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This company wants to bring back the QWERTY slider smartphone, but who will buy it?

BlackBerry and Planet Computers show there's a market for smartphones with physical keyboards.

Published onFebruary 6, 2019

A little over a year ago, a small outfit called Livermorium had planned to release a slider keyboard Moto Mod for Moto Z smartphones. Those plans never came to fruition, but from the ashes of the cancelled project came an entirely different beast — a high-end QWERTY slider smartphone.

Now called F(x) Technology, the company initially planned to release the smartphone in Q4 2018 before pushing the release window to Q1 2019. However, F(x) has been good about providing updates when it comes to the phone’s display, keyboard, slider mechanism, and the software.

Are there still any phones with a physical QWERTY keyboard?
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Blackberry Key2 LE front, keyboard with atomic red frets, showing preloaded apps and BlackBerry features

According to the updates, the smartphone features a 6-inch AMOLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and curved edges. The display sports minimal bezels on all sides and lacks the polarizing notch.

Moving to the keyboard, F(x) chose a backlit five-row keyboard that includes a dedicated numbers row at the top. The left and right sides feature Ctrl, Shift, and Fn keys for added typing flexibility, with the 26 letters positioned in the middle of the keyboard and equidistant to both thumbs.

The slider mechanism props the display at a slight angle when you want to type. The mechanism allows for better viewing angles and prevents the screen from wobbling when closed. F(x) also mentioned that the production method lends the mechanism more strength and resistance against breaking if you drop the phone.

As for software, F(x) said the smartphone will ship with a stock version of Android 9 Pie. The company also said there won’t be “any weird backdoor apps” and will issue Google’s monthly security updates “in a timely manner.”

That said, F(x) did make a few changes to the software. The launcher, for example, features a landscape mode — the Pie stock launcher doesn’t support landscape. The company also developed a few landscape-friendly apps, such as its own email client and calendar app.

From the ashes of a cancelled project rose an entirely different beast — a high-end QWERTY slider smartphone.

F(x) is even extending the olive branch by providing loaner devices and driver support to “core developers.” The company already approached some LineageOS developers and plans to also work with Sailfish OS developers and other communities.

Finally, F(x) also detailed other specs on its keyboard slider smartphone earlier today. The phone features dual nano SIM card slots, dual stereo speakers, a headphone jack, a USB-C port, Quick Charge 3,0, a two-stage camera shutter button, and a fingerprint scanner on the right edge.

F(x) plans to talk about the processor and memory configuration in the next update.

Who is it for?

As promising as F(x)’s QWERTY slider smartphone sounds, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room — we live in a world of keyboard-less smartphones. The era of smartphone keyboards arrived and left, so it almost feels like taking a step backward.

That said, BlackBerry managed to carve a niche with the KeyOne, Key2, and Key2 LE. TCL confirmed during CES 2019 that the Key2 family significantly outsold the KeyOne, so the audience for a smartphone keyboard seems to be growing.

We should also mention Planet Computers, which offered the Gemini through Indiegogo and collected a little over $2.5 million in funds. That’s almost triple what the company initially asked for, so there’s clearly a market for F(x)’s upcoming QWERTY slider smartphone.

We can assume the phone won’t be a budget offering, so the question becomes how F(x) plans to sell it. F(x) could opt for Kickstarter or Indiegogo, which would help the company with production costs and figure out how much interest there is. F(x) could also opt for general sales through its website, though that’s less likely for a company with virtually no name recognition.

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