/ 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?


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

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.

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.

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%.

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!

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?

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.

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

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.

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.

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!!

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

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?

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

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

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

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.

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.

Hedge says:
24 June 2014


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.

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.

BIZIS says:
21 August 2014

I am also android qwerty fun in the Latvia, I have unlocked Motorola Droid 4 form USA (verizon).
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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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?).

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..

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!

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

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.

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 :).