Droid 4

We saw a good look at the latest high-end phone with a physical keyboard today in the Droid 4 review.  The keyboard looks pretty damn good, and Phil seems impressed with it.  Those of us who like seeing a good set of keys attached to our phones are glad to see they aren't gone.  You guessed it -- I like a physical keyboard.  I've learned to manage the on-screen keyboard, and dabble with Voice input a little (when nobody's looking), but I'd be happiest with a good sliding keyboard.

I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here, but the only way to know for sure is to ask.  So let me know guys -- yea or nay on the physical keyboard?


Reader comments

Late-night poll: Physical keyboards. Yea or nay?


In theory I like the sound of a physical keyboard but the few I've used I never got them working well for myself. Personally, I find the keys way too small for my likings. At least you can customize the on-screen ones. I voted "no".

I hate on-screen keyboards because they always differ. Its a challenge getting used to them. Meanwhile the slide-out keyboard never changes. I need a high end smartphone with a keyboard from T-Mobile.

The Droid 4 is not high-end. This is another low def small screen.

The Droid 4's overall size, H x W x T, is bigger than the 4.65" Galaxy Nexus but lacks the HD.

I liked Miriam Joire's comment on the Droid 4: "It's a turd with an outstanding keyboard" (Paraphrased, but she def. called it a turd)

It's much, much easier for me to type on a real, physical keyboard!!! There isn't enough choice in the market with slide out keyboard smartphones!!! And I am extremely frustrated with Verizon that they put out so, so many 4.3in all touch smart phones, and taking !!10!! months to put out the Samsung Stratosphere. Way too long to put out a QWERTY 4G slider!!!!! Very frustrating!

Physical keyboards are nice, but with how often I actually use or need it for long emails or texts, its not worht ALWAYS having the extra size and weight associated with it.

I like having a physical keyboard on my phone. the g2's keyboard doesn't not add that much bulk and is infact just a tiny bit thicker than the average phone.
If you cant fit an extra 2 or 3 mm in your pocket, you're wearing clothes that are too tight for yourself.
I'm waiting to see the g3 or something but I wont be switching to a keyboard-free phone until the onscreen keyboards are properly done. (they're still error prone.)

I agree I own a G2 also and I need my physical keyboard. I am actually using it rite now. And I use it a lot on twitter, facebook, G+, etc. The on screen keyboard is ok but not for longer messages or driving and textin lol

I noticed that as well, its kinda funny that something like swiftkey X probably would have fixed that for him and saved the ironic spelling error.

All of my previous smartphones had physical keyboards. I like them generally. Currently I don't have a physical keyboard and have been hoping for a high end phone that had a good one. But then I recently started using Swiftkey, and I'm changing my mind about that. It works pretty well.

I went from a G1 -> Nexus One -> G2. When I switched from the G1 to the Nexus One, I loved the form factor, but I hated the onscreen keyboard and longed for another physical keyboard. And then I got my G2, and I realized I don't actually use the keyboard that much, and it's noticeably thicker in my pocket than the Nexus One, and it made me long for a thinner phone.

The primary reason I hated the onscreen keyboard was the inaccuracy of them on smaller screens. After using my wife's Galaxy Nexus, I am convinced that a thinner phone with a larger screen is the way to go for me.

In Aug. 2010, when choosing a phone to replace my BlackBerry Tour, I went with the Samsung Epic thinking I'd need to rely on the physical keyboard for most of my typing. In the year and a half I've owned the Epic, I've used the keyboard for about 2% of my typing. Once I replace my Epic, it will be with a phone that doesn't have a keyboard.

The main thing (ok, the ONLY thing) I miss about my Epic (Moved up to an Epic Touch) is the keyboard. I had a Moment, then an Epic, now the touch. I still own the Moment, and use it as an MP3 player on occasion, and seriously love having a physical keyboard. It's great for a few things:

-Emulators (I have the Wii controller working on my Touch, but meh)
-Long texts
-Sometimes Swype gets bitchy, and I used to just open the KB up at those times...

No for typing but yes for gaming. The only reason I'd want a physical keyboard is to play games without my fingers being on the screen.

The only physical keyboard I would use would be vertical slider like on dell venue pro or palm pre. But usually the added bulk doesn't justify having the keyboard IMO.

