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> Why buy the Gemini?
gymbo
post Mar 16 2018, 07:17 AM
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QUOTE(Varti @ Mar 16 2018, 01:42 PM) *
QUOTE(smapmap @ Mar 16 2018, 12:40 PM) *
It's not normal to type on a screen.

I'd print that sentence on a t-shirt and I'd wear that t-shirt everyday!

Varti


Agreed! (Well sort of anyway, I certainly wouldn't wear it every day...)

And to amend to my original post on the topic: It has standard mini-jack headphone socket, 2 USB-C ports, and seems to be driven by people who are trying to adhere to standards, and are trying to build the device as open as possible... Which IMHO is the RIGHT way to go, and not the "you don't need access to this or that"/"be content with what you get"-attitude you get from some (most??) other phone companies these days... wacko.gif sad.gif mad.gif
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jornada720
post Mar 16 2018, 08:59 AM
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Here are my bullet points:
  • From an ergonomic perspective, typing on a hard piece of glass is a disaster. Glass is hard and damaging to your fingers which are not. I predict that in a few years, there will be tons more RSI and arthritis problems among people who used a slab phone for 20 or 30 years.

  • A keyboard is faster than swiping for those of us who use non-English languages with accents, or for people who have to type a lot of words that are not in the swiping dictionaries. Programming or server administration on a smartphone is an exercise in frustration. It's so much easier when you have a keyboard. Any programmer or admin who gets one of these things will thank themselves every day for doing it.

  • Multi-tasking is a total mess in Android and IOS. They both kill your apps randomly and give you no control. And Android lets shit start up by itself without you ever asking for it. With Linux, you choose what's open and what's not.

  • If you like big displays, the size of the Gemini is also a nice plus. The 18:9 ratio is the future.

  • As for carrying around a keyboard, that's just dopey. They're bulky, you have to keep them charged, and they look mismatched and unsightly. With the Gemini, we have everything in one sleek package. I personally would have preferred a removable keyboard design that is also a clamshell (or something similar to the HTC 7 Pro) but from an engineering standpoint, these are much more complicated and will not happen unless Gemini 1.0 is a success. I'm not going to carry around an iPad Mini as my phone, either.

  • The software flexibility of the Gemini is also a fantastic selling point. I am looking forward to Sailfish on my device but I also could choose Debian, Ubuntu, Postmarket, or AOSP if I wanted to. The developer-friendly attitude of Planet Computers is wonderful and something that can keep this phone supported for much longer than short support lifespans of other Android devices. With open firmware, we can be installing any Linux on the device that we want for years to come.

  • Finally, I think there are a lot of people who are wary about the growing power and evilness of Google and Apple. These companies do not care about their customers' privacy and governments worldwide are looking to slurp up the cloud data that tech firms have hoarded for decades. With the Gemini, we will be able to have a device that does not impinge on our privacy.

A lot of times, people who are just used to buying whatever Apple or Samsung poops out have difficulty imagining how restricted their choices are. They mistake their own lack of imagination for savvy.
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donc
post Mar 16 2018, 11:30 AM
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There was some Psion nostalgia for me but stiffened with multiple benefits that still exist for this type of device in today's world. The keyboard is the big one, once you have had the flexibility that an integrated keyboard brings it is hard to live with the compromises that a phone or tablet forces on you for any kind of content creation (anything from a long email, word processing, etc). I can tap away with the Gemini on my lap, on the table or when stood up. Can't do the last one with a bluetooth keyboard! The ability to run Linux is a further bonus.
The clincher for me is when I travel for business. Working for a large aerospace company my work laptop is heavily locked down (no admin rights, limited browsing including no webmail, USB ports blocked, etc.). If I travel for work I don't want to be lugging around two laptops to cope with the limitations of the work one. Even the GPD pocket was a bit of a pain and it is tiny for a laptop. The Gemini means this is no longer an issue whilst not being compromised by having to use a phone for more than a quick scan of emails and news...
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depscribe
post Mar 16 2018, 01:47 PM
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QUOTE(Varti @ Mar 16 2018, 04:42 AM) *
QUOTE(smapmap @ Mar 16 2018, 12:40 PM) *
It's not normal to type on a screen.

I'd print that sentence on a t-shirt and I'd wear that t-shirt everyday!

