Would You Keyboard Lovers Ever Be Willing to Ditch the Hardware for a Software-Only QWERTY?


The hardware keyboard has all but gone the way of the dodo bird. We all know that. The good news is that there are still some phones out there with hardware keyboards. The bad news is, that phone is never 100% right for you. (And, really, no phone is.) It seems that only mid-range phones are being equipped with keyboards these days, though. OEMs and carriers likely do this to attract the texters, but there’s still a market for business professionals who miss their Blackberries.

A good amount of our vocal fanbase love the high-end phones, though, and the last two monumental high-end releases with physical keyboards have been the Samsung Epic 4G and the Motorola DROID 2. Others, such as the G2, Desire Z and all variants based on them, have already been phased out or are quickly headed that way. The high-end devices have clearly become outnumbered when it comes to this spec.

At this rate, it won’t be long before keyboards are as hard to find as a high-end Android with stock Gingerbread, something only Sprint and T-Mobile can provide with the Nexus S. Say they become impossible to find: could you live with that? Would you be able to use your screen as your sole typing device or would you be willing to get a less powerful device or switch to another operating system for a nice phone that has a hardware keyboard? Vote in the poll below, and as always, be sure to voice your thoughts in the comments area below.

[polldaddy poll=5143457]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. If you had asked this question 8 months ago I’d have said that I’d never go without a hardware keyboard.

    Then I got the G2 and it’s keyboard is decidedly mediocre, I found myself using Swype and then found that Swype was pretty good.

    My next phone a keyboard will not be a priority, and I’d rather have no keyboard than another 4 row keyboard.

    1. I’m in the exact same boat; just HAD to get a G2, then I got swype, now my next phone will definitely just be a slate

    2. im completely oppositei got the g2 because of the keyboard, love the keyboard, and only use swype (or other on screen keyboards) for short on or two word texts

      1. Well I was coming from a G1 which had an outstanding keyboard.  Maybe the G2 keyboard isn’t so bad if you aren’t used to a better one.

        1. The G2’s keyboard is abysmal. I even type worse on it than on the onscreen keyboard.

        2. I upgraded from the G1 to G2. Got both on launch day. Granted the G2 keyboard could be better, I still use the physical keyboard as my primary. Only minor complaints but as stated above, there are a lot of applications where its much more practical for the hardware keyboard.

          Either way, I love my G2. If only AT&T&T-Mobile would make up their minds so I can spec my next phone.

  2. I really prefer the hardware keyboard and can’t understand why the manufacturers want to move away from it. Oh, wait… Money. It costs more money to produce a phone with a hardware keyboard than without.

    I suppose using an onscreen keyboard isn’t the end of the world, but I really prefer the tactile experience that a hardware keyboard gives me.

  3. I upgraded into the Epic instead of the Evo because of the keyboard. After 2 months I traded with someone that had a brand new Evo and never looked back. It took me about a week to get used to the SW keys. My only problem is the screen size,I have a hard time on anything with a screen under 4″.

  4. I don’t see why people love hardware keyboards so much. I have tried them but i never really enjoyed them.

    1. It’s not just the typing. It’s the added functionality that brings to you makes it much better than any touchscreen-only device. Keyboard shortcuts, for example. I can open the browser, twitter client, and gtalk within a second, and switch between them without long-pressing the home button. Also, the keyboard renders the search button useless, because typing right away brings up the search screen.

  5. Thought I would hate not having a hw keyboard but after using swype I can’t imagine going back. 

  6. I thought I couldn’t do without a hardware keyboard, so my first Android device was a Moto Cliq (instead of the Nexus One). Big mistake! I now have a Nexus S and with Swype (or a similar product), I’m very happy.

  7. “It seems that only mid-range phones are being equipped with phones these days, though.”

    Nice mistake article writer. Can you change it to: It seems that only mid-range phones are being equipped with keyboards these days, though.

  8. Sadly it seems I will have to move on from my keyboard phones.  I haven’t seen a real good phone get developed since my current epic 4g.   Next phone will probably be a nexus since I doubt we’ll see any more top of the line sliders for a while.

  9. Samsung Transform to an EVO Shift. Yeah, it’s a priority. Nothing compares to the hardware keyboard feel, and I like to keep up with everything. Sadly enough, a touchscreen keyboard gives me no satisfaction.

