/ Shopping, Technology

QWERT-Y is it so hard to get a phone with a keyboard?

Phone keyboard

I’m an anomaly. That’s my opinion after trying to buy an Android phone with a solid keyboard. Going by the dearth of suitable phones, my desire to have a key to press when I type is anachronistic. But am I really alone?

I’ve been using touchscreen phones with a slide out QWERTY keyboard since the days of Windows Mobile and have grown used to being able to type up documents on the move.

When that phone died a couple of years ago I managed to find an Android phone with a keyboard, albeit only after much hunting. But when this too gave up the ghost, my search this time hit a dead end.

But perhaps I was stuck in my ways and I was lucky enough to have a friend to lend me a decent touchscreen phone. Two weeks of typos convinced me that while touchscreen was OK for those of you who like to text or update Facebook on the move, I found it useless for anything more than a couple of sentences.

Android phones with a keyboard

So what to do about keyboards? Our mobile phone reviews highlight the problem – only Blackberry phones have them, and those keyboards are small. I could switch to Blackberry, but Google Play has taken enough of my cash in apps to persuade me to stay with Android.

Going online was the answer. America is the land of QWERTY opportunity, unlike poor Europe, with phones like the Motorola Droid 4. And while I couldn’t buy a new phone from America, due to the contracts they come with, I did find a good and recent second-hand phone on eBay.

Buying mobile phones from abroad

Now, if you’re buying something from non-EU country expect customs to charge customs duty and import VAT. As the buyer, it’s my responsibility to ensure that the seller fills out a Customs Declaration and pays any fees at their post office. If not, I’ll have to pay the import VAT and a Royal Mail handling fee.

So was it worth it? Getting QWERTY back was akin to getting a cast off a broken leg. With delight akin to Dr Strangelove walking again, getting a keyboard in my hands meant my typing paralysis was over.

Am I alone? Is it right that we in Europe are denied the QWERTY wealth across the Atlantic? Have you turned to eBay for rare gifts from abroad and did it work out?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Why not use a laptop, Jonathan? Improve your productivity. 🙂

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

Not as convenient. With my phone I can carry it in my jacket pocket and it is instantly on.

Profile photo of NFH
Member

I use an iPhone and I much prefer a virtual on-screen keyboard. It’s much faster than a physical keyboard, because it requires only a light touch rather than physically pressing each key, and iOS automatically corrects errors. Whenever I’ve used friends’ Android phones, I agree that their virtual keyboards are somewhat lacking and prone to errors. You should try an iPhone, although it can take a few days before you get up to speed and start preferring it.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

It really depends on the Android phone and the keyboard. I use SwiftKey – a keyboard app, which I feel is superior to the iPhone’s keyboard. The good thing about it is that it predicts not just the word you’re typing, but the next word and even the sentence, learning from what you’ve said before. You can also swipe over the letters to write words, making it even quicker.

That’s what I love about Android – you can change anything you like, and if an app comes out that is better than the stock one, then you can swap it. You’re stuck with iPhone’s keyboard and miss out on some quite cool features.

However, I do think that the touchscreen responsiveness may be a tad quicker on iPhone’s, which might make the keyboard feel more responsive. That would be a question for our Tech researchers/lab though as to the truth of that. Still whatever the difference, it would be milliseconds.

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

I have an iPad as well and still have touch type problems. Plus iOS lacks haptic feedback, Android has spoiled me and it feels odd to touch a key and not get a response.

Profile photo of Lee Beaumont
Member

I have always had Blackberry and a old iPhone. I used my Blackberry for txting/calling etc as i LOVED the QWERTY keypad. I used the old iPhone for music, i just hated txting on it.

Last month I swapped both the old Blackberry & old iPhone 3g to a friend of mine and he gave me his new-ish HTC.

God I hate it. I’m not sure if i have fat fingers or what. But can’t stand it and as soon as the new Blackberry’s come down in price I will be getting one of them. QWERTY 100%.

Member
Steve says:
7 October 2013

I use Swype on Android myself. Put your finger down on the first letter of the word, move your finger over all the other letters in the word, then raise it off the touchscreen on the last letter. It’s incredibly fast – going head to head against a friend with a blackberry, I finished the text message in half the time they took.

