Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 29th Apr 2013 16:27 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless The Verge reviews the BlackBerry Q10: "Maybe you're here for the keyboard. As superb as the Q10's physical keyboard is, I keep thinking about the six-year evolution of the soft keyboard since the introduction of the original iPhone. They've gotten so good on every platform - iOS, Windows Phone, Android, even BlackBerry's own Z10. The argument used to be that physical keyboards were for serious users who needed to burn through email, and I just don't think that holds water anymore. Yes, this is the best of a dying breed, but for the life of me, I don't know why someone who's accustomed to a full-touch phone would come back to this." I disagree. Touchscreen keyboards have not improved considerably at all - in fact, I find them just as terrible and unpleasant to use as when they were first introduced on Palm OS and Windows Mobile. A properly designed hardware keyboard - preferably landscape (like on the E7), but portrait will do too - will always run circles around those frustrating software keyboards. Major respect to BlackBerry for sticking to their guns. To anyone making a quality phone with a landscape hardware keyboard (rebadge an E7 for all I care) running Android or Windows Phone: please, take my money. Please.
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1.6MB
by M.Onty on Mon 29th Apr 2013 16:39 UTC
M.Onty
Member since:
2009-10-23

Why I should trust a technology review from a company whose site weighs 1.6MB per page I cannot fathom. The whole review is only about 1,600 words plus a dozen medium sized images. You should be looking at 100K, maximum, excluding JQuery. No wonder it takes three seconds from when it finishes loading to when it actually shows on screen.

Anyway, on topic, I think you're right about physical keyboards Thom. There's no getting around the fact that you can't feel the edges of on-screen keys, no matter how many marvellous thumb twisting new layouts pop up.

Edited 2013-04-29 16:39 UTC

Reply Score: 10

RE: 1.6MB
by AndyB on Mon 29th Apr 2013 21:25 UTC in reply to "1.6MB"
AndyB Member since:
2013-03-22

Well during my Blackberry Torch days I hardly ever used the physical keyboard, the software one was much easier to use and seemed more accurate for my large fingers. Whenever I used the physical keyboard I covered up 3 or 4 keys every time I put my finger over it and had to guess which I was pressing, at least with a touchscreen keyboard it can pop up which letter you are pressing so you have a better idea where the others are in relation to your fingers!

Reply Score: 2

RE: 1.6MB
by moxfyre on Tue 30th Apr 2013 15:33 UTC in reply to "1.6MB"
moxfyre Member since:
2007-10-18

I think you're right about physical keyboards Thom. There's no getting around the fact that you can't feel the edges of on-screen keys, no matter how many marvellous thumb twisting new layouts pop up.
This was my feeling until recently, as well.

My current phone is the Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint's Galaxy S derivative) with a landscape slider keyboard, running CM10.1, preceded by the Samsung Moment with a similar landscape slider. For a long time, I found the slider keyboards indispensable for composing longer emails and typing in difficult URLs.

However, in the last few months I find that I hardly use the slider keyboard at all. Swype got so good that I am now much faster and more accurate at entering any kind of text with it, and then Android Jelly Bean came along with its own gestural keyboard which is just as good, more tightly integrated with the OS, and offers more languages.

Honestly, I don't think I'll ever look for a phone with a physical keyboard again. At this point, it just takes up space and weight and I don't feel any lingering need for it.

Edited 2013-04-30 15:34 UTC

Reply Score: 2

can't beat swype
by NuxRo on Mon 29th Apr 2013 17:01 UTC
NuxRo
Member since:
2010-09-25

I've got hold of an Galaxy SII and played with Swype: my typing speed was suddenly increased 4-5 fold without spelling errors. How can any physical keyboard compete with this?

Reply Score: 3

RE: can't beat swype
by No it isnt on Mon 29th Apr 2013 17:50 UTC in reply to "can't beat swype"
No it isnt Member since:
2005-11-14

Try typing without looking at your phone. With some training, you could easily do that, quickly and precise, on an old-fashioned T9. Tactile feedback can only tell you that you just pressed some button, not which one you're going to press.

