When the folks behind the F(x)tec Pro 1 first unveiled their Android smartphone with a touchscreen display and a slide-out keyboard that hides behind the screen when it’s not in use, they promised the F(x)tec Pro 1 would ship in July, 2019.

That’s not going to happen. But the company has been showing off working prototypes at recent events in London, Tokyo and Düsseldorf. And the company is asking folks who have placed pre-orders to register if they’re interested in applying to be beta testers. So it looks like the smartphone could still be on track to ship sometime this year.

In fact, one attendee of the community event in Germany says F(x)Tec plans to begin charging folks who have registered to pre-order soon, and that the phone could ship in September (although I’m not going to hold my breath).

All told, the F(x)tec Pro 1 seems to be a pretty impressive device considering the fact that it’s coming from a startup rather than a well-established phone maker.

F(x)tech actually started as a team working on the Livermorium keyboard Moto Mod for Moto Z smartphones, but the group eventually scrapped that project to work on a standalone phone.

The result is a device that’s designed to work either as a touchscreen device or as a handheld gadget with a keyboard featuring backlit, physical keys that don’t block the screen while you’re typing. Unlike BlackBerry phones, the physical keyboard is hidden when you don’t need it, giving you more screen real estate. And when you are using it, the screen is tilted at a 25 degree angle to the keyboard so you can type while holding the phone in your hands or placing it on a table or desk.

The phone is expected to ship with Android 9 Pie, with an update to Android Q on the roadmap. But the bootloader will be unlockable and the phone will also support alternate operating systems including Sailfish OS and LineageOS.

Other geeky/power user features include a USB port that’s on a separate board so that it’s easy to repair or replace without the need to replace the entire motherboard. The battery isn’t officially removable, but apparently you can access it by removing a few screws from the back of the phone.

The F(x)tec Pro 1 is priced at $649, which seems reasonably affordable for a modern flagship… but it’s a matter of debate whether this is a phone with flagship specs. What you’re actually buying if you opt for this phone is a device aimed at folks who really want a smartphone that combines the experience of a touchscreen-only device with the added benefits of a physical keyboard… and who are willing to invest in a product from an unknown startup in order to get that experience.

That’s a somewhat risky proposition at this point — startups don’t exactly have a great track record of delivering and supporting smartphones that can match what you’d get from bigger phone makers. One possible exception might be the Essential PH-1, a phone from the startup created by Android co-founder Andy Rubin. That phone continues to receive monthly Android updates the day Google releases them… but almost two years after launch, Essential has yet to release another phone.

As for the F(x)tec Pro 1, it’s expected to feature a 6 inch, 2160 x 1080 pixel AMOLED display, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (the same 2017-era chip used in the Essential PH-1 and Google Pixel 2).

It also supports microSD cards up to 2TB and features a headphone jack and USB Type-C port, 12MP + 5MP rear cameras, an 8MP front camera, a 3,200 mAh battery, stereo speakers, NFC, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0.

Honestly, it’s only the processor that seems dated — and the Snapdragon 835 isn’t a bad chip by any means. I’m not itching to replace my Pixel 2 anytime soon. But I’d have a hard time justifying paying $649 for a brand new phone with that same processor today if it didn’t have some other amazing features to make it attractive. Maybe the keyboard fits that description for enough folks for this phone to be a commercial success?

For now, here’s an in-depth hands-on from Tim Weber, who got to spend some time with the F(x)tec Pro 1 in Germany last week. There are English subtitles for folks who don’t understand German.

via /r/Android and /r/fxtec

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9 replies on “F(x)tec Pro 1 smartphone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard delayed (but beta testing starts soon)”

  1. Often websites complain about the fact that it has Snapdragon 835 and 649 euro/$ price tag but they forget that the only other option to have a keyboard, BB key2, is significantly worse in specs, can’t be used as a normal smartphone because of the unconventional screen and a price for a brand new phone without any discounts is still comparable to Pro1.