I was never a user of a physical keyboard on mobile devices. I didn't jump on the full keyboard thing until the iPod Touch. So no, I don't care for them.

On a full touch screen, no. But on a BlackBerry, a must have. It's something about their keyboards. I'm android now, but at times I mess with a friend's BB and just feel at home. I have a g2 (second play around phone) and HATE that keyboard. I'm not sure if having a BB for 4 years has anything to do with it or not.

I agree that RIM made the best vertical keyboards. I thought I was going to miss it when I switched to a GSII but I haven't missed it nearly as much as I thought I would (only when autocorrect corrects to the wrong word). I really don't like sliders at all, so I wouldn't buy a phone with a slider.

I have a Droid 2 Global and began with the OG Droid. I think 2% is a good estimate of keyboard usage. It's nice when I use it but it wouldn't be missed particularly with Swype available. I Swyped this entire response so quickly and smoothly it practically makes a hardware keyboard obsolete.

I agree. I also upgraded from an OG Droid, but to a Galaxy Nexus. The loss of the physical keyboard didn't matter to me too much. My phone is now lighter and thinner. On screen keyboards have come such a long way in the past few years. I now use SwiftKey X, which fulfills all my keyboard needs.

I would want one but so few phones get them. At&T does not carry any and the phone I would want would be something like the driod 4. I wish they would offer a AT&T version of it and I would get it.

Both swype and swiftkey have physical keyboards beat IMO. It is possible to swype fairly accurately without looking. Swiftkey next word prediction is so good it's creepy.

I am a big fan of Swype (can't get used to using SwiftKey X), but I wound't mind a GOOD physical keyboard. Problem is I have never used a android with a good physical keyboard (and I'm no BB fan either).

Swype is ok but words still get lost in translation due to tha fact I don't completely spell out all words and that makes my words a lil harder to predict.

I've only owned the GS2 so far, but I know that I would like a physical keyboard. With the on screen keyboard showing there is VERY little room to see what you've been typing into a textbox if it's more than a sentence or two. Having the whole screen to work with while typing would be very nice.

I love using physical keyboards. I'm using it now from my Evo Shift 4G. Whenever I use my on-screen keyboard it doesn't feel fast enough, if that makes sense.

I prefer a key board but its not a have to have. The best key board I have ever had was the HTC Touch Pro 2. The only problem was the OS was windows mobile.

Current D3 user, ex-crackberry user. I picked up the D3 mainly because of the keyboard for a safety net. Fast forward to now and I have to find reasons to slide the keyboard out. With all the keyboard apps and swype, I don't see a keyboard being a necessity for my next mobile device.

With a 4.5 inch touchscreen who needs a physical keyboard? That and I like to customize my keyboard.

I agree, with the newer 4.3" and up screens it's much easier to type than with earlier,smaller screens. When I was using the original DINC(3.7" screen) it was a real chore typing any sort of lengthy message. You have to give Apple credit, whoever designed their KB knew what they were doing. I couldn't believe how smooth it was to type on the iPhone's 3.5" screen.

Your 4.5" screen is far from it when the keyboard fills up most of it and you're left with a text box. or if you have to play a game with on screen controls taking up viewing area. Outside of being able to type and edit easier, I never understood how people are so willing to give up screen real estate especially as screens get larger with higher resolution. You can only make an onscreen keyboard so small, and generally they take up about 35% or so of the screen when in use.

I have only used 1 phone with a physical keyboard that I liked, and that was my Palm Pre. I hate horizontal sliders, but in general I prefer a virtual keyboard. The benefits outweigh the costs. A device that lacks a physical keyboard can be lighter and thinner which is worth the lack of a keyboard to me.

Absolutely not. Way faster on an onscreen keyboard. Besides, my biggest gripe with physical keyboards is that they have to be delivered on a slide or flip mechanisim which usually breaks down and becomes loose over a short time.

My moms OG droid never broke (she upgraded to the Razr) and my Epic 4G is still nice and smooth after almost 2 years.

