Ask LH: Where Can I Find A QWERTY Keyboard Smartphone?

Ask LH: Where Can I Find A QWERTY Keyboard Smartphone?

Dear Lifehacker, I currently have a very basic phone (a Huawei G6600), and am ready for something with a bit more power. What I really wanted was something with an actual keyboard, like the Motorola Droid. However, no manufactures seem to make them any more. Help! Thanks, Lover of QWERTY

Dear LOQ,

I feel your pain. I’ve always been a fan of having a keyboard as part of the phone, but it has become an increasingly rare option. Modern touch screen keyboard software is impressive and responsive, but there’s still something to be said for keys you can actually click.

In the early days of Android, several manufacturers produced keyboard models, and there were a handful of Windows Phone devices with keyboards too. But these days it’s a different story; touchscreen has become the dominant choice. None of the major announcements at this year’s Mobile World Congress involved a phone with a keyboard, and none of the current Windows Phone 8 devices offer one either. Apple has never offered a phone with a keyboard. The majority of keyboard-equipped phones these days are cheap prepaid devices with very limited functionality.

So if you do still prefer an actual keyboard but want a smartphone platform that offers apps, what are your choices? The obvious one is BlackBerry. The Q10 — a BlackBerry 10 device with a keyboard — hasn’t been given an official Australian release date yet, but we’d expect it to appear sometime around mid-year. You can still pick up older BlackBerry 7 Bold and Curve models very cheaply (sub-$100 without too much shopping around), and the keyboard remains the best we’ve seen on a phone. If a full QWERTY device is important to you, BlackBerry is the obvious choice.

You can still find older Android devices with keyboards, but these will invariably be models running the older (2.4 and earlier) builds, rather than the slicker and more modern Ice Cream Sandwich experience. That said, if you’re upgrading from the G6600, that would still represent a big improvement. No major Australian carriers are selling models that fit this description right now, but older models sometimes show up on sale through supermarkets, you can sometimes find older stock in chain electronics stores, and there’s always eBay.

If readers have additional recommendations for keyboard-equipped smartphones, tell us in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I’m in the same boat, I’ve been instead looking at bluetooth keyboards that would snap onto an existing phone, not quite what you’re looking for but might be an alternative.

  • I’m currently using a Sony (Ericsson) Xperia Mini Pro. It’s a 2011 model, and Sony has offered an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade for it.

    The main problem is that it has rather limited specifications, so if you want to play decent games on it, you’re out of luck.

    • That’s the phone I have. It is a good mid range phone, at a reasonable price. I find that the battery though ruins it. My battery takes about 10 hours standby and its flat

  • Why not just buy a bluetooth keyboard that connects to the back of the phone – you can get them for various models of phone so you have the best of both worlds
    Ebay the following (for a galaxy S3)
    Samsung Galaxy S3 i9300 Bluetooth Sliding Wireless Keyboard Hardshell Case Cover

  • I still use a HTC Desire Z running CM7 as my primary phone. I think they can be found on ebay for around $100. It’s quite capable of doing everything I need it to do and I’m happy to keep using it until it dies or a new phone running android 4+ with a sliding keyboard comes out. Alas, I don’t think the latter is going to happen.

  • This is one of the reasons why I’ve stuck with webOS. I’m seriously considering moving to BlackBerry when the Q10 becomes available though.

  • The Motorola Droid 4 is a US phone that will work with GSM networks outside the states. It’s probably the best QWERTY phone available, and has just been updated to Jelly Bean. There are plenty of purchasing options on eBay.

  • MY DREAM: I would love a large slide QWERTY keyboard like a 5.5in version of the Nokia N97 – with the old Nokia PC Suite V7 software or similar. (It was THE BEST robust simple software for my purposes contacts, calendar, on screen PC pop u, etc. Alas it is no more.) Perhaps some provider might re-create software like PCSuite 7 with modern functionality! So anyone agree? I find the current QWERTYs far too small and I so much prefer the tactile feel. I hope Bob above is wrong and it does happen – I can only dream. In the mean time I’ll check out blue tooth qwerts per ‘iand’ and others per ‘Alex0j’….. Alec

    • I’m a qwerty fan as well, and there’s alot of people who want them, but the phone manufacturers think otherwise. I have been a loyal Nokia user, and while people will critesize the symbian operating system all day long, I love my Nokia E7-00. While it is a 4″ touch screen, the screen flips up, and a beautiful, probably the best qwerty on a slide I have ever seen appears.

      While Nokia has quit building qwerty smart phones since switching to the Windows Phone 8 operating software (I wish they would make a qwerty with WP8), you might like an E7 or an E6 if you don’t mind symbian.

      But if Nokia doesn’t come out with a qwerty in the future, I’ll probably switch to the Blackberry Q10, and would recommend this phone for other qwerty fans as well.

      Good luck in your qwerty search.


  • Check out the Samsung Relay 4G from the US. It’s a QWERTY GSM device and will work overseas. It’s also getting an update to Jelly Bean soon.

  • What the world really needs is a phone with all the latest – jellybean, powerful camera, fast processor, lots of memory – and the old numeric keypad. I could hold my old phone in one hand and type a message with that thumb while doing something else with the other hand and not even looking at my phone most of the time, and once you get used to the predictive text it’s so easy to work with. A physical qwerty takes out a lot of the typos of a touchscreen qwerty, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to type a message on it one handed and looking away like I used to. And the buttons are so much smaller, even though the phone is so much bigger – it’s a backwards step.

  • I spent 10 months with the HTC Desire S trying to come to grips with a touchscreen keyboard, but I hated it! Every time I tried to send a quick text, I would get two keys at once and then queue lots of profanity and frustration!!!

    I am using the HTC DZ at the moment, but I’ve not been very impressed with it’s speed/reception and not having the row of numbers across the top of the keyboard like my HTC TouchPro2 is annoying. But the TouchPro2 did not have lit keys so typing in low light conditions was more difficult.

    Why can’t someone bring something out that has all the best features – full QWERTY keyboard, lit keys, number row, Windows, Office, good camera etc. My favourite smartphones so far were my I-mate Jasjams ironically enough.

    I will never go to Blackberry as it has the same problem as the touchscreen phones in that the keys are too small and I am forever pressing two keys at once.

    I thought I was the only QWERTY diehard fan, but obviously I am not alone – when are manufacturers going to realise this???

  • The best ones available are the Motorola Photon Q (but only works on Verizon and Sprint in the U.S.) and the Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4g. Both of them are full QWERTY sliders with Android 4.1 or 4.2 updated software. Neither is super-high-end by today’s standards, but both are the most recently released (within the past 16 months) QWERTY Android sliders. The Galaxy Relay was released in Oct. 2012 and has mid-range specs. The Photon Q was released a few months before that. I have a Galaxy Relay and it’s okay, the best it gets for now in the QWERTY world unfortunately. The Galaxy Relay has 6 supported GSM/PCS/AWS bands (850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100) so it works pretty much anywhere in the world on at least 3G speeds if not HSUPA/HSDPA (in the U.S. it gets data speeds as fast or faster than LTE). However, it has no LTE functionality. You will also need to get it unlocked (needs a code) to accept a non-T-Mobile USA Sim card.

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