Are physical keyboards for mobile devices making a comeback? TCL and BlackBery just launched a new phone with a QWERTY keyboard. A keyboard module for the Moto Z smartphone is generating some buzz. And an Indiegogo campaign for a 7 inch, pocket-sized Windows notebook has raised over $1.7 million (so far).

Now the folks at UK-based Planet Computers want to bring back the idea of a small, clamshell computer. And they’ve partnered with the designer of the classic Psion Series 5 to do it.

The Gemini is basically a tiny laptop featuring a 5.7 inch display, a QWERTY keyboard, and modern specs. It’s designed to run Android, but there’s also a dual-boot Linux option.

Planet Computer hopes to start shipping the first Gemini units in November, and the company is running an Indieogogo campaign in hopes of raising $200,000 for the project.

The Gemini is eventually expected to have a retail price of $499 and up, but backers of the campaign can reserve one for as little as $299.

What Planet Computer is promising for that price is a pocket-sized computer with features including:

  • 5.7 inch, 2,880 x 1,440 pixel touchscreen display (564 ppi)
  • MediaTek Helio X25 deca-core processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage + microSD card slot
  • 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC
  • 2 USB Type C ports
  • 5MP front camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Removable 8,000 mAh battery

The device supports Android and Linux and there are two versions: a WiFi-only model and a WiFi + 4G model that supports mobile data.

The Gemini measures about 6.7″ x 3.1″ x 0.5″ and weighs about 14 ounces, which makes it heavier than a typical smartphone, but not much larger when the screen is folded down over the keyboard.

Speaking of the lid and keyboard, that’s where the computer shares a bit of DNA with classic Psion PDAs. Planet Computer hired Martin Riddiford and his firm, Therefore, to help design the Gemini. Riddiford helped design the sliding keyboard design on the Psion Revo and Psion Series 5, which allowed the keyboards on these 90s’-era handhelds to counterbalance the weight of the displays when the lid is opened.

Planet Computers introduces the Gemini PDA from Planet Computers on Vimeo.

Based on the early reaction to the crowdfunding campaign, it looks like the Gemini might scratch an itch some users have had since the clamshell PDA market dried up nearly 15 years ago. It might be the same itch the GPD Pocket is aiming to scratch, but GPD’s tiny notebook has an Intel processor and Windows or Ubuntu software, while the Planet Computers Gemini is an ARM-based device with a smaller (but higher-res) display and Android/Linux software.

I’m curious to see if there’s room for both approaches to succeed… although, as I’ve recently argued, success in the crowdfunding age doesn’t necessarily mean selling millions of devices and reshaping the consumer electronics space. It could just mean manufacturing a few thousand devices for folks that really want those particular devices.

thanks Victor C!

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40 replies on “Gemini PDA is like a tiny Android/Linux laptop with premium specs (crowdfunding)”

  1. I would be interested in this. I used to have the Psion Revo. I’m especially interested in being able to run a full linux distribution on a small device.

  2. This looks like a great replacement for older Blackberry devices. One suggestion would be the ability to answer phone calls without opening the lid,

  3. Just buy a portable bluetooth keyboard and pair it with Android phone?

  4. A Great concept I would buy tomorrow if I could for any price!!!! The Dream Smartphone I have been waiting for years, as I hate any type of onscreen keyboard. This would beat my blackberry priv by far.
    BUT WERE IS THE CAMERA??? Its useless without for me, as simple as it is…

  5. Another Vaio P getting the keyboard WRONG. It’s a selling point, do it right!

  6. Looks pretty and cost for backers is reasonable, but why ARM /MTK ? It’s has a multiple blobs, it will be pain in ass to support newest/oldest/just anothers Linux Distros, there will be no 3D acceleration, it will awful! As well it could be for any peripheral devices, such as BT, Wi-Fi, and so on.
    Yes, modern Intel Atom with 4 cores sounds no so great as 10 cores of MTK, but at least it works with 3D hardware acceleration in most linux distros out of a box! What a shame.

  7. This design + windows 10 + Core i7-7Y75 + 8gb ram + nub mouse = perfect

  8. its too small for me, i like gpd model better, but happy to see that other companies are trying to make the mini laptops comeback

  9. I would even consider it if this wasn’t a Mediatek processor in there. What kind of Linux support can we expect with that brand of processor?. The company launching the campaign should address that issue. But on the other hand the campaign has taken off like a rocket, there is not much need of explanations so far.

  10. I was pissed off when the Psions died. Will definitely be getting the Linux one. Stuff Android.

  11. I’d love to have one of these things. The Series5/Revo designs were a work of art (ex-owner). I just wish they modernized the unit and allowed for 360 degree flipping. The option of an LCD on the back of the unit (especially for the phone version) would have been a killer feature! Also, the 2:1 aspect ratio is insanely narrow and is the deal-breaker for me. 16:10 would have been so much better on such a small “laptop”.

  12. The GPD has really been capturing my attention lately, but I’m not entirely convinced.

    This device looks REALLY intriguing, but I have some concerns:
    – I tend to avoid MediaTek SOCs. They have a really poor history with the open source community.
    – A rear facing camera would be really nice for scanning documents
    – I’d like to know far more about hardware support in Linux. (hardware decoding of HEVC? wifi drivers? energy optimizations?)
    – Commitment to Android updates?

    I’d feel far better about buying an x86 Windows 10 device like this, because that takes care of 3/4 of those concerns.

    1. Also the GPD has a high likely hood of being delivered on time and with the specs promised. I am not so sure if Planet will ever deliver the Gemini with those specs. GPD have several older models currently for sale via Aliexpress and they are located in Sechzehn, China which gives them the access and connections needed to complete something like this quickly.

