If the name “Commodore” conjures up images of clicking keyboards, beige boxes and flashing command lines instead of buttery ballads, this one is for you. Yes, that ’80s home computer mainstay is back, this time as a mobile phone. The Commodore PET – which shares its name with the iconic all-in-one computer released in 1977 – may not run Commodore BASIC, but it does run a modified version of Android 5.0 Lollipop, a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS screen and a couple of emulators for running old Commodore software.
OK, so the two Italian entrepreneurs behind the PET may be playing a bit of nostalgia to sell a few smartphones, but it’s at least powered by respectable hardware. The PET has an aluminum frame, complete with interchangeable polycarbonate covers, should the standard white look and Commodore logos not quite to your taste (although you might want to rethink why you’re buying a Commodore phone if that’s the case) .
The 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display sits behind a sturdy Gorilla Glass 3 panel and is powered by a 1.7GHz Mediatek 64-bit octa-core processor with ARM Mali T760 GPU, 3GB of RAM and a large 3000mAh battery. There’s a rear-facing camera complete with a 13-megapixel Sony sensor and a bright f/2.0 aperture, while the front-facing 8-megapixel camera features an 80-degree wide-angle lens. The PET even supports dual-SIM 4G connectivity.
However, that’s nothing the world hasn’t seen better in other smartphones before. What makes the PET special, at least according to the makers, is the modified version of Android. Yes, a custom version of Android is rarely anything to get excited about, but the PET at least allows for special versions of the VICE C64 emulator and the Uae4All2-SDL Amiga emulator.
Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on what exactly is so special about these emulators, or if there will be pre-installed Commodore software to get you started. Other custom features include an implementation of Daydream, which lets you choose what information appears on the display while charging, and system gestures that let you interact with the phone by shaking, flipping, or waving at it.
Whether that’s enough to sell a smartphone in a crowded market, Commodore branding or not, remains to be seen. After all, you can download Commodore emulators yourself to just about any Android smartphone and get started without looking for a new device. Given the effort the creators of the PET have gone to to secure the Commodore trademark – which faded into obscurity after it was handed over to a Dutch company two years ago – the final devices will hopefully feature more than just a logo and a few emulators.
If you’re still interested, the PET will be available later in July in Italy, France, Poland and Germany for around $300 (£191), buying you 16GB of storage with an included 32GB micro SD card. A 32GB version costs about $60 (£38) more. Oddly enough, despite launching in Europe, there’s no official price in Euros yet, nor an official UK launch date.
Users can choose from white, black or classic beige colors, with green and blue coming later. The makers of the phone have promised to bring the PET to other parts of Europe and America at a later date.
If you’re not sure what all the fuss is about – say you were born in the ’90s – take a look at Ars’ history of the Amiga, which includes the story of how Commodore saved the ailing company in the ’80s, and how the deal quickly turned sour. And if that’s enough, we’ve also taken a look at some of our favorite Commodore 64 software on its 30th anniversary in 2012.