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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the could-be-anywhere-really dept.

Cellphones 544

Bennett Haselton writes: I can't stand switching from a slideout-keyboard phone to a touchscreen phone, and my own informal online survey found a slight majority of people who prefer slideout keyboards even more than I do. Why will no carrier make them available, at any price, except occasionally as the crummiest low-end phones in the store? Bennett's been asking around, of store managers and users, and arrives at even more perplexing questions. Read on, below.

In my rant about the sucky LG Optimus phone that I got from T-Mobile, I admitted that I stuck with it anyway and let them keep my money, because I couldn't stand switching away from the slideout keyboard on the phone. Same reason that I kept the Stratosphere from Verizon for so long, despite the other features of that phone sucking too. But after failing to find even one true smartphone with a slideout keyboard after visiting the local AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile stores, I started to wonder if I was just an old fud who couldn't get with the times.

(The slideout keyboards are usually called "QWERTY keyboards" in the marketing, but I'm using "slideout keyboard" in order to distinguish them from phones like Blackberries that have a physical QWERTY keyboard and screen all on the outer surface of the phone, since that forces the keyboard and the screen to be much smaller.)

Slideout keyboards have always felt more natural to me in a couple of ways. You can let your finger or thumb center on the correct key, and then press the key in a separate action, resulting in far fewer typos then if you're required to land your fingertip on the correct spot on the screen. (Fewer typos also means you can turn off autocorrect and worry about fewer idiotic auto-corrections.) A slide-out keyboard also makes it easier to hold the phone in a relaxed grip -- with the keyboard out, you can rest the phone on your other fingers while using your thumb to keep it in place, rather than having to grip the phone around the edges with your fingers to keep the screen uncovered. The relaxed thumb-centered grip makes it much easier to tilt the phone at different angles and even hold above your head without dropping it (handy for the first texts you answer before getting out of bed), all while hardly having to tense your fingers at all.

I mentioned this to the Sprint sales guy and he shook his head and said, "Oh, no, everybody wants touchscreen phones now." When I mentioned later to the AT&T store manager that I felt I must be in a shrinking minority, he said that he preferred slide-out keyboards, most other people preferred slide-out keyboards, and the industry was just moving away from them regardless. Who was right? Skeptical as ever about people's claims that they've "heard lots of people saying so-and-so," I posted a survey on Amazon's Mechanical Turk ( which I have used in the past for all kinds of weird stuff), seeking out respondents who had used both a phone with a slideout keyboard and a phone with a virtual keyboard, and asking which one they preferred, and why.

Out of 49 respondents, 27 said they preferred slideout keyboards and 22 said they preferred virtual keyboards. And I know the Internet survey-takers weren't just clicking answers at random, because most of them gave details as to the reason for their preference (even though this was not enforced by the survey form). Obviously that's too small of a sample to be very precise about the percentage of users that prefer slide-out keyboards (apart from the fact that Mechanical Turk users are unrepresentative of the general population in several ways), but it does mean that the near-extinction of slideout-keyboard phones in retail stores is probably not in proportion to what people actually want.

You can download the raw survey data here; some of the highlights from people who said they preferred slideouts:

"I preferred using an actual keyboard because I can actually feel the keys. After my hands get used to the keyboard, I could type very fast. Using a virtual one is much harder because you don't actually feel the keys you are typing."

"I can put my fingers on the actual keys just like a typewriter and know they won't slip off and hit the wrong key. I was heartbroken when then got rid of almost all qwerty keyboards in the new phones. They are now almost impossible to find."

"The slide-out keyboard offers more accuracy and feedback than a virtual keyboard. I can easily tell if I'm pressing the wrong letter key on a physical keyboard than a virtual one. I also prefer my keyboard to be off of the screen so I can easily see what I'm typing."

"I think its easier to type on a slide out keyboard. With the virtual ones I'm always spending half the time correcting the mistakes."

"I preferred slide-out keyboards because you could actually feel the crevices that separate each letter on the keyboard, and this allowed you to type much more efficiently. There's just something more beautiful and human about physically touching something rather than using the heat in your fingers to make unreal letters type on a screen."