  13. My Psion Series 7 has most of the facilities of this proposed machine, except perhaps a phone. The Series 7 really has a qwerty keyboard which is superior to most current laptops, in addition to a full word-processor, spreadsheet, database, etc and provision for a modem and external storage. You can buy one now for a fraction of the proposed cost of this new machine

    1. When I was 10 other kids had posters of cars and planes in their room. I had a poster of a Psion Series 5. When I went to highschool, my biggest achievement was not my full-A report card, it was getting a second-hand HP Jornada 720 in pristine condition out of my summer job. I used it through highschool and uni, still have it.

  14. Should have done a proper crowd”brainstorming” 1st BEFORE the crowdfunding.

    1. MediaTek….and Linux…. someone explain this equation to me because I’m not getting it and Linux isn’t the problem here.

    2. If it’s just clamshell only then I’ve drawn the line at 7-8″ screen form factor period. UNLESS if the screen half are actually a front to back sandwich where the outer one serves the same as how phones do now we’re talking. Yes that’ll substantially increase the cost but if done right it’ll be worth its weight (literally) to throw money at.

    3. Well I sure don’t need QHD at that size, FHD can cover it just fine. More batt life for the win.

  15. I must work in a parallel universe because I really would like an inexpenseive, lightweight (2lb), 15+” chromebook with battery life that lasts for days.

  16. looking forward to replacing my phone with this. Reminds me of my old Nokia Communicator

  17. I doubt this is going to be a success:

    1) 7 years ago we had something called the Sony VAIO P-series. That never became a success. Granted, the price might have been to expensive.
    2) The form factor is too much like a normal phone. You can achieve the same by buying a phablet and hooking up a keyboard.
    3) I just don’t think they can pull of a product of that quality for 400 USD. So: very much doubt they deliver at that price point.

    1. 1) The Vaio P price was insanely expensive and hardware was abysmal. The PowerVR graphics were never accelerated under 7, and are still not accelerated under Linux. The 1st generation Z series Atom processor was catastrophically anemic.

      2) There are no well integrated keyboards for a 5.7 inch device. You could buy a 7″ device, although at that size it would be an entirely different class of device, and the keyboards still suck. Also phones aren’t made with keyboards anymore (that MotoMods IGG project withstanding).
      3) The processors, modems, and that density of memory are dirt cheap. The main expenses are going to come from the case, the screen, and the keyboard design.

    2. The Vaio P series tended to cost around $800, right at the moment that $300 netbooks were becoming a thing. It also ran desktop Windows on an Atom Z CPU that (in the first edition of the Vaio) was even slower than the Atom N270 in contemporary netbooks. It failed because it was ridiculously expensive and underpowered. That said, a friend of mine had a Vaio P; I loved form factor and desperately wanted one, but economics drove me to an Asus 1000HA.

      Anyway, the Vaio P was much bigger than this machine — it had an 8-inch screen and, most importantly, was about 3 inches wider than the Gemini. That meant it was about the smallest size you could get and still have a keyboard you can comfortably touch-type on. That’s what was so great about it, and I’d love an Android or Linux machine in the same form factor, driven by a midrange Snapdragon chip.

      1. You remind me of an idea I had for a device. A screen and smarts, in a U-shaped design that would wrap around a keyboard. Mainly aimed at the 60% keyboard market, bt would work with any keyboard.
        The top would fold out to expose an ultra wide (stretched bar) screen, but the basplate under the keyboard would help stop it falling over.

        Since my goal was a dumb terminal / calculator / PDA, the design was much simpler than a Vaio / GPD / this Gemini.

  18. This is nitpicking, because everyone understands perfectly what you mean anyway, buuuut: Android *is* Linux, what you’re referring to when saying linux is GNU/Linux, which includes a lot more.

    1. Yet “GNU/Linux” can’t really run these “Linux Apps” while non-Linux OSes can, often in a number of different ways. It’s an embarrassment at this point to push this point.

    2. If you’re going to nitpick, then you have to be technical. Android is *not* Linux. Android is an operating system that uses the Linux kernel. Gnu/Linux is an operating system that uses the Linux kernel. When people use the term “Linux” to refer to an operating system rather than the actual kernel that is named “Linux”, they mean Gnu/Linux, not Android. Whether it’s correct or not to ever use the term “Linux” to refer to an operating system is debatable, but when done, it never means Android.

  19. I’d love it if Android were easier to develop on. Running a real IDE and Node and local servers as easily as Windows/full-Linux/OSX. I’d use it way more often like a laptop then

  20. I’m still trying to find a bargain Sharp Zaurus sl-c1000 or a Netwalker on ebay.

      1. At this point it’s not about using it, it’s about finally getting it 🙂

  21. I’m interested in the Linux desktop/ feature. Is there a physical mouse pointer on this?

    1. There is no physical mouse, it is a touchscreen with 2 usb ports so you can add your own mouse.

      1. Ugh my bad, just realized it ISNT a touchscreen, but you can still add a USB external mouse.

  22. I think the project would be better served trying to build a fairly universal clamshell bluetooth keyboard for phones. I love the idea, but there are too many times in Android where a vertical screen is needed, and without a pointer a linux desktop will be too clunky.

    1. Not interested. You could never make something that works with more than 1-2 devices. I’d rather have a device that is an entire solution, not a compromise.

  23. yes, i’d love one of these

    but it really needs to have some kind of portrait- and/or no-keyboard-mode to replace my phone – and im most certainly not carrying around both devices.

    but then if you do create something like that, you are back to something like moto droid – let’s call it “alternative innovation” (recreating features that people threw away in the past)

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