back to article Cosmo Communicator: More phone than the Gemini, more pocket computer than phone

London-based Planet Computers has said its Cosmo Communicator, a folding phone with a physical keyboard evocative of '90s Psion clamshell palmtops, has finally made its way into production. There is a family connection when it comes to the Psion scion. Technical designer Martin Riddiford worked on both the Psion 3 and 5 …

  1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    I know someone who will want one of these...

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Yeah, ME! =-D

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      A happy Gemini users, I will certainly consider upgrading.

  2. Andy Non Silver badge

    Tempting

    Especially when the Linux option becomes available, but maybe a tad too expensive at ~£800 for my needs.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Tempting

      I love the _idea_,.... but I can't justify the outlay. It all goes back to that day in the phone shop I chose a smaller model over the O2 XDA Exec,... and kinda regretted it later. I'll tick this box eventually,... maybe that new Microsoft Droid clamshell,....

    2. Fungus Bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Tempting

      But will Crysis run on it?

  3. STOP_FORTH
    Happy

    Smug

    Got a Gemini, have one of these on order at early backer price. Christmas is early!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Smug

      I’m a Gemini user, use one almost every day when away from full size devices. Absolutely love it, it has filled a big usefulness gap and I would be without it. However, I chose not to back Cosmo because for my use, the only benefit over Gemini is the backlit keyboard. the negative is the Cosmo isn’t supported by Jolla for Sailfish. I dumped Android as soon as it was possible and I’m using paid license for Sailfish with the over the air updates, which for me is the big selling point of Gemini.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Smug

        Me smugly flog my Gemini too. Note taking is my killer app and Dropbox now has a text editor built in. Wake up in the night, bang down my magic insight, and next morning there it is on my office desktop. Used to have to connect the old Psion via RS232, humbug!

        Backlit keyboard and better phone functionality are not enough for me to justify the price and weight of Cosmo. Gemini already has perfectly adequate eSim/LTE/Bluetooth/quad boot.

        Not sure why so many plump for sailfish, as it is a touchscreen UI par excellence but Gemini's USP is the gorgeous keyboard. Maybe just 'cause when it comes to SF it's been Gemini or nothing?

        Still, if you are the kind of guy who shells out 800 goodies for "better than" and finds the Cosmo a tad less awkward on the ear/ego than a giant phablet, go for it I say!

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Smug

          Sailfish touch and keyboard combination is the best of both worlds. I use the touch for the os operation, the equivalent of a desktop mouse, then the keyboard for extended text input. If either were missing then it wouldn’t be a real productivity tool for me.

          Sailfish is best supported on Sony phones, where it is able to run Android apps, but of course there is no keyboard. I have all the apps I need on Sailfish and I avoid google like the plague so Gemini is the only existing device that fits my requirement,

  4. Saruman the White

    Used to use a Nokia Communicator ...

    ... and I loved it. Now wondering whether I should use this when I next replace my handset.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Used to use a Nokia Communicator ...

      If the Gemini is adequate for your needs, when the Cosmo ships a lot of second hand Geminis will suddenly hit the market so it might be worth waiting for a month or so.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge

        Re: Used to use a Nokia Communicator ...

        The Communicator was a better phone than the Gemini. If that is what you need, go for Cosmo, it is totally aimed right between your eyes. It even has a better keyboard.

  5. Spanners Silver badge
    Pint

    Something that has been missing

    It would be nice to have an alternative to Android. I did hope that Microsoft would make good but they put more effort in taking down Nokia than actually pushing their own mobile OS.

    £799 does not sound excessive for a phone if you consider how much they can cost now. How much does one pay for Samsung's finest? The first couple of Note 10s I see on Google are £869. Samsung says the S10 is £799, the S10+ is £899 and the S10+5G (probably not a fair comparison) is £1,099.

    It's more than the Oneplus7t or the P30 but they may not be aimed at the same markets.

    If this device is offering functionality that people need, or want, the price may not be too bad.

    1. John Miles

      £799 does not sound excessive for a phone if you consider how much they can cost now

      Sounds like the Decoy Effect ( Trick that-makes you overspend ) or similar kicking in - Phones are only this dear because big manufacturers can get away charging you that for them

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: £799 does not sound excessive for a phone if you consider how much they can cost now

        The backer price is around £465.