  10. i had a cliq years ago and joined swype beta and never slid the keyboard out again. so a phone with a keyboard wasnt even an option for me

  11. Well the Droid was my first cell phone, but I was introduced to software keyboards first because of my iPod touch I tried getting used to the hardware keyboard. I can probably do without it since I never really use it. But there is instances where I’m forced to use it, like when I don’t want to get my screen fingerprinted up and or when Android is acting up.

  12. I appreciate the hardware keyboard a lot, but if I can’t find one backed up by enough of the other features I want, I will learn to live without.  My D1 is serving me well, but the D3 isn’t looking like what I’d hoped it would be.  ::sigh:: Will probably have to lose the keyboard for my next device.

  13. I think the only option I could deal with aside from a Hardware Keyboard is a secondary capacitive touch screen/keyboard.  Although the Echo is a major fail there.   I’d prefer something along the lines of the E-Ink re-configurable keyboard that came on a certain dumb phone a while back.  Soft keyboards are way more flexible, I just wish I didn’t have to sacrifice screen real estate every time I had to type something.  I was raised to look at the screen when I type, not my keyboard.  With today’s soft keyboards, you have to look at your keyboard not the output on the display, and that is far more error-prone.  Just look at websites like damnyouautocorrect.com, it’s funny because it’s true.  I’m a far more reliable spelling editor with a hardware keyboard than my soft keyboard is.

    1. what phone had an e-ink keyboard?

      1. OH! I think he’s talking about a Verizon(?) phone that came out a little over year ago *I think*. I know it had the capability to be opened in portrait or in landscape mode (via a specialized hinge), and depending on the orientation, the print on the keys changed. One of my friends had it, and I was quite impressed by that functionality.

        1. Yep! It was Verizon. The Samsung Alias 2 had an e-ink keyboard. I was wrong about the date though. 2+ years. It only seemed like such a short time ago…

    2. I  agree, I have thought this for ages, a secondary super scaled back slide out touch screen just for input would be amazing.  Gaming and typing would be quite awesome… best of both worlds.

  14. I love how slim and light my Nexus One is, but tying to do remote administration via SSH is often like pulling teeth. I wish some manufacturer would make clip on Bluetooth keyboards that fit various android devices like they have for the iPhone. Surely there must be one or two individual phones with enough of an install base to make that feasible…

  15. Was I the only one who would rather have and desire z then a hd when they first came out?

    1. With you my friend.. typing from my hardware keyboard on the desire Z.. i dont regret buying it over the HD at all!!

  16. This is actually a huge deal for me. I’ve used every virtual keyboard imaginable, and have never liked it. I can type incredibly fast on a physical keyboard, but half my friends without them end up calling me because “they didn’t want to type out a long text.”

    And the D3, quite honestly, sucks. Not by itself, of course, I’m sure it’s a “decent” phone, but nowhere close to what it needed to be to follow up the Droid 2, which in my opinion is a very worthy successor to the d1, despite the lack of dev community support and even carrier support (the D2G gets Gingerbread first? Really?) I have loved this phone every minute of owning it, and the keyboard owes a lot to that experience.

    Honestly, with the iphone supposedly coming out with the ability to work independent of itunes (which was #1 on my list of why I’d never own an iphone), I’m going to have to give it another serious look. I’ve forgiven my D2 of the occasional hiccup that is inevitable on an Android phone (I only have the stock ROM, rooted, with launcherpro) because it’s such an awesome device otherwise, but I don’t see myself being so forgiving of either the D3 (I’d rather just upgrade to gingerbread myself and continue using the D2 until the D4, 5, 10, etc. comes out) or a phone where I’m forced to used a virtual keyboard. Plus I kind of don’t like the way Samsungs are built (cheap and plasticy), but that’s just me being picky.

    1. “…but half my
      friends without them end up calling me…”

      Is that bad?

      1. Well, not “bad” per se, but if it is a simple question, i honestly do prefer a quick text that i can answer when convenient as opposed to the phone ringing in my pocket while i’m cleaning the litter box.

        Plus, a full keyboard seems to cut down on the txt spk, i’ve found, which is always a good thing.

        For some reason my phone isn’t letting me post under my twitter account. Anyone know wassup wit dat?