Another benefit is that it reduces the finger taps to a minimum – important for us RSI sufferers!

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

Sorry to hear you have RSI. I use swype as well and when it works it’s good, but it can be a pain if it suggests the wrong word. Likewise if I want to navigate some text using hardware arrow keys is much simpler.

Profile photo of Janice Shipp
Member

Is Swype only available on Android? I am also a touch typist and find screen keypads slow and frustrating to use. I love my iPad but have to attach a physical keypad to use it for serious typing. Also agree about the lack of arrow keys being a pain – could we start a campaign?

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

You can’t change the keyboard on a iPhone/iPad I don’t think.

Swype functionality is also on the stock Google Android keyboard now and it works pretty well. SwiftKey also has swipe built in – and I think that makes it the best of the bunch.

Profile photo of tamiflew
Member

I used to suffer from Jonathon’s problem with touchscreen phones until I installed Swiftkey. This scans your email and SMS messages to uncover your vocabulary and how you form sentences. When you begin using it, Swiftkey anticipates – with stunning accuracy – what you want to say. I’ve never looked back

Member
Peter Morgan says:
8 October 2013

Quite understand your quest. I would appreciate a QWERTY keyboard but have a number of Android mobiles now (some used mainly for my different e-mail accounts and only connected to house internet connection) and having bought SlideIT once, am happily able to use it on all of them. I don’t ‘slide’ my finger across they ‘keyboard’ and have turned off ‘predictive’ modes as far as I can.

I think that a virtual keyboard can be reasonable on larger phones, but the smallest I use (Samsung Galaxy Europa) really is difficult because so little of the screen is visible to see what I am typing !!

A website which may help those seeking a shortlist is http://www. GSMarena .com (I have no connection with it except as a user). If you are searching for a mobile, you can select features you want, such as Android, keyboard, 3.5mm audio socket and so on.

It cuts down the massive number of phones and may provide a list of the 20-30 resulting from your search criteria. Then you hit your search engine with just those mobiles, or alternatively, look at some of the “find me a deal” sites where PAYG prices and network contracts can be compared, and see if the phone(s) are listed.

Member
Peter Morgan says:
8 October 2013

Of course another option (for those who have a tablet or laptop), would be to use one of the cheaper “unlimited data” tariffs and “tether” to the mobile (make the mobile run with a wi-fi hotspot and connect via that).

Best of both worlds – if you are talking on the phone you can still use the other to jot notes, view a web page, read a document (difficult to do on your mobile!!).

Unlimited data and tethering (and 2000 minutes a month, hopefully enough to be going on with for a journalist) is only 15 quid on one of the big networks (3G only at present, but 4G coming soon, at no extra cost).

Obviously time to go looking for a new mobile, ready for 4G, and possibly to switch network, too.

Profile photo of VynorHill
Member

I would never use a smart phone for writing anything more than text messages. I do have a word processor on there, which is useful for reading and light editing documents on the go. I’ve seen youngsters with lightening fingers on a touch key pad so it can be done, but, like you, I need a physical keyboard. Even in landscape mode my touch keyboard lets me find any letter but the one I want and I’m using the delete key all the time. With the slide out keyboard on the phone, typing is just great. I specifically chose this phone because it had a physical keyboard. Any one that provides another will be the one I buy next. My predictive text is turned permanently off!!

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

Hi Vynor, which phone do you have?

Profile photo of VynorHill
Member

HTC Desire Z A7272 probably about 4 years old now but still working well.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
9 October 2013

I don’t know if this is relevant to phones, but I wonder if we in Europe are denied the QWERTY wealth across the Atlantic, presuming this means the USA and Canada, because over there English is the dominant language (sorry, non-English speakers), and over here it isn’t. The French use the AZERTY keyboard for example, and the Germans the QWERTZ. Then there are all the variants of the AZERTY and the QWERTZ, and the non-Latin scripts. Is it easier for manufacturers not to bother with such a bewildering market if you can make simpler phones and then let your customers get keyboard apps themselves as appropriate?