  6. Martin 63

    Nice news

    As I'm here clearing out my man cave, I cannot let go of the Psion CM, up to the netbook. Its a nice end to a particularly bad day. Once my cosmo arrives. I just meed to figure out loading OPL on it.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Nice news

      "I just meed to figure out loading OPL on it."

      Oh, my, if you ever do that, tell us all and tell us loud!

      1. Ralph B

        Re: Nice news

        Isn't Python the new OPL?

  7. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Looks interesting - chunky as hell though, and I like large phones. The 2" screen is a great idea if it extends battery life.

    However, I'm going for the FxTec Pro 1. A phone, as opposed to a PDA, should be able to be operated one handed (without the keyboard) and I don't see this doing that.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I found the keyboard on the (Porto) FXTEC pro 1 to be nowhere near as effective as Gemini for prolonged text input. Also it seems to be only Android, which is a big NO for. me.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      "A phone, as opposed to a PDA, should be able to be operated one handed (without the keyboard) and I don't see this doing that."

      That is the problem with Gemini as a phone. The whole point of Cosmo is to break out the phone stuff to one-handed use.

  8. Rosie Davies

    Got Gemini, Getting Cosmo

    I was an early back for both so have had the Gemini for a fair while now. It works well enough as standard smartphone, the main irritant being websites and apps that can't cope with landscape properly and I don't really notice the size or weight but then again it lives in my handbag when I'm not using it. The keyboard is an absolute dream to use, I'd got really fed up of constructing messages aroudn the lest number of words rather than saying what I wanted to because I find on screen keyboards an absolute PITA to work with. Touch typing means I can say what I actually want to say or witter on at superfluous length, depending on your perspective.

    I backed the Cosmo mainly for the backlit keyboard and because they're a small company doing something a bit different. THe external screen and camera aren't tht important to me, at least until the thing arrives then they'll probably become an invaluable feature that I'll wonder how I ever coped without. Or something.

    Do we get a proper Reg demolishes review on this one?

    Rosie

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Got Gemini, Getting Cosmo

      Are you the Rosie that went all Laurie Lee and spilt cider over the keyboard? Glad the replacement is working and still dry.

      1. Rosie Davies

        Re: Got Gemini, Getting Cosmo

        Guilty as charged y'honour. Planning on not repeating that particular destruction test on the Cosmo.

        Rosie

  9. Dr_N Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Software

    Does it have a suite of fully-integrated, extremely user-friendly and intuitive software?

    Otherwise it's doomed to failure as a expensive, throwback to a more design-diverse era hamstrung by touch oriented apps.

    Was recently casting round for something that wasn't a PitA to lug around when doing vacation-> work trip (or vice-versa) without going home but there really isn't much out there that fits the bill.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Software

      Unfortunately, the software is the Achilles heel of Planet's offerings. The hardware Gremlins have been resolved but firmware updates are few and far between and long-standing bugs just haven't been fixed. The device itself is immensely practical. You really need a table to use it properly but it does then let you do a lot of stuff: I was able to demonstrate PyDroid on it recently, albeit without using the native HDMI out, which for some reason refused to work. USB-C on one side is charging only, on the other output only. Sound is tinny but bearable. I only got a replacement Germay keyboard after Andrew Orlowski intervened. This is all okay for a device that you can always takes with you and works.

      But the software side is poor:

      • Android 8.1.0 from Decemeber 2018
      • if WLAN is dropped, it will not reconnect but drain the battery in a couple of hours
      • keyboard will randomly go into CAPS
      • quite a few apps (IPlayer Radio) just crash
      • the custom version of K9 is quite frankly awful

      Basically, looks like Gemini users have been frozen out so that the Cosmo can happen. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up, but still disappointing to see the after-sales service fail so badly.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Software

        I’ve had several updates for Sailfish, including recently.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Software

          I might indeed switch to Sailfish at some point, but it's still not a ringing endorsement of Planet's approach. They could have gone with AOSP from the start, except that this doesn't get them the Gapps that many people consider essential.

      2. JeevesMkII

        Re: Software

        As a Gemini owner I can't say I've experienced any of these problems, though I have noticed a serious drop in battery life since the 8.1 upgrade. Also, occasionally the youtube app crashes the phone when switching away/back to it, which is to put it bluntly a bit of a pisser.