I've used Swype for a year, and I love it, but compared to a real keyboard, it's utter shit.

Edited 2013-04-29 17:51 UTC

Reply Score: 8

RE[2]: can't beat swype
by tylerdurden on Mon 29th Apr 2013 22:23 UTC in reply to "RE: can't beat swype"
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

Blind touch typing may make sense in devices where the keyboard and the screen have some significant degree of separation. It is however moot for a small device like a cellphone.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: can't beat swype
by _txf_ on Mon 29th Apr 2013 23:08 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: can't beat swype"
_txf_ Member since:
2008-03-17

Blind touch typing may make sense in devices where the keyboard and the screen have some significant degree of separation. It is however moot for a small device like a cellphone.


True,

There is however, a measure of blindness for those of us with big hands. The tactile feel of a physical keyboard works similarly like brail does for the blind

Edited 2013-04-29 23:10 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE[3]: can't beat swype
by No it isnt on Wed 1st May 2013 11:02 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: can't beat swype"
No it isnt Member since:
2005-11-14

Not really. A touch screen keyboard draws more of your attention, which is why some pedestrians seem so much less aware of where they walk these days.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Antartica_
by Antartica_ on Mon 29th Apr 2013 17:38 UTC
Antartica_
Member since:
2012-12-28

There are several use cases that makes a hardware keyboard the only sane choice for some:

- Typing on a ssh session (system admin tasks on the go)
- Typing in several languages in the same message (although doable changing settings in the soft keyboard, it's a hassle you don't have in the hardware keyboard)
- Typing longer messages. This requires a little more explanation.

About typing longer messages: Perhaps it depends from person to person, but in my experience typing using a software keyboard requires a lot more concentration than in the hardware keyboard variant, and that makes me try to escape it typing the minimum possible (that is, the shortest message possible).

That's it for me. YMMV.

Edited 2013-04-29 17:39 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by Antartica_
by M.Onty on Mon 29th Apr 2013 18:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by Antartica_"
M.Onty Member since:
2009-10-23

Edit: Removed.

Edited 2013-04-29 18:12 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Antartica_
by phoenix on Mon 29th Apr 2013 18:56 UTC in reply to "Comment by Antartica_"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

Typing simple, plain-English messages: onscreen keyboards work
Typing any kind of non-word syntax: onscreen keyboards SUCK!

Onscreen keyboards are really good for SMS, IM, even simple e-mail. But, if you need to use any kind of punctuation beyond ,.'" and maybe (), then they suck. Hard! Having to switch between 3! separate modes to get even the simplest of CLI commands to work is a royal pain!

Onscreen keyboards are so bad that I have actually stopped using SSH on my Optimus G. ;) With my Xperia Pro, I used SSH all the time. Every punctuation key required, including tab, alt, ctrl, and pipe, were accessible. CTRL/ALT were even separate hardware keys.

And, there's nothing as wonderful as viewing 100% of the screen when in landscape! While typing.

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: Comment by Antartica_
by tkeith on Mon 29th Apr 2013 19:24 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Antartica_"
tkeith Member since:
2010-09-01

Typing simple, plain-English messages: onscreen keyboards work
Typing any kind of non-word syntax: onscreen keyboards SUCK!

Onscreen keyboards are really good for SMS, IM, even simple e-mail. But, if you need to use any kind of punctuation beyond ,.'" and maybe (), then they suck. Hard! Having to switch between 3! separate modes to get even the simplest of CLI commands to work is a royal pain!

Onscreen keyboards are so bad that I have actually stopped using SSH on my Optimus G. ;) With my Xperia Pro, I used SSH all the time. Every punctuation key required, including tab, alt, ctrl, and pipe, were accessible. CTRL/ALT were even separate hardware keys.