As much as I like having the Physical Keyboard, I have now sworn them off and switching to a GNex. It's for two reasons:
1- Sliders seem to not ever be as high on the list for carriers (both in cost/revenue and in upgradability).
2- In the process of making the devices able to have a physical keyboard, something always has to get sacrificed. For the last several devices I have had (same for my partner, last 2), adding a physical keyboard has caused the device to not last as long. We have high text and email usage, but the devices don't last. Device 1 for me was not able to correctly dispense heat due to the keyboard and had to get replaced 3 times, device 2 for me (and device 1 for partner) has the issue that sliding the keyboard back and forth so many times causes the connectors for the screen (and other parts) to start wearing away and in the last 3 months of my contract, I couldn't even open the device anymore or it would lose connection to the screen. Since the earpiece is in the top part, that piece got jostled out of place and can't use it anymore (so i'm stuck on headsets).

On top of all of that, having a slider keyboard makes protecting your device so much more difficult too since it always requires having 2 parts for any case, which the screen portion will come off sooner rather than later. While keyboard-less devices allow protection to be much easier since it can fit together as one piece.

No. I refuse to buy a phone with a keyboard because exposed keyboards take up too much space, and I have yet to see a decent protective case for a phone with a slider keyboard.

Yes, pleeeeease give me a portrait slide out keyboard like I tad on the he Palm pre loved the design of that phone and the hardware keyboard. . Just need it bigger, like the pre3. st need it

I really like having physical keyboards but, as a VZW customer, Motorola was the only game in town. With the Droid 2, they put me off of their company completely.

As a result, I'm on a GNex. I'm still not as fast as I was with a physical keyboard, but I'm too the point where I'm just going to have to go ahead and deal with it. I'm not going back to Motorola because they don't really care about the Droid line anymore.

I have used 2 UMPCs, the General Dynamics MR1 and the OQO Model 2. The OQO has a backlit slider keyboard, and was a nice device. At work, we are a Blackberry shop. When I went for a smartphone, I wanted LTE and wound up with the Thunderbolt. I thought I would miss the physical keyboard, but really don't.

My issue now is the difference between long keypress on BB vs. Android.

I might go for a physical keyboard someday, but it would depend on the phone having the right feature set. It's much easier finding rugged cases for non-slide models.

Epic 4G has the best physical keyboard of any phone currently available. It has 5 rows, includes menu, home, search, and back buttons, is backlit, chicklet style buttons, has a function key for ".com", and can be used with a game gripper.

I thought the droid 4 keyboard was great but had too much backlight on the keys and lacked some features on my Epic's keyboard.

I'm of mixed opinion. Back in the day, I had the Windows phone, first the 6600, then the 6700. Both had physical keyboards. Before that, I had the Handspring Visor (Palm OS), which had Pidgin. I got really good at Pidgin, and could actually take notes with it in work meetings as fast as I could write on paper. Then when I got the 6600 (I think that's the model #, it was a vertical slider), I got pretty good with the keyboard. Not as fast as my pidgin days, but I could still take some quick notes.

After the 6700, I got a Samsung Omnia, which was touchscreen only. It was resistive touch, but I hated that thing for the entire year that I had it. I used to call and bitch at Verizon monthly, until they offered both my wife and I early upgrades to the OG Droid.

I was extremely happy to have my physical kb back. I am on the road a LOT, and answering long e-mails without one meant 5-10 minutes at minimum. After about 9 months, a friend was selling his R2-D2 phone cheap, and I jumped on it. I had that for over a year til the D4 came out last friday.

Now in the meantime, my wife broke her finger while she still had an OG droid. She got so used to Swype that she literally never used her physical kb again. She upgraded to the Rezound in December, and claims to not miss it.

So I'm wondering if all of us who are addicted to our physical keyboards were forced to not use them for a month or two if we'd not want them anymore?

Personally I love having the physical keyboard (carrying a Droid 3) as well as the choice to do short things on the screen. For short stuff I can work with the on screen keyboard, especially with SwiftKey X installed and I use the auto-complete a lot. People argue the keyboard is dead, but if you type off long emails or notes like I do, the physical keyboard is a blessing. The only short downfall of the physical keyboard is they are different between devices and takes a little time to get used to where things are located. Once you do, you can blaze through typing faster than the onscreen keyboard. It's also nice that I can see the whole screen when entering data on forms and not just the single field I'm filling in (when in landscape mode). It's all a matter of preference and the way you use the device. For me, I choose a physical keyboard.

