BlackBerry may be dead (again) but its spirit lives on. Planet Computers is back with its third device, the Astro Slide, which pairs all of the perks of standard Android smartphone with a mechanical, backlit keyboard.

This is Planet Computer’s third device, after the Gemini PDA and Cosmo Communicator. Unlike those phones, it drops the folding clamshell form factor in favour of a sliding mechanism that hides the keyboard when you don’t need it.

The obvious benefit is that it means the Astro Slide basically looks like a standard, if slightly chunky, modern smartphone when the keyboard’s tucked away. That means you can use all your apps just like normal, without the keyboard flapping around, in either a landscape or portrait orientation.

The company is pretty proud of its ‘RockUp’ hinge design, which telescopes up before tilting to prop the display up, with all of the cabling actually running through the hinge. The downside is that you don’t get a choice of angles - it only sits at 140 degrees, which the company says is the sweet spot for most work - but it should be pretty sturdy. There hasn’t been proper durability testing yet, but the Cosmo’s hinge was rated for 100,000 opens & closes, and Planet Computers is expecting to hit a similar figure here.

Beyond that expect a pretty standard 2020 smartphone experience: Android 10, a 6.5in display, 128GB storage, dual-SIM & eSIM, and both 5G and Wi-Fi 6 support. The biggest twists are Planet Computers staples: dual USB-C ports, with support for DisplayPort in one; and built-in multi-boot options so you can run Linux alongside the default Android OS.

Some specs are still up in the air, as the Astro - like the company’s previous phones - is only on crowdfunding for now. Display type, RAM, battery capacity, and even the camera setup are still yet to be decided (though a 48Mp rear shooter is likely), and will no doubt depend in part on how the supply chain shakes out over the course of the year.

That’s because despite launching its crowdfunding campaign right now, the Astro Slide is still a ways off. The company hopes to bring a prototype to CES next January and start shipping units around March 2021, so even if you’re interested in grabbing one you’ll have a year to wait.

You’ll save a bit at least, as pre-ordering a handset through IndieGoGo will only set you back $549, while the ultimate retail price is expected to end up somewhere between $800 and $1000 - depending on all those uncertain specs, no doubt.

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