Sunday, October 24, 2010

QWERTY phones for 2010

So many people I know prefer the familiarity of a QWERTY keypad, to a touchscreen. Though a well designed touch interface can be easy and intuitive to use, there are times (mails, SMS, one-handed typing?) when QWERTY can just be so much more convenient.

Following in the steps of the iPhone, most major operating systems and hardware are now touch driven, leading me to predict in an earlier post that a smartphone will necessarily have a touch screen. But there are still a limited set of good models with QWERTY pads, across budget ranges and operating systems, so let's have a look at what you can get:


1) Android

The choice of QWERTY phones operating Android is quite limited. Leading the pack is the newly launched Samsung EPIC 4G.Do note that this is a CDMA Phone and given the current limited choice of CDMA handsets, it leads the pack


This slider phone (touch screen + QWERTY) is a successor to Samsung's flagship Galaxy S range, with similar hardware specs including 1 Ghhz processor, 512 MB RAM, 4 inch screen and 5 MP Camera/ HD recorder. It runs Android 2.1 but Samsung has already announced the upgrade to 2.2 Froyo which should get implemented by end of the year. Compared to HTC Evo/ HD Desire, it has a smaller screen and less smooth operating OS, but if you must have a QWERTY keyboard AND Android, this seems to be your best bet. No word yet on when it will come to India and potential pricing, but Samsung seems keen on the Indian market and I am sure that prices will be competitive with other top end phones.

Then there is the Motorola Milestone/Droid which was launched in India some time ago. This is a year old phone, so some of the specs are dated. It runs a 600 mhz processor and 256 MB RAM and it has a 3 inch screen, compared with the 1 gig processors, 512 MB RAM and 4 inch screens which are now de facto on top end smartphones. However, it does run Android 2.1 and the reviews have been highly positive. It retails in India for Rs. 30,000 +

I would say wait for the Milestone 2 which will be launched in Europe soon and should eventually find its way to India.It has upgraded hardware specs to match current phones and more importantly, a larger and better QWERTY keypad and it runs Android 2.2.



(Image from CNet Asia)


2) Blackberry OS 6

Any post on QWERTY phones has to include the Blackberry range, which has historically offered some of the best keyboards. But if you are a BB addict, you must ensure that you buy a phone running BB OS 6.0, the latest operating system which brings BB up to date and a little closer to the functionalities of the Android platform. 

Currently in India, the OS 6.0 is running on the latest and greatest BB Torch. At Rs.32,000, if this is a little too steep for you, BB should release the Bold 9780 soon which will run OS 6 and also be an upgrade of the existing Bold range. In addition, BB has promised that OS 6 will be coming on the Bold 9700, Bold 9650 and Pearl 3G.

3) Nokia N900

I would have been happy to see Nokia's flagship N8 running Symbian 3, with a QWERTY keypad. Nokia makes some of the best QWERTY pads, designed for handy operation with one or two hands. I loved the e-series keypads. But if you want a new Nokia QWERTY you are restricted to the older versions of Symbian and lower end models like E5 and C3.

If you are a Nokia buff (and part of me still  is - if Nokia would do Android, I would jump!) then you can look at the blog post I had written about the Nokia N900. Running a Linux based OS, this 'concept' phone is priced at Rs. 25000 according to pluggdin and is a fantastic buy at this price. My hesitation would only be as to whether Nokia plans to support this OS or not. I would guess not, since all the fanfare is towards the launch of N8 and Symbian 3. But the N900 has won a lot of accolades in the tech world and is both a high-performing and powerful phone, very different from competition.