Varti

Speaking of which -- did anybody here get the PC teeshirt perk? (At minimum, I think PC should send them to everybody who got an X25 Gemini.)
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depscribe
post Mar 16 2018, 01:54 PM
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QUOTE(jornada720 @ Mar 16 2018, 08:59 AM) *
. . .
Finally, I think there are a lot of people who are wary about the growing power and evilness of Google and Apple. These companies do not care about their customers' privacy and governments worldwide are looking to slurp up the cloud data that tech firms have hoarded for decades. With the Gemini, we will be able to have a device that does not impinge on our privacy.


DING DING DING DING DING! Absolutely right. That alone justifies the price of admission.
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wheel_deal
post Mar 17 2018, 08:56 AM
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QUOTE(theMrMobile @ Mar 15 2018, 06:56 PM) *
[E]very time I post about Gemini, I'm confronted with a lot of folks asking why they're not better off buying a keyboard like the Jorno for their smartphone instead. And to my mind, it's a very good question. . . . Why did you choose this device instead of a smartphone + accessory combo?

I have cerebral palsy. As a person with limited dexterity, I find a good keyboard extremely important, as is a single, unified device that's readily accessible. I have an 11.6" Macbook Air in the bag behind my wheelchair, but I can't access it without assistance. By contrast, I should be able to keep the Gemini in my front pouch, allowing me to save information in a way that able-bodied folks might take for granted.

That said, I haven't yet ordered a Gemini; I'm waiting to assess its commercial viability.

Kind regards,
Brian
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theMrMobile
post Mar 20 2018, 05:21 AM
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Hi all,

OP here. Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to provide such in-depth feedback! So often I find that communities built around a new or nascent product turn out to be some of the most vocal and helpful; glad to see that's the case here.

My review will land in a few days, but I thought I'd share a brief version of my own experience with the 4G LTE build of the Gemini (running Android) here. Maybe it will spawn some additional conversation.

The Good
  • Faithful recreation of Psion Series 5 keyboard
  • Hardware size strikes the perfect balance between tiny laptop and oversized smartphone, ideal for airplane seat trays
  • Big bright display
  • Handy keyboard shortcuts
  • Phone calls clear and loud, and reception seems up to speed
  • Despite X25/X27 mixup, Android runs swiftly
  • Satisfying mechanical action on open and close
  • LEDs have promise
  • Smart button allows Google Assistant access even when closed (for voice dialing and minor queries)

The Bad
  • Multiple keyboard issues as also reported here: sticky spacebar, misaligned keys, prematurely fading key labels
  • No keyboard backlight (a huge handicap when on a darkened plane or train – sure, touch typing is great but there's a lot of key doubling and special toggles on Gemini)
  • Thin black silicone strip near hinge is loose and lifting off already
  • Mini SIM slot (necessitates adapter if you use a modern nano SIM)
  • Some apps don't display all available softkeys/UI elements in landscape, necessitating portrait use
  • Front-facing camera delivers some pretty rough photos/video
  • Speakers loud but very tinny, lacking in bass even for a mobile device
  • More screen "bounce" than I expected when typing
  • No way that I can find to assign LED light patterns to system events or notifications
  • No guarantee of Android updates to version 8 and beyond due to SoC

Misc
  • Using it as a primary smartphone is greatly helped by two things: Android Wear smartwatch (for Call ID, quick messaging, media controls) and a Bluetooth headset
  • Battery life is adequate for all-day use but given its size I expected to be able to squeeze two days out of the thing, even with heavy use
  • Planet's record on providing timely Android security updates is as-yet unproven

On the whole I think this is a good product for people who've wanted to see the return of a device like this, but the Gemini does suffer from a few more teething issues than I expected. It's hard to have faith in this keyboard when I never know if the spacebar or enter keys are going to stick, and it's tough to un-see that lifting strip of silicone too. Personally, I think I'd strongly consider buying a version 2 with a more consistent keyboard and tighter hardware on the whole, because this thing really does come in handy for writing where laptops fail to fit!

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smapmap
post Mar 20 2018, 09:10 AM
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QUOTE(theMrMobile @ Mar 20 2018, 01:21 PM) *
Hi all,

OP here. Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to provide such in-depth feedback! So often I find that communities built around a new or nascent product turn out to be some of the most vocal and helpful; glad to see that's the case here.

My review will land in a few days, but I thought I'd share a brief version of my own experience with the 4G LTE build of the Gemini (running Android) here. Maybe it will spawn some additional conversation.

