After having owened and used both previous PDAs by Planet Computers (the Gemini PDA and the Cosmo Communicator), I partly knew what to expect from their new modal, the Astro Slide. I knew it wouldn't be a robust, top-notch state-of-the-art smartphone. Planet Computers makes devices for a pretty small niche and needs to sell these devices for a reasonable price despite their low quantity. After having used it as my main phone, I've come to the comclusion that there are reasosn to be disappointed by the outcome of the device anyway.
I've written about my initial impressions of the device. This entry just adds what further experiences I made while using the device as my main phone for ~42 days. tl;dr: I'm still disappointed.
The build quality is relatively low. But I underestimated and/or misremembered how annoying those buttons with no pressure point whatsoever are. Thy aren't even protuding, nor do they have a different color or texture from their surrounding. That means every times I want to turn on the screen of the phone without opening it, I have to either stumble around the edge of the device with my finger for a while, or I need to have a close-up look at the side of the device to locate the button, then fumble around with my finger for just a little while. That turns of the touch-screen. But unlocking it by using the touch-screen doesn't always work. Sometimes the touch-screen just doesn't seem to be in the mood to respiond to being touched in certain places. I also forgot how annoying it is to have a phone without working adaptive sc reen brightness. I have to turn of the brightness way up, above a sensible poiunt, to make sure it's readable in sun-light. Sometimes, adaptive screen brightness just turns it to 0 for a while, which effectively means it turns off the screen. I guess there's a reason why automatic screen brightness is turned off by default.
The screen is okay, but not very bright, hardly readable in direct sunlight. Colors aren't very accurate. And sometimes contrast and colors shift as if some filtwer was applied, for no reason. The speakers are small and not very loud, lack low frequencies completely (no bass). The headphone output is prone to CPU noise while the screen is turned on. The fingerprint reader is so unreliable it's best treated as if it didn't exist. It's useless. The sliding mechanism feels surprisingly sturdy. I didn't break it yet. But I'm sure something will break or come apart soon, as it was the case with my previous Planet Computer PDAs. The software isn't much better. Ecven though there are security updates available and a notification makes sure to permanently inform me of that fact, no updates can be loaded. The OTA update is fundamentally broken. Apparently Planet Computers didn't think it would be a necessary feature to be able to update Android!
I don't know if it's the Mediatek chipset that the device uses (Maybe Android support for that chipset really is that bad.) but using Android on the Astro Slide is just as buggy on the Astro Slide as it was on previous Planet Computers PDAs. Some apps aren't available for the platform. After every time Android boots some internal app whose function isn't clear to me crashes. Sometimes notifications disappear for no reason. Sometimes a notification sound plays for no reason. Sometimes the screen turns off and locks for no reason. Sometimes the device reboots for no apparent reason. It can be said that Android does run on it. But it's not the experience one expects from a system that is supposed to be native to and ships with a device.
The camera quality is just beyond embarassing. The sensor was obviously chosen by number of megapixels and price only. It's been a long time since I've seen such smushy and noisy pictures even from a <100€ phone. Battery life isn't as good as you might expect from a clunky devoce like this. My Google Pixel 4a with not even half of the battery capacity, despite being over four years old and in daily use, lasts longer than the Astro Slide with (very roghty and estimated) similar use.
When backing the Indiegogo project, my intention was to use the Astro Slide as a small Debian laptop for my packet. A mobile machine for SSH, FTP, some web stuff and for texting. It would have replaced its predecessor, the Cosmo Communicator, in that role. But Planet Computers stopped supporting any OS other than Google Android. Not only is there no official buld of any Linux distribution, the package mirror that used to provide DEBs for the Cosmo Communicator also quietly diasppeared. There doesn't seem enough interest in the device in the Sailfish community. Maybe some Linux support will come from users at some point. But I don't see any on the horizon.
With the previous Planet Computers PDA, the Cosmo Communicator, I had a fallback use case: an occasional PDA for SSH stuff while travelling, sometimes a tiny fileserver at events. But lacking availability of any non-googley OS, I feel compelled to ask: What is the Astro Slide for? I, personally, don't seem to have a suitable use case for it.