Editorial Droid 4 keyboard

Published on April 11th, 2013 | by Sachit Shivam

12

Android has lost choice in hardware: physical keyboards

Does anyone remember the Motorola Milestone?

Milestone

This phone brought Android and Motorola to the fore of the smartphone race with its wild popularity on account of it being the anti-iPhone in several ways.
It had a larger screen, a 5MP camera, ran stock Android Eclair 2.1 at launch and had a hardware keyboard.
Sure, the camera wasn’t really good and neither was the keyboard but they were both there.

 

What about the Motorola Milestone 2?

Milestone 2

 With this phone, Motorola bumped up the specs and improved the keyboard drastically. Also a raging success on the market.

The DROID 3, launched on Verizon in the US and known internationally as the Milestone 3? (It never did launch internationally, only in a few countries like China)

Droid 3

 This phone never saw an India launch. Its keyboard was considered one of the best ever.

The HTC Desire Z?

HTC-Desire-Z-

 Brilliant phone with a brilliant keyboard.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro? I own one of these myself and I must say that the keyboard is absolutely phenomenal.

sony-ericsson-xperia-pro-a-sny-xpro

 At the time that these phones launched, they weren’t given flagship status or ever really given a marketing push by their respective manufacturers.
I ask, why?

To this date, I prefer landscape hardware keyboards over virtual, on-screen keyboards. And bear with me here, this is not just about me whining about my preference.

Hardware keyboards provide a tactility and response that virtual ones can’t (yet) match. Most new smartphone users migrate from featurephones with alphanumeric keyboards.

I have asked scores of new smartphone users how they feel about their new phones. Almost invariably, the answer I receive is: “It’s difficult to type on.”

I find that with a hardware keyboard it’s very easy to type quickly and with few mistakes.

 

Both Sony and HTC have announced in 2012 that they have no further plans of making phones with QWERTY keyboards.

And I don’t believe in the argument that people sometimes make, that there’s no market for hardware keyboards.

Let’s think about some of the phones that came out after these ones.
What comes to mind?
A black slab with some controls littered around it.

The main concern that I’m expressing with this article is:

Android has always been about choice.
Choice in hardware. Choice in software. Customizability.
Then why are the manufacturers themselves eliminating choices?

What do you think? Am I rambling about an age that has long passed or would you also like to see hardware keyboards make a comeback?

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About the Author

Sachit Shivam

Editor-in-chief at TechnoFAQ.org; tech, football and music enthusiast.



12 Responses to Android has lost choice in hardware: physical keyboards

  1. Bibhuranjan says:

    Yep got that right mate.. But you see, the problem could be in implementation.. Phones today are already much bigger in their size and adding a physical keyboard could make it a bit inconvinient to handle the device.

    Secondly, phones today boast of their super sleek form factor. No wonder they had to abondon it to retain the asthetic appeal.. 😉

    • Sachit Shivam Sachit Shivam says:

      That is true, I agree with you.

      But there should at least be an option or two, so that I have the choice.

  2. Disko45 says:

    I’m with you! My first smartphone was a sidekick in 2003. I upgraded when each new model came out. I was all about having the coolest new keyboard phone. When the Iphone came out I wouldn’t even consider it because it didn’t have a physical keyboard. I could easily have shelled out the $$ it would have cost to change phone companies & buy it but I refused to. I instead switched to android with the release of the 2nd android phone in existance: the Motorola Cliq. Now with all the different smartphones out there you would think I’d have tons of options but at my last upgrade there was ONE keyboard phone available. It wasn’t even top of the line with features. Now you tell me I won’t be able to get. ANY? I think this is absurd! I will NOT buy a phone without a physical keyboard. Does that mean I’m stuck on this year old model forever? It just doesn’t seem fair…

  3. Mike says:

    Agreed. It’s understandable for those manufacturers who get behind a single model every year or so, like apple, who want to keep up with the pack (good luck apple haha).