And, there's nothing as wonderful as viewing 100% of the screen when in landscape! While typing.


I don't understand how people can say they can type faster on a hardware keyboard, when softkeyboards like swiftkey can auto complete words and do punctuation ect. However, you are right, passwords, codes, or uncommon words are tedious. Perhaps they could add a literal mode that you switch to, like how you can bring up a number or symbol keypad to type on.

I sympathies with people who want a hardware keypad, but can't due to the poor selection. That said, don't lecture me about how no software keypad can type as fast as a hardware thumb keypad, it's just BS.

The ironic part is that I know a lot of people that have a phone with a hardware keypad, but never use it. They thought they'd need it, but quickly learned to live without it.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by Antartica_
by phoenix on Mon 29th Apr 2013 19:46 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Antartica_"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

I don't understand how people can say they can type faster on a hardware keyboard, when softkeyboards like swiftkey can auto complete words and do punctuation ect.


You do realise that hardware keyboards also include auto-complete support, auto-punctuation, auto-cap, etc, right?

And, it can be faster to type on a hardware keyboard for anything that includes numbers (alt+letter=number vs long-press letter=number) especially on keyboards that include the number row (simple keypress=number). And for anything including punctuation as most of the common ones have their own key. Plus, you can touch-type (as in, not looking at the keyboard or even the auto-correct line) which you can't (easily) do via onscreen keyboards.

Plus, once you leave the world of SMS/e-mail, it becomes exponentially easier/faster to use hardware keyboards (like SSH apps or terminal apps).

Once you start trying to use the computer in your pocket like a pocket computer, you start to realise just how badly they need hardware keyboards. ;)

If you just use your pocket computer like a portable screen, then onscreen keyboards are fine.

However, you are right, passwords, codes, or uncommon words are tedious. Perhaps they could add a literal mode that you switch to, like how you can bring up a number or symbol keypad to type on.


There are keyboards that do this, like Hacker's Keyboard which gives you a full keyboard with number row, alt/ctrl/tab, etc. However, they all take up screen real-estate whereas hardware keyboards do not.

For me, that's the biggest bonus of a landscape hardware keyboard: 100% viewable landscape screen. Something that is impossible with an onscreen keyboard.

I sympathies with people who want a hardware keypad, but can't due to the poor selection.


It's too bad Android phone manufacturers didn't simplify their product lines into:
* small, medium, large screens
* candybar and landscape sliders

Small would be around 3.5-3.8" screens; medium around 4.0-4.3" screens; large would be 4.7-6.0" screens. Internals for candybar and slider would be identical, and only change with the size.

IOW, only 3 SoC/memory/screen setups to worry about, and only 6 cases to worry about. Release one size every 4 months, update each on a yearly basis. That way, it looks like you have a lot of phones in the market, always have a new one "just around the corner", can keep the software simple and easily updated.

Thus, combine the "shotgun/spaghetti-on-the-wall" approach of most Android vendors with the simplicity of the iPhone/GalaxyS yearly one-upmanship.

Alas, that will never happen. ;)

That said, don't lecture me about how no software keypad can type as fast as a hardware thumb keypad, it's just BS.


Maybe for you, specifically. But that's not true across the board.

The ironic part is that I know a lot of people that have a phone with a hardware keypad, but never use it. They thought they'd need it, but quickly learned to live without it.


Good for them, they obviously didn't know what they were doing when they bought the phone. What bearing does that have to do with people who do know what they want, and will use it when they get it?

Reply Score: 7

RE[3]: Comment by Antartica_
by tonny on Tue 30th Apr 2013 03:45 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Antartica_"
tonny Member since:
2011-12-22

The ironic part is that I know a lot of people that have a phone with a hardware keypad, but never use it. They thought they'd need it, but quickly learned to live without it.

Well, they don't know much about themselves I guess ;) .