The Good
  • Faithful recreation of Psion Series 5 keyboard
  • Hardware size strikes the perfect balance between tiny laptop and oversized smartphone, ideal for airplane seat trays
  • Big bright display
  • Handy keyboard shortcuts
  • Phone calls clear and loud, and reception seems up to speed
  • Despite X25/X27 mixup, Android runs swiftly
  • Satisfying mechanical action on open and close
  • LEDs have promise
  • Smart button allows Google Assistant access even when closed (for voice dialing and minor queries)
The Bad
  • Multiple keyboard issues as also reported here: sticky spacebar, misaligned keys, prematurely fading key labels
  • No keyboard backlight (a huge handicap when on a darkened plane or train – sure, touch typing is great but there's a lot of key doubling and special toggles on Gemini)
  • Thin black silicone strip near hinge is loose and lifting off already
  • Mini SIM slot (necessitates adapter if you use a modern nano SIM)
  • Some apps don't display all available softkeys/UI elements in landscape, necessitating portrait use
  • Front-facing camera delivers some pretty rough photos/video
  • Speakers loud but very tinny, lacking in bass even for a mobile device
  • More screen "bounce" than I expected when typing
  • No way that I can find to assign LED light patterns to system events or notifications
  • No guarantee of Android updates to version 8 and beyond due to SoC
Misc
  • Using it as a primary smartphone is greatly helped by two things: Android Wear smartwatch (for Call ID, quick messaging, media controls) and a Bluetooth headset
  • Battery life is adequate for all-day use but given its size I expected to be able to squeeze two days out of the thing, even with heavy use
  • Planet's record on providing timely Android security updates is as-yet unproven
On the whole I think this is a good product for people who've wanted to see the return of a device like this, but the Gemini does suffer from a few more teething issues than I expected. It's hard to have faith in this keyboard when I never know if the spacebar or enter keys are going to stick, and it's tough to un-see that lifting strip of silicone too. Personally, I think I'd strongly consider buying a version 2 with a more consistent keyboard and tighter hardware on the whole, because this thing really does come in handy for writing where laptops fail to fit!


Thanks for posting back MrMobile - such a shame some people - you included - are experiencing QA issues. It must spoil the experience. I guess - as it's literally the first batch - this might be expected to some extent but I really hope the factory get their act together and improve the quality. Your review is very fair and I'm glad you have used it for a few days - as you need time with the device to get used to the new form factor and appreciate it's strengths - and weaknesses.
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Grench
post Mar 20 2018, 11:37 AM
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QUOTE(theMrMobile @ Mar 15 2018, 05:56 PM) *
So I thought the best people to help me answer it would be the folks who've already ponied up the bucks and put their orders in for the Gemini. Why did you choose this device instead of a smartphone + accessory combo?

Thanks in advance!


Years ago I purchased a bleeding edge smartphone. A Galaxy Note 3. It is still in service. It has a removable back with a user replaceable battery. I'm running a 200GB microSDXC card to supplement the onboard 32GB of RAM. I fairly regularly use the USB 3.0 OTG to transfer data on/off the device. I have yet to find anything I want to do with a standard smartphone that it won't do. It is quick, user serviceable (replaced the charge port myself), etc. I have to retire it because it is forever stuck on Android 5.0 as Samsung will not unlock the bootloader. This policy of orphaning phones from updates at 2 years and refusing to release the ownership of updates to the consumer (bootloader) has forever put me off of purchasing any major manufacturers smartphone. I have work related software that requires a non-rooted phone and will soon stop allowing operation Android 5. So, I have to get a new phone. Not because my phone is hardware outdated - it isn't. But because my $800 phone is no longer supported by it's manufacturer.

I have several bluetooth portable keyboards. I even have one that quad-folds and fits in a pocket. Where they all fall down for mobile use is that I only have two hands and cannot run the keyboard with them while holding the device. Where they all fall down for desktop use is that I have to physically setup/assemble them just to type an email. Having owned a Pandora handheld computer, I can securely state that a clam shell keyboard incorporated design is BETTER.

