Why are there no high end Android phones with QWERTY keyboards?
In the U.S., the high end of the market has moved away from RIM, Apple doesn't offer phones with tactile keyboards, and Windows Phone 7 has not caught on yet. Filling the gap, there are plenty of Android phones with QWERTY keyboards, but only two approach flagship status - Samsung's EPIC 4G and Motorola's DROID 2 Global. Both of those are getting a bit long in the tooth and lack the latest processors. There is no LTE phone for Verizon Wireless with a keyboard, and the best phones at AT&T and T-Mobile are all-screen, all the time. Anyone care to guess why?
The funny thing is that we all know that Apple has a prototype of an iPhone with a keyboard buried somewhere in a vault in Cupertino. Steve Jobs is famous for reversing himself, and I couldn't see a better moment for them to go for the jugular and steal a big slice of RIM and Nokia's marketshare at the exact moment when both are stumbling. (That's an observation, not a prediction, ok?)
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As for iPhone... not sure we will see that one. Not that I care ;)
Droid 3 is looking mighty interesting right now -- and a proper five-row keyboard? Amazing stuff.
I don't know though, still feels like there's a lot of consumer expectation around iPhone-like forms, especially after all the solid improvements Google's made to its software keyboard (not to mention the availability of Swype). Not that I personally agree, but I get the sense that it just doesn't feel like as pressing a need anymore to have physical keyboards, and there's a certain disincentive because physical keyboard-equipped phones can be so region-specific.
I just went into the Sprint store last week to play with the current options. The Shift 4G is not a great kb because it is still too easy to hit more than one key at a time, although I got better the longer I typed on it. The Transform had an awesome kb, but it was on a slow phone with a cheap screen and terrible camera. I didn't even try the Epic because I already knew that kb was annoying from prior experience. Ironically, the best kb in the store was on the HTC Arrive WP7 phone... and WP7 doesn't even properly support physical kbs.
So, here I am back at square one, debating whether it is more annoying to deal with constant typos on my nice big EVO screen, minimal typos on the Shift but with a smaller screen, or great typing on the Transform but with slow performance and an unusable camera.
Sigh.... Before anyone asks, no, using WP7 is not an option as my digital life revolves around Google, especially Google Voice.
There will always be those of us who want physical keys, but, apparently, none of the manufacturers are seeing enough sales to convince them it is worth their time and R&D dollars to do a killer package. So, instead, they will keep reserving their kbs for the lower-end phones, which they assume will be picked by teens who text all day long. Those of us who can justify the cost of real phones will be left to suffer.
> screen keys, larger and much easier to see.
Wholeheartedly disagree there. When in landscape OSK mode, the keyboard itself obfuscates most of the screen. This is where physical keyboards (the good ones anyway) shine. OSK's are best for portrait mode.
I think physical keyboards are just out of fashion because high-end phones have to be "sexy", and sexy in this context means wider and flatter.
IMO, the G2 is a very sexy phone and just as powerful as the rest of last year's high-end slab-phones like the Nexus 1, Incredible, EVO, Galaxy-S, etc.
I suspect the Droid 3 will be well up there. Keyboard vs no keyboard is just a matter of personal taste. Android is currently the only platform with the hardware variety to offer it. WP7 will get it eventually. Apple eschews buttons as a rule, so you'll never see it there regardless of benefit.
WP7 doesn't take advantage of the keyboard well at all though, look for the Pocketnow video on YouTube comparing WP7 with the old Windows Mobile in this regard, the arrow keys are inactive most of the time, leaving you to constantly use the touch-screen to get to an input area and then the keyboard works. It's like a touch-screen-only OS with a keyboard bolted on rather than an OS meant to have keyboard capabilities.
Hopefully for WP7 users, Microsoft will improve this, but I haven't heard anything about Mango in regards to keyboard functionality. (Maybe that's part of its vaunted hundreds of new features though.)
I still use a MS natural keyboard on my desktop and have for 8 years. Again, personal preference.
But truly, since I got used to using the landscape typing interface, I have yet to use the sliding keyboard once.
I think there is a big risk with a slide out keyboard. People know for sure that it will make the phone bulkier, and if the keyboard isn't done right it will just be big for no reason. I think HTC has done a great job with physical keyboards. I know its not an Android phone, but the HTC Arrive really turned me on to physical keyboards. I think if you are going to make one without a dedicated number row then you are just wasting your time.
But really, this option is dead, I used to demand QUERTY keyboard slider phones because I HATE triple tapping on old style feature phones.
Now I absolutely never slide out the keyboards anymore, typing on the screen in landscape view on a Droid is WAY faster and much easier. Admittedly, Droids in portrait view are hard to type on and iPhones has them beat but good there. In fact my wife had to switch to an iPhone because portrait view typing is so easy.
In reality there is no reason for slider QUERTY keyboards anymore, if you are going to make the effort to slide the board out, you might as well just swing the phone sideways and use the screen keys, larger and much easier to see.