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> Questions regarding actual real-world usage, Wakeup, Macros, Typing speed, Battery life etc.
csaunders
post Jun 26 2019, 05:25 PM
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Hi,

I've been reviewing the Gemini for some time now and have some questions regarding actual real-world usage (I have a specific use-case in mind), hoping that people here with actual device experience would be so kind as to give feedback...

(1) Instant access from sleep - Opening the clam shell with the previously live application running ... How robust and reliable is this? Is it as reliable as a Psion i.e. works 100% of the time with no lags?

(2) Does Android o/s or the included note taking app support keyboard macros? Note this is a different thing to text shortcuts which require commonly used phrases to 'auto text expand' and don't work with a variety of technical terminology that all starts with the same sequence of letters.

(3) How buggy is the average daily experience? The Psion was an extremely mature platform (bugs and crashes an extremely rare event - almost never especially if you used the in-built apps).

(4) What's real world battery usage like for just a typist / note taker? Can you get more than a days usage without recharging if you turn off the radio? (WiFi and cell and bluetooth etc.)

(5) Lastly - keyboard typing speeds - with enough time could I hope to hit my desktop keyboard speed eventually?

cs
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Daniel W
post Jun 27 2019, 07:00 AM
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QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 27 2019, 03:25 AM) *
I've been reviewing the Gemini for some time now and have some questions regarding actual real-world usage (I have a specific use-case in mind), hoping that people here with actual device experience would be so kind as to give feedback...

I'm just ONE user, who's using my Gemini as a secondary device, since I got it in March of 2018. I can't give any "1 - Yes, 2 - No" type answers, as reality tends not be that simple. Here's what I've experienced, thus far:

(1) Instant access from sleep
If you have many apps running or some app that leaks memory, Android may force stop applications. I typically only run a few apps, and the Gemini has 4GB of RAM, so I've never had any real issues. I typically leave the text editor Jota+ from Aquamarine Networks running when I close the clamshell (I use it for manual sleep tracking), and I can't remember a time where it wasn't there when I opened the case. I tried opening and closing the case a number of times, and it seems the screen needs around 1.5 seconds to come on. Beyond that, there's no further delay. If I flick the lid open and start mashing keys as quickly as I can, the Gemini might drop the first two characters, but if I open it as I normally do, by the time I've positioned my fingers to start typing, the screen is on and the device is ready.

You are normally advised to use some sort of screen lock, for theft security reasons. That would likely slow you down some more. The upcoming Cosmo will have a fingerprint reader, but how fast or good that will be, remains to be seen.

(2) Keyboard macros
To the best of my knowledge, neither Android as such nor the Notes app, support macros. My text editor of choice, Jota+, has limited macro support. It allows you to define a number of phrases, the first nine of which can either be linked to an on-screen tool bar or keyboard shortcuts. By default Ctrl+1 to Ctrl+9 are mapped to the nine phrase slots that can be mapped. Beyond pure text, the phrases also supports a limited number of time-and-date related values, such as the current hour and minute (which I use for tracking sleep).

3) Stability
Overall, I'd say the stability is great. As Android has MANY more moving parts than EPOC/Symbian ever had, I can't say it is completely as stable as the Series 5 (or Series 3, where I had a grand total of two crashes across three devices, one of which occurred when the backlight hardware physically broke down, causing the 3c to kill an app and then just remove "backlight" from the menu, as if it had never been there...). Generally speaking, bugs seems to mainly be related to particular apps. Right now an e-ID I have, just does not work, at all and Firefox behaves weirdly at times, just as it does on the desktop, which, in turn, is pretty much like any web browser more complex than Lynx. Of the built-in apps, I mainly use AirMail, the photo gallery, the camera app (I have the camera add-on, which works, but the picture quality is just sad) and sometimes the file manager. Those are, in my experience, very stable (though I've heard others having issues with AirMail). I used to use the calculator too, with no stability issues, but I have since moved to a more capable calculator app. At times, some background task can cause an undue battery draw, so I may have to reboot my Gemini once a month or so. Other than that and besides specific issues with particular apps, I experience no stability issues in general.

