back to article Up close with the 'New Psion' Gemini: Specs, pics, and genesis of this QWERTY pocketbook

Bill Clinton was still US President when the last pocket computer that you could touch type on came out. Back then, almost everyone accessed the internet at home on a dialup modem, not broadband, and no phone yet sported a colour screen or a camera. It was a different era. But after 17 years, a Psion 5-style machine is back, …

Anonymous Coward

Entertaining

We will now see the real face of the enemy.

What will "Do No Evil" do to an Android based real competitor to the Chromebook?

Where did that big bag of popcorn go? On a second thought it will probably take a rather small bag.

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Re: Entertaining

If it runs Android, why would Google care if you bought it in place of a Chromebook?

And for that matter, would ChromeOS work on this Gemini hardware for the educational market?

(A slightly larger device, effectively a clamshell Newton with keyboard, was made by Apple but only sold to schools. Name escapes me ATM)

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Re: Entertaining

In a years time when "Do No Evil" have done exactly diddly squat about it because they don't care will you be back here to admit you were wrong or will you keep your real face hidden?

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Re: Entertaining

What do you suspect they will do?

Plant a virus in Android that activates on detecting a Gemini? Launch a military strike on the Gemini offices?

Google already exist in a market where other Android devices compete with them. They seem happy about it and aren't short on profits. What makes this any different?

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Hardware keyboard is new... again?

The Blackberry is only mentioned in passing here, but isn't that almost what this device is? It's a large phone running Android with cellular connectivity and a physical QWERTY keyboard... sounds a LOT like a BB to me.

I know a lot of people who miss their hardware keyboards and would probably consider this, especially at its modest current price, for a phone. I suspect I would benefit for those times I need to RDP/SSH from the road.

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Re: Hardware keyboard is new... again?

Please don't insult the Psion keyboards by saying they're just like a Blackberry. The keyboard on this is nothing like those. (I've owned Psions & Blackberrys, so speak from experience)

I can imagine a lot of network engineers wanting one of these to logon to network devices console's when things have gone TITSUP.

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Re: Hardware keyboard is new... again?

Good point. That's why I keep my old atom laptop around.

Pity it does not have a dedicated Ethernet port however

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Re: Hardware keyboard is new... again?

This would be awesome for this, if it had hardware F-keys (F1-12) not only good for AS400 sessions but I could also use it DOSBox and Amiga emulators! :-)

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Re: Hardware keyboard is new... again?

"I can imagine a lot of network engineers wanting one of these to logon to network devices console's when things have gone TITSUP."

Indeed, but looking more closely at the symbol placings on that keyboard, it looks like it's aimed at journalists, not techies. I might be able to write an article in the field, but I might not be able to rewrite a perl script to fix an oncall alert, while down the pub with mates (which I did with Nokia keyboard phones).

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@e-mouse

"Please don't insult the Psion keyboards by saying they're just like a Blackberry."

The original keyboard most definitely wasn't but to be honest I also have some doubts about this new model. Also because the whole emphasis seems to be focused on the keyboard and hardware, but that alone does not make a good PDA.

It does provide one heck of a system though. I actually used it to wrote up 70% of a report which had to be finished in the weekend (because of quality tests held at the customers place) while riding in the train. That thumping sound when I slowly (but steadily) got used to the smaller size and actually started using 4 - 6 fingers to type... It was amazing.

But let's be honest: a netbook can do that too these days. The main reason why Psion was awesome was because it was functional as heck. Straight to the point, no confusing riff raff.

And well, I too share some concerns which people have raised over this device. I mean, the hardware looks good and all, but in the end it's all about functionality. And when I read comments like these:

"Two great innovations make Gemini a successor to the Psion: the keyboard and the hinge."

I can't help have some doubts too. Because.. The hinge was important on the Psion 5mx but no one seems to stop to think why that was so. Because the keyboard actually folded out. It slided across the bottom and slided out of the casing which gave you a lot more space to type, as well as the extra "button bar" below the screen for quick and easy access to most important applications.

When you look at the screenshots of the Gemini you'll notice that it really is just a regular clamshell model. There is no extra space, there is no sliding keyboard, it's merely a 2 piece device which can fold shut. It has a hinge, but in all honesty: so does my Toshiba Portege.

