Used to chat in the comfort of the PC on IRC and Messenger, write on the small screen of the mobile It was never my thing While my friends were able to pound on the tiny keyboard of their Nokia to type SMS by pressing a key four times to type the letter Ñ, I preferred monosyllables to suffering such torture.
So when touchscreens started to be all the rage, I opted to get a Nokia Xpressmusic 5800: the screen was touch, but at least the stylus allowed you to type more or less like a QWERTY keyboard. There was no going back, hence I made the leap to Android with the Xperia Mini Pro and an unknown Galaxy S Relay 4G. What do they have in common? Both of them have full QWERTY keyboard.
Neither of these phones has aged too well. The Xperia Mini has a tiny 3-inch screen and 400MB of internal storage, while the Galaxy S Relay 4G has charging issues. I would have loved to replace them with a Modern and updated Android with physical keyboard, but I couldn’t for a simple reason: does not exist.
BlackBerry to the rescue
When I realized that my Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G, imported from the United States, is a T-Mobile exclusive modelAs I wasn’t able to charge the battery properly and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do, it was time to try to find substitutes.
At the time of buying this phone it had been difficult for me to find an Android with a sliding keyboard. Basically, only in the United States did they continue to create mobile “with keys”, an invention worthy of times gone by in Europe. Well, nothing, eBay involved and the odd fight to unlock it and be able to use it in Spain … and that’s it.
However, the search for a mobile that today has a sliding keyboard and has more or less decent specifications only yields two results: BlackBerry Priv Y Blackberry KeyOne. Its technical specifications are not bad: the Priv has 3 GB of RAM, Snapdragon 808 Marshmallow and 18 megapixel camera. Better still the KeyOne, with Nougat, Snapdragon 625, 3 GB of RAM and a 3,505 mAh battery.
The problem with both models is how is the keyboard in question. In the Prv, it’s a keyboard vertically sliding, while in the KeyOne the keyboard is perennial, as in the old feature phones of a lifetime. The result is a keyboard that is smaller than the vertical sliders and that makes the phone “very long” once it has been unfolded.
I must admit, however, that the vertical keyboard has its advantages. Except for watching videos and playing games, this is how we usually hold the phone and most messaging applications are intended to be used in this way. Some even refuse to rotate to landscape mode.
In any case, let’s go back to the list of alternatives. As of 2015, only two Android phones include a QWERTY keyboard, both from BlackBerry. You can choose between a Priv for 350 euros on Amazon that for now continues with Marshmallow without news from Nougat or the KeyOne, for 680+ euros and difficult to find. Not for all pockets.
If you have less budget, you are going to very old phones like the LG Optimus F3Q (1GB RAM only), my old S Relay 4G (only 233 dpi resolution) or the Motorola Photon Q 4G, which is 4 years old now. These phones, in addition to being loose in the specifications, have been discontinued for years, so they are very difficult to get even if you wanted one.
Be together, not the same
Although the motto of Android is “be together, not the same”, the truth is that lately except for the occasional attempt to get out of the ordinary, Android phones are more and more the same. Yes, of course, the specs, power, customization layer, and price change, but otherwise, nobody risks no longer even to create a slide-out QWERTY keyboard phone. Instead, everyone is determined to remove the frames.
It could be argued, and with good reason, that many manufacturers have already tried the invention in the past, and perhaps they have not been very satisfied with the result, discarding the idea forever. Okay, but considering there are over 1,300 different manufacturers, why hasn’t anyone come up with the idea? It is a fact that many manufacturers, especially new ones, have trouble differentiating and gaining attention of users in a market with more and more contenders. And what do they do to avoid it? Get the same old phones.
A losing battle
Even so, it seems that the mobile phones with a QWERTY keyboard that we were so passionate about in the early days of Android have gradually faded, until reaching their complete extinction, and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. There are, in fact, several requests to ask developers for a modern Android phone with a keyboard, like this one with 1807 signatures, this one with 954 or this one with 808. There aren’t many, I know.
The only thing left is to bury the corpse of the QWERTY mobile and say goodbye. But who killed him? There are several theories in this regard, from the lack of demand as consumers opt for more popular and recognized models to the screens, getting bigger and bigger and therefore they need the mobile is thinner so as not to have the feeling of holding a brick. The reality is probably a mixture of both.
Will there be a rediscovery of the physical keyboard in the future? After all, it is said that fashion is cyclical, so it cannot be ruled out. Now, while in the past many of us had to adapt to writing from the PC keyboard (or the number keys) to the touch screen, new generations are already born with a virtual keyboard under the arm.
Just as years ago my friends pounded on the tiny keys on their phone to write SMS at the speed of light, new generations deftly pound on the virtual keyboard, committing a fraction of the mistakes I make when trying to type the same thing. They do not need, therefore, any additional gadget to write more comfortable: it is good as it is.
If, like me, you share a love for physical keyboards, it seems that all you have left is to remember past times … and practice your typing on the virtual keyboard. It is said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something, which may or may not be true, but it helps you remember to practice and improve.
Updated 07/18/2017: Modified the text to add the only other QWERTY phone to come out since: the BlackBerry KeyOne.
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