Profile photo of Jonathan Richardson
Member

I did wonder that and I think there is something in it, we have a wide range of keyboards available and a software keyboard gets round that.

Profile photo of jjmmwgdupree
Member

Thanks for ‘US’ tip. This problem is the reason I don’t have a mobile.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Welcome back jimmqgdupree 🙂 Hopefully you’ll stick around and comment on some other Convos

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I agree, though the cat needs a strong sedative. 🙂

Profile photo of jjmmwgdupree
Member

Yup. By an amazing coincidence he’s been getting more and more frenetic as processing power has been getting cheaper.

I wonder if the two might be related.

Member
Olivier says:
4 June 2014

Hello ,just a quick word to declare my empathy regarding the keyboard on a telephone.

It is very handy ,and allows you to type faster with a virtual keyboard.

Unless you have virtual fingers you won’t make the most of the virtual keyboard ,

Maybe in the future a combination of technologies like Google glasses and smartphones might allow a virtual keyboard to receive virtual keystrokes with eye blinks aiming at the screen.

But that’s a far fetched scenario , as of the present day I am still trying to figure out which mobile should I import from the U.S.A to Europe.

Forum has anyone had any success working with Motorola Droid 4 or any similar Android 4.x compatible device ?
Is 3g Internet working ?

Thanks for your input.

Member
Hedge says:
24 June 2014

Hi,

Which second hand phone did you end up getting? I’m having the same problem. I was tempted by a droid 4 or LG Enact but im worried they might not work in england.

Member
viv says:
1 August 2014

I’m the same except I I’m exactly the same..except I haven’t found a qwerty keyboard phone to replace my blackberry bold which I love but as you say, has its drawbacks in areas. I presently have a Samsung S4 mini which is great for everything other than “typing” and that is what I hate about these touch screens. I can text and message so quickly with my old BB but this nce. Maybe I’m odd.. BB but this is a hindrance. Phone shops don’t “do” qwerty phones anymore. I’m glad I’m not the only dinosaur around.

Member
BIZIS says:
21 August 2014

I am also android qwerty fun in the Latvia, I have unlocked Motorola Droid 4 form USA (verizon).
Problems:
1) 4G do not work (only 3G) in EU because of different 4G frequency in USA;
2) GPS connect slow (on connect), because phone search USA satellites first, then only EU (“GPS fix” app solve it, but it also drain battery);
3) Wifi tether do not work (only rooting fix it)

all oher things + keyboar works nice

Member
Goldie says:
22 August 2014

I am totally frustrated by the lack of qwerty phones in the UK and think the manufacturers are missing out big time by ignoring customers needs.

I imported my last phone, a Samsung Galaxy Relay from the USA, and absolutely adore it. Countless people have stopped me in cafés and conferences when they see me using a qwerty phone and ask where they can get one.

I use twitter a lot and usually live tweet meetings. You need a qwerty keyboard for this, and no, I’m not going to carry around a laptop or tablet when my little pocket phone does the job. And those who insist you get used to touchscreens do not understand the situation – I have a disability – a keyboard is a must.

I really wish the manufacturers would wise up, they say its a weight issue, but I don’t care if my phone is the weight of a brick as long as I can use it to its full potential with a qwerty keyboard.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Why not just use a Bluetooth keyboard or – better still – a laptop?

Member
Goldie says:
22 August 2014

I can’t sit in a cramped conference seat for hours with a laptop on my knees. And what about the weight of carrying it around and the battery? A mobile phone is just that – mobile, still relatively lightweight and portable. I’m not asking the impossible. there are qwerty phones around, just not for sale in the UK.

Profile photo of jjmmwgdupree
Member

Aah, but you see, it’s a weight issue. We Brits just aren’t strong enough to carry around ‘phones with qwerty keyboards. We’re not as tough as the other citizens of the world.

Member
pete witney says:
29 August 2014

I too am looking for a physical keyboard, I have a blackberry left over from an old contract, money being a little tight now, I do object to having to pay an extra £5 a monthe for the pleasure of using it. I have only stayed with them because of the keyboard but I could have bought a very good phone with all those 5 pounds

Profile photo of jjmmwgdupree
Member

Is there any reason why we couldn’t use Bluetooth keyboards?