4) Battery life
Right now, it's 38 hours since my last full charge and the battery is at 72%, with an estimated 91 hours remaining, though that is, in my experience a rather optimistic figure. On average, I keep my Gemini in flight mode about 12 hours per day.

With the radios ON I could probably get a tad above two days of light use, if staying near a cell tower and letting the battery run down completely. By forcing "battery saver" (which limits the peak CPU speed and peak screen brightness, none of which should interfere with your note taking) on all the time, I could probably stretch that to three days. With the radios and screen OFF, the device as such, would likely last ten days or more, as its standby power consumption seems to be very low.

What will limit your usage is most likely the power used by the screen, since it, much like any screen giving off its own light, relatively speaking, consumes quite a lot of power. Were you to mostly take brief notes, with the radios OFF, I'd say you'd probably be able get more than three days. Were you to keep the screen on for hours, that alone could drain the battery in a single day. "Your mileage may vary", as they say.

5) Desktop typing speed
Probably not, unless your desktop keyboard speed is quite slow. Still, the Gemini (and upcoming Cosmo) is probably the fastest keyboard you will find on a pocket sized device. I'm typing a bit faster on my Gemini than I was ever able to on my Series 5, as the keys on the Gemini requires a bit less force and tolerates off-center hits better than my Series 5 keyboard did. It's still a "center-peg" (not scissor-type) mechanism, so it's a little less forgiving than a typical full size computer keyboard. The letter keys of the Gemini, just like on the Series 5, are only 14.5mm (0.571") wide, which is 76% of the regular 19.05mm (0.750"), so you'd need hand like a ten-year old to be able to do proper ten-finger typing. The "Home keys", F and J does NOT have a raised dot or similar. The stated reason is because all keys of the same size are molded the same and then laser etched. Adding raised bumps would have required six types of keys instead of five, and that was apparently too expensive.

On a regular keyboard and the Gemini, I usually type using six fingers, while glancing back and forth between the screen and keys. Since the screen is so close to the keyboard on the Gemini, I think I gain back a little of what I loose in raw typing speed due to the keyboard itself. On the Gemini, I might reach 2/3 of my regular typing speed. With practice, I'd estimate I'd be able to reach 3/4, maybe 76%. ;-)

Just so you know, the keyboard has some idiosyncrasies, which seems to stem from that Android isn't really optimized for keyboards. When Caps Lock is on, certain other key combinations, such as Fn+Left (for Home), doesn't work. Most things I've noticed are related to Caps Lock though, so as long as you don't use it, you'll mostly be fine. Right now, while left Shift + Backspace works as Delete, right Shift + Backspace doesn't. That's probably a bug, which I have reported and I hope it'll get fixed.

Closing thoughts
As you probably know, the successor Cosmo is on its way. For mainly note-taking, I'd recommend the Gemini, unless you want a backlit keyboard. The Cosmo will have that (it can be turned off though). Once the Cosmo starts shipping to crowdfunding backers (current guesstimate is late July) there will probably be a number of second-hand Geminis for sale. If you are not going to use the device as a smartphone at all, I'd recommend the WiFi only Gemini. It doesn't have a cell phone radio, and is thus cheaper.

Phew... that's all for now, I think. I hope this helps rather than confuses. Good luck.
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Dixit
post Jun 28 2019, 02:45 AM
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I agree with the above post. Typing goes actually quite well on the Gemini keyboard.

My battery usage has worsened the last month. I now only get some 14 hours of battery, which means that I need to plug it in in the evening, get it disconnected at the morning and hope I will make it to the next evening.

Usage is only a few hours of those 14 hours. I do typically use WiFi and/or 4G, as I use it for internet forums (just as I am doing now).

It used to be some 1 1/2 to 2 days.
It looks like Android 8 is one of the reasons, though I fear that the battery is already dying after one year of ownership.