I owned a Tmobile G2 for about a year and a half. I got it because I liked the idea of a physical keyboard. In practice, however, I rarely used it. With that being said, that doesn't mean that I would never get a phone with a keyboard in the future. It just means that the phone would have to have other compensating features that would offset the cost of the added weight and bulk. So I answered yes, but the real answer would be... Unlikely.

If I could have bought the Droid4 instead of the Bionic, I would have. Coming from the Palm Pre Plus, I was used to (and much preferred) the tactile feedback of a real keyboard.

I picked up a Droid Pro to use in Mexico this past week (TelCel sim card), and I am seriously considering keeping it active until my contract is up in July. The screen is complete poop next to my Fascinate, but I forgot how much I miss the keyboard. My sausage fingers just don't play nice with Swype.

I just don't understand why a company will put out 20 phones with the same form factor and not one with a vertical slider like the original BB Torch.. only other two I can think of is the Dell venue and a Palm... not ONE for Android??

The voting number tell the story. 2500 against a keyboard and 1500 for it. Those number don't tell me that they shouldn't be making keyboard phones, that number tells me that 38% of the phones on the market should be keyboard phones.

Not quite, because sales numbers don't follow the poll results. People may claim to want physical keyboards, but they also don't want the additional bulk or other sacrifices that must be made by the manufacturers to include a keyboard. And manufacturers don't want to make them because they cost more, yet people aren't willing to pay more for them.

Sales numbers don't match the poll numbers because you can't what isn't readily available.

Also Most people that have a need for a proper keyboard phone still use BlackBerry. Millions of BB's sold annualy and no Android manufacturer feels the need to court the fans of that form factor??? Ridiculous. And please don't tell me that BB is holding their customers hostage with BBM... that's BBBull!%#$

I hated on screen keyboards until I learned to use Swype. Now pressing physical keys on a phone seems to primitive to me. I am twice as fast typing with swype with one hand than I was with 2 hands on a blackberry. It all comes down to taking the time to practice and learn. I've tried several other on-screen keyboards like SlideIT and SwiftKeyX but nothing comes close to the speed and accuracy of Swype in my experience. My buddy on the other hand can ONLY use physical keyboards he has tried every kind of on-screen keyboard out there and has made an honest effort but just can't hack it. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

My only complaint with on-screen keyboards is that you generally can't see the message you're replying to and what you're typing in the same space, unless this was changed in 2.3/4.0?

I would like to buy another Keyboard slider, but it needs to be at least 4 inches, Super-Amoled or Super LCD/IPS in 720p (and not stupid Pentile with LCD, that looks horrible) and NOT Motorola. Mainly because their customers aren't the people buying the phones but the Carriers.

I currently have an EVO 4G. The speed is great. The screen is wonderful. I want to throw the god damn thing against a wall. I will be blunt. If I can't have a physical keyboard on my next phone I'm going back to a dumbphone. Period. I'm not making idle threats. I mean it. Dumbphone + a hotspot from Verizon.

In the just over year and a half with this phone I've learned to absolutely despise soft keyboards. They are inaccurate, they are slow. (Yes even with swype.) And the only way to speed things up is predictive text. The problem is try and type pfft when you are chatting with something and the end result is OFF. I use hundreds of words not in the dictionary and while I keep adding them I'm sick of sending txt and chat to people with shit like "Hey how is your mistress". Frak you and your god damn keyboardless BS. I would turn off auto correct\predict if if wouldn't kill my WPM even further.

Soft keyboards are the result of peopel who are more interested in looks then functionality. In short the result of Apple and its users infecting the industry. You compare a normal smartphone without a keyboard to one with and the size is negligible. Again unless you are wearing skintight clothing you are bitching about the keyboard for one and only one reason: looks.

I want to burn Apple's HQ to the ground for their infection of the phone industry.

Well said!

Swype and autocorrect are not everyone's saving grace. I don't know how many times I've called my son, Robbie, Ronnie just because that's what the stupid autocorrect decided to populate the word as and didn't catch it before sending. Likewise, to the swype users - try using that keyboard to enter in some commands and symbols, and let me know how that works out for ya.