    Pro1 is coming to homes by the end of the September and in following week production begins, for a phone with specs like that, a physical keyboard and being made for easy screen, battery and USB repairs, compared to 2-year lifespan phones of well known manufacturers which are glued and soldered together, the price isn’t that high. It’s not a phone for people buying flagships every two or three years. It’s a phone for small community, yes, but still numerous one when looking at preorder count. I guess that many people buying that phone expect it to work for at least 5 years.

    Also, older QWERTY phones had always a crappy hardware and Pro1 is probably the first exception in it.

  2. Did they promise July 2019? Or estimate it?

    For people who remember the last few generations before landscape keyboard went completely extinct, they only appeared on budget phones back when budget phones were nigh unusable (vs. now when moto gs are pretty good), and the last batch of keyboards were crap too, plasticky, icky. That the compromises now are 1080p and sd835 is pretty amazing, especially combined with repairability, openness to alternative OSs, and aspiration to meet nokia keyboard quality standards. It’s been a very, very long time since a phone this good had a good keyboard attached.

    Everything else on the market looks pretty blegh to me, and the $1,000 flagship/$750 midrange pricetags are insane. Without the keyboard, this would be over-priced too, but considering that and that this is a small company without infrastructure and scale to spread costs out, it’s a good price. Apple and Samsung are charging double their costs for their branding. These guys deserve more margin IMO, but I doubt they’re getting much.

  3. As a niche within a niche use case, are there plans to be able to install a standard desktop Linux distro? I guess there’ll need to be some sort of way to emulate a mouse pointer since even on Windows 10, touch can’t replace a mouse pointer for desktop use.

    I’ve been looking for a handheld running a desktop OS with built-in LTE. I’ve been eyeing the Pyra with LTE but it’s already too slow for what I want to do before it’s even released and the gaming centric design is not preferable (to put it lighly).

    1. I’m also looking for a Linux desktop handheld with built-in mobile broadband. The Pyra seems to be the closest thing. Too bad, for me, it’s targeted for gaming. I could live with the ugly gaming controls that I’d never use if the device were more powerful (ie. more useful). It’s certainly powerful enough for an expensive emulator box though.

      As for F(x)tec, it’d be nice if they plan on supporting desktop Linux distros and enable mouse support but I think that’d be too much to ask of them. At least right now where they’re still a small company who still needs to ship their first product and show that they support it afterwards. That’s a big milestone for them to focus on.

      1. They’ve been pretty supportive of alternate options from the start, i.e. lineage and sailfish. I don’t know exactly what that supportiveness entails, but I bet if there were any developer interested in maintaining ubuntu or some such for it they’d be as helpful as possible. If you know of a dev that might have some interest in the fxtec pro, have them try to connect with @chenliangchen or @adrianlimow

        I’ve talked to liangchen a bunch since they the start of the livermorium keyboard, he’s pretty responsive when he can be. Don’t know the other guy but I’ve seen him in a lot of interviews and such this year.

        1. Does this have USB 3.0/Type-C which has HDMI/TV-out function?

          That will be the first barrier for External Desktop use. The other will be having an Unlockable bootloader, root access, drivers, kernel source, and documentation.

          Having something like LineageOS and Ubuntu will be adequate for all power-users. Though personally I prefer ResurrectionRemix and Mer alternatives.

          1. It lists usb c in specs and specifically says it has hdmi support right there. They must have fielded that question before. I’m glad they were specific, I’ve seen so many non-standard frankenport types over the years I wouldn’t have wanted to speculate.

            Bootloader is unlockable, and unlike my moto Z play, this one doesn’t void the warranty at unlock. I bet there’s not even a tool, probably just adb oem unlock. Can’t imagine what other barrier to root there would be once the bootloader is unlocked. I suspect drivers and kernel are available and that’s part of their outreach to other OSs, but I don’t know any details about that.

          2. The guy in the video does say it will have HDMI support over the USB-C port.

    2. Been wanting a desktop Linux/Windows handheld with WWAN for years. Although, without a mouse pointer, I doubt F(x)tec Pro 1 will be that usable even if they got a desktop Linux distro on it. I guess they could create a software touchpad app like in Windows 10 but that’d take up too much screen space.

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