Getting it through the day is slightly discomforting. Things like e-tickets are also on my Gemini and if the battery then fails, that could get "interesting".
Last Wednesday, for example, my plane had a severe delay and I only got the train back on 21h41. I already bought the ticket - it was on my Gemini. Fortunately, the battery survived (perhaps as a result of the prolonged flight mode in the plane...).

The 3a times - 3 month of battery usage on 2 AA's and a warning 1 week in advance - are long gone...

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ArchiMark
post Jun 28 2019, 09:07 AM
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csaunders,

Think a lot of good points have already been made....

Overall, I've been very pleased with Gemini and keyboard, etc.

Triple booting Android(rooted), Sailfish, and Debian...so, very versatile !

Please note that the PSION's were quite different devices than Gemini due to different OS's, different displays, and connectivity options, etc.

Gemini (and soon, Cosmo), are not PSION's. Only real connection between them is having same keyboard/hinge designer. Other than that, they're really different devices.

Mark

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gymbo
post Jun 29 2019, 03:12 PM
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QUOTE(Daniel W @ Jun 27 2019, 05:00 PM) *
5) Desktop typing speed
Probably not, unless your desktop keyboard speed is quite slow. Still, the Gemini (and upcoming Cosmo) is probably the fastest keyboard you will find on a pocket sized device. I'm typing a bit faster on my Gemini than I was ever able to on my Series 5, as the keys on the Gemini requires a bit less force and tolerates off-center hits better than my Series 5 keyboard did. It's still a "center-peg" (not scissor-type) mechanism, so it's a little less forgiving than a typical full size computer keyboard. The letter keys of the Gemini, just like on the Series 5, are only 14.5mm (0.571") wide, which is 76% of the regular 19.05mm (0.750"), so you'd need hand like a ten-year old to be able to do proper ten-finger typing. The "Home keys", F and J does NOT have a raised dot or similar. The stated reason is because all keys of the same size are molded the same and then laser etched. Adding raised bumps would have required six types of keys instead of five, and that was apparently too expensive.

On a regular keyboard and the Gemini, I usually type using six fingers, while glancing back and forth between the screen and keys. Since the screen is so close to the keyboard on the Gemini, I think I gain back a little of what I loose in raw typing speed due to the keyboard itself. On the Gemini, I might reach 2/3 of my regular typing speed. With practice, I'd estimate I'd be able to reach 3/4, maybe 76%. ;-)

Are you sure you can't make it to 76,1% or even 76,2% as well??? tongue.gif rolleyes.gif blink.gif dry.gif
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csaunders
post Jun 30 2019, 04:03 PM
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QUOTE(Daniel W @ Jun 28 2019, 03:00 AM) *
I'm just ONE user, who's using my Gemini as a secondary device, since I got it in March of 2018. I can't give any "1 - Yes, 2 - No" type answers, as reality tends not be that simple. Here's what I've experienced, thus far...


Thanks Daniel for your very detailed reply, I appreciate the time you've taken to respond to me :-)
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csaunders
post Jun 30 2019, 04:05 PM
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QUOTE(ArchiMark @ Jun 29 2019, 05:07 AM) *
Triple booting Android(rooted), Sailfish, and Debian...so, very versatile !


Hi ArchiMark, what's the Sailfish and Debian o/s experience like for 'awake' from sleep? Is it as good as Daniel reports for Android?
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ArchiMark
post Jun 30 2019, 04:20 PM
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QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 30 2019, 05:05 PM) *
QUOTE(ArchiMark @ Jun 29 2019, 05:07 AM) *
Triple booting Android(rooted), Sailfish, and Debian...so, very versatile !


Hi ArchiMark, what's the Sailfish and Debian o/s experience like for 'awake' from sleep? Is it as good as Daniel reports for Android?


I really only use Debian, as to me Sailfish looks pretty, but the community version that is my only option, seems light on programs available.

And not interested in all the google stuff related to Android....

Debian is very quick to respond when I open up the display, almost instant.....

I use the stock setup with lockscreen.

That image shows up almost instant, then I type in my login password and hit enter.

If you want to instantly go to work, then you can disable lockscreen.

