case at some point.
(4. Personally, I’ve also come to rely on my smartphone camera too much to settle for a single 48mp shooter on my daily phone. Although for many purposes this will probably be fine.)
I wish them the best of luck though, it still looks like a very cool device! (And I’m still hoping that maybe the next iteration can finally get me on board.)
The screen is 6.39″
An Android Key1/2 is still better than this as a phone/PDA, only advantage is if you’re looking for a possible Linux admin tool.
What’s an Android Key 1/2
Blackberry Key1 or Key 2, w/qwerty, runs Android OS. Blackberry is not dead, just the Blackberry OS.
Based on those devices, I’d say Blackberry is dead after all. Those are years out of date.
Sort of the point – years old and still better than this.
Hmm… I like the idea. I used to have a Nokia N900 and as far as pocket computers go I still consider that to be the best one ever made. As a phone? Not so much. Nowdays I carry an LG V50s Dual Screen, precisely so that I can dedicate one screen to the keyboard. But it also has the benefit of being just a special phone case, I can pop out the phone and have a regular sized smartphone at hand when I don’t want the bulk. And 300g is a bulk. When I first saw this I thought it’s a clamshell with a second screen on the outside, but upon seeing a video about the hinge it’s more like a Nokia N97 kind of affair and that means the screen only has that one angle. I like how the keyboard is pretty much in Psion M5x territory in size, but I already have a clamshell and I like the adjustable angle. I’m also pretty good at touch-typing on the full-screen keyboard by now. So I’m not getting this, but on the other hand I’m glad there are still projects like this out there.
Wondering about long term support. Do they still maintain their previous devices?
About as good as you’d expect from a small company who struggles to release their devices. In other words, you really want that keyboard.
Will you be able to connect this to some sort of USB-C dock to run a monitor with mouse and keyboard?
Yes, check out the ‘Astro Connectivity Kit’ shown on the Indiegogo page:
It’s shown on right side of page, about halfway down….click on it and it will show text description of the kit.
Like TapamN, I use the Cosmo as phone and pocket computer. Works great.
Having option to type on keyboard is very useful….and like TapamN, when I type on it, it is usually sitting on a desk surface. Occasionally, thumb type and it works OK.
Having multi-boot option is great, either I boot up rooted Android or linux….
Planet offers options to order with many different language keyboards. So, not an issue.
Have had the Gemini before the Cosmo and it worked well too.
I should be receiving my new Astro Slide soon….late January or early February…..can’t wait to receive it.
I would have ordered this if the keyboard were ortholinear 😢 I’m pretty sure everyone will be thumb typing, I don’t understand the motivation for keeping normal qwerty alignment where the “y” is unreachable. Would have preferred smaller keys with no keys in the middle too but oh well.
Asking for ortholinear keyboards out of a cell phone is asking for way too much. In fact asking for most of what this thing has is usually asking for way too much, as would be asking it to run mainline Linux instead of some frankendistro consisting of everything running under the Android kernel.
I use a Cosmo (and have an Astro Slide ordered), and I spend MUCH more time typing on it with it placed on a surface, like a regular keyboard, than I do thumb typing, so I’m glad it’s optimized for my use case. (Whichi is doing programming in Termux, or writing and editing documents.)
I used to carry a Nokia N900 and either a Psion 5mx or Jornada 690 before, but now only carry the Cosmo. Reaching center keys on the Cosmo does take a little more effort than the N900, but I still think it’s very usable. (Thumb typing on the Jornada definitely wasn’t usable!)
no altgr key no language support: polish, chech , french etc
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