This is just my opinion - and I know I'm just asking to start a flame war - but to me, the users that go on-and-on about there being no need for hardware keyboard (it just adds bulk, weight, ugly, etc) are really just in need of an overgrown feature phone. If you're using the smartphone like the pint-sized computer that it really is, you'd begin seeing the shortcomings of the onscreen keyboards.

My first experience with a virtual keyboard was on a Samsung Instinct (Sprint). It didn't take long for that experience to become abysmal.

Next, I moved on to BlackBerry. For my money, no one has built as easy to use of a keyboard as BlackBerry. That was the main reason I hesitated to jump ship for Android.

Having committed to Android in the form of my HTC Evo 3D, I have gotten completely sold on Swype. I use it almost exclusively. The few times I have to "touch type", I find the virtual keyboard acceptable.

I no longer have any particular need for a physical keyboard, particularly since the few I see are not (in my humble opinion) as good as BlackBerry's.

My wife is still on her BlackBerry, and I'm having trouble prying her fingers off of it because of the keyboard. She's suspicious of virtual keyboards, and the few times she's tried to Swype on my phone it frustrated her.

So, for my wife, a physical keyboard will be a must. She may be more accepting of the physical keyboards available on Android phones, as she had an LG Rumor (long-format slide out keyboard on a candy-bar phone) before going to her BlackBerry, and she liked that LG Rumor.

As many exasperating things as there are about Sprint, one reason I've stuck with them is that they've offered probably the best two physical keyboards on the market -- the old HTC Touch Pro 2 and the Samsung Epic 4G. Both devices were hardly without their annoyances, but at the end of the day the keyboard trumps the negatives.

Until we get completely past primitive man-machine interfaces like pushing buttons with our fingers, there will probably always be a role for both physical and on-screen keyboards. For me, I have a job in PR/communications that doesn't really allow me to send emails with errors or bad punctuation -- and the reality of even the best on-screen keyboards is that it takes a bit of extra effort to get your text perfectly formatted and error free.

On the other hand, when I'm sending a quick text to a friend, I'll use Swype every time -- not worth sliding out the keys, and I don't care if I miss a comma or there's an extra space somewhere. So it really comes down to use cases as much as personal preference. For me at least, there will always be a role for a physical keyboard, and I think manufacturers get that.

A better system would be to have the micro USB port on most phones detect a standard PC USB desktop keyboard if attached (via a micro to standard USB adapter), and allow the letter/arrow keys to function...

The Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet with its full sized USB port allows this...it would be neat if phones did too...

Then, any nearby PC desktop keyboard could be temporarily borrowed for heavy content creation/typing, if necessary...

Had the keyboard with the G1 and loved it, but the screen was so small the on-screen one didn't work well really. I got the Mytouch Slide and with a faster screen (and bigger) I rarely used the physical keyboard. From there I went keyboardless on my next 3 phones... On a GNEX now and don't miss the physical keyboard.

I'd try it first, buy it maybe (if the keys felt right). Not a huge slider fan, although if you want a big screen AND physical keys, something's gotta give - either a smaller screen and keys (ala Blackberry Curve or Bold) or full sized screen with a slider. Depends on the device, although right now I still like physical keys and not sure (when I jump to Android in a couple months) how well I'll adapt to touchscreen typing.

G-Nex user...waiting for a 7" phablet for my inside jacket pocket before needing a physKbd. Oh, and multi-I/O ports, pls.

Before Android, I had a Blackberry Tour and it had the best mobile physical keyboard I've ever used. Although I love Swype (waiting for it's release for the Galaxy Nexus), nothing beats a sturdy quality portrait keyboard (slide out or not).

The Droid Pro is the only portrait keyboard Android phone I'm aware of, but it had low specs and a tiny screen. If they made a larger, modern high-end Android device with a portrait keyboard similar in design to that of the BB Tour, I would strongly consider it.

I bought the OG Droid, 2 weeks after launch. To be honest though, I kept waiting for the next in the droid slider to actually be on par with the other new phones coming out at that time, but they kept failing to release a product that isn't behind the times. I gave up and got a gnex.

I had a Milestone (and several iterations of WinMo, back in the day) with physical qwerty's. But I've been addicted to the Nexus devices. Now if the next Nexus comes with a qwerty... heaven sir... heaven [mobile].