        It's the lack of support from MediaTek that's the problem. They don't properly support their hardware with drivers kept up to date with the latest Linux kernel. You're dumped on ancient releases and no bug fixes, even the Android 8.1 update was a bit of a miracle.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Software

      If it loads Debian then it will be able to run LibreOffice. Does that meet your criterion?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Software

        A Gemini Debian does indeed run on it and LibreOffice works just fine. Unfortunately in this configuration the cellphone features are not well supported.

    3. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Software

      "Does it have a suite of fully-integrated, extremely user-friendly and intuitive software?"

      Depends what you think of Android, or of losing half the functionality with a different OS.

      It also has a bunch of "remember the Psion S5" Android apps put together by Planet. TBH I use/d my S5/Gemini more for Internet and creativity than personal productivity, so I haven't really got into them. Opinions seem to be mixed.

  10. dajames Silver badge

    I have a Gemini. It's a nice device -- as delivered it's a cross between a Psion Series 5 and an Android phone. In this guise it works pretty well for most things, if you like Android, though the software could do with rather more regular updates.

    However, it's not really what I wanted it to be. I didn't want to run Android, I wanted a full Linux workstation in my pocket. As I have limited pocket space I wanted that Linux device to double as my phone (you know, to make calls and stuff). The hardware could do that, but Planet haven't done as much as I'd hoped on the OS side. One can run Linux on it, but it's not capable of doing all the important things a "normal" smartphone does, so I have to carry two devices or leave the Gemini at home (which is what happens).

    A shame, because it's a nice toy. The Cosmo looks nice, too, but I do wish planet had spent their limited time and money improving the software on the Gemini rather than improving the hardware (which was already good).

    1. ScissorHands

      Did you try Sailfish? It's a lot closer to desktop Linux than any Android, but has good telephony support.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      The whole Debian on the Gemini was a huge distraction for Planet for a few vocal users. Because the device uses a Mediatek SoC getting proper support on Linux was always going to be difficult. For those who want to go that route, Sailfish is the better option. But personally, I think Android with a good SSH client is sufficient for most sys admin work that I'm likely to want to do on the move.

      1. STOP_FORTH

        Can you recommend an SSH client?

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I had a Nokia Communicator. In fact I had two but the older brick was definitely the better one for what I wanted. Being retired I no longer have the business use case for either the Gemini or the Cosmo and can't justify either to myself at the price. Unless, as an earlier comment said, there are a lot of cheap Gemini coming onto the market.

  12. nanchatte

    Almost...

    I almost pulled the trigger on one of these but then I looked across at the pile of dusty gadgets already adorning my shelves and realized it would more likely than not end up nestled snuggly among them after a few months of post-midnight fiddling.

  13. Anonymous Cabbage

    Linux like it's 1993 again?

    I am not even remotely interested in Android because it's a spyware/malware magnet, but I'd buy a PDA running real Linux in a heartbeat.

    However, Planet Computers' misleading advertising of Linux support on the Gemini does not bode well this time round. Although it does technically boot Linux, the choice of a MediaTek SOC which only provides closed-source Android blobs and no useful developer documentation means much of the hardware either doesn't work outside of Android or performs so poorly it amounts to pretty much the same thing.

    Heaven forfend that the manufacturers of a machine that costs the thick end of a grand might use a decent SOC that is more amenable to being properly supported in Linux instead of penny-pinching and using the cheapest one they could find.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux like it's 1993 again?

      Well, it's not there yet. Let's visit this when Linix support is actually there and then we'll see what they actually did.

      There is no way I would be interested in closed source Android derivatives because that kinda misses the point completely - I might as well just buy an Android phone. If it's fully open source, however, I'd be interested, possibly even in volume.

    2. JayBeeDee

      Re: Linux like it's 1993 again?

      Hi, I have the planet gemini (mediatek processor). I'm dual booting it with kali linux (also had debian on it) it works smoothly, it's easy to do whatever you like with it and Planet are very supportive. I am assuming the Planet Ethos will not change with the cosmo (I am an early backer), continuing with mediatek will allow a quicker turnaround getting linux's up and running. I don't find Planet's advertising misleading, you can do whatever you want with the hardware and load whatever software you wish, they are a small outfit and doing an awesome job with limited resources (and make all technical details available), join the community and help them.