And I want to still can chat with my friends, face to face, while replying sms/email etc. something rather inconvenience when using software keypad cause you have to focus more on ur screen rather then your friend.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by Antartica_
by chithanh on Mon 29th Apr 2013 20:27 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Antartica_"
chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

As much as I value the advantages of hardware keyboard for SSH and similar activities, I believe that you were simply using the wrong onscreen keyboard before.

There exist special keyboard apps which make SSH and coding decidedly less painful. Also many support a transparent mode so you see what is going on underneath. Thanks to Android, switching between them is very easy.

And as you mention English messages: Input of non-English words is often much easier if you can switch the layout, which is more convenient with onscreen keyboards. Using the excellent Multiling keyboard app I can communicate with my international contacts or input names/places in local writing system when traveling.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by Antartica_
by phoenix on Mon 29th Apr 2013 20:36 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Antartica_"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

As much as I value the advantages of hardware keyboard for SSH and similar activities, I believe that you were simply using the wrong onscreen keyboard before.

There exist special keyboard apps which make SSH and coding decidedly less painful. Also many support a transparent mode so you see what is going on underneath. Thanks to Android, switching between them is very easy.



Yes, I know, I've used them. I even mentioned one in my responses above (Hacker's Keyboard). None of that changes the fact that hardware keyboards are easier to use for non-SMS/e-mail situations. Especially considering you don't lose any screen space to the keyboard (transparent keyboard is not a solution to this).

And as you mention English messages: Input of non-English words is often much easier if you can switch the layout, which is more convenient with onscreen keyboards. Using the excellent Multiling keyboard app I can communicate with my international contacts or input names/places in local writing system when traveling.


You do realise that phones with hardware keyboards also have onscreen keyboards, right? ;) IOW, your options actually increase when you have a physical keyboard compared to only having onscreen ones:
- unlimited portrait keyboards + unlimited landscape keyboards + physical keyboard
vs.
- unlimited portrait keyboards + unlimited landscape keyboards

Which one has more options? ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Comment by Antartica_
by chithanh on Mon 29th Apr 2013 20:55 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Antartica_"
chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

I understand your point. A detachable/bluetooth keyboard might be another alternative worth looking at.

Which one has more options? ;)

But these options come at a cost. They reduce the choice you have on the handset market and increase size/weight of the device.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by Antartica_
by WorknMan on Mon 29th Apr 2013 21:29 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Antartica_"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Onscreen keyboards are so bad that I have actually stopped using SSH on my Optimus G. ;) With my Xperia Pro, I used SSH all the time. Every punctuation key required, including tab, alt, ctrl, and pipe, were accessible. CTRL/ALT were even separate hardware keys.


I don't know how many people are doing SSH on their phone, but I'd guess the number is decidedly small. Of course, there should be options for people that want to, but I think a better way to do that would be to have little pegs on the side of the phone where you could not only attach a foldable keyboard, but also maybe a game controller, and whatever else. For most of us, hardware keyboards are going to be a waste of space, and these phones are already big enough as it is.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by Antartica_
by NuxRo on Mon 29th Apr 2013 22:04 UTC in reply to "Comment by Antartica_"
NuxRo Member since:
2010-09-25

I should've mentioned I was referring strictly to generic phone stuff, the kind "normal" people do - texting, emailing etc.
For work I do not use a phone or a tablet or anything like that. I have a laptop.

Reply Score: 2

nicholasj
Member since:
2008-12-10

I've been reading OS News for nearly 15 years at this point...

And the reason? Thom (and Eugenia before him) has always been great at covering OS-related topics from a nuanced perspective; neither blindly trend-du-jour nor ostentatiously contrarian.

And he's right about hardware keyboards on smartphones, they need to come back in a big way. I've tried nearly every soft keyboard on Android and all of the iPhones through to the 5. There is just no substitute for the tactile responsiveness of physical buttons.