Not to be a troll, but weren't physical keyboards a HUUUUGE reason why people bought Android phones over iPhones 2 years ago?

My first Android smartphone, Motorola Flipside, was my last smartphone with a physical keyboard. Before that, my first touch screen smartphone was a HTC (can't remember the name now) Windows Phone. But after I saw how responsive and easy-to-use the touch screen was to use on my first Android, I was sold on the touch screen and didn't see a need for one on my next phone. I'm using an Atrix and mulling between a Galaxy Skyrocket and a Galaxy Note for my next phone.

Keyboards are so 2004 when sidekicks was the crave.. now a days i think people have gotten use to iPhones and Androids onscreen keyboards. or put up with the fact that they can download a better aftermarket keyboard from the market

I use Swiftkey on the regular. I can definitely type long text or emails with it. And Swype for when it's cold and I have my touch screen compatible gloves on. Can you even type with a physical keyboard while wearing gloves? And I'm talking about thicker-than-liner gloves.

I simply LOVE the excellent horizontal slide keyboard in my Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro and even if I have an ultra sharp 3.7 inch screen (that is totally free to view, when I slide out the keyboard) is the on screen keyboard a bad joke in comparison...

The keys are well spaced and have a sublime click feeling - so this keyboard is almost perfect, except that the very flat keys could pout out little more (but I rarely get it wrong, anyhow) and more smaller keys (like mini Pro's, so I don't have to shift for numbers) would naturally make it even better...

And strangely enough can a much smaller keyboard work almost as good, if it's very well made... I had a Palm treo 680 before, that just had slightly too hard keys - so even that keyboard was almost as good - except the big disadvantage that it had fewer keys than my Xperia Pro!

I bought an Epic 4G because I felt like I needed a physical keyboard. I ended up not using it at all, so I was left with a bulky phone for no reason. I now have a Galaxy Nexus, and have no problem using the Android keyboard (and now the Swype Beta)!

I use my android a lot for emails and documents, excel sheets... I just can't do it without a physical keyboard, it's way too slow! I also need a navigation key (useful for copy-paste small text portions). I have a motorola flipout, it's the best I could find for my needs. I need to be able to use it with one hand, and other side slide out models don't work for me because it's awkward to use them with one hand.
Plus, in my language there is no swipe available, so that's not an option.

For anyone serious to give their pda a professional use, a physical keyboard is a must. Shame we can't enjoy the latest android versions.

For people that rely on their phone for document editing and creation along with lengthy emails, a "good" (key word there) hardware keyboard is invaluable. I do 90% of my Office work on my Samsung Epic. Everyone I text who owns a slate asks how I respond so quick to texts and in full blown sentences no less, not abbreviated crap they send from their slates because typing isn't as easy. I can blow through invoices and proposals on my Epic quicker than breaking out the keyboard dock for my 8.9 tab or breaking out my Dell 11z which hasn't left the car in months since I've had the combo of my Epic and 8.9 tab. The Droid 4 has a lot of holes in it, and it's a shame Samsung has gone two galaxy generations with no replacement to the Epic. The Epic lives up to its name for utility, has great developers keeping it current with custom roms and will be the phone I have until a successor takes its place or it no longer works, and I can't get replacements on ebay. bigger higher res slates with faster processors do nothing to improve real world utility compared to a keyboard. It's a shame the Droid 4 is the only current offering. Samsung and HTC have screwed the pooch.

Would think gamers would want a keyboard too. Doing things on screen limits screen real estate plain and simple. What's the point of having these big HD screens if they are limited by onscreen keyboards and controls? Makes zero sense to me. All in the name of thinness. Dumb.

I prefer a physical keyboard so it doesn't take up the screen space but more importantly so I don't have to look at the actual keyboard while texting/typing. I find that annoying as it interrupts my train of thought. I type by touch, not by sight. Typing is just like speaking for me in some ways. Just like I wouldn't want to see the actual words I speak while I am speaking them, and so in the same way with typing, I just want the words to flow from my fingers without having to think about it. Stuck looking at a digital keyboard feels daunting where the physical keyboard is effortless.

I just wish that an option came with the higher end phone versions. Or that a clip on keyboard that fits perfectly (folds as a back or front cover so it stays WITH phone) could be an option.