If you use Debian, and want to not use a USB mouse, then highly recommend following instructions in the linux section to be able to use the screen as a 'trackpad' with your finger. Works great after you use it for a day and get used to it. finger moves the cursor around on screen and then you can tap on screen to hit a button or icon, etc, and even double-tap to open up something. So, I don't use a mouse anymore. This made all the difference to me in making Debian a great OS on Gemini.

Hope this helps.

Mark



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csaunders
post Jun 30 2019, 04:33 PM
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QUOTE(Daniel W @ Jun 28 2019, 03:00 AM) *


Hi Daniel, some followup questions:

- Firefox 'behaves weirdly at times'? Apart from just hanging on my desktop ver I don't have any other 'weird' behaviours, what specifically are you refering to? (I'm considering using TiddlyWiki as my note taking app which requires Firefox to run).

- Waking-up from sleep i.e. opening the clam shell - Any complaints when Firefox has the focus / is the running app?

As for the Cosmo vs. Gemini, I'm leaning towards the Cosmo specifically because the hinge is supposed to be improved and I'm hoping they have addressed the spacebar issues that some have complained about. Otherwise I'd be totally happy with the Gemini.


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csaunders
post Jun 30 2019, 04:44 PM
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QUOTE(ArchiMark @ Jul 1 2019, 12:20 PM) *
I really only use Debian, as to me Sailfish looks pretty, but the community version that is my only option, seems light on programs available.
... This made all the difference to me in making Debian a great OS on Gemini.


I like the idea of using Debian on the device, particularly as I have prior experience with Debian back in early 2000's, so apart from learning a desktop UI there's not too much of a learning curve for me (I used to be a Unix sysadmin a long time ago)...

*But* I've come to really appreciate a simple constrained mature UI and the typical tools that sit on top of the Linux / GNU suite are often not very mature. (at least historically they weren't).

Whilst I could use vi to act as my editor I'm not keen to struggle along with the core apps that form part of a standard PDA suite, e.g. mail and calendar and contacts synchronization, which I'm guessing is very mature on Android and still lacking in Debian (the synchronization part not the front-end part).

I use google as my cloud integration engine so for me the synchronization part is usually easy and I've no wish to go back to the dark ages of double-ups on my entire 1000+ entry address book.


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ArchiMark
post Jun 30 2019, 05:19 PM
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QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 30 2019, 05:44 PM) *
QUOTE(ArchiMark @ Jul 1 2019, 12:20 PM) *
I really only use Debian, as to me Sailfish looks pretty, but the community version that is my only option, seems light on programs available.
... This made all the difference to me in making Debian a great OS on Gemini.


I like the idea of using Debian on the device, particularly as I have prior experience with Debian back in early 2000's, so apart from learning a desktop UI there's not too much of a learning curve for me (I used to be a Unix sysadmin a long time ago)...

*But* I've come to really appreciate a simple constrained mature UI and the typical tools that sit on top of the Linux / GNU suite are often not very mature. (at least historically they weren't).

Whilst I could use vi to act as my editor I'm not keen to struggle along with the core apps that form part of a standard PDA suite, e.g. mail and calendar and contacts synchronization, which I'm guessing is very mature on Android and still lacking in Debian (the synchronization part not the front-end part).

I use google as my cloud integration engine so for me the synchronization part is usually easy and I've no wish to go back to the dark ages of double-ups on my entire 1000+ entry address book.


Sounds like you've been away from linux / Debian for a long time....if so, your assumptions are out of date.....

Linux / Debian tools in general, are very mature, and compare quite favorably to those found on Windows and Macs. I can say that as my work computers run Win 10 and my main home computer runs Mac OSX and have a few other little laptops running Win 10 and dual boot with Linux Mint 19.1.

Also, please note that the lead Debian developer for the Gemini version of Debian called 'Gemian', has provided some versions of programs to be somewhat similar to the old PSION programs. Of course, you can use various other programs available such as Evolution or Kontact or Kontact-KDE Organizer, etc.

You can sync mail and calendar with Google using Thunderbird.

You can sync contacts with Gnome Online Accounts app.