      Your assertion that the hardware is the "cheapest one they could find" and that it will "perform so poorly" is complete nonsense. The "bang for buck" is truly amazing for ealry indiegogo deals (gemini : £250 (4gb RAM), cosmo (6gb ram): £415) and linux performs much quicker than my previous x86 laptop (with 8gb RAM). Who are you comparing them against Apple, Samsung, Sony ?? no-one is giving a similar value proposition.

      I would suggest you pick up a 2nd hand gemini (for £100-150 when cosmo upgraders get on ebay) and see the performance for yourself instead of spouting ill informed views.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More PSION links

    AFAIK they have more ex PSION people working there.

  15. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    I also want one.

    Pricing may be a bit of a hassle here in SA...

  16. TWB

    I'd love one

    But really don't need one.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I'd love one

      Let me guess, your house is already filled with similar gadgets that you didn't need but still wanted? Join the club!

  17. Gudieve Ning

    No stylus?

    I was about to bite, as a creative thinker who loved his Palm Pilot, loves his Note 9 but misses the superb keyboards of the Psions.

    But I cannot see any reference to a stylus. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    1. STOP_FORTH
      Happy

      Re: No stylus?

      If you buy the leather pouch "perk" it has a pocket/strap for a stylus. So I would assume that a stylus will work with the Cosmo, but you have to buy it separately.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge

        Re: No stylus?

        Yep, Cosmo and Gemini are both stylus compatible. ISTR that Planet did not bring one out because they are pretty individual things and most buyers don't want a standard vanilla offering. The stylus holder in the pouch is as far as it is sensible for them to go.

  18. Morten Bjoernsvik

    why not bt keyboard

    If they released a Psion look and feel BT keyboard I'm in. Currently I use a plain logitech BT keyboard with my android, works great, but not very portable.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: why not bt keyboard

      The advantage of the keyboard is that it puts the screen at a usable angle and keeps it close enough for you to use your fingers.

      With a separate keyboard you need a stand for the phone and a dedicated battery for the keyboard which adds to the size and weight.

  19. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Kind of cool..

    It sort of reminds me of Motorola's efforts with its "Atrix" dock about 7-8 years ago. My first Android phone was a Moto, and when plugged into a display you could choose "desktop mode", which was a pretty credible effort to add productivity to that little phone. You didn't even need the pricey dock. Add a Bluetooth (or even a wired) keyboard and mouse and you had pretty much the same thing, albeit in not as slick of a package.

    1. Gudieve Ning

      Re: Kind of cool..

      You can do that with Samsung's DeX, just plug an S10 or Note 9 or 10 into a monitor using USB-C, then Bluetooth a keyboard and mouse, and hey pesto sauce/ Bob's your trans Auntie, a desktop PC experience!

  20. Clive Galway

    "completely impossible to edit anything [...] unless you have cursor keys"

    No it's not

    The BlackBerry KeyOne / KeyTwo have a reasonably usable system by double-tapping the keyboard to enter edit mode, then move the cursor around with swipes.

    Admittedly, cursor keys would maybe be nicer, but I feel "completely impossible" is overly hyperbolic

    I thoroughly approve of the product tho, the HTC TyTn 2 was my favorite phone ever, I would kill for another phone in that form-factor

    1. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

      Re: "completely impossible to edit anything [...] unless you have cursor keys"

      The Tytn 2 was just the right size and a very useful device indeed... until the permanent and inexplicable RED LIGHT OF DEATH bug shone it's baleful glow

  21. teknopaul Silver badge

    cursor would be nice

    The little ball on my first android phone worked wonders. That gadget would fit on any modern phone and would improve editting text significantly.

  22. MrKrotos

    No chance

    I am a Gemini user, its an okay unit but its now falling to bits, the case parts are falling off and theres not much life left in it.

    I will no longer be buying any more Planet Computer stuff...

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: No chance

      OTOH the case of my Gemini is still solid good despite being dropped a few times. Quality of the early batches was a bit variable, with hinges cracking easily or panels flexing and needing a careful bend to re-tension them, but the later ones seem fine.

  23. MonsieurTM

    I have an unused Gemini, which I liked. But the keyboard <ENTER> key gave up. And it is useless as a phone. Oh - and the bluetooth was well dodgy. (Seriously: anyone want to buy it? For postage & a beer? Reply on this forum.)

    I look forward to my Communicator (I'm an early backer) - as this I expect/hope will solve all of those issues. I loved the keyboard on the Gemini. Beautiful for emails/LinkedIn/etc.

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