F(x)tec's keyboard-equipped Linux phone gets a revamp

QWERTY slider now comes with more RAM, storage and OS options, but is still powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: F(x)tec

UK smartphone maker F(x)tec has revamped its F(x)tec Pro1 device, featuring a slide-out physical keyboard, with more RAM and storage options, and a choice of LineageOS, UbuntuTouch, or Android. 

The company launched the Pro1 in early 2019 with starting prices of $649 in the US, £649 in the UK, and €649 across Europe. It's now launching the Pro1 X with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage from £386 in the UK and $499 in the US.

However, those prices are part of its Indiegogo campaign, which kicks off today, and there are only 30 devices available at that price.

The Pro1-X was developed in partnership with the developer news site XDA and offers customers the choice of a high-end smartphone – albeit with an aging Snapdragon 835 processor – running Linux-based LineageOS, Ubuntu Touch, or Google Android. 

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The 'super early bird' price for the Pro1 X is $499 for a device with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage; an 'early bird' version with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is available for $649.

F(x)tec jumped on the bandwagon of Android phones with physical keyboards, following Planet Computers' Gemini, Cosmo Communicator and Astro Slide, all of which paid tribute to the clamshell Psion 5. There's also the Blackberry Key2 and the BlackBerry Priv from 2015 for those who want a physical keyboard.

The Pro1 features a slide-out screen that rests at 155 degrees for viewing and is designed to be used primarily in landscape mode, along with the five-row backlit QWERTY keyboard.

However, besides the upgraded RAM and storage, the Pro1 X is essentially the same as the as the phone Fx(tec) released in 2019, although consumers now have the option to order it preinstalled with LineageOS, Ubuntu or Android. 

The choice of LineageOS was based on feedback from XDA users, who wanted more privacy and an alternative to Google Android. 

"Want the Google/Android OS, but without spying? Look no further. Pro1-X gives you the freedom to do whatever you want on your smartphone. No strings attached," says F(x)tec on its Indigogo campaign page.

On the Ubuntu side, Ubuntu Touch allows users to plug the Pro1-X into a monitor to use the phone as a PC. 

Users also have the choice to use a soft keyboard or the physical slide-out one, and switch between apps on a reasonably large 5.99-inch AMOLED display with split-screen support and a resolution of 2160 by 1080 pixels (403ppi). 

The Pro1-X also features an 8MP front camera, 12MP and 5MP cameras at the back, a dedicated camera button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a fingerprint scanner plus USB-C and HDMI output.

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Folding-screen phones are now the bleeding edge of smartphone tech, but Adrian Li Mow Ching, one of F(x)tec's co-founders, believes there's still room for innovation with physical keyboards. 

"We believe that the functionality and benefits of a physical keyboard is still demanded by so many consumers globally; us and other brands all have loyal customers," he told ZDNet via email. 

He also defended the choice to release a new variant of the Pro1 with the same Qualcomm chip.

"For the LineageOS and Ubuntu Touch, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is a really high-performing chipset that runs both OSs super smooth, and one of the most high-spec devices for devices of this kind," he said. 

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