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Physical vs. Touch Screen Keyboards On Smart Phones

Buying a smart phone is an exciting experience. You go to different stores and test them out. It almost feels like you are walking into a car dealership and test driving all the hottest cars. In this case, they are smart phones.

4 door sedan or 2 door coupe? Choose your flavor. In this case, most people are split between 2 major smart phone styles. One with a physical keyboard and one that is fully touchscreen. There are advantages and disadvantages of both. There is no better. Only what is right for you. Let's look at them and we will find out what style fits you perfectly. I've personally experienced both sides and maybe I can help you make a buying decision.

Smart Phones With Physical Keyboards

Smart Phones with physical keyboards are definitely on the downswing of the smart phone culture. Despite the growing popularity of fully touchscreen phones, there is still a market for smart phones with a physical keyboard. My Samsung Moment has an excellent slide out keyboard that offers great feedback. Physical keyboard are great because they are less prone to mistakes caused by mistyping.

Another advantage with having a physical keyboard is productivity. Whether you are a hard core texter or a business person. Having a real physical keyboard means less time hitting the backspace. This is crucial for accurate typing or inputting sensitive passwords. On my Samsung Moment, I also notice that I am able to type longer. I can easily type out 500 or 1000 words without a problem. With my Mytouch 3g, I could never type that much without getting frustrated. Auto-correct features are nice but you should not rely on them.

A noticeable disadvantage in owning a smart phone with a physical keyboard is increased size. Most phones with a physical keyboard have to be designed a certain way to minimize space and increase efficiency.

Iphone and Pixi

Iphone and Pixi

Full Touch Screen Smart Phones

Virtual keyboards on touch screens have their place. They are fun and fairly easy to type something short on. The market is moving towards full touch screen smart phone and their keyboards have and will improve. Using an on screen QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode is very difficult. Smart phone compensate for the lack of feedback by adding options to vibrate on key press, predictive text input, autocorrect. and multi-touch.

There is even a new way to type that is only available for touch screen phones. It's called swyping. Swyping is fast and easy. It's fantastic for casual, short conversations but I find it annoying on long memos. I would not recommend using Swype for important texting. Especially if it is business related. Often you will find mistakes in what you swype,

After using the Mytouch 3g and experienced many other smart phone with a virtual keyboard, I quickly find it annoying to type strange unnatural key combinations such as passwords. Another disadvantage to full touch screen phones is the screen itself. Most touch screen smart phones have beautiful large displays but while inputing text, the pop up keyboard always takes up half the screen. It almost feels like having a huge banner ad on your phone.

Battery life is an issue with all smart phones. Most smart phone last about 1 full day give or take a few hours. While the best smart phones have the faster processors and most responsive screens, the battery will suffer. You can easily find your new smart phone getting low on gas when you start pounding away for hours. We need to realize that a faster phone means more energy is required to power it. Not to mention the energy needed to power the nice screens.

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For the average consumer, phones with physical keyboard are a bit more bulky. They need their phones for entertainment and a full touchscreen keyboard fulfill that roles nicely. If you are a heavy texter or business person, consider phones with physical keyboards.

I have tried both. I need my phone for heavy data input so I choose a smart phone with a physical keyboard. I do sometimes miss the fun in the virtual keyboards. It all comes down to preference. Some people like sedans, some like hatchbacks. The best thing to do is test drive all different phones and see which is right for you.

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Joe from north miami FL on May 21, 2014:

I think touch screen is just the future, at least until the phone permanently takes over for computers. Great article have a smartphone article I just wrote myself

idigwebsites from United States on December 20, 2013:

I'm so clumsy with the touchscreen keyboard. I curse auto-correct all the time! I hope that future smartphones will have physical keyboards in the future.

Set's All Set (author) from New England on December 15, 2011:


You and I share some of the same feelings about touch screens. I remember a co-worker of mine having a G1 and it had an excellent keyboard. As technology gets better and phones are getting faster, you would imagine it would offset the need for a keyboard but it doesn't. The "niche" of phones with keyboards isn't really a niche at all. Quite a few people I know can't stand full touch screen phones. I don't see keyboards going away any time soon. Same could be said about pure touch screen devices, though I think the "cool" factor is quickly fading as people simply want to get things done without headaches. Thanks for the comment.

Cody on December 05, 2011:

I have noticed that the market is moving toward all touch screen keyboards. I personality would not care if my cellphone was the size of an old gameboy advance if it had more technology than a slimmer counterpart and a keyboard but most people want slim. I have used a physical keyboard phone with a track ball (g1), Motorola Blur with a physical keyboard, and now I use an all touch screen keyboard (HTC sensation). And man my girlfriend told me I would get used to the touch screen keyboards but as the days go on I just despise them more and more. Auto correct drives me insane half the time, even with the track ball on the G1 that broke every few months i still liked the set up of that phone more. I would however rather have a larger screen than a keyboard, but why cant I have both!? Women keep cellphones in their purses and men clip theirs to their belts so why does it need to be tiny? oh well I liked the iPhone idea of being able to attach a keyboard to the phone, maybe that will be the next best thing.

Set's All Set (author) from New England on June 08, 2011:

a friend of mine has the same phone. He came from a blackberry and misses it dearly. If you can afford the smartphone "charge", see if you can go to a curve or bold. The thing is, he can't go back to his BlackBerry or they will charge him more. Maybe you are in that situation too? Sorry to say, Skype is not available for BB AFAIK. Now that Microsoft bought Skype, looks like it may be exclusive for Windows Phone Mobile. I have no problems with wifi on my BB. Good luck. Ohh, btw, if you do switch, you will love the threaded SMS. My friend can't stand how the E73 does SMS.

Klara on June 06, 2011:

Thank for the very informative text.

Currently I have a Nokia (E73). I am with T-Mobile.

I do a lot of talking and texting. No games. I tried touchphones. And disliked the for two reasons: Battery does not last until the end of a long day and the screan heats up.

So I took the Nokia. It is not bad. BUT I miss two features:

1) Skype (for talking, not for video conferences)

2) wifi (there is a "known issue" and I just can't connect my Nokia to wifi.

Any recommendation?


Julian Hooks from Virginia on June 24, 2010:

I like the physical, but I haven't really had the chance to get familiar with any touchscreen keyboards.

Set's All Set (author) from New England on May 03, 2010:

I've tried the iphone texting and the predictive engine is very good. However I still feel that for professional, long texting with touchscreen phone still invoke more mistake. Especially when the mistakes come up and get auto-corrected the wrong way. It does depend on preference but these are just my opinions. Thanks for the comment!

TutorialWriter on May 03, 2010:

I can text faster with my iPhone than many of my friends can with their Blackberries. I guess it just depends on how skilled you are at it.

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