There are also lots of other editors available than vi too.....

Etc, etc....

Obviously, you should use whatever OS you prefer.....

The Android apps work for their intended purposes, I'm just hesitant due to all the google and app developer tracking that goes on.



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Daniel W
post Jul 17 2019, 04:47 AM
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QUOTE(csaunders @ Jul 1 2019, 02:33 AM) *
Hi Daniel, some followup questions:
- Firefox 'behaves weirdly at times'? Apart from just hanging on my desktop ver I don't have any other 'weird' behaviours, what specifically are you refering to? (I'm considering using TiddlyWiki as my note taking app which requires Firefox to run).
- Waking-up from sleep i.e. opening the clam shell - Any complaints when Firefox has the focus / is the running app?
As for the Cosmo vs. Gemini, I'm leaning towards the Cosmo specifically because the hinge is supposed to be improved and I'm hoping they have addressed the spacebar issues that some have complained about. Otherwise I'd be totally happy with the Gemini.

Sorry for being "a bit" (two and a half weeks... ahem...) late to reply.

Regarding Firefox weirdness, I mostly meant the kind of idiosyncrasies all web browsers have, one way or another. In Firefox, sometimes, a web page designed for (probably) Chrome doesn't render completely as intended, simply because Firefox isn't Chrome.

Other times, "clever" features aren't all that clever, for example, I've set FF to use full screen browsing, meaning the address bar should go away when scrolling down. That usually works, but some web pages fills the visible part of the screen with a static, non-moving frame and then they scroll the actual page content inside that frame. Firefox just observes that the frame itself doesn't move and thus fails to hide the address bar. I understand what happens and why, but it's still a bit bothersome, as, on a landscape display, it can leave very little useful screen space. Luckily, for those few sites, forcing the screen to portrait, usually makes them workable, but a simple manual "Full screen" button, like F11 on the desktop would have saved me from having to browse certain sites at a 90 degree angle.

As of writing this, on my Gemini, I noticed that Shift+Del doesn't become Delete when using Firefox on this forum. Not sure if that's an issue with the browser or the Gemini keyboard software, which, like all complex software, has a few bugs. Firefox naturally also has some bugs. Today, I encountered an issue I've never seen before. The "change tab" overview just came up empty in, so couldn't change to another tab. That issue still remains, though it intermittently works. I'd guess a reboot will fix that. Typically, I'll reboot about once a month, or when something is acting up. Were Planet to distribute monthly Android security patches, rather than just a few per year, I'd need to reboot monthly anyway. I hope their patching will improve once the Cosmo is shipping.

Overall, I consider Firefox for Android to be mature and stable. It wakes up just file when opening the clamshell. It's perhaps a tad more buggy than, say, Chrome. Then again, Chrome is built by a multi-billion-dollar company while Mozilla is TINY in comparison, so complaining about that would be a bit like complaining that Planet Computers doesn't reach quite the same quality as Samsung or Apple.

As for the choice of device, I haven't had any (relevant) issues with my Gemini hinge, though I had to adjust my space bar, by putting a small sticker on the back side of it, to give it that last 1/10mm, to make it work when pressed off-center. If you can wait a while, once the Cosmo starts shipping (any week now, though that's in the PCT - Planet Computers Timezone, so actual realtime may differ), you might be able to get a fairly cheap second hand Gemini with a "field tested" hinge, so you can avoid duds.

Because I got curious, I tried putting my Gemini in flight mode, charged it to 100% and then used it sparingly for some note-taking. I ended up having, on average, 11.5 minutes of screen-on-time per day. After 14 days (336 hours), the battery level was down to 25% (and I ended the experiment the following morning), so a tad above 5% per day. It kept discharging at a steady pace, so maybe I'd been able to get to 19 or so days, had I run it to shutdown. Now, 10-12 minutes per day is VERY little, but that's where I end up when ONLY making some simple ToDo notes and such. It still suggests that, even with a bit more usage per day, it should be possible to get several days out of a charge, with the radios off.