I’ve never thought of this before because I’ve just plain never used Bluetooth for anything, but it strikes me that this might be a reason to start.

I’ll admit it would be annoying having to carry two objects around but as I see it I’d just carry the ‘phone around and keep the keyboard tucked away somewhere, maybe in the car or a bag for when it’s required.

Not ideal I know, but it might be a 2nd best solution.

Member

Look out for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro. This has a slide out keyboard (although very small) and good general specification. I am looking for something similar, but with a larger keyboard.

Member

Thank YOU! I’m going in search of this and will post any updates.

Member

If you go for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro, get the black one rather than a white one. The characters on the white keyboard (which I have) can be difficult to read in bright light. For anyone (like me) with even a slight tremor in their hands, a virtual on-screen keyboard can be very difficult to use.

Member

I saw on eBay they were selling the display Sony Xperia Mini Pro for £4. It says its the same weight, size, etc as a functioning one and I thought it worth getting one to see how it feels, rather than splashing out on a new one, not knowing if it would be suitable.

Sooo..it came today. First thing I notice is its a lot heavier than the BlackBerry even, so compared to my current Samsung Galaxy S4mini, feels like a mini brick!

However the keyboard is a good size.I think someone with bigger hands might find the top row of the keyboard a bit tight to the screen, but I think its something that could be gotten used to.

I havnt decided yet, whether to go for one, based on the weight of it. I shall play around with it a bit more and see how it goes.
.

Profile photo of jjmmwgdupree
Member

Hmm, looks good, but I can see a couple of problems.

If that’s a 3″ screen the keyboard’s going to be too small for me. I”d need 5″-7″ for my fingers to fit the keypad, and…

It runs a previous version of Android and it can’t be upgraded (Why in the hall not? Do Sony really have so little faith in the longevity of their products?).

Member

I agree with you. I’ve got small hands and not having that extra space at the top would bug me. Also despite the fact I hate this touchscreen, everything else on this Samsung Galaxy S4 mini is brilliant. WHY can these designers not take into account that not everyone is the same. I won’t be going for the X period… Probably carry on with the hunt.. By the time we find something they’ll have go be full circle and brought qwerty keyboards back with all the new features…maybe..

Member

I would go for the SK17 version of the sony mini pro. much better released a year or so after. the same phone revamped without the lag etc. i love my sk17!

Member

also have had the samsung galaxy relay which is larger alternative and I liked (imported from US from ebay seller)

Member
emma6 says:
17 October 2014

I don’t know where you’ve been looking, but my Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini has a full qwerty keyboard and I’ve had it for years.

Member
Niiadu says:
9 November 2014

Does anyone know any slide out qwerty keyboard smartphones that are sold in Europe/UK. I find it unbearable to type with a touchscreen keyboard, probably because I am too used to typing with a physical keyboard. I don’t really like blackberrys because I find their keys and screen too small, i’m looking for a slide out qwerty keyboard. Can anyone please list ANY qwerty smartphones, any help is appreciated :).

Member

I’m absolutely fed up with finding a good android qwerty phone in the UK, why do we have to suffer?

Member
newbie says:
26 November 2014

Have the same problem, and had the largest brick in my office, my old Nokia E90. everyone laughed, everyone joked, till i dropped it down the stairs picked it up put it back together again and took a phone call on it, oh and the battery life too….

Anyways after much searching the only suitable replacement was the Nokia E7, second hand, (and with an inferior keyboard) but it at least brough me vaguley up to date.

After this one dies in a few years time who knows….

Member
Niiadu says:
30 November 2014

Everyone, I have the solution to all of your problems. Unlocking your phone allows you to make and take calls from your country even with an American phone bought online. There are many phone unlocking websites and unlocking your phone costs about
£15-£20 but it’s worth it, better than being forced to stick to the sloppy touchscreen keyboard typing.
I recently unlocked my Samsung Galaxy S relay 4G, an American slide-out physical qwerty keyboard smartphone with the best keyboard I have ever seen on a phone. It has a 5 row keyboard and even buttons that opens your email, message and even voice search.
Just get any American smartphone your heart desires and unlock it and it’ll be just as good as any other European smartphone.

