I recall the PSION PDA with fondness and I have always thought that in some ways we have gone backwards as well as forwards when it comes to smartphone innovation, particularly around form factors and keyboards.
Enter the Gemini PDA which by no means follows the modern trends of smartphones and which pays more than just a little homage to the Psion. This is hardly surprising given that CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel involved prior Psion industrial designers in the build. Over at Gemini Planet they have a post which gives a good examination of retro and relevancy.
On the hardware side the Gemini runs a ten Core MediaTek Helio X20 chipset with 4GB of RAM.
It seems more than up to the job and you can view my GeekBench result here.
The Gemini takes a micro-sim and comes with 64GB of internal storage and can take Micro SD cards so in theory you could add another 256GB. There are two USB-C connection. One for power and the other that can take other USB connections. On the battery side it has a 4,220mAh battery which is fine for powering the device all day in my experience. One thing to note is that it does not have fast charge so it can take some time to recharge.
The display is is 5.99″ and I feel it could have been bigger with the drawback being it wold be a little less pocketable. The device has an 18:9 aspect ratio really and a screen resolution of 2,160 by 1,080 pixels which give it 403 pixels per inch (ppi). If you enable developer options in settings you can change the screen resolution to get a much more screen estate and you can set the minimum width, to be for example, 640.
Landscape is the default orientation although you can change this by removing the Force landscape option in the Gemini’s taskbar settings (more on the TaskBar below) but I found this to be unreliable in its rotation so I choose to use the free screen rotation control from the Google Play Store which works really well.
The Planet Taskbar or Apps Bar is a bit like the Mac dock that displays apps that can be pinned. It’s neat and actually pretty useful to multitask and launch often used apps quickly.
You can launch apps side-by-side, and certain Apps work better with the keyboard than there, such as the K9-mail app which support keyboard shortcuts, although my preference is still the BlackBerry Hub, as the K9-mail still cannot show sent emails in its default view, something that is a pre-requisite for any email app I use.
The device has no fingerprint scanner and no NFC. Neither are a showstopper in my opinion.
It also comes with no dedicated outward facing camera by default, just the front facing 5 megapixel camera that can be used for Skype, Duo, WhatsApp etc. Gemini however is providing a camera add-on as a separate add on for those who chose to take it, something I have signed up for, but have not yet received, because of June 2018 it has not shipped.
The Keyboard is really superb for such a small device and has a nice action. I find myself being able to touch type at a decent speed. Martin Riddiford designed the original Psion Series 5 keyboard and it was a smart move getting him involved in working on the Gemini PDA homage. It is the keyboarding clamshell design that defines the device.
The device also has an unusual mechanism for phone calls, as when snapped shut you cannot see who is calling without opening the device, you can simply answer. by pressing a button.
I use a Pebble so any incoming call I see on my Pebble smartwatch so this works fine for me but I can see how it may not for others. Another possible workaround is to use the Sony Smart Bluetooth Headset.
Personally I use this as a second device rather than my main phone so this does not really bother me.
OK, so what is it good for ?
Well, for me, its ideal to be able to have a device I can slip in my pocket that functions as almost a lightweight laptop. This device coupled with the Android operating system is functional enough for me to not be worrying about carrying a laptop around with me.
One thing to note, the default Microsoft Powerpoint App does not seem to allow edit. I decided to take the plunge and purchase the premium version of WPS Office. This works really well and I’ve not found any issues with working with or editing documents on the move and the bonus is that because it supports WebDav and FTPS it works well with documents stored through Storage Made Easy, either on-premises or on-cloud.
I use it with DeskDock when at work so it becomes a second display that can share the mouse and keyboard with my main display and it becomes useful for answering email or skype without constantly switching Apps on my main laptop screen.
Although I have the Gemini USB-C HDMI cable I find it is a little choosy about what it works with. I find that using the Microsoft HDMI Wireless Display adaptor works on everything and the Gemini is able to cast to it wirelessly using Miracast.
I find that a small usb thumb drive and a small usb on-the-go adaptor, both of which can fit in a wallet, are a great addition for sharing information between a laptop and the Gemini. They are easily attached to its secondary USB-C slot on the right hand side.
The tiny USB-C to USB-A 3.0 Adapter I purchased no longer seems to be available on Amazon but you can find an alternative here.
The Gemini PDA actually works really well with the Storage Made Easy Cloud File Manager App which has keyboard support.
The Gemini PDA can dual boot into Linux but truthfully I have never seen the need. I use the Termux App and I have not found anything yet that I need that I cannot get from that.
Other Apps that I use:
Simplenote – I keep quick textual notes that I need to get back to on Simplenote
Evernote – used for storing digital scans
Google Keep – I just started using this and I’m impressed. I’m not sure it will replace Simplenote yet.
Total Commander – An oldie bug goodie for File Management. Also plugs into WebDav and FTPS with additional plugins so I can access my on-premises and on-cloud Storage Made Easy files
Firefox Focus – I use it in VPN mode with Orbot
Orbot – Tor wrapped up into a nice privacy VPN for Apps.
Readly – Digital magazine subscriptions. Works surprisingly well on the Gemini
Mindly – I like its hierarchical thought process
Amazon Music – To stream my Prime Music on the go
Slack – We use it at work
Jira – We use it at work
Offline Browser Pro – useful to store offline websites – I tend to use it for manuals and our own Storage Made Easy Wiki
ClipBoard Pro – Stacked Clipboard
iTeleport – So I can access my remotely hosted Mac
Amazon Workspaces – So that I can access Windows for the odd time I need to -> This actually works amazingly well on the Gemini.
Phrase Express – Essentially a TextExpander replacement, something I use a lot on my Mac
So what is my summary ? My summary is that you should not consider this a phone replacement. You should consider it a productivity device and a laptop supplement. Its an amazing device and I am glad that in 2018 there are still innovative companies out there making devices like these.