Planet Gemini Keyboard Smartphone

Things go in and out of fashion and so it is with smartphones. In my early mobile career, the perceived (phone hardware) industry wisdom was that noone would ever want a phone without a physical number keypad. They said people need haptic feedback. They said none would type on a screen that has lots of oil and smudges on it having been placed next to the face. The iPhone proved they were wrong.

However, things have gone too far. While you can still get some phones with numeric keyboards, full keyboards for use by writers, bloggers or just ‘workers’ don’t exist any more. We have much better hardware, connectivity and apps since the early PDA days and now is arguably the time when full smartphone keyboards might be more useful.

Planet Computers have spotted the gap in the market. They have the Gemini PDA Android and Linux keyboard mobile device on Indiegogo. It was funded in just 2 days.

The Gemini is engineered by Martin Riddiford who helped develop Psion PDAs. You can read more about his latest design choices on medium.

This is one of the few crowdfunded things I have ever backed. It’s a compelling concept combining an old form factor but bringing it up to date with new ideas, hardware and software. However, note that none of the photos or videos show it actually working. It will be a large effort to make this thing real and more importantly glitch-free. Doing this for $000,000s rather than $0000,000s will be a challenge. The glitch-free part is important if the product is to have a good reputation and hence a future beyond the initial production. On the plus side, the team is experienced and has no legacy company baggage to slow them down. It will be an interesting journey.

March 2018 Update: 

Well it’s arrived. 3 months late and still without some of the promised (Agenda) software. That doesn’t worry me as I wouldn’t use Agenda anyway. Why develop yet another calendar app when so many great ones have been written already? I use aCalendar+ which works great in landscape on the Gemini. There’s also a Planet Computers app to create notes. But again, why bother when there are many others? My favourite is Evernote, that again, works well in landscape and syncs with all my other devices.

I have been amazed how many apps work well in landscape. The Android UI uses a lot of screen estate for the notification and menu bars and when the on-screen keyboard comes up there’s no space left for the app. This is why many apps only run in portrait. The effort to get them running in both aspects often isn’t worth it. However, when you have a hardware keyboard and no on-screen keyboard there is space to do useful stuff. Luckily all the apps I mainly use support landscape and work very well.

The device is actually better than I expected. It’s well made and the main attraction, the keyboard, works very well. The battery lasts a very long time – multiple days depending on your use.

It’s relatively heavy at about 300g but whether this bothers you depends on how you are going to use the device. For me, it’s a laptop replacement. Something that can be taken to meetings to take notes. It is not generally acceptable to take meeting notes on smartphones and the Gemini is the ideal lightweight laptop replacement. I won’t be using the Gemini as a phone but I have a data only SIM for connectivity. If you try to use the Gemini as a phone I expect you will find it heavy, fragile and ergonomically clumsy. This won’t stop some people trying!

The side button to start Google Assistant is novel as you can ask questions without opening the device. Despite some early bad reviews, the production keyboard keys work well. A few keys are not printed square but this is very minor.

I haven’t found any large glitches yet so can say Planet Computers have succeeded where I was very sceptical (but obviously hopeful)!

Camera and Smartphone Screen Resolutions

counterpointCounterpoint has a recent post on how camera and smartphone screen resolutions have been improving. Mid-price phones now have cameras and screens with resolutions closer to flagship devices. While this might have implications for OEM flagship device sales, it also affects developers.


We can now develop more sophisticated apps that make practical use of the camera. For example, for many years I have been working on medical diagnosis apps that use image processing. This kind of processing has previously only been possible on the few devices providing high resolution images.

Now that the majority of users have higher-end cameras, lots of self-diagnosis scenarios become possible. Couple this with server-side big data and it opens up a new world of possibilities.

Smartphone Shipments Peaking

gartner136Gartner has new research that says Global Smartphone Sales to Only Grow 7 Per Cent in 2016 and will be the first year to see single digit percentage growth…

“The double-digit growth era for the global smartphone market has come to an end,”


I guess most people who want a smartphone now have one. Any changes in OS market share will be due to switching. This isn’t necessarily bad news for developers as it means that mobile platform market shares are now stable and can probably be relied on for staying so for some time.

Counterpoint Research

counterpointCounterpoint has new research and a new infographic on Q2 mobile market handset and smartphone shipments based on more than 75 vendor shipments Worldwide. Huawei has became the world’s third largest handset now beating Microsoft. Asus is the fastest growing brand.


Counterpoint Smartphone Market Share

counterpointCounterpoint has a new infographic based on their Q1-2015 Market Monitor report that tracks more than 75 top vendor shipments across countries that contribute to more than 95% of the total global smartphone volumes.


The infographic is particularly good if you need region specific data.

Emerging vs Mature Market Smartphone Growth

idc.gifI have often mentioned how smartphone growth is mainly in emerging markets. Well, now we have information from IDC that puts some numbers on current and forecasted smartphone growth…


I am amused with the way IDC classifies very low end Android devices as "borderline junk" – something that Google is hoping to change with Android One. However, I suspect Android One is as much about keeping control of the platform and discouraging forks of Android as it is about improving low end hardware standards.

IDC 2018 Predictions

idc.gifIDC has a new press release showing expected (2014) shipments and forecasts for 2018. IDC expect the market to remain relatively unchanged over the next five years with Android and iOS slightly losing market share to Windows Phone. IDC follows the same consensus as the rest of the industry that growth will be mainly in emerging markets, including India, Indonesia, Russia and China and involve phones with low average selling prices (ASP).


If IDCs predictions are reliable then this marks the start of a period of relative stability for mobile developers. We can create apps in knowledge that the same platforms will be prominent and have stable market share for the near future. However, if recent news is a good barometer, we might need to also start thinking about wearables (see the recent FirstPartner Market Map) and IoT devices that connect to smartphones.

Consumer Mobile OS Switcher Motivations

marketstrategies.pngThere’s a new thought-provoking article at MarketStrategies that’s based on a study of 1000 smartphone users asking them about their motivations for moving from/to iOS/Android.

The article also has further numbers and charts on the benefits of brand families and overall consumer satisfaction. The most striking thing about all the numbers is that they are of a similar order of magnitude for both platforms. Apart from price, there seems to be very little to differentiate Android and iOS.