  17. Call me old-fashioned, but the tactile experience of the hardware keyboard on my current Android phone is something I’m not willing to give up for a touch-screen keyboard. I like to be able to feel what I’m pressing. That said, I could get used to the alternative input application called 8pen if I gave myself time to do so. I don’t care for Swype for the same reason I don’t care for other touchscreen keyboards based on the design of the traditional keyboard.

  18. Started out with the G1, and thought that I couldn’t live without a keyboard. Decided that I liked the specs of the MT4G better than those of the G2, so I went the previous. I love swype and will never go back to a hardware keyboard. It’s all about bigger screen size for me now…something a keyboard phone will probably always be lacking in.

    1. That’s true…could you imagine something as big as the Sensation with a physical keyboard? It would be a pocket destroyer lol. 

  19. I prefer a hardware keyboard because of the size of my thumbs. I have big hands, making a touchscreen keyboard very small and hard to type with. I’ve tried with various different software keyboards, such as swype and swiftkey, but always end up going back to the physical one, just because it’s so much easier to type with.

  20. If a bluetooth keyboard were practical, I would gladly go with a phone that didn’t have a keyboard because of the better hardware options available, but as a bluetooth keyboard doesn’t really seem all that practical for most uses and the software keyboard takes up way too much room on the screen, I guess I may just have to step down a tier. Admittedly, the part of me that goes by Tim Taylor may end up winning when it comes time to upgrade and step into an android phone. Using the Graffiti for Android might make it easier, though.

  21. You should add the option I already did, but I’d rather have a hardware keyboard.

  22. The Droid 3 will have a keyboard!  While I CAN and sometimes do type on the glass screen fairly well now, I like to have my full screen visible when I type.  I also enjoy arguing/(discussing) with the Android ignorant iphoners about the merits of Android based phones versus iOS based phones, and having a full screen to view WHILE typing on a real keyboard, usually ends the back and forth pretty quickly.   ;)  

    1. I’m with you there! Even if you’ve got a huge screen like on the Evo or Thunderbolt, About half of the screen (or more, especially in portrait) is taken up by the on-screen keyboard. If you are replying to a long text and are writing a long text yourself, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be scrolling all over the place trying to respond to all the other person has said. The same is with emails which are generally longer than texts.

  23. When I first got my Droid I really thought the Hardware Keyboard was the way to go but I find myself seldom using it and prefer the virtual keyboard now.

    1. Same here. What made me get a phone with a hardware keyboard was my previous phone was a bad experience being touch screen only.

      After using the Droid 1, I realized if you have a decent screen the hardware keyboard isnt needed for typing.

      But, emulators are a pain with out a hardware keyboard.

  24. Onscreen keyboards will always suck becuase you make too many typos and IT TAKES UP SCREEN REAL ESTATE.

    Who wants to type into a tiny little box on the screen?

  25. I was one of the people who thought I couldn’t live without the hardware keyboard. Then the price was right on the off-contract Optimus T, so I jumped. I find SwiftKey to be mostly adequate, though it will never beat an external full-size BlueTooth keyboard. (No, I am not currently using one. If an email response needs more than a one- or two-line response, I wait until I am at a PC to send it.)

  26. Hey question to the group an the poll, does anyone use the Voice dictation capability rather than either the soft keys or the hardware keyboard for the majority of typing tasks, other than me?

    1. I loved Dragon Dictation on my MyTouch 4G. That was some pretty awesome stuff. I’ve never had an Android with a keyboard myself and considering I came from a Palm Pre to Sidekick to Android you’d think I would’ve gone G1 back in the day when I purchased the MT3G instead. 

    2. I tried a number of times. Doesn’t seem to like my accent.

    3. I use the voice to text feature in the car or if I only have my phone hand free lol.

    4. Only when in the car; too many incorrect translations for me to be efficient at other times.

  27. as someone who types 10 to 15 emails a day for my job.  i like having a hardware keyboard.  i don’t need to worry about autocorrect screwing up my emails to clients.  As long as I have a job that requires me to email regularly from my phone, I’ll purchase a phone with a hardware keyboard over a newer/faster phone without.