The real test is this: Can you reliably touch-type on your soft keyboard - without looking at the screen? I could do this on my yesteryear Blackberries and Nokia E-series devices.

(Oh, I did contribute to the Minuum Kickstarter, so we'll see how that goes...)

Edited 2013-04-29 18:06 UTC

Reply Score: 5

Savior Member since:
2006-09-02

The real test is this: Can you reliably touch-type on your soft keyboard - without looking at the screen? I could do this on my yesteryear Blackberries and Nokia E-series devices.


While I also miss tactile feedback, I don't understand at all why touch-typing would be the real test of a phone. It's not like a monitor + keyboard, where the two are clearly apart. It is completely irrelevant in something as small as a phone.

Also, at least for me, having tactile feedback is less important than having a leaner, lighter phone. To each his own, I guess...

Reply Score: 3

Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

There is just no substitute for the tactile responsiveness of physical buttons.


Buttons-shmuttons. When I was young phones had radial dials and that was good enough for us. We don't need these new-fangled keyboard thingies, be it soft or hard.

Can you reliably touch-type on your soft keyboard - without looking at the screen?


I couldn't reliably touch-type on a hard keyboard so...it doesn't matter.

Reply Score: 3

SwiftKey
by franksands on Mon 29th Apr 2013 18:11 UTC
franksands
Member since:
2009-08-18

I'm never going back to hardware keyboards. SwiftKey can detect different langauges with incredible acuracy, faster than typing each letter.

Reply Score: 3

Still not the same
by reduz on Mon 29th Apr 2013 18:47 UTC
reduz
Member since:
2006-02-25

Moved from BlackBerry to Android a few years ago.
The soft keyboard is better or worse depending on the OS (WP8 soft keyboard sucks), but I know I still cant write full mails nearly as easily as I did on the BlackBerry. It still just doesn´t ¨connect¨.

Reply Score: 3

Typing with the phone in your pocket
by chithanh on Mon 29th Apr 2013 19:08 UTC
chithanh
Member since:
2006-06-18

The generation which grew up with T9 phones learned to write SMS with one hand without looking at the screen. This was also possible with the Blackberries that became popular after that.

Try sending a message with the Galaxy S4 in your pocket. Modern touchscreen phones have no way for discreet communication when you are in class or in a meeting.

Reply Score: 2

Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Modern touchscreen phones have no way for discreet communication when you are in class or in a meeting.


Maybe you should just be polite and not text when in a class or a meeting?

Reply Score: 5

BlueofRainbow Member since:
2009-01-06

Yike!

Now I finally understand what was going on in number of business meetings I was presenting and was being figuratively shut-down by the few people I knew had BlackBerries.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by powderblue
by powderblue on Tue 30th Apr 2013 00:04 UTC
powderblue
Member since:
2007-07-22

Can we at least get a link to a review from a site not run by hipsters and posers?

Reply Score: 3

keyboard
by l3v1 on Tue 30th Apr 2013 07:01 UTC
l3v1
Member since:
2005-07-06

Actually, I began waiting for a good quality BB/NokiaE71-style Android phone with a good hw keyboard since the appearance of the first Android phone. I was also waiting to see a good quality, standard "old" Nokia-sized "regular" phone design (e.g. C3-01) with Android on it.

And I'm still waiting.

Still not desperate enough to buy a BB though.

Reply Score: 2

It's not just about typing speed
by sjeffree on Tue 30th Apr 2013 16:22 UTC
sjeffree
Member since:
2013-03-12

It's not just about the typing speed. It's about confidence, without overloading your visual & cognitive resources.

With a physical keyboard, your fingers can, if you want, touch the key gently *before* you press it, confirming whether you have the right key & whether you are positioned correctly on that key, ready for a successful keypress. Then, when the moment comes to actually press it, you can tell (by feel, without looking) whether the keypress was successful or whether maybe two keys were accidentally pressed at once or whether you perhaps shook, causing a double-press. This all happens in an instant, without any consious thought, so it doesn't interrupt your thinking about the text that you're typing, so you're already going for the delete key by the time you mind catches up & tells your finger to actually press it.