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gidds
post Jul 19 2019, 09:22 AM
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Another late reply!  My experience from a year using a Gemini running (only) rooted Android (after 20 years using a Psion 5mx!):

QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 27 2019, 02:25 AM) *
(1) Instant access from sleep

100% reliable.  Takes about 1 second to wake up.  (Mine's set to show the previous app, not to go to the desktop or show an unlock screen or anything.)

QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 27 2019, 02:25 AM) *
(2) Does Android o/s or the included note taking app support keyboard macros?

No.  At least, not that I've found.  I'd find this useful for entering accented letters and other Unicode characters. My three partial solutions so far are:
  • The on-screen keyboard (Fn+, &c).  Works in all apps but fiddly and only supports some of the more common chars.
  • A text file that I keep open in Jota+ containing just about all Unicode chars, from which I can copy and paste.  Works in all apps but very fiddly.
  • vim digraphs: in the vim text editor, you can press Ctrl+K followed by two keys, to get practically any Unicode character.  Only works in vim, but works well there (and is standardised so the same shortcuts are available when running vim on macOS or Linux).

QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 27 2019, 02:25 AM) *
(3) How buggy is the average daily experience?

Negligibly.  Depends which apps you use, of course, but Android itself and all the apps I use are very stable indeed IME.  Can't recall seeing Android itself crash.  Think I've seen a couple of apps crash, but one was a beta version I was helping to test. Very rare otherwise.

QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 27 2019, 02:25 AM) *
(4) What's real world battery usage like for just a typist / note taker?

My Gemini always lasts a full day, with wifi on all the time, and some 4G and Bluetooth — but it wouldn't last two days.  In silent-running, it would probably last significantly longer, but how much longer would probably depend upon the screen brightness and the CPU load, which are the other main power drains.  (Though note-taking apps aren't likely to be heavy CPU users!)

You're not going to get the sort of battery life the Psion had, but I think it's comparable to other smartphones.  (It's not a problem for me, because I charge it every night by plugging it into a standard USB charger on my bedside table.  But everyone's situation is different.)

QUOTE(csaunders @ Jun 27 2019, 02:25 AM) *
(5) Lastly - keyboard typing speeds

I got very proficient on my 5mx, and was fairly close to desktop speeds. My second-batch Gemini's keyboard isn't quite as good — a bit wobbly, and you need to hit the keys pretty centrally — but from what I hear, later Geminis were better, so the Cosmo should be too.

And to respond to later points, I'd be a bit wary of running Debian or another Linux distro on the Gemini.  I've nothing against Unix-type OSs at all — I've been using them from the command line for three decades and still do all the time (even on my Gemini, thanks to Termux!).  But a UI designed for a big screen and mouse/trackpad simply can't translate well to a device with a small touchscreen.  (And a decent UI takes a lot of time and effort to mature.)  When I got my Gemini, I expected to be running Linux, but the UIs I saw last year weren't anywhere near as usable as Android, so (despite my concerns) I've stuck with the latter (augmented by Termux).  So unless things have improved radically in the last 14 months, you might find Linux isn't as attractive an option as it sounds.

Allied to which, a general point I think most people overlook is the ease of doing things.  People are amazed at some of the things I do on my Gemini — even though they own Android phones which could do the same.  After all, an on-screen keyboard can do just about everything the Gemini's physical one can do.  The difference, though, is how much easier it is on the Gemini, with its big keys, physical feedback, and no need to show/hide an on-screen keyboard or switch layouts.  And that ease can make all the difference between something that's quick and easy, and one that's awkward and a pain — which means something that people use, and one that they don't.

I keep things like shopping lists on my Gemini, because it's very quick to open it up, switch to Jota+, and type a few words.  Another phone has exactly the same functionality — but unlocking the screen, switching to an app, showing the on-screen keyboard, and then tapping to type the same words (either slowly and painfully, or risking the vagaries of autocorrect) is so much more awkward that few people do.  And similar for the umpteen other things I use my Gemini for.  Something being possible doesn't really matter if it's not easy enough that people will actually use it!  And that applies to UIs as well as to hardware.
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