But bottom line: the hardware can be awesome, but in the end its the functionality of the system which counts. And I'm a little puzzled that hardly anyone seems to pay any attention to that.

How will the PDA functionality differ from your common Android device, also considering that this thing was designed for Android. That's the part I'm interested in yet which no one seems willing to address.

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It's not just the hardware keyboard...

... it's also that you can probably run an actual operating system and don't have to resort to impossible to secure systems like Android, IOS and the likes.

You can just strip down the operating system to whatever you need and even use that device as a terminal. In fact since you have a decent keyboard, you can even enter secure keys for flash encryption.

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Re: Hardware keyboard is new... again?

Blackberry didn't invent the physical keyboard on mobile devices. Before Blackberry, Nokia launched their successful 9000 series which continued all the way up until the Nokia E7.

Blackberry released their first device in 1999, there were countless other devices with a QWERTY keyboard already, which includes Psions.

Now, back to the Psion Gemini, I can't wait. I have a Psion 3mx and a 5mx and love them both. People are tired of having to carry a tablet with them WITH extra accessories like a bluetooth keyboard to be able to write comfortably. I'm honestly surprised netbooks died out. Tablets are great little couch potato machines, but people like me who actually need to write a lot were stuck either going the route of an ultraportable laptopl (I used the MacBook air), or a tablet + accessories.

If they market the Gemini more towards business users, or users who need to write a lot (emails, bloggers, writers) I think it'll catch on. There's obviously still a market for such things, as a few similar products have already been released and are in the works.

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18:9?

What's the obsession with declaring the aspect ration as 18:9? 2:1 works fine for me.

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Pint

Re: 18:9?

Upvote for you sir.. lol I've never seen anybody else point that out

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Re: 18:9?

Came on to say the same thing. It's 2:1 but the general public has been fooled into "bigger numbers are better".

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Re: 18:9?

In this instance, I think I could justify an improper fraction.

We all know what a 16:9 screen is. An 18:9 screen is obviously wider.

It's not IMMEDIATELY obvious that a 2:1 screen is wider than a 16:9 screen for the layman, however.

People don't handle ratios well. I've had any number of arguments over this, and also that it's measured by screen diagonal.

No, a 65" 4:3 smartboard is NOT the same as a 65" 16:9 touchscreen. In fact, you lose quite a bit of height and it looks tiny and stupid in comparison.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 18:9?

18:9 is clearly much bigger than 2:1. In fact at least 8 times bigger. I can't believe I had to point that out.

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Re: 18:9?

In the words of Bender Rodriguez:

"Popular? I'm pure lowest common denominator, baby!"

Using the LCD to describe LCDs is useful... It's clear how much taller a 16:12 (4:3) screen is than a 16:9

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Re: 18:9?

get a load of my 80:40 display, that's even better!

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Re: 18:9?

...the general public has been fooled into "bigger numbers are better".

I think you're right. 4K TV's for example. Suddenly we've gone from talking about horizontal lines (720p, 1080p, even analogue 576i, 288p and so on) to vertical lines, because... well, it's 4 times bigger, innit. I'll stick with my 2K 1080p screen for now.

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Re: 18:9?

If you double the width and keep the same proportions, then the screen area is 4 times the size.

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Re: 18:9?

Also, 4:3 could be stated as 12:9.

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Joke

Re: 18:9?

Any number of arguments? 3.14159...?

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So the entire point of the new device - the keyboard - wasn't there, doesn't exist in even the only demo unit? But you saw a HINGE? Wow!

It's sounding much like the Vega scam that some of the same guys are involved with.

And this is the THIRD story (if you count the "pre-announcement" vote thing). I'm disappointed, Reg, that you've got suckered into pushing this so hard so early.

At the moment, it's a mini Android smartphone, the like of which there are thousands.

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The Reg has featured this device because their readers have been expressing a desire in such a device for years.

The hinge was a crucial part of the original Psion device - the Reg readers who used it know why - and not just a small detail.

This Gemini is still being crowdfunded, so I'm not surprised they haven't finalised the keyboard, which will be the hardest part to get right. Prototype, test, repeat. They will, but hardware development takes time when you're doing more than just assembling off the shelf parts from ODMs. There is no point in them showing off a V.0.6 keyboard.