With a virtual touch-screen keyboard, apart from the obvious wasting of screen real-estate, you have to watch the screen to see which key to press & then also whether the correct key actually got pressed. Also, you have to watch the screen to beware of spurious keypresses because it takes such a light touch that you won't feel any spurious presses. For example, if you're hovering over a key, waiting for the right moment to press it (or maybe just thinking) & you get jogged or you just hovered too close. Then, you have to think about whether you missed the right key & whether the key the system chose for you was the key you meant to press & if not, what to do about it. And because a virtual keyboard corrects your mistakes as you go by guessing what word you're building up, you have to think about whether the word it 'thought' you meant was the word you actually meant & if not, what to do about it & whether it's worth bothering to worry about what's in the dictionary & how to edit/add/remove words from the dictionary. This is all stuff that you have to consiously think about instead of just letting your mind 'cruise' in the background while your foreground deals with the text your actually typing.

All this feedback information, comes at you visually through the screen, possibly overloading your visual processing bandwidth momentarily & has to be thought about in an instant, possibly also overloading your cognitive bandwidth.

Also, you have to remember the previous contents of the screen, in case you need to refer to it in your mind, while deciding what to type, because the virtual keyboard has obscured it.

To be honest, it's all just too much for my tiny little mind to easily cope with. The result is that it's just not 'nice'. Just give me real keys to press & let me be responsible for pressing them!

Reply Score: 3

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Do you have any sources for your views? (of course not...) Our senses etc. don't work in logical ways...

BTW, predictive text for physical keyboards also exist.

Reply Score: 2

Agreed
by Moochman on Tue 30th Apr 2013 18:43 UTC
Moochman
Member since:
2005-07-06

This is the main reason I might consider buying my first BlackBerry. I still don't understand how the market went from every manufacturer offering at least one Android phone with hardware keyboard, to zero, within the span of a year.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by PieterGen
by PieterGen on Tue 30th Apr 2013 21:11 UTC
PieterGen
Member since:
2012-01-13

A hardware keyboard is nice for texting while driving! ;-)

(Yes I know this is unsafe, illegal and not recommended)

Reply Score: 2

My god man
by sirspudd on Wed 1st May 2013 00:16 UTC
sirspudd
Member since:
2010-10-13

Hardware keyboards are glorious, but RIMS is not quite all a boy could want.

I hate to flog a dead horse, but the n950 had the most epicly glorious keyboard:

https://www.google.com/search?num=40&safe=off&qscrl=1&q=n950&um=1&ie...

I just wish the display had been up to spec with the n9 at the time.

Reply Score: 1

RE: My god man
by phoenix on Thu 2nd May 2013 20:59 UTC in reply to "My god man"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

Gotta disagree with you in just about every way. ;)

The closest I've seen (and used) to being the perfect mobile keyboard is the Motorola Photon Q:
http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http://i-cdn.phonearena.com/imag...

Having a separate number row, with the correct symbols above the numbers, makes all the difference in the world. Same with a separate Tab key.

The one downside is the location of ' and " in the top-left instead of the middle-right of the keyboard.

If this phone had actually been released with GSM/HSPA support, I'd be using it right now. Unfortunately, it's a Sprint CDMA exclusive. ;)

Edited 2013-05-02 21:00 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Comment by frood
by frood on Wed 1st May 2013 14:35 UTC
frood
Member since:
2005-07-06

One of the best things about a hardware keyboard is the keyboard shortcuts. You can fly around the OS. I remember even on my older blackberry's you could fill the buffer up with commands and the phone can catch up. No waiting for animations to finish between commands.

Edited 2013-05-01 14:38 UTC

Reply Score: 2