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Is There Still A Market For Physical Keyboard Phones?


In today’s world, you will not expect or see smartphones with physical keyboards. Touchscreen inputs have completely taken over in the last half a decade or so. The most recent example of a QWERTY keyboard, however, is the BlackBerry KeyONE, which came out early this year. As a matter of fact, BlackBerry remains the only manufacturer that’s extremely dedicated to including a physical keyboard.

Clearly, physical keyboards have taken a nosedive in demand thanks to the advanced virtual keyboards of our smartphones. Even, BlackBerry, the big and influential brand name it once was, has tapered off after failing to adapt to this rising smartphone trend quickly enough.

Keeping The Buttons Alive

Don’t worry though, BlackBerry isn’t dead yet as the company appears to still have a soft spot for the inclusion of a physical keyboard. Company CEO, John Chen, recently revealed the KeyONE’s successor is in the works, even though the former wasn’t very successful.

This successor is being called “BlackBerry Mercury”, and unlike the KeyONE and the earlier launched Priv, it’s speculated that this smartphone will feature the classic BlackBerry “candy bar” form factor. Also, this may be the last BlackBerry device with a physical keyboard for the foreseeable future. So it’s probably safe to assume that even BlackBerry doesn’t believe that physical keyboards have a place in mobile anymore.

But we can think of some cases in which they still do and BlackBerry’s solutions have been the best. The company may have the longest track record of holding onto the physical keyboard. But in many people’s opinion, their favourite keyboards were probably on the Palm devices. The texture of the keyboard was great and very comfortable.

Physical Keyboards Across The Industry

HTC also pops up when it comes to great slide-out keyboards. The Taiwanese smartphone maker’s MyTouch 3G Slide had a great keyboard which was sturdy and always snapped right into place whether you were opening the keyboard up or sliding it out of view. Also, there was the HTC Arise, which got more than just the keyboard right. The device had a mechanism which tilted the screen at an angle whenever the physical keyboard was in use.

However it isn’t looking like there would be a massive big market for physical keyboards anymore, considering just how advanced all these touchscreen virtual keyboards are. But you could say that they still have their benefits  – they offer more screen space when you are typing. They are also re-mappable and make convenient shortcut keys, and many people can just use muscle memory to type without looking.

All this aside it shouldn’t be long before physical keyboards are completely removed from the smartphone industry. BlackBerry, the champion for QWERTY keyboards, will at some point manufacture its last phone with the said keyboard and we shall be left to reminisce the times when QWERTY keyboards were considered golden. Sigh.