Rant: The QWERTY compromise – is it really necessary?

QWERTY keyboard

I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time now. I love phones with full QWERTY keyboard but I’m always amazed that handset makers don’t make them top of the line. Quite the contrary, there’s always some better model from the same company that lacks the QWERTY keyboard. Why that is the case is beyond me.

When it was first leaked, I thought the HTC Desire Z (T-Mobile G2) is the best phone ever. Soon enough, we got the full specs sheet only to find out the Desire HD (which was announced at the same time) comes with a better hardware. The same is true with the Motorola Droid 2 and soon its successor (Droid 3) will follow this tradition, shipping with only 512MB of RAM (which may not be enough to make it upgradable to Android Ice cream Sandwich).

The good examples are the Samsung Epic 4G (though it’s kinda bulky and has a too flat keyboard) and Dell Venue Pro, which is a vertical (rather than side-) slider. However, those two are not as widely available as the previously mentioned HTC and Motorola phones.

So my question is – why it seems impossible to make a device with a 4 or 4.3-inch screen like the HTC Sensation or Samsung Galaxy S2 with a full side-sliding keyboard? It could be bulky but it doesn’t have to be too bulky. If you’ve seen the Nokia E7, you know how the Finnish company managed to make an easy to carry around phone with full keyboard. Sure enough, the E7 has some other problems but its design rocks and I’m sure you can cram some better hardware and a different OS inside with little effort.

I do understand modern all-touchscreen phones come with smart typing technology but I could really use an extra screen estate — which is now reserved for the on-screen QWERTY keyboard — when typing long emails or editing documents. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Most modern (Android) smartphones are pretty much the same when looked through the prism of average users. Some of them offer more storage, few more megabytes of RAM but that’s something they [mainstream consumers] won’t notice. Heck sometimes even I don’t care whether there’s 768MB or 1GB of ROM or RAM included in the phone (though some “minimal” amount of memory is a must). I doubt there will be that many situations I’ll notice the difference. However, I do notice the difference between the Desire Z and Desire HD – the latter is sooo much faster. It has 200MHz faster CPU and that’s super visible when browsing through homescreens. Similarly I’ve been looking at the Motorola Droid 2 and Droid X and you could see just how Droid X kills its QWERTY brother…

Can’t type any more. By now you’ve probably understood what I want to say – I want the super high-end Android smartphone with large screen and solid QWERTY keyboard. Is it too much to ask? What do you say?

  • http://twitter.com/jpdl_us Jaime Ponce de Leon

    Keyboard is the ONLY reason i use a Droid Pro

  • Danny_gme

    Well the Droid 3 is actually many times better than the Droid X2 so I think your wish has come true =), only thing is that the Bionic will be superior (mostly) to the Droid 3 when it comes out.

  • corwin_amber

    I absolutely agree. I for my part can not use a phone without qwerty.

    My killer-combo is an E7 for all kind if communication and creation plus a 3G ipad2 for all kind of consumption. Kills anything else out there :)

  • Anonymous

    Poštovani zemlja?e,

  • Anonymous

    THIS.  I might add that this problem is even worse in the UK where QWERTY keyboards are somehow deemed even less fashionable than the US, and thus no EPIC/MyTouch Slide/Sidekick etc… I HATE having to compromise! I love my SGS2, but give me a version with a keyboard any day of the week!  Please take note phone manufacturers!  

  • Anonymous

    Poštovani zemlja?e
    sa dosta stvari se slažem sa tobom, ali se u jednom ne slažem, naime imao sam desire z, a koristio sam desire hd neko vreme, te se ne bih složio da je tolika razlika u brzini ova dva telefona. Posebno porede?i CyanogenMod na oba, razlike i nema. Dalje tu je i overklovkovanje MSM 7230 procesora na 1GHz i sli?no. Ali sa suštinom tvog posta se slažem, lepo bi bilo videti SGS2 sa qwerty-jem, u ku?ištu ne previše debelom…

    Pozdrav iz Aran?elovca…

  • Anonymous

    I hate my physical keyboard on my backflip.  Actually having to push down buttons slows me down. I’m switching to an HTC Inspire.  Of course, the keyboard is not my only gripe with the backflip, seeing as how it’s 1 step above junk.

  • Masai Andrews

    I agree with this entire article! The G2 came very close to being perfect, although I was disappointed that they didnt make the screen bigger and the keyboard 5 rows.  also, a month later and the G2 was already using inferior processors and ram.  its still a great phone, but already discontinued and not “flagship” status.  *posted from my G2*

  • Anonymous

    The answer to your questiong is simple:

    The iphone doesn’t have a physical keyboard.

    once they do that, then other companies will start taking theirs seriously. until then its keyboard-less slates that will be a priority.

    as the old saying “where the shepherd leads, the sheep will follow, anything else is just a distraction”

    shame really cos’ i liked my N900 keyboard with the ability to see the whole screen as you type and perform shortcut actions with ease.

    Oh well, its the price we pay for unreservedly hailing one manufacturer as the greatest without considering what that does to the rest of the industry.

  • http://twitter.com/miusuario Omar Moya

    It’s about speed requirements from a growing market. You either prioritize speed overall, or not. If you’re a media consumer, why spend the effort on carrying a keyboard? If you’re a business user or just a heavy IM/SMS user, you will be faster with a keyboard. It’s like driving a proper sports car, rather than just a car that looks fast. 