  28. I personally don’t have a phone with a hardware keyboard but I would like to give it a try I’m pretty sure I’d like it I’ll probably give it a shot as my next or at least future phone if they start to be a little more hi end, the only phone so far with a hardware keyboard that I really would love to have is a G2 so I’ll wait and see what comes latter 

    Although it’s true they should start making high end phones with the keyboard cause I’m sure that allot of people would by them only problem is that allot of people wouldn’t for the same reason cause most people want the slim more than the keyboard.

  29. Still struggling to let go of my G1.   Seriously, the keyboard is really good.  And with Ginger Yoshi, i’m running Android 2.3.4

  30. I’ve been an avid fan of hardware keyboards since my old nokia 6820, but I’m switching tomorrow for the Sensation. I’d rather have the bigger screen and more power.

  31. I almost bit the bullet and chose a touchscreen device but I think I’m gonna give the D3 a shot. I can’t live without my hardware.

  32. My G2 has Gingerbread (thanks to a warranty exchange). I love it. I can text while driving inconspicuously. I can use it to fashion long emails blindfolded. I adore every aspect of my keyboard. But. The Sensation is reallllllyyyyyy tempting.

  33. I am NOT moving from my phone (LG GW620) until someone makes a high end phone with a 5 row keyboard (with keys that have tactility), a non-pentile qHD 4 inch screen, and an unlocked bootloader.
    I was very tempted by the Droid/Milestone 3, but when I discovered that it has a pentile screen, I stopped caring. Just how hard is it to get it right?

  34. I don’t understand why people prefer hardware keyboards over touch.
    1. Bulkier
    2. Tend ti break easier
    3. In situations with moving parts for a slide out keyboard, they break faster
    4. Slower than touch with swype like software
    5. More costly
    6. Much more…

    1. To answer you question… IMO
      1. I don’t care if it’s bulkier; I live with function over form.
      2. This is purely a matter of opinion. Bulkier is actually often symnomous with sturdy.
      3. Moving parts do fail, so purchase a device with sturdier mechanicals. The functionality is worth the trade-off.
      4. Maybe for a quick text. If you want error-free typing, have a lot of typing to do or have to use a lot of non-words / symbols, software “shortcut” keyboards don’t cut it.
      5. More hardware = more cost; that’s just a fact of life. Once again, worth the trade-off.
      6. Such as…

    2. hardware keyboards are for power users. You can type a lot more with far less errors than with a software keyboard (ever tried writing a college essay?), switch between many apps within a second (as opposed to long pressing Home and waiting), keyboard shortcuts for the most basic of commands (copy, paste, new tab in browser, switch to a specific tab) , etc.. I could go on, but I CBA.

  35. If for some reason I had to, I would, probably, switch to a screen-only keyboard very tentatively.  Really, though, I would rather have a device that is a little thicker and heavier, and has a hardware keyboard.

    1. This -> “I would rather have a device that is a little thicker and heavier, and has a hardware keyboard.”

    2. Agreed. A thicker and heavier phone is always great in my book. I like to HOLD the thing (thickness) and actually FEEL like holding something (weight). I can’t understand those paper-thin phones like the samsung galaxy s2. Yes it’s nice and thin but it hurts my hands.

  36. Wife loves her Droid Pro and there is no way she would have ever left her BlackBerry for a phone without one.  Having said that, she may not at least consider a phone without one. Still, it would be a mistake to completely abandon the form altogether, as long as there as CrackBerry addicts out there.

  37. I would never give up a hardware keyboard.  While Swype can be faster when it works, the 1 out of every 10 words it gets wrong drives me crazy.

    Fortunately, there are still a few high-end phones with keyboards.  The D3 and the Doubleshot look interesting, though I’d really like a phone with LTE as well as a physical keyboard and a dual-core processor.

    1. For example, the previous post, ala Swype:

      I would never give up a hardware keyboard.  While Swype can be faster when out works, the 1 put of 10 words out gets wrong drives mgr crazy.

      Directly, there are a few high-end phones wroth leonid.  The D3 and end discredit loll interesting though of really like a phone with LTE as well as a pascal jaybird and a dual-cote processor.

    2. I too am very interested in the Doubleshot, and hoping some kind of varint of it comes to Verizon. Will have to see how the D3 actually turns out… if it’s not a huge improvement over the D2’s then it won’t cut it unless it’s free.

