Concerning Keyboards (a rant)

I have a T-Mobile G2 Android phone, which (despite its meager battery) still serves me perfectly well.  I’m a bit worried, though, that I won’t be able to replace it when the time comes.  There aren’t many Android phones with physical keyboards any more, and those that have them tend to be low-end models.  And they tend to be bad – there’s no travel, or they’re flush with the surface.

I happen to use my physical keyboard a lot – I type quickly, and I type a LOT.  I write lengthy emails, I write lengthy text messages, I write down ideas for stories, I wrote several chapters of a novel that way on my train rides, I’ve used an SSH app to log into work and do stuff remotely (painful, but there are times when you want it).  I’ve heard interesting things about BlindType, Swiftkey X, Swype… but they’re all still trying to emulate the ease-of-use of a real keyboard.  Why not have a real keyboard?  If you could actually type what you wanted without autocorrect having to guess and fill in, you wouldn’t have DamnYouAutocorrect, I guess. Sure, we now have 5″ screens, but on Android, the onscreen keyboard tends to take up the entire screen, so you don’t know which text-field you’re typing into.

While I’m at it:

Camera buttons: Well, I’d like them better if my G2’s button weren’t so hard to press.

microSD slot: I have swapped mine in and out of my devices a lot.  So, I both like and use that option.

Finally: The Notification light.  Fortunately, this one is staying around (on high end handsets, at least).  It’s really, really convenient to just glance over and have a blinking light tell me there’s something to look at, rather than having to turn it on just to see if there was any point in turning it on.

Meanwhile, the standard seems to be converging on: power and volume buttons, a SIM card slot, a stereo audio jack, and a microUSB port.  That’s it.  I would not be surprised if the volume button eventually disappeared too; on my G2 it’s a single rocker switch.

Sure, you can do without all those things, but HOW DOES IT MAKE THE EXPERIENCE BETTER TO LOSE THEM?  A single slab has fewer moving parts and can be thinner (less shielding and case material required), fine.  But I think there’s another reason:  Every manufacturer is trying to outdo the iPhone at their own game.  Let’s go to zero buttons, and no screen border!  No removable battery!  No expandable storage!  Eventually, make the entire thing controllable only by voice – then you don’t even NEED a screen!

But surely there are people like me who really want a mini laptop… Keyboard, trackpad, large screen, large battery, fast processor, microSD card slot…  Perhaps the Motorola X Phone? While they are now owned by Google, they DID make the Droid 4 and the Photon Q…


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