Forget about BlackBerry’s phone demise here comes the Cosmo

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The Cosmo Communicator is the PSION revisited, version 2, after the initial success of the Gemini PDA by Planet Computers.

Cosmo and Blackberry Key2

The initial Gemini PDA claim to fame was the keyboard mechanism. that was designed by Martin Riddiford the prior Psion designer. Despite the initial Gemini’s success it was not without its flaws. Users complained that the keyboard was not as smooth as the original PSION and difficult to touch type on, it was difficult to use in a darkened room, the camera module was poor (it was not supplied fitted) and that it was difficult to use as an actual phone. Well Planet Computers listened and many of the flaws seem to have been corrected with the Cosmo.

Cosmo Communicator

First lets take a look at the specs:

Compared to Gemini PDA:

Dimensions: Cosmo – 17.14(W) x 7.93cm(D) x 1.6(H)cm; Gemini – 17.14(W) x 7.93cm(D) x 1.51(H)cm;

Weight: approximately the same at 320g;

Screen: Looks to be the same internal screen, 5.99 inch, 2160×1080, 403 ppi;

External Display: New on the Cosmo – 2 inch, 570 x 240, 300 ppi;

CPU: Cosmo – Mediatek P70 (8-Core);

RAM: Cosmo – 6GB RAM 127GB internal storage v Gemini – 4GB RAM , & 64GB storage;

Camera: Cosmo – 24MP external camera, 5MP internal. Gemini 5MP front facing & optional 5MP external.

Android OS: Cosmo Android 9; Gemini Android 8;

Backlit keyboard – Cosmo only;

Fingerprint Sensor – Cosmo Only;

NFC – Cosmo only;

Headphone Jack – Yes, on both;

Firstly lets address the form factor of the device. Its similar to the Gemini in that it is larger than an average phone and not something you may necessarily want to be carrying around as your daily driver, as it’s heavy. Also unlike the Gemini the screen does not auto-rotate you have to do it with a key combo. The key combo also puts the screen into portrait mode rather than reverse portrait which for me at least is more intuitive. Even third party apps cannot address the issue as it seems the OS takes over control, although there are instructions for the popular Android Tasker application that seem to work here. Not being able to rotate automatically though I have to say is a right pain.

The screen is nice but I would have like it just a little bigger personally, perhaps 6.5″. Given how large the device is to carry anyway I don’t think it would really have detracted from portability. The first thing I did was to enable developer mode so could change the ‘Minimum Width’ of the screen. I do this because I want more screen estate on the device when it is landscape. if you set this to above 600 this also has the added advantage of Apps treating themselves as tablet versions so, for example, you activate tabbed mode in browsers. Although you could do this with the Gemini the Android default file plugin was broken/unusable when functioning in the tablet mode. With the Cosmo it works fine.

It has to be said that, unlike the FxTec Pro1, the keyboard on the Cosmo is awesome.

Planet obviously learnt from the Gemini mistakes and corrected them. This is like having a mini laptop keyboard, the keyboard use and feel is that good, and the backlight is seriously awesome. It can be turned on using a key combo or through the Android settings and the brightness intensity can be increased or decreased as needed but even the lowest setting is more than adequate in my opinion. The keyboard backlight really does have a wow factor, to the extent I had people coming over to me on a plane journey asking me exactly what the device was that I was using. Lets face it the primary reason for buying this phone is the keyboard so it was the one thing that Planet had to get right, and unlike the FXTec Pro, they really delivered. I should also mention that thumb typing is pretty satisfying on the Cosmo and works really well.

Cosmo Communicator backlit keyboard

The external on the camera was pretty miserable. It did not come by default, had to be purchased separately as an add-on, and the quality was pretty woeful. The Cosmo’s 24MP snapper is no where near up to the likes of the Google or Samsung phones but it is decent and very usable.

The Cosmo comes with a dual screen on the front of the phone which can be used to view and interact with notifications, read emails, in addition to being used for phone dialling, and recently an update provided the ability to use it with Google Maps directions. After using the Cosm for a week I ended up turning the dual screen off (which you can do from the Android settings) as I found it sucked battery and battery improved immensly once it was turned off, however this is likely not a practical option if you use this as your main phone, but more on that later.

Cosmo Communicator dual screen

The back of the device is where the dual screen is also incorporated and also where the fingerprint sensor resides. The fingerprint sensor works OK but can easily pick up false positives when you are ha doing the device leading to you having to enter your pin.

The internal display is OK but I actually found a slight issue with the calibration, something that was not a problem on the Gemini. Touch and clicks were just slightly off when moving to the very edges of the screen which I got used to but was still a little frustrating and I have to say disappointing. I’ve seen the same complaint on forums from other Cosmo users and other users stating they did not have the same problem so maybe its related to a particular batch. Hopefully Planet can correct it in a firmware update.

The processor is a Mediatek Helio P70 8 core which is an update on the Helio P60 receiving a boost of approximately 100Mhz in CPU and GPU speeds and in general its a reasonable mid range processor but personally I would have preferred a mid range SnapDragon.

The Cosmo, as with the Gemini, ships with its own software suite of tools including an Agenda, Notes App, Database App and Email App (based on the open source K-9 email app), but I did not feel the need to use any of them, but that is of course down to choice.

The Gemini was a always multi-,OS capable being able to support Debian and Sailfish as OS alternatives to Android. The Cosmo shipped without this capability but as I write this the Planet team just announced in their week 68 update that their next firmware update would bring multi-OS support.

This leads me onto the security of the device. In a prior post I discussed the security issues with Chinese smartphones in general which also covered the Cosmo. The main issue being the Firmware Over The Air update (FOTA) that is being used to update the device presenting potential security issues as discovered by a technology blogger. The good news is that Planet worked with the technology blogger in questions to issues a firmware update (Android firmware update V19 ) that resolved the immediate problem, with Planet also announcing plans to replace the current software update mechanism with an in-house solution. Full credit to Planet for taking this on the chin and resolving the potential problem quickly and efficiently.

So what is the conclusion? Well, firstly I’m glad that companies like Planet are supporting innovative devices like the Gemini and the Cosmo. Many companies rarely get it right first time and the Cosmo is a definite step up from the Gemini. Could you use this as your daily driver? Perhaps if you don’t make lots of phone calls. For me it’s best use is still a lightweight, small secondary device that you can productively use on the move. At that it excels.