The Astro Slide 5G Transformer, an Android smartphone doubling as a PDA with a sliding keyboard, just took Indiegogo by storm. British company Planet Computers raised the equivalent of over $460,000 within 24 hours of launching its newest crowdfunding campaign.
The instant success once again demonstrated the viability of contemporary handsets with physical keyboards. Granted, it reached its initial $200,000 funding goal with the help of just several hundred backers – hardly a mainstream audience. Yet the folks at Planet Computers have been doing rather well for themselves by catering to this small subset of consumers since 2016.
The Astro Slide 5G Transformer is hence in large part a follow-up to the 2018 Gemini PDA and last year’s Cosmo Communicator. While retaining the sliding keyboard of the firm’s first two smartphones, it diches Sailfish OS in favor of Android 10.
This is still a full-fledged PDA, mind you. Google’s operating system is hence only a part of its dual-booting capabilities as Linux support remains part of the package. Much like its mouthful of a name suggests, the Astro Slide 5G Transformer can also utilize the latest generation of wireless. If that’s not enough cutting-edge networking tech for your liking, Wi-Fi 6 support is on board, as well.
Planet Computers is planning to ship first Astro Slide 5G Transformer units to Indiegogo backers a year from now. Its flagship early-bird special on Indiegogo allows you to reserve a unit for $540. The UK firm says that’s over 40% off the planned retail price.
In other words, this could be its most expensive device to date, surpassing even the 2019 Cosmo Communicator. Planet Computers’ last handset still retails at $1,000, and the Astro Slide will obviously start at over $900 as well.
Astro Slide 5G doubles down on USB Type-C – literally
Beneath the 6.53-inch (2,340 x 1,080) display lies the octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 1000 system-on-chip, 6GB of LPDD4x RAM, and 128GB of flash memory. Planet Computers indicated at least one other model with even more generous memory configuration is in the works. As for photography features, a 48-megapixel camera sits on the rear, opposite to a more modest, 5-megapixel sensor. A 4,000mAh battery, 3.5mm headphone jack, stereo speakers, and not one, but two USB Type-C ports round off the hybrid package.
The physical keyboard of the Astro Slide 5G Transformer is backlit and attached to a “RockUp slider hinge”. Planet Computers claims this patented technology delivers a sliding mechanism that’s both sturdy and easy to operate. In fact, users will allegedly be able to slide out the panel with just a push of a thumb.
All things considered, the Astro Slide 5G Transformer appears to be everything the fans of its predecessors were hoping for. Frankly, that may be for the best; any attempt at catering to a more mainstream audience may not have ended well for Planet Computers.
For example, the handset’s massive weight of 300g would likely be a deal-breaker for most people outside of hardcore PDA aficionados. For reference, that’s almost two whole Galaxy S20 units, and it’s not like Samsung’s new flagship is particularly compact.