Member

I agree wholeheartedly, why cant we get mobiles with querty keypads. Unfortunately I change phone – my husband says as often as I change shoes – so I have tried touchscreens too but there is nothing like a proper keypad. I dont have tallons but I do think it depends on the length of you nails to a degree. I actually love Blackberry phones and my last purchase was a Blackberry Q5 which is a nice phone but Blackberry software is not the best, I have trouble syncing with my desktop. Come on Blackberry get into the real world – you would sell more phones…

Member

I so agree with this.
I’m resorting to getting a second hand BlackBerry bold to replace my worn out one, for texting and phone calls and keep my Samsung for other stuff. I don’t like B B’s soft ware but for “typing” suits me perfectly. I’ve actually got more pain in my wrists and hands since using this Samsung.. Just can’t get on with it for texting and writing although I love the bigger screen and sharpness of it. Pros and cons, pros and cons……

Member
Paul Dove says:
3 March 2015

For a few years now I’ve has a HUAWEI U8350 (branded as the Orange Barcelona) but recently I sent for an Mpie MP108. It hasn’t arrived (I think is was stolen by a postal worker) so when I get a refund I’m going to try to but one of these again. Anyone have any experience of the Mpie?

Member
Paul Dove says:
21 April 2015

The Mpie MP108 got lost in the post, so I bought an IPRO Q10 instead. Even though it’s a phone from Hong Kong the guy selling these on eBay is in Florida.

I’m very pleased with it and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a qwerty phone with a 3.5 inch touch screen.

Member
Lesley says:
2 May 2015

I am struggling with this too. I have a fairly basic blackberry now, and would like to upgrade my phone. I find the small touch screen key pad on my husbands samsung and his i phone previously impossible to use, and want a phone with a key pad. However, increasingly apps are coming into use in my work place, and I have been unable to access these via my blackberry. It would be good to have something that operates off android or an apple system, but there doesn’t seem to ba anything out there except a blackberry. Nightmare

Member
kris says:
29 May 2015

Give me a keyboard any time. I’ve had a touch screen for 3 weeks and it’s cracked. Android is great for gaming etc but my Blackberry is far more user friendly for calling, texts email and producing documents. I wish there was a choice of keypad phones with the qwerty boards.

Member
Chris Glover says:
24 June 2015

I too have a slide out QWERTY keyboard phone. The Motorola Dext MB200, which I purchased in 2009. The keyboard is the best I have ever come across. The only problem with this phone it is old, with a relatively small screen and the Andriod version is 1.5. An upgrade to 2.1 was release in the US but not in Europe; why?
Like other people on this post, I too can’t get on with on-screen keyboards. I did see that someone had made a Andriod 2.2 and 2.3 version for this phone, but I have not been able to find the working files. If anyone has the details of this, please reply; I would be grateful.

Profile photo of PadraigRocks
Member

Totally agree – I prefer a physical keyboard but most phone shops (Ireland) do not seem to have anything decent . Are Blackberry phone still available ?

Member
janet says:
22 December 2015

I can’t understand why I can’t find a smartphone with a keypad – what is the problem? I can’t use a touchscreen as since a stroke in my early 30s I don’t have the finger control to do anything on a touchscreen. There has to be a huge many people in the UK with handcaps or elderly who can’t manage touchscreen smartphones and I find it very patronising to be told by commentors here that people like me should just use a non-smart phone or use a netbook instead. Why aren’t we included in the life tech that you use – we shouldn’t be excluded. I don’t see why it’s so damn difficult to offer people a choice of phones with and without keys. They would sell more phones. At the moment I have no mobile phone and that’s not right.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Janet ,if you can still find one = Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE/ Motorola Droid 4/ LG Enact /LG Optimus F3Q/Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G/Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere 2/LG Mach . There is more but there is a whole website devoted to complaints which you post. Its all profit nowadays ,costs too much for physical key-pads .