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Published January 18, 2018

It’s easy to argue that the Gemini PDA is the perfect mobile device for professionals and business people who need to get real work done on the move, but what would you say if I told you it’s also the perfect PC for people and families on low incomes?

At this point you probably think I’m mad for even suggesting this.  I should add before continuing that I’m in the UK, and the situation with broadband, cellular networks, and available hardware will vary considerably from country to country.  I’m predominantly writing from a UK standpoint.

People on low incomes don’t want a PDA, they want an iPhone, or a half-decent Android phone with a good tariff!  Sure, they want those things, but what they also want is access to banking, shopping, and online services like those run by their local council, their child’s school, and government benefit agencies.

Technically you can access these on a smartphone, but we all know how difficult it can be, and I defy anybody to try and complete an online benefit claim form on a 5½ inch touchscreen.  For that they’ll need a PC, a laptop, or a tablet.  Some of these people and families will have one or the other, but many won’t, nor will they have the funds with which to purchase one.

Moreover, they very commonly won’t have a broadband connection at home, or the money to pay for the monthly subscription for one.  A home PC, laptop, or a tablet won’t do these families much good without broadband.

What they all will have however is a smartphone, with some kind of data plan, and most likely they’ll have one each.  Being able to communicate with other people, apply for jobs, and call their school is essential for anybody, and for any family.  The data plan these people have might not be much, but it’ll do them for Facebook, and other activities they currently perform through apps and websites.

Even if a family don’t have a PC or a laptop though, or can’t afford one, they can probably scrape together a keyboard, mouse, and monitor.  Perhaps they can afford second-hand ones.  Perhaps they’ll have some donated by friends or family, or a local charity, perhaps they’ll have some sitting in a cupboard.

As I wrote in my Gemini PDA, One Device for Everything in your Life article, the Gemini is capable of linking to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, and running apps on a large screen, just like a PC.  When you also factor in that a 4G Gemini doesn’t need a home broadband connection, and at $599 costs around the same as last year’s OnePlus 5 mid-range smartphone costs now, it becomes possible to believe that a low-income family, wanting a phone that’s not completely out of date, might want one and perhaps be able to get one, even second hand in a year or so from the time I write this.  This becomes more likely when they know they wouldn’t also need to buy a laptop, or home broadband.

A few years ago I was at Microsoft’s global headquarters in Redmond (WA) and was speaking to a senior executive at the company about their Continuum dock for Windows Phone.  I raised with them the possibility of making this available to low-income families who didn’t have a PC or broadband, and was told it only existed for the high-end Windows Phone handsets at that time because the specific hardware required was still expensive.  Microsoft told me it would take “a couple of years” for the hardware to become affordable enough to include in mid and lower-range handsets.

Well it’s been a couple of years, and some more, and the Gemini doesn’t require an extra dock, unlike Continuum, or the Samsung Dex.  So why not consider the possibility?  Could a Gemini be the perfect PC replacement for a low-income family?  It’ll be very different in other countries around the world, but for people here in the UK…  Quite possibly.

Mike Halsey is the author of 18 books on Microsoft Windows usability, accessibility and troubleshooting, writing for Apress, and has been a Microsoft MVP awardee since 2011. He produces video courseware for Pluralsight and also teaches English and Maths for a local charity near his home in Yorkshire (UK). He lives quietly with his rescue collies, Evan and Robbie. He runs the Gemini Planet website and it’s accompanying Facebook Group. You can follow him on Twitter as @MikeHalsey




  1. Mike, on the surface this article looks like you have no clue to what low income families really can afford but if I understand what you are trying to say, you may want to rewrite the article/post. If you are saying that programs and governments may want to look at possibly providing Geminis to low income families to use as a PC replacement, then you may have a point. The way the article is written, it appears that you believe low income families should purchase a Gemini to use in place of a laptop. A low income family would not buy a Gemini as there are other ways to spend less or no money to get the same benefit. (Not to mention they have higher priorities to worry about.) If you live paycheck to paycheck then there is no way you are going to shell out enough money to buy a Gemini. A government or charity organization may for the very points that you make, but more likely they will come up with lower cost solutions.

    • Thanks, I understand what you’re saying. I’ve worked with low-income families in the UK every week for years and stand by what I say based on the experiences I have had. That’s not to say it won’t be different in other countries, such as the US where life for low-income families can be much harder.

  2. Andy Mitchell Andy Mitchell

    Samsung Dex not necessary. HDMI cable or Screencasting device plus bluetooth keyboard and bluetooth mouse will suffice to connect a smartphone to a monitor or suitable TV set.

  3. Malcolm Malcolm

    Bit late to the show (only come across this article today) but for the price of a single Gemini a family could have a Chromebook and over a year of mobile broadband – and still have money left over.

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