    3. Doubleshot looks like is using the same crappy keyboard of the G2/Desire Z (also, 4 row keyboards suck), and the D3 is using a pentile screen. I’d get the D3 but a real high end phone doesn’t use a pentile screen. It’s like getting a blue ray movie + player for your 20 year old CRT screen. :/

      1. The Doubleshot keyboard looks like Merge keyboard, which Android Central is calling “among the best we’ve used.”

        What did you dislike about the G2 keyboard?  (Other than the four rows.)

  38. Sorry, but without a keyboard, it’s just a smartphone! With a keyboard it’s a mobile computer! What about ssh shell, what about emulators like Gameboid and FPSE? Without keyboard, without me. Currently have the Milestone 2. My next phone will be the Xperia Pro or the Milestone 3.

  39. I was strictly a hardware keyboard user. I went from a Windows Mobile Dash, to a BlackBerry, to the G1, to the Motorola Cliq, to the MyTouch Slide. It was a necessary feature on a phone for me.

    I started swyping on the MyTouch Slide, and quickly found myself using Swype rather than the hardware keyboard. Then I bought a MyTouch 4G. It was my first slate device and I didn’t miss the hardware keyboard at all. Now I’m onto the Sensation and I gotta say, having a thin, sexy phone is way better than having a bulky phone with a keyboard. I’ll never go back.

    TL;DR: Get with the times and ditch the hardware keyboard. Slates are more sleek.

  40. I think that as the screen size increases, it is easier to use an on screen keyboard and I am more comfortable with it.

  41. I can type mostly blind on the G2 keyboard!
    Try typing in 3 languages and you will find out pretty quickly why a hardware keyboard is better.

  42. I’ve pretty much decided I won’t be buying another phone.  The Vibrant and Behold II debacle, in addition to setting me off for #NeverAgain #Samsung, has left me feeling that a phone isn’t going to be doing enough for me anyway.  I’ll probably get a 7″ tablet and tuck it into my portfolio, put a Bluetooth earpiece in and call it a day.  If I need to do text on the tablet I’ll ether get Thumbboard or break out the Bluetooth keyboard and use that.

    As far as software keyboards go, Swiftkey is probably the best of them.  I can’t stand Swype and Swiftkey is uncannily accurate in its next word prediction.

  43. Keyboards badly need a 5th row for numbers
    Please Swype add a 5th row with numbers

  44. If HTC would just remake the Merge with a dual core 1Ghz, a front facing camera, 4G LTE, and vanilla gingerbread…that would be the ultimate device.
    Is that asking too much??

    1. What he said… and a fifth row on that keyboard wouldn’t hurt. Oh, and the most important part, Verizon should actually release it this time.

  45. Once I tried Swype on my G1 about two years ago, I swapped the phone to a slim one and will never go back to that chunkiness.

  46. My favorite reason for having a harware keyboard: I get excruciatingly annoyed when trying to type on the screen and I keep sending texts or filling out text fields prematurely because my phone thought I pressed the enter key when I intended to hit a key next to it. After a few times having this happen, I can’t open my keyboard fast enough – even if it is the crappy one on the D2.

    Being able to feel your keys FTW!

  47. ditch keyboard?
    not a chance

  48. It’s just so simple: hw keyboard always faster. Terminal emulator needs real keyboard. Next phone will have a keyboard. Oh, and vendors? FIVE ROW.

    1. YES. 5 ROWS.

  49. The Sidekick 4g has the best keyboard out there and even though some specs are “mid-range” (screen size, no dual-core), it’s 4G capability actually bests other “higher end” models in web speed tests. I have tried soft keyboards and they are so inaccurate, especially with my large fingers. Skype helps some but as an “old dog” (late 40s) it is hard to get used to that “new trick”. I have been using older (Danger OS) Sidekicks since 2005 and the keyboards have been wonderful. Now I am loving the Android platform but glad I do not have to give up the Sidekick’s top-of-the-line Hard Keyboard.

  50. I created my own software qwerty (slide a key to get the second letter).

    There was no other proper software keyboard (1-hand-use, big keys) – all others were slower. I was faster on it than iPhone users using dictionary/prediction (I don’t use dict/prediction).

    I use htc ChaCha now (android lacks good keyboard integration).

    Here’s a list of qwerty bar android phones: http://gadgetwit.com

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