Hardware QWERTY On Mobile Not Going Anywhere

Hardware QWERTY phones
I am often amused when pure touchscreen aficionados assert that hardware QWERTY devices are history. Like people who assert that Blackberry has taken over Nigeria, they speak from what they observe in their limited circle of friends and acquaintances.

Of course, such a limited viewpoint does not portray the full picture – the true picture – of things.

The Statistics

At the time of writing this, there are over 170 modern mobile phone models with hardware QWERTY keyboards in the market. This includes feature phones, as well as smartphones from all platforms except iOS – Bada, Android, Symbian, MeeGo, WebOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

These manufacturers know that there exists a market for hardware QWERTY devices, and wisely ensure that this market is not neglected in their line-ups.

All these manufacturers are releasing hardware QWERTY devices for all classes – low-end, mid-tier, and high-end. They are releasing candy-bar QWERTY devices and slider QWERTY devices alike too.

Around this time last year, I wrote an article on how it looked like QWERTY bars had been left in the hands of RIM/BlackBerry. Apparently, other manufacturers have wizened up to reality and are now pushing QWERTY bars with more vigour.

Pros And Cons

There are arguments for and against hardware QWERTY keyboards. We can argue the pros and cons all we like, but here is the most powerful factor – people will use what they want (or like), regardless of the pros and the cons.

Here is an excerpt from an article on Android Authority on the Best QWERTY Android Phones in 2011:

We happen to believe that QWERTY smartphones are craved for by mobile enthusiasts. An Admob report in 2010 showed that 54% of Android traffic was driven by devices that feature a full QWERTY keyboard. It’s hard to deny that a huge amount of people still want a powerful smartphone with a physical QWERTY keyboard.

This is interesting, as the Admob report echoes my observations on the subject – QWERTY devices are not going anywhere.

Yes; its hard to deny that a huge amount of people still want physical QWERTY keyboards. Yet, somehow, some still flat-out deny it.

Choice. Preference. Taste

SWYPE is awesome; yes. Onscreen QWERTY keyboards have improved tremendously; yes. But there are those who want hardware QWERTY and nothing is going to change that. This phenomenon is called choice. Preference. Taste. The last time I checked, it was a good thing.

Those who think that speed is all there is to the argument are wrong. If that were true, nobody would buy trucks or SUVs or city cars. Everyone would buy sports cars and roadsters instead.

Some men like their women lean and trim. Others prefer them with some extra flesh. Same goes for the women-folk.

In the end, a lot boils down to taste. That’s the way the world works. That’s the way humans are.

Personally, by default I will take a hardware QWERTY device over a touchscreen-only device. Not that I think the latter is inferior. In the same way, there are those who won’t touch a hardware QWERTY smartphone either.

If Apple were to release an iPhone with a hardware QWERTY, chances are that I would purchase one. Yes; I am hardware QWERTY like that.

In their line-up of best QWERTY Android smartphones of 2011, the Android Authority guys added, and I firmly agree:

QWERTY smartphones aren’t dead as some claim. It’s a booming ecosystem, in fact.

Those who claim that the hardware QWERTY on mobile is dead are seriously mistaken or comfortable in their denial. It is actually alive and well. The figures speak clearly.

Wake up, guys; the hardware QWERTY is alive and well. Comments welcome!

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15 comments

  1. I remember I had this same argument with someone on Google+. He was trying to convince me that QWERTY phones will die out soon and that I should buy the SGS2 instead of the XperiaPro or Blackberry. And he stubbornly refused to listen to any of my points against touchscreen-only.

  2. In the wee hours of Christmas morning, my Pastor sent me a bbm that I should prepare some power point slides of Christmas carols for the morning service.

    With little time and no laptop around, I did everything from getting the lyrics online to formatting the power point slides on my BlackBerry smartphone.

    I really don’t know how it would have been possible for me to do all those complex editing in record time with a touch screen QWERTY keypad.

    For me touch screen is not my thing and will never be on my primary mobile device unless they are extinct.
    That’s why the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is a very appealing choice for me now.

  3. This is likely to just degenerate into a BIG fight.

    Still…

    ‘ there are over 170 modern mobile phone models with hardware QWERTY keyboards in the market’

    Certain models outsell others-so this does not necessarily support this postulation.

    I think it is actually the number of users that count here. Individual preferences.

    There are compelling reasons why the touchscreen was invented in the first place.

    Like Symbian, while hardware QWERTY is not dead, IT IS DYING.

    This can NOT be wished away.

    Why does iPhone / iPa dsell like it does despite having no hardware kbd.?

    Why run against a moving train? This is just technology moving ahead. We just have to move along with it!

  4. (
    @Keweno….I really don’t knowhow it would havebeen possible for me to do all those complex editing inrecord time with atouch screen QWERTY keypad.
    )
    You just need to learn HOW…

    As i mentioned once here, the problem with touchscreen is not the technology. Touchscreen is superior. T the problem is how it is IDOLIZED.
    MOST of the downsides of touch are being addressed by better designed software like Swype.