Speaking of which, most other phones at MWC are boring oblongs, much like the one you probably own. The Gemini is interesting.

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"So the entire point of the new device - the keyboard - wasn't there, doesn't exist in even the only demo unit? But you saw a HINGE? Wow!"

You've clearly never played with an old Psion device. You could spend hours* just opening and closing a Revo, constantly being amazed that someone could think up and make something so complicated yet elegant.

* Sat bored in meetings while everyone else was impressed at all the notes you kept taking.

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At one point I owned about 10 Psion Series 5MX's.

I know what they are.

I also know that the history of crowdfunding something that doesn't exist in even prototype form is why they have to crowdfund rather than seek investors - because NOBODY else but fanatics under the illusion of hype will touch them.

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"I'm not surprised they haven't finalised the keyboard, which will be the hardest part to get right."

This is being designed by the original Psion designer. The original keyboard was one of the features that earned praise (never having used one I can't confirm its quality). So why should it be a problem to get right?

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> So why should it be a problem to get [this new keyboard] right?

It's not a total replica of the old keyboard - it uses a magnetically sprung mechanism, just for one example of a difference. Then there is the process of refining the manufacturing once the design is nearly finalised.

Good hardware can be a time consuming process to get to market, and there is nothing to be gained from assuming otherwise.

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> they have to crowdfund rather than seek investors - because NOBODY else but fanatics under the illusion of hype will touch them.

Investors will want to make lots of money on a successful product, in part to cover the losses they make backing unsuccessful products.

You're correct in that vocal enthusiasm doesn't necessarily translate into high sales. In fact I commented here a couple of weeks back (before any Gemini announcements) about the idea of crowdfunding the Psion-style keyboard "that many Reg readers keep telling us they want". [I wrote it in the context of an industry wide modular system akin to Moto Mods. Moto Mods are a proprietary magnetic physical connector built atop the open Greybus electronic standard. It seemed to me that it would be cheaper to crowdfund a snap-on keyboard than it would an entire pocket computer]

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Series 5 keyboard

The keyboard on the series 5 was a joy to use, fast, precise and tactile. No need to do anything but mimic that entirely. Also the way the 5 folded was actually better than this device shows... the keyboard slid out forwards of the original case line neatly counterbalancing the screen which sloped backwards a bit.

Some complained of it tipping, frankly I never had that experience, maybe to do with just how hard or sensible you were with the space key

I used to use a series 5 in Microsoft mobile devices division (thought I would be the outsider a bit) only to find that half the other guys in the meeting were ALSO using them - and all of them Microsoft guys with pocket PCs - and all of whom wanted a keyboard!

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Anonymous Coward

Re Vega scam...

Not sure it's quite a scam - more like the usual Sinclairesque business model that eventually gave painful birth to the Spectrum and QL, both in forms not quite implied by the initial advertising. It might still deliver, but it will be very late. So typical Sinclair really.

I always think with Indiegogo and Kickstarter that any pledge is a 50-50 punt on getting anything at all, so I've only ever pledged amounts that it wouldn't kill me to lose.

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Re: Series 5 keyboard

I attended a meeting with Microsoft's mobile team in Seattle in 1999 or thereabouts. When I arrived, I unloaded my Macintosh PowerBook and Psion 5mx and set them up on the desk in front of me. I looked up and saw I was being looked at with a degree of distaste, at which point I said "Ah - sorry about that - I shouldn't really have come here with a Mac, should I?" To which they responded - "We don't mind the Mac - but we really don't like the Psion..."

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"It's not a total replica of the old keyboard - it uses a magnetically sprung mechanism, just for one example of a difference."

But if the original wasn't broken, why are they fixing it?

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I would have backed that project already if it was more like a Nokia E7 or Nokia N950.

Basically the screen facing the other way so that the device can be used as a smartphone when closed.

Then again with such a large battery it would not be practical I guess. That would be a different device altogether. I've noticed a few other people making the same observation. Another solution would the dual screen design on the Nokia E95 and other communicators. Right now the Gemini is neither a smartphone nor a laptop, it truly is a PDA.

