London startup debuts Pro1 slider smartphone in Barcelona

What’s old is new. While companies like Samsung and Huawei race to bring modern folding phones to market, UK-based F(x)tec is focusing its efforts on another blast from the past – the slide-out keyboard. The startup’s Pro1 smartphone has been launched at Mobile World Congress 2019.

Android smartphones rocking an integrated sliding keyboards are nothing new of course – the T-Mobile G1 was announced way back in 2008. Other manufacturers followed suit, but the format gave way to virtual onscreen keyboards and fell out of fashion. F(x)tec is looking to change that with the Pro1.

“At F(x)tec, our vision of the ideal smartphone blends a modern handset with the very best features and technology we loved and miss, to create a perfectly balanced package that is delightful, functional, and unique,” said the firm’s founder Adrian Li Mow Ching. “Our goal is to be the best at bringing back our favorite technology, making it better in a more modern way – that’s technology refined.”

The headline feature here is the landscape-oriented, five row physical keyboard that slides out from under the smartphone’s touchscreen display using a mechanism inspired by classic Nokias. When the keyboard is fully extended, the thin-bezel, notch-free AMOLED screen comes to rest at a tilted 155 degree angle for comfortable viewing.

F(x)tec says that users can look forward to an optimized UI, email and calendar apps experience when in landscape mode. And the 5.99 inch display at 2,160 x 1,080 pixels makes use of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The addition of the sliding keyboard does mean the Pro1 is a little chunky though, at 13.98 mm thick.

Inside, the Pro1 features a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 128 GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded via microSD.

There’s an 8 MP fixed focus F2.0 camera to the front and two cameras at the rear – a 12 MP F1.8 shooter and its 5 MP F2.0 buddy. F(x)tec reports that the Pro1 is capable of recording 4K video at 30 frames per second, and can play back 4K video at up to 60 fps.

Elsewhere, you’ll find Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, one USB Type C port, stereo speakers and a 3.5 mm headphone jack, dual SIM slots and a 3,200 mAh battery that should be good for up to 10 hours of talk time per charge. There’s a fingerprint reader to the side, and Android 9.0 Pie runs the show.

The F(x)tec Pro1 is expected to be made available from July for an estimated US$649. It’s up for pre-order now.