    For example see possibilities @ http://is.gd/cjmcRw

    You get stuck with a BAD hardware kbd, you are stuck for BAD!

  5. QWERTY smartphones aren’t dead as some claim. It’s a booming ecosystem, in fact.

    Those who claim that the hardware QWERTY
    on mobile is dead are seriously mistaken or
    comfortable in their denial. It is actually alive
    and well. The figures speak clearly.

    Are physical QWERTY smartphones dead? Certainly no. Are physical QWERTY smartphones dying? Emphatic yes. That manufacturers are still producing physical QWERTY smartphones is just to try and carter for all segments of the market, but it does seem like that strategy is not catching on. A booming ecosystem? I can’t see how they came about that except they are specifically talking about 2010.

    Now the figures, yes. The figures certainly speak clearly. The major manufacturers of Android devices like HTC, Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson are producing lesss number of QWERTY devices progressively. For instance, Samsung produced only one or two physical QWERTY smartphones this 2011, I only know of Samsung Galaxy Pro and for LG, I can only remember LG Optimus C660 Pro this year also. Sony Ericsson has 2 or 3 and Motorola also 2 or 3. And when you compare this year’s meagre numbers with their last year numbers you see that there is a clear shift from physical QWERTY to all touchscreen devices. And while we are on it, the physical QWERTY Android devices are not doing wonders in the market when compared to the all touchscreen devices and so the booming physical QWERTY Android ecosystem doesn’t seem to reflect the real world.

    Nokia and RIM that are traditionally know for physical QWERTY devices are also shifting to touchscreen devices and are either producing less of physical QWERTY devices or going combo. Just imagine that RIM now has some devices that are all touchscreen and you get the picture. If you look at closely, there would seem to be a correlation between manufacturers that insist on physical QWERTY only devices and dwindling fortune. This propably the reason for some of the drastic actions taken by Nokia and RIM.

    Finally, more and more feature phones from all these manufacturers now have physical QWERTY keys showing somehow a reverse of what is happening in smartphone market, and I think that trend will continue for some time in thhe feature because to give consumers in the feature phone segment a satisfactory touchscreen experience at the traditional price of feature phones does not appear feasible at least for now.

  6. i agree with Harry.

    hardware qwerty keypads are actually phasing out. this year alone Nokia and RIM produced phones that were a combination of physical and touchscreen qwerty keypads.

    i used to be a lover of PQKP and even wondered how i’ll do without it. (i used a nokia N97 and was always sliding out the qwerty keypad to use)..after migrating to my sgs2 which is full TQKP, the usage is seamless,fluid,i can do anything and everything within record time.

  7. @Eye.bee.kay

    Would N 19k price level qualify as being within feature_ phone territory?

    Well I will say yes to a degree but the more popular ones from LG, Samsung and Nokia are now priced below N16,000. Even some nice looking models coming from Motorola lately are also going for about the same price range.

    Maybe I should have added also that apart from the price, getting a viable non-smartphone OS that gives similar or near UX/UI that you get from these modern OSes designed for touch from start is another big issue.

  8. Swype is said to be the leading touchscreen keypad software implementatio for touchscreen phones -on all major platforms.

    On my ancient Nokia 5800, it offers:60 columns by 4 rows in landscape;
    20 columns by 3 rows in portrait
    While the landscape mode dimension is excusable (the keypad expands to fill the major portion of the screen), the portrait dimension is totally inexplicable.

    One of the mitre vociferous complaints about touchscreen kbds is that you often can not see a major option of what you are typing.

    Despite Symbian_Swype now supporting spiilt_screen (Anna / Belle) , i would want to see ALL touchscreen apps (Swype inclusive) make OPTIONAL use of available screen space.. Icon sizes, input boxes etc-should have the maximum onscreen size possible – for ease of use and optional legibility.

    Then the PhysiQwertians will have one thing LESS about which to gripe – and possibly become TRUE BELIEVERS…

  9. @Eye.bee.kay

    Swype is said to be the leading touchscreen keypad software implementation for touchscreen phones -on all major platforms.

    Though this is largely a fact, but I found that I am always coming back to TouchPal keyboard for Android. It does swipe input very well and its prediction is also excellent. Sometimes in the process of typing, I can go the length of 6 words without typing a letter.

    It uses small characters on the prediction bar that makes display of up to 6 4-letter words or 4 6-letter words possible. In portrait mode which I use predominantly, it occupies about 50% of the screen. It collection of symbols and smileys and the layout is also very good with a set of navigation keys that includes home and end.

    If I want to do a lengthy editing, I normally use 920 Text Editor for Android that also uses small characters that makes it possible to have up to 10 lines of text in the portrait mode.