    Full touchscreens are hype now, and that’s what new smartphones consumers want. It’s not faster, it’s not better, it just represents their priorities. And companies in return are giving priority to them, and giving them more fancy HW, trying to differentiate.

  • Vmoisa

    Totally agree with the article. I am waiting for a top of the line phone with a full keyboard since 9300i !

  • Anonymous

    I just don’t need a full sized QWERTY on a phone anymore. The virtual keyboards are at a point where it’s just as fast, if not faster, than a physical keyboard and the bulk is not worth it. Factor in autocorrect, things like Swype and voice recognition technology and I think full QWERTY on a phone will slowly fade away.

    • Dusan Belic

      Yeah but it still occupies half of the screen. Editing documents is easier when you have the full screen to look at.

  • Ivancamilov

    I would have agreed before swype entered the scene, but now a proper qwerty seems much slower than swype on a touchscreen.

    • Kcourtema

      Physical keyboard is one of the main reasons I use an Android handset and not an iPhone.  I like Swype, and it has it’s place, but for me it doesn’t quite cut it as a replacement for a real keyboard.  I may be able to type individual words quicker with Swype, but by the time I have gone back to fix all the predictive text errors, the speed becomes a wash.  For me, Swype is useful when I don’t care about the quality of the output text (text messages, personal notes, non-professional communications).  When I am preparing a communication to a customer, vendor, or other business partner, I use the slide out keyboard – It’s just easier when producing professional communications with proper capitalization, punctuation, etc.

  • John

    I completely agree. I have been trying to find the perfect qwerty android phone, but all of them seem to lag behind on some aspect or the other when compared with their touch screen contemperories. Come on phone companies, the real power user needs a qwerty keypad!

  • Yash

    I can not agree more. I am searching for good Android to upgrade to and all the best phones lack the feature I want the most – a QWERTY keypad. I had ditched my touchscreen HTC in favor of Nokia E72 mainly for the keyboard. Now I want both the touch screen and a real keypad but the mobile makers won’t listen!

  • Slash_trash

    Maybe it’s because of the costs? The manufacturer probably wants to keep the cost of the high end phones in the $199- $249 range.You want a keyboard for that? Fine, but we will give you cheaper processor and less memory to subsidize the cost of that keyboard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=209800042 Anonymous

    You’re forgetting one thing.  The G1 was the undisputed flaghship for a year, and didn’t even HAVE a Virtual Keyboard for most of that.  Then when it was replaced by Original Droid, the Android Slider had yet another reign at the top for 8 months.  So for almost 2 years it was all about sliders.  Only in the last year and a half has it been all about the virtual keyboard slabs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1077365840 Maria Solano

    I can’t agree more with this article!  It just seems ridiculous that they never make full pull-out Qwerty Board a Top Feature on on their best phones with a large screen and better hardware.  Regardless of cost or whatever excuse phone manufactures make, there’s a huge segment of the buying public that will love it and buy it.  They’re simply missing the boat on this issue.  Typical corporate ignorance.

  • Myst_shady7

    ditto! :D

  • TD

    I agree 100%!!  It drives me crazy!  And I don’t understand the “physical keyboard haters.”  There are many reasons for power users to want physical keyboards: editing long documents/emails while being able to see much more of your document; remote desktop, quick & easy keyboard shortcuts (like on a real PC keyboard)…. 

  • Anonymous

    Yep. I’m totally with you. I don’t necessarily need a screen as big as the DesireHD’s, but there are way too few high-end full-QWERTY phones available. I guess I’ll stick with my Desire Z for some more time. BTW I’m pretty happy with it. I could however use something to look forward to.

  • Wambo

    Couldn’t agree more.  I have been waiting for ages.  Nokia was supposed to be my savior with the N9/950, but the keyboard version will never be release.  I just think it is so simple and have written several time to every manufacturer now.  I know I wasted my time but it is frustrating, particularly when there is nothing hard about it.  Wish I had the contacts in the industry, I would make one myself and sell it, I would make a killing!!!

  • Leroy Farted

    I’ll be glad when the new blackberry phones come out. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1160897705 William F.X. O’Neill

    i always believed in a qwerty keyboard til i got my samsung focus windows phone 7. i will never go back to having a keyboard now. the phones have come too far, the keyboard actually slows you down. who would have though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1160897705 William F.X. O’Neill

    i always believed in a qwerty keyboard til i got my samsung focus windows phone 7. i will never go back to having a keyboard now. the phones have come too far, the keyboard actually slows you down. who would have though.

  • Chris

     I will not buy a smartphone without a keyboard.  That’s requirement #1, followed by CPU speed, screen resolution, and microSD slot.  Whoever makes the fastest, nicest Android phone with the best keyboard layout will receive my business.  Epic 4G wins this round, who will be next?

  • http://www.phonetipsandtricks.com Phone Tips and Tricks

    I couldn’t agree more. After some use, you can get used to an onscreen keyboard in terms of typing speed, but the fundamental problem is that when you’re typing (in landscape mode at least) you only have 1 or 2 lines of text visible – which makes anything other than text messaging a royal pain in the behind.

    Then if you make a mistake, there’s the job of positioning the cursor with your finger, which when released always jumps somewhere else. It’s massively frustrating. I simply don’t get it and hope this onscreen keyboard fad dies sometime soon. Come on Samsung, you seem to be the only manufacturer out there that makes cutting edge phones and have loads of models with physical keyboards. Just marry the two up and you have a big new market for yourselves!

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