As it is, I'm still hesitating...

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That's a valid point - even a small monochrome display on the outside would allow the user to see the number of an incoming call before answering.

One solution would be to use this Gemini with that Sony device that clips to a shirt pocket. It's a small Bluetooth device with small display, and is held to the ear like a mobile phone - but it also has a 3.5mm jack for a normal wired headset. It is also a standalone MP3 player and FM radio.

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I get the impression that this is more aimed at tablets than phones, so voice calls are a secondary concern.

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Problem with screen unprotected and facing out

It gets scratched and damaged. Then some egit wants to make the touch screen capable of making or answering a call so it suddenly needs a lock button which invariably can manage to be activated when it is in the pocket.

Nope, I have both flip and and clamshell phones I do NOT and will NOT have a touch screen or chocolate bar phone because they are a pain in the bum.

The idea of the screen inside and a fold is entirely satisfactory, Assume they will include an answer when you open the device option and a hang up when you close it. that is brilliant and enough

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Re: Problem with screen unprotected and facing out

I guess a common scenario will be the user wanting to take/make voice calls whilst the Gemini is in its 'open laptop's position, so that the user can take notes or refer to information during the call. If so, then a wired or Bluetooth headset will be a given anyways.

Such a Bluetooth earpiece could be designed to 'dock' with the Gemini using its USB-C port, sitting flush when not in use.

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IndieNoGo

Having been burnt by the Jolla Tablet project on Indiegogo, I think I'll sit this one out.

I've had less bad experiences with Kickstarter. Is that just luck? Or is there some intrinsic difference between the crowdfunding platforms that makes one more likely to deliver than the other? (And I mean "deliver products to the funder" rather than "deliver cash to the fundee".)

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Re: IndieNoGo

> I've had less bad experiences with Kickstarter. Is that just luck?

I can't speak about you specifically, but there has been research that indicates some individuals will consistently buy products or systems that fail in the market (thus never pick up 3rd party developer support, and lose vendor support), even if they are technically superior.

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Re: IndieNoGo

Ha! I used to work with someone who was a tremendously accurate belwether for technologies that didn't work. I think he and a colleague of his's finest hour was when they evaluated two emulation libraries for something. One existed (and was, admittedly, a bit ugly on a number of levels), one had been promised real soon now but there wasn't anything we could see. By cunning belief in everything they had been told and by not weighting 'actually existing' very high on their scoring system, they managed to choose that one which was due in 3 months.

The project was (correctly) canned anyway, and I was amused two years later to get a call from the company that produced the one they had chosen saying that it was out now and were we still interested?

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Meh

Caution outweighing excitement

I still have a Psion 3a, which sort-of works - the screen connector has become highly dodgy - that was manufactured in the early '90s. Amazing piece of design and technology. For the replaceable rechargeable battery alone it is tempting.

I want one of these. I really really do.

But not one of the first ones out the door.

If there was a way to back it, so that it has a better chance of succeeding, but not be obliged to accept the version 1.0, I would.

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Re: Caution outweighing excitement

Check again on Indiegogo but I believe you can donate any amount.

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Re: Caution outweighing excitement

I know what you mean. Despite having been run over - twice - my 3a is still working (even if the hinge has now broken irreperably). I'm considering whether I want to take the risk of having something that will sit unused in a drawer forever. But then if this fills the gaps I just might be able to get away with an iPhone SE if I do that, which would mean I get my headphone socket back.

But ah, I have so many fond memories of the Psion as a full time device :)

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This post has been deleted by its author

Meditatek is 'bang up to date'? I mean I guess technically, but it tends to be in low-end kit.

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Mediatek do make some high end SoCs, but they're serial GPL-violators. On the odd occasion I've had to use their drive sources, the code quality is abysmal.

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This reminds me a bit of the Raspi Pi, in that as soon as I saw it I thought, "this looks cool - I want one".

Unlike the Raspi Pi - and in a good way - I can immediately see real world use cases of this for me.

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it looked so good until I read "Mediatek".

I think the GPD Pocket looks quite interesting too.. if GPD can launch it without the quality issues of the GPD Win, and properly support linux on it, then I think it could achieve surprising success

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