Ever since smartphones have existed, the PDA dream has been resurrected over and over again. Planet Computers tried that with the Gemini PDA, and then they came back with the Cosmo Communicator. It started off as a very successful Indiegogo campaign, and can now be bought directly from their website. Heavily inspired by the Psion Series 5, it has the looks, the fold out screen with a decent keyboard, and it brings the design into the 21st Century.
Cosmo Communicator – Features
- Connectivity: Wifi, LTE, 3G, Bluetooth, NFC
- Internal Display: 5.99″, 2160×1080, 403ppi, Multitouch
- External Display: 1.91″ AMOLED touch screen
- Runs on Android 10 with the future promise of Linux support
- MediaTek Helio P70, 6GB RAM, 128GB memory, microSD Card Slot
- 2 x USB C ports for charging and external peripherals
- 2x Nano SIM slots
- 17.1cm x 7.93cm x 1.73cm, 326g
- 4220 mAh battery
- 24MP external camera, 5MP internal camera
- Full mechanical keyboard, available in various international layouts
- Under screen fingerprint scanner at the front
- Dedicated voice assist button
Look and feel
As already mentioned, the Cosmo Communicator is designed to look like the Psion Series 5. At 1.73cm thick, it definitely feels a bit chunky, but having an external screen helps its cause somewhat.
The external screen lets you see notifications, read bits of emails as well as access things like the camera, answer calls, etc. A button below lets you access options, as well as hides the fingerprint sensor as well.
On the side of the device is a button which feels like it should be the power button, but is in fact the voice assist button. This one took us by surprise.
Next to is one of the USB C ports.
One the other side is another USB C port, a 3.5mm headset port, and the slot for SIM/microSD card.
Once you open the device, you see a kind of keyboard that’s not even seen on laptops any more. With plenty of key travel and chunky keys, it definitely has the nostalgic box ticked. Oh, by the way, the ESC key is also the ON/OFF key.
The screen itself is decent, and to work with the keyboard, the default mode is landscape for everything.
Android for now
The press material and the website promise that it will support Linux soon, but for something that was released in 2019, there is probably not much motivation for them to keep on working on it. Having said that, keep an eye on their website, and hopefully it will come.
The website promises Android 9 (we are on Android 12 now), and the review unit I had was running Android 10 with a security patch from February 2021. This probably means that this is the latest update you will see on the device.
I do love a keyboard on a smartphone, and love to try out any smartphone that has one. However, touchscreen typing keeps getting better, and even Blackberry’s attempts to re-enter the market have been thwarted. This phone cum laptop does it differently. The keyboard offers big chunky keys with more travel than you’d experience on a laptop these days. However, as expected, it is all tightly packed in.
Call me fat fingers, but I found it a struggle to use it as fast as my laptop keyboard or a touch screen. The latter made me feel rather sad. I tried it on a table and I tried it on my knees and I found that my muscle memory kept pushing me into using my thumbs instead of all my fingers to touch type.
Having said that, if this was the only device I was using, I am sure within a week or so, I would have gotten used to it and it would have started to feel more natural.
This is the thing with devices built on nostalgia – they lure us in, but also teach us why things are not done the way they used to be. But then, as we love the device, we do get used to the quirks it offers.
The outer screen
The outer screen is a stark improvement between this device and the old Gemini offering from Planet Computers. You have a decent coloured screen which gives you enough information to know what’s going on with the notifications, and if you’re reading an email (or snapshot of it), it’ll open directly to that email when you open the screen. It is little details like this that go a long way, and is exactly the kind of thing Apple have built their reputation on.
The big struggle came from the fact that Android is designed to run in portrait mode, where as this device forces everything to run in Landscape. There is a way to ‘Force Rotate’ it to be portrait, but it kind of defeats the point as you have a massive keyboard stuck on the side of the screen. Not all apps, especially social media ones, work very well in Landscape, so that was a shame.
Having said that, it comes with MS Office apps, Skype and their own note taking and calendar apps. This encourages you to try and see how well the keyboard works. I tried the note taking app on various occasions, as well as email, and they work very well. Obviously, if you are already used to particular apps on Android, then this may not be as good a feature.
The cameras themselves are okay, but nothing special. The internal camera works well with video calls, but you’re not going to turn into a social media diva with this device.
All in all, it works, but soon the bigger size, the need to have to open it, and the landscape mode become big issues. It is not a smartphone, it is more like a little laptop, and if you treat it as such, it becomes a much pleasant device to use.
The battery life was probably the biggest disappointment. While it is fine that it gets used up fairly quickly on a busy day, it was sad to see that it went to almost fairly low even if I left it alone all day. On a day to day use, you’ll probably get a few good hours use before it drops below 50%, and you’ll definitely need to keep it on charge whenever you’re near a socket.
More information on the Cosmo Communicator can be found on the Planet Computer’s website.
At the time of writing, it retails at £601, and can be bought directly from them.
I was hoping to fall in love with this device, but sadly it didn’t happen. It is designed for people who miss PDAs, but have the time and patience to learn to live with the quirks of Landscape Android. It might all change once we have a Linux support on this, but till then, it’s really just for those that miss their PDAs.