Android phones with physical keyboards aren’t dead yet
With much more of a focus on TV and computing, CES 2022 hasn’t been a show awash with smartphone releases.
There’s been the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, a number of cheaper devices from TCL plus, outside of the show, a few teases from OnePlus about its upcoming OnePlus 10 Pro.
Look past the big names and there have been a couple of stranger, very niche phones showcased at the event – including this keyboard-toting Astro Slide 5G from Planet Computers, a device that’s been in the works for a number of years.
It seems fitting that in the week BlackBerry switched off its mobile service another phone with an actual physical keyboard gets its first big outing.
I spent some time with Astro Slide 5G at the Showstoppers event here in Las Vegas and the phone is certainly unique in 2022. It’s absolutely massive, thicker than pretty much anything else I have reviewed in the past few years and very janky in the way it’s constructed.
Yet, it’s has a certain amount of retro charm.
The design is reminiscent of a Psion Series 5 device, with a keyboard that pulls out from underneath the display horizontally. Once the keyboard is pulled out, the screen pops up a little so it sits at a more comfortable angle.
The hinge design and the way the keyboard needs to almost click into place gave me the impression I was going to break the screen off every time I opened it up. Once the keyboard is out the Astro Slide 5G is a bit like a tiny laptop and you could, if you really wanted, pop it down on a table and start typing.
I was more impressed with the typing experience, even if it’s a little large to comfortably hold and type with two hands. The keys have some decent travel if you really must have a keyboard on your phone then this could be the phone for you.
The phone certainly becomes less interesting when you look past the keys. There’s a 6.39-inch FHD display, Android 11, 5G and a MediaTek Dimensity chip. To meet the £719 asking price, you’re really going to want to take advantage of the keyboard and the bevvy of shortcuts and key mapping features built into the software.
Yet, I am still glad phones like this exist – and judging by the amount raised through crowdfunding there is still some genuine interest in devices that aren’t simply glass rectangles.