A Dialaphone poll has revealed that a slight majority of our readers would like to see more phones with QWERTY keypads, indicating that there is some residual longing for the form factor of old that was once commonplace amongst leading mobile devices.
BlackBerry isn’t alone with its Q10 either; Nokia has recently launched the Asha 210, a cut-price QWERTY keypad phone that has more than one unusual physical feature. The latest in the Finnish firm’s budget range sports a dedicated key for WhatsApp which provides quick access to the free messaging service. The Asha 210 bears quite some resemblance to the HTC ChaCha, an older device which came fitted with a dedicated Facebook button.
So is there a reason for this swell of opinion in favour of what seemed to be an antiquated feature all but consigned to the dustbin in favour of onscreen keypads and virtual controls?
The QWERTY keypad has been seen on many handsets but the most famous examples are those built by BlackBerry, with the design element being almost synonymous with the Canadian manufacturer’s classic devices.
While the firm’s position at the very forefront of the smartphone world has undeniably waned in recent times there are many who still love their old BlackBerry devices. Reports that emerged around the time of the launch of the BlackBerry 10 OS pointed towards the firm having in the region of 79 million active users worldwide.
Is there a difference in the way such devices perform that puts them a step above onscreen keypads, even when those virtual keys are used on the 5-inch displays now commonplace amongst high-end smartphones?
When testing the Q10 recently we found that its keypad worked well and it was easy to type messages quickly when holding the device with two hands and using both thumbs to press the keys. However, we couldn’t shake the feeling that for much of the time we were using it the keypad was redundant, taking up a huge amount of space on the handset’s front fascia that couldn’t be used for anything else.
However, we had little trouble typing on the full touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 and the innovative feature that sees predicted text appearing across the keypad itself is not only extremely useful and time saving but utterly impossible to do on a physical keypad.
Nevertheless, our poll suggests that many smartphone users do at least miss the availability of physical keypads even if they may not actually choose to buy one themselves. Does this mean there could be resurgence in the use of such devices in the near future?
In our opinion, we can’t see physical keypads existing as anything other than niche devices but the reaction to the launch of the Q10 suggests that they may not die out completely. Embellishing these handsets with even more physical controls, as Nokia and HTC have done, always seems like something of a novelty, but the basic form factor of a physical QWERTY keypad and small display (now likely to be a high-spec touchscreen) may not disappear from the shelves completely.