    But for big players like Samsung and, to a lesser extent, HTC, who have many models being released year round, they might capture a segment of the market who, like us, prefer some tactile feedback from our typing thumbs.

  4. RC3 says:

    I agree with this article. One of the main selling points of the android system is that it allows the customer a broad range of choice. I currently own a Galaxy S Relay because I do alot of typing on it for my job. I’m not into the biggest 5 plus inch screen requiring 2 hands just to operate or some ultra super thin phone that I’m more likely to drop. News flash many people purchase a case anyway. What I need is something that I can operate with one hand while navigating, fit easly into my pocket, and has a physical KEYBOARD!!. Sadly this choice is disappearing.

  5. Dan says:

    No mention of Droid 4? Best keyboard yet. I believe the picture at the top is a horizontal view of a Droid 4, though.

  6. Glenn says:

    It’s not just a loss of most physical keyboards but also worse — the elimination of all PORTRAIT Android keyboards. Blackberry has the best (only?) keyboard left. When’s the last time you saw RIM produce a Blackberry with a landscape keyboard??? Gee, I wonder why.

    How about some manufactures coming up with an innovation portrait keyboard allowing retention of 80% of the screen size? RIM tried but gave up. Of course, RIM has a fraction of the cell phone manufacturers resources lately.

    I am fortunate enough to have 2 phones, an Android and a Blackberry. When it comes to creating information (typing), I reach for my Blackberry 95% of the time. I can type sooo much faster on my Blackberry than on my Android especially since both have excellent predictive typing.

    Given all the touch keyboards in the market, I am amazed at the myopic behavior of phone manufacturers. If there were an Android phone with a good portrait physical keyboard, it would be a sales winner. At worst, it would complement a product line with incremental sales far exceeding just another touch keyboard phone.

  7. Dan Oblak says:

    I’ve been using the Samsung Replenish (Boost Mobile), which is a portrait-style Android with a hardware keyboard; and I LOVE it — however they only give you about 150Mb of internal storage for apps (very limiting even if you move as much as allowed by developers to the SD card). Now, it looks like it has been discontinued right when my wife is looking to replace her own phone — we are DONE with sliders (my wife kills phones dead), so she was hoping for one like mine. I did find another similar one on Virgin Mobile — but it has the same problem of hardly any memory. What gives?

  8. VS says:

    I agree.

    I do not understand how thay could get this that they will stop do the hardware keyboard.

    Every reason that they say are not true.
    Mobile with full long hw keyboard has all advantages then mobile withou it:
    – it has full screen view and when you type you see all what you write, can you do it with the software keyboard or with blackberry? NO !!!
    – mobilel are so big so there is not a problem to have the hw keyboard, for example they still do mobile with slide-out keypad, so what is the diffrence if it will be slided-out with full keyboard???
    – higher price? People or business man want it and they have a money. The market is still there.
    – and lastly if you are user that use only sw keyboard believe me that you use it only and only because you have no choice. If you have mobile with hw keyboard and as a choice you have there also sw keyboard then I am 100% sure that you will use the hw keyboard because it is better and quicker.

  9. I had a HTC G1/Dream, the first Android phone to come out. After that, I had an Optimus 2X, but replaced it with a (barely faster) Motorola Droid 4 because I was so annoyed at virtual keyboards. I just can’t get used to them. They’re slow, error prone, provide no feedback and are near impossible to use blindly.

    When I was using a keyboardless phone, I avoided sending text messages and emails, preferring to call for every little thing, or just drop the message completely.

    I live in Belgium, and the only keyboard phones available here are low end, teen-oriented texting phones. I had to resort to importing second hand phones, with radios that often don’t work well in Europe, from the US to get a decent phone with a decent keyboard on several occasions (G1 and Droid 4).

    By now, I’m even willing to abandon the Android ecosystem I’ve used for 5 years if it means I can get a decent keyboard experience. I looked at Windows Phone and the BlackBerry Q10, for instance.

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