In the rush to embrace all things touchscreen, most of today's top smartphones don't have physical keyboards. For many users, however, touchscreen keyboards -- even those with strong haptic feedback -- just don't offer the speed, accuracy, and springy tactile feedback that they crave. If you prefer the feel of real keys beneath your fingers as they fly across the keyboard, read on to find out which keyboard-equipped smartphones are worth your consideration.
When we got our hands on the Motorola Droid 4 at CES, we gushed that the Android phone boasts the best keyboard we've seen on a slider. The phone features a 5-row keyboard with pleasing tactile feedback and edge-lit keys. The Droid 4 comes equipped with a 1.2-GHz processor, an 8-MP camera with 1080p video capture and 16GB of memory. The phone can also connect to Verizon's 4G LTE network, unlike its predecessor, the Droid 3. Although its 540×960p display isn't as sharp as those on the latest HD phones, and its qHD screen offers somewhat limited viewing angles, the Droid 4's excellent physical keyboard should go a long way toward making up for these deficiencies. The Droid 4 will be available on February 10 for $199.
In our review of the HTC Evo Shift 4G, we loved the Android phone's attractive blue design, HTC Sense software, fast 3G and 4G speeds -- and its spacious backlit keyboard. The sliding keyboard on the Evo Shift 4G offers plenty of space between the keys, an extra-large space key and a dedicated @ key. The phone even features a small D-pad to the right of the keyboard, which allows users to make fine cursor movements. The only thing we wished HTC had done differently was give the Evo Shift 4G a dedicated .com key.
The Samsung Captivate Glide impressed uswith its bright AMOLED display, good audio quality and solid overall performance. More importantly, the Captivate Glide offers a full sliding QWERTY keyboard with large keys and a generous amount of space between them. We particularly liked that that the keyboard featured dedicated keys for Search, Home, Back, Search, www. and .com. We did find, however, that the keys were somewhat flat and mushy, making it difficult to type with speed.
In our review of the Samsung Stratosphere, we praised the phone for its super-fast 4G speeds, vivid 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, superior call quality, and comfortable keyboard. The Stratosphere's keyboard features well-spaced keys and a dedicated number row. The rounded keys offer plenty of tactile feedback, as well as dedicated buttons for Menu, Home, Back, and Search. However, we would have appreciated buttons for @ and question mark as well.
The elegant BlackBerry Bold 9900, like many BlackBerry phones, offers a full physical keyboard, as well as excellent dual-core performance, loud audio, and longer-than-average battery life. Although the phone suffers from a too-small display and slow Web surfing, its superb keyboard makes the phone stand out from the competition. The large keys offer plenty of tactile feedback, and are slightly curved to give users a better grip. Unlike many Android phones, however, the 9900 lacks dedicated keys for @, .com, and other frequently used characters. Still, we found that typing on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 was much faster than on a touchscreen device.
When we reviewed the T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide, we cited its strong dual-core performance, incredibly fast 1080p camera, and solid QWERTY keyboard as reasons to give the phone a 4-star review and award it with an Editor's Choice. The keyboard may not have a full five rows like some other slider phones, but it boasts well-spaced buttons, dedicated @, www. and .com keys, and a Genius button for voice commands. As an added touch, the CAPS and ALT keys light up when activated.
In our review, we went so far as to claim that the BlackBerry Bold 9930 features one of the best keyboards ever on a phone. Although the 9930 lacks 4G connectivity and has a tiny 2.8-inch display, it offers a superb keyboard, responsive touchscreen, loud audio and long battery life. We stated in our review that the typing on the 9930 is like typing on a ThinkPad -- high praise indeed. The large keys provide plenty of travel and pleasing tactile feedback, and are curved to give the user better grip.
With 4 and a half stars and an Editor's Choice, the Samsung Epic 4G is one of our mostly highly rated phones ever. Though the single-core phone is starting to show its age now, we still love the phone's gorgeous Super AMOLED display, clear audio, and -- of course -- its excellent slider keyboard. The keyboard offers plenty of space between the keys, and provides excellent tactile feedback. We liked that the number row isn't placed too close to the bottom of the display to make it cramped. What's more, the phone offers dedicated Menu, Back, Home and Search buttons. An @ key would have been nice, but otherwise it's hard to improve on the Epic 4G's keyboard.
Although it lacks 4G connectivity, we praised the Windows Phone 7-powered HTC Arrive for its fast performance, powerful speakers, attractive design and solid call quality. Oh, and its five-row slider keyboard didn't hurt either. The Arrive boasts generous spacing between the keys, which make a small but pleasant clicking noise when pressed. Moreover, the Shift and Fn keys light up when pressed. However, we would have liked a dedicated @ or .com key more than a special button for emoticons.