  10. If I want to do a lengthy editing, I normally use 920 Text Editor for Android that also uses small characters that makes it possible to have up to 10 lines of text in the portrait mode.

    I also do something similar.to your method.

    In my case, i use Quickoffice in conjunction with Swype.

    Quickoffice fills the whole screen with text. I can bhen shift away Swype to reveal any text portion covered during text entry.

    Office Suite would have been the best for me (more feature_ rich), but it tends to redraw each character 1by1. This is quite annoying when handling large volumes of text.

    I then cut and paste as appropriate.

  11. Talking about text editors, there is an outstanding one by Juriy Bakurnin {JBak)

    It is soooo good i would ruin outta superlatives to describe this app

    Unfortunately it has not been upgraded for touchscreen on Symbian.

    Folks With third ed symbian may check it out @ http://www.jbak.ru/dedit_en.php

  12. I find it odd – certainly laughable – that some of you think that just because product A outsells product B, then the latter is dying. That is just so wrong, not to mention being also very illogical.

    I mean, that would imply that Glo Nigeria is dying because MTN Nigeria outsells them; right?

    Like someone also pointed out earlier today, that Toyota outsells Mercedes doesn’t mean the latter is dying.

    Android is outselling iOS, but no-one says that iOS is dying.

    Like I have also said before, many of us who comment on issues have no idea of business management and related info. Sometimes, all that you guys see is what your circle of friends and associates use, and you somehow think that’s all there is to it.

    Sustainability is not necessarily a numbers game. It is a game of demand and supply.

    When someone makes a statement like, “Why does iPhone / iPad sell like it does despite having no hardware keyboard”, one begins to wonder what the correlation is.

    That one device (or a group of devices) sell without a QWERTY keyboard has no impact on the sustainability of QWERTY keyboards in the market. None whatsoever.

    If hardware QWERTY were no longer selling, that’s a different ball game entirely.

    Also, that BlackBerry has added one touchscreen range to its line-up of products (the rest of which are hardware QWERTY) doesn’t imply the death of the hardware keyboard either. That’s just offering consumers options.

    Facts & Figures
    For those of you pretending to have figures about dwindling number of QWERTY devices in production, you must be kidding. More manufacturers today are producing more QWERTY devices than they were years ago.

    Harry seems to have some strangely way-off numbers:

    For instance, Samsung produced only one or two physical QWERTY smartphones this 2011, I only know of Samsung Galaxy Pro and for LG, I can only remember LG Optimus C660 Pro this year also. Sony Ericsson has 2 or 3 and Motorola also 2 or 3.

    And when you compare this year’s meagre numbers with their last year numbers you see that there is a clear shift from physical QWERTY to all touchscreen devices.

    Anyone who keeps up-to-date with device releases knows that the above statement from Harry is full of holes.

    This time last year, Sony Ericsson had only two QWERTY smartphones – Xperia X10 mini pro and Vivaz Pro. This year, another two have been added to that line-up – Xperia Mini Pro and Xperia Pro. In addition, they have added the Txt and Txt Pro to their non-smartphone line-up. That’s four (4) this year against last year’s two (2) hardware QWERTY devices.

    LG added eight (8) QWERTY smartphones and at least two (2) such non-smartphones this year alone. Harry said LG made only one (1).

    HTC: In addition to the following slider QWERTY devices, HTC Merge, HTC EVO Shift 4G and HTC Arrive, HTC added two QWERTY bars, the ChaCha and the Status, to their line-up. That’s a total of five (5) this year.

    Samsung has added the Captivate Glide, a QWERTY slider version of the Galaxy S 2, among about four (4) other QWERTY sliders. Add the following four (4) QWERTY bar smartphones – Galaxy 551, Galaxy Pro, Galaxy Y Pro, and Galaxy M Pro. In the non-smartphone segment, we have four (4) Samsung Ch@t devices in QWERTY bar form factors.

    That’s twelve (12) as against Harry’s claim of two (2) that he knows of. The disparity is no joke.

    I won’t bore readers by stretching this already long comment with more such devices from LG and others. Harry’s figures do not reflect reality and seem made up on the whim of the moment. Come on!

    At least you now have an idea of the validity of some of the claims being made here.

    These manufacturers are not stupid. The facts and figures show that the demand for hardware QWERTY mobiles is strong and sustainable – certainly viable enough for increased investments in that area.

    Hardware QWERTY devices don’t have to sell as much as touchscreen devices in order to be viable. There just has to be enough demand and sales. From all available facts and figures, there is.

    You don’t have to like hardware QWERTY, and you don’t have to use it. That’s okay. But the lengths to which people go to defend the absurd continues to amaze me.

    The hardware QWERTY is alive and well.

    PS: And, guys, when I say hardware QWERTY devices, I mean ALL devices with a hardware QWERTY keyboard, whether or not they include a touchscreen. I thought that definition would be self-explanatory.

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