The device I really -want- is the DragonBox Pyra. I have had one on pre-pre-order for over two years. It will be a great device - some day. Hypothetically a person could put 2.2 terabytes of storage into it and still stick it in a pocket (microSDXC + TWO full sized SDXC + two USB 2.0 ports using microSDXC in-port adapters). The battery is meant to be user-changeable. However, it is 1.3" thick, which makes it 'pocketable', but it's going to print badly in a pant pocket. To become my 'phone' it would also need to run my work Android application. For the Pyra, that last bit might someday happen, but that someday is probably 2 Months to a year or more away. I'll be patient for that one, quirks and all.

So, I ran across the Gemini on Indiegogo. It ticks several of the Pyra boxes. Physical keyboard, microSDXC for expansion, though I wish it had more than one. Stock Android will hopefully work for my work applications. What I'm really looking forward to on this one for an OS, though, is Sailfish. The fact that Planet Computers has gone open source on the bootloader for the Gemini should be the biggest news in smartphones. THAT is revolutionary in the world of Android/iOS smartphones. To have a manufacturer hand us the keys and say, "Run whatever OS you want"... finally. A manufacturer that hasn't ingrained and automated obsolescence into their device support. One of my latent fears with the Gemini is actually the battery. None of the user reports have yet to figure out how to remove the one it ships with. User serviceability might not be as good as many of us had hoped for.

I like mechanical keyboards. The interface between human and computer is a real thing that needs to be made as seamlessly as possible. On a good keyboard, I can touch type at nearly the speed of thought. I won't be nearly that fast on the Gemini. But, on-screen keyboards have always been an exercise in frustration. They are far too slow and, by definition, require looking at your fingers. You can never truly touch type on an on-screen keyboard. (The closest to being able to do so is the Samsung Galaxy Note 12.2 - but that is simply that in landscape mode it's on-screen keyboard nearly matches the per-key size of a physical desk keyboard). Frankly, I wish Planet Computers had gone -further- on the keyboard and put in a scissors stabilization type setup akin to the original IBM Thinkpad keyboards. Yes, even if that would have added 3-4 mm of thickness to the end device.

So many of the phone reviewers get the Gemini wrong. They try to categorize it as a wonky phone with a keyboard. That isn't how we're all planning to use it though. What it REALLY is, is a multi-purpose, general-function, portable computer that also has the ability to take a call or two when needed. Clock your time with your 'smartphone'. What percentage of that time is spent actually talking on the phone? For many of us it is nearly zero. I can go months without a single voice call. I can't seem to go 20 minutes without reading and responding to a text or email though.

If you were to place 'current devices that can use mobile phone towers' on a continuum or scale from phone to computer from most phone-like to most computer-like:

Wall phone (do they still make these?)
Any 'normal' smartphone - iPhone or Galaxy series or LG or ... (any of them)
Galaxy Note series (gets one step up for having multi-application split screen multi-tasking)
Gemini 4G on Android
Gemini 4G on Sailfish
Gemini 4G on Debian (not much for voice call support - work in progress)
Pyra 4G on Debian (not much for voice call support - work in progress)
Any manufacturer's Notebook with 4G networking (no voice call support)

The Gemini not just another 'smart' phone. The Gemini is a pocket computer with mobile data and voice capabilities.

So, is that enough reasons to buy a Gemini?
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drand
post Mar 20 2018, 11:50 AM
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Superb post Grench and closely matches my thinking.

I hope the Gemini can drive a clamshell shaped wedge into the smartphone / portables market to the benefit of consumer choice. While I think the market for the Gemini will remain niche it could be expanded tenfold if more people thought about buying what they really needed rather than what the big manufacturers and OS makers are trying to sell them.
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andrewl
post Mar 20 2018, 11:23 PM
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For me the Gemini is not a phone. It's a portable creation device with phone capabilities. I expect it to be very good at the on-the-hoof creation stuff, but really not very good at being a phone. Devices that are made to be consumption devices and communication devices and have become very popular as such, have had media designed for their form factor and will always be better at it. I will still be carrying my phone.

I'm not too bothered about user-replaceable batteries, because a so-called non-replaceable one takes me 5 minutes to replace. I have a powerbank for occasions that I might need it, about 1% of the time.

What I like from a phone type device:

1. Screen readable in all conditions - including direct sunlight (something Psion was good at).
2. Should be able to survive a fall onto concrete from head height. A slip of the fingers should not cause a $150 repair bill.
3. Should have be able to hear and hold a good connection in fringe cell coverage areas.
4. No-slurp OS would be nice. I actively avoid Android for obvious ethical reason and I will be hoping that eventually Gemini can be totally Android free.

