One of the benefits (if anything, I know it’s a stretch) of getting older is that the older you get, the more memories and experiences you get. I was there to witness both the birth and decline of smartphones with QWERTY keyboards. From the BlackBerry Bold 9000 (which was actually my company phone in my daily sales job before Pocketnow), the HTC ChaCha and the beloved Touch Pro2 to the BlackBerry KEYone (and its successors for dot iterations).
I was so good at typing on the small keys that I was able to check an entire email without looking at the keys or automatically correcting them, much like I type on a full-sized keyboard. But you see, just like everything in life, there was a time and a purpose for these phones and I personally believe that time has passed.
You see, when companies started thinking about smartphones with QWERTY keyboards and then bringing them to market, the entire smartphone market was still in its infancy. They not only switched from resistive to capacitive displays, but also increased the resolution from 320 × 200 to a whopping 640 × 480 VGA.
On-screen keyboards were really bad, with small keys that were difficult to hit with a stylus, to horrible, nightmare-inducing auto-correcting errors for subsequent, larger keys (just big enough to allow your fingers to pinpoint 3-point something to meet) or at best 4 diagonals).
There was a need in the market to do something and improve the productivity of professionals (because, let’s face it, only they could previously afford smartphones or the companies they worked for).
Birth and death of the QWERTY smartphones
Enter the QWERTY keyboard on a smartphone. Sure, in the late 90s NOKIA dipped its toes in the water with the Communicator, but BlackBerry and HTC really led the way in that movement as Symbian, BBOS and Windows Mobile (a little later Android) were the only usable / useful platforms.
QWERTY keyboards with tactile feedback and an improved hit or error rate quickly caught on (and typing a message or email on T9 keyboards was also no fun: BlackBerry Pearl, anyone?). They not only offered more productivity, but also became a symbol for the “modern” business professional. It solved a problem!
The decline began not long after that when Apple decided to completely get rid of the problem with the iPhone and an actually usable on-screen keyboard. Android really caught the drift, and the two have slowly broken up with BlackBerry, Microsoft (Windows Mobile smartphones) and Nokia.
The screens got bigger and bigger, the on-screen keyboards got better, the autocorrection improved massively and soon dictation became the standard option.
We are currently at the point where a 6-inch phone is pretty “average” or “normal” in terms of size and the FHD resolution is a “minimum”. That’s twice, sometimes three times, the size or resolution of what it used to be when a QWERTY keyboard was needed or useful from the start.
The problem with QWERTY smartphones
Whichever approach you think of (vertical slider, horizontal slider below the display / split), a QWERTY keyboard either adds bulk to the phone or reduces the screen size. This alone creates a problem instead of solving one (that no longer exists).
I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite a while and can’t find a single usage scenario where a QWERTY keyboard would be useful in today’s smartphone landscape. If you can think of one, drop us a comment below. I would really like to know!
In this decade, the smartphone can easily be defined by being as thin as possible and taking up as much of the display as possible on the front. How much sense would it make for a company, even with a strong brand like BlackBerry (with the recent comeback rumors of 2021) to go against the grain and offer a product that, by definition, spoils the experience like we do today know?
Again, I can’t think of anything except the nostalgia factor, which I don’t think is enough to justify its existence. Maybe it’s just me, but whatever you’re up to, BlackBerry, please don’t count on me. I’ll pass! And no, it’s not personal: I pass on all physical QWERTY keyboards on smartphones, regardless of make or model. Will you?
Thank you for reading! Welcome to the editorial desk!
Anton D. Nagy
Anton is the editor-in-chief of Pocketnow. As head of publications, he would like to bring Pocketnow even closer to you. His vision is primarily focused and focused on the audience. Anton’s goal, which has been adopted by the entire team, is to turn Pocketnow into a reference media company. Contact: [email protected]