What I don't need:

1. More pixels crammed into a small screen. These are pointless and unusable and waste battery.
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MonkeyControl
post May 19 2019, 10:31 PM
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I've just reread this topic, 'Why buy the Gemini', just over a year on from the question being originally asked by that nice MrMobile off the internet, and every answer in it is still valid today. I wasn't around at the time, but I would have probably answered something like 'came for the Sailfish, stayed for the keyboard'. The thing that strikes me though, on rereading all the comments, is that for what is often described as an apparently niche product, (and please don't get me started on the retro tag), there are quite a variety of reasons why people are here.
The Gemini, (and now the Cosmo), don't just answer one functional question, they seem to, (sort of), answer all the questions, whereas the dull slabs featuring android and crapple seem to collectively answer none. When I look at the Gemini & Cosmo features, and I look at the competition, (is there any?), the absolute brazen nerve of their existence just blows me away.
Long live Planet, keep doing what you're doing, can't wait for my little Cosmo.
p.s. Sorry to be so gushing and lovey, but credit where it's due
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Varti
post May 19 2019, 11:15 PM
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QUOTE(MonkeyControl @ May 20 2019, 08:31 AM) *
I've just reread this topic, 'Why buy the Gemini', just over a year on from the question being originally asked by that nice MrMobile off the internet, and every answer in it is still valid today.

I totally agree with what you wrote smile.gif I couldn't even imagine going back to a smartphone with no keyboard, and having to type again on the screen every time. And having to bring my laptop with me every time I'd need to do an SSH session.

Varti
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Dixit
post May 22 2019, 03:18 AM
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Indeed, I entirely miss the concept of "keyboardless smartphone."

Happy to say that I went straight from the Nokia 9300i to the Gemini.

Now people ask me: "Did you buy the Cosmo ?"

Euhm... no... I wasn't ready to change my concept "One phone per 12 years" either, so let's see what will be around in the year 2030.
I do hope it shall be a Planet.
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Daniel W
post May 22 2019, 11:08 AM
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QUOTE(Dixit @ May 22 2019, 12:18 PM) *
2030
A Gemini might be a reasonable choice for that. While current OLEDs are unlikely to last that long, LED backlit LCD might. When MediaTek stops supporting the SoC, Linux can probably carry you on. USB-C and 4G will likely remain in use and something like Opera Mini can hopefully make late 2020's web sites workable. But current flash drives are less resilient than ten years ago. You may want to look out for a cheap "for parts" Gemini and find a way to swap the chip one day. While the first battery swap should be easy, when Planet STOPS (the haven't begun yet) making replacements, you may want to get two from the last batch and store them well. By 2030, I hope consumer electronics will have evolved such that keeping your next device until 2042 and the one after that until 2064, will be trivial, as we really need such life spans to seriously cut down on e-waste. Best of luck.

QUOTE(theMrMobile @ Mar 15 2018, 11:56 PM) *
why they're not better off buying a keyboard like the Jorno for their smartphone instead.
Had external mobile keyboards been a nice experience, laptops would largely be powerful tablets by now, which they, notably, mostly, are not.

While good pocket portable touch-typeable external phone keyboards exists, very few are available with my localized layout, while Planet Computers offered many layouts. I use my mobile device on the go, and in a typical car passenger seat, commuter bus or subway, a keyboard with a separate phone stand won't work well. A keyboard with an integrated phone holder would work better, but mechanics to securely grab a phone tends to be bulkier, heavier, less reliable and more delicate than having the keyboard permanently attached, so, to me, that would really only make sense if the keyboard MUST be full size and/or removable. Finding one with my localized layout would probably be even harder.

In either case, such keyboards must somehow be connected, often needs their own batteries and sometimes their own software. If I have a few minutes between bus stops, I neither want to spend time unfolding and connecting, nor having to fall back to tap-on-glass inside a busy commuter vehicle. Sometimes, I need to stand up and perhaps even walk, while typing on my physical keyboard, so, for me, a somewhat smaller (thus also thumb-typable) and simplified integrated keyboard, protected when inside the closed device, immediately connected and matched to the software, is much more available, convenient, compact and, well, elegant. While a Gemini can't be my only phone, I voted with my wallet for further development, and I am now looking forward to the Cosmo.
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