On the other side of the aisle, the most common reasons that people gave for preferring virtual keyboards were that slideouts were too flimsy or bulky:

"Virtual keyboards are sturdier than slide out keyboards."

"The decreased overall weight of the device due to the lack of physical keyboard is the biggest benefit to me. Plus the added benefit is that virtual keyboard technology has come a long way in the last few years and offers unique features such as swiping words whereas a physical keyboard still limits you to typing and switching between buttons and the screen in order to select or correct words."

"A virtual keyboard is faster and less cumbersome than a slide out keyboard."

"I liked the tactile feeling of the slide out keyboard. I found the keyboard slide to be more bulky however. I like the virtual keyboard because it allows me to use a larger amount of screen space on my phone when I am not typing. You can also do cool keyboard gestures with the virtual keyboard, such as sliding the finger to type. The virtual keyboard also has an auto correct feature built in which is handy. My old slide out keyboard phone was cool at the time but lacks the features modern virtual keyboard have. Also, real keyboards make clicky noises, which can prevent you from sending texts out under your desk during meetings, haha."

(That last guy's right -- I've been out of the workforce long enough that I forgot you can't get away with texting in a meeting on a slideout, unless other people in the room are covering your noise by "taking notes" typing on their laptops.)

So - not everyone wants slideout keyboards, but a lot of people really, really want them, and the stores refuse to stock them. What gives?

The AT&T store manager simply said that they were more expensive to make, and people return them more often because they break more easily. Well of course it makes sense that the extra component costs more, but it seemed counterintuitive that the slideout keyboards are usually only found on the cheapest phones in the store (which don't qualify as true smartphones). It's odd for an expensive extra component to be found only in the cheapest models of a product line, as if Ford had announced that their self-parking technology would only come bundled with the Fiesta.

More importantly, it seems strange that a more expensive or even a more fragile component, cannot be made available at any price when so many people want it. If it costs more, surely they could just charge more. I'd pay at least an extra $100-$200 for a phone with a slideout keyboard (which is more than the entire retail cost of a dumbphone with a slideout keyboard, so the price increase on a real phone should be less than that). If it makes the phone more fragile and more likely to be returned, surely that could just be reflected in a higher monthly "insurance" fee to cover the cost of exchanging damaged phones (which is only about $5 per month anyway). Is this another example of market failure, even in a competitive industry? It's easy for Facebook to force changes down our throats, since we have nowhere else to go, but how did Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all end up abandoning such a sizable portion of their customers, even while locked in a cutthroat battle with each other?

Maybe this can be the next big thing that T-Mobile does to differentiate themselves from everybody else (like when they broke ranks and decided to sell all phones at retail price with no long-term contracts) -- everybody knows their network is spottier, but it's usable, and if they're doing one thing right that you really care about, and everyone else is doing it wrong, that's reason enough to switch. Their pink-shirted CEO certainly likes making waves with his colorful metaphors about the other carriers screwing you over. If T-Mobile sold me a real phone with a slideout keyboard, I'm sure I'd stay with them for years, even though yesterday the rain (a fairly common phenomenon here in Bellevue, where T-Mobile U.S. is headquartered) caused the reception on the phone to go from 4G to 2G and then down to "G," which I didn't even know was a thing.

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Just get a case (2)

danudwary (201586) | about 6 months ago | (#47551595)

Lots of cases. And after using SwiftKey for a while, I'll never go back to typing on a phone if I can help it.

Re:Just get a case (4, Insightful)

pecosdave (536896) | about 6 months ago | (#47551799)

I like Swift Key, but it's not the answer to everything. For instance I couldn't even type in a user name in Plants Vs. Zombies while it was active, the built in email program on my phone is nearly impossible to use with Swift key - it moves the cursor in an unpredictable manner, and it still isn't a "real" keyboard. While I hope those software issues are alleviated for Swiftkey, there isn't a modern phone around that even compares to my more than 10 years ago Motorola T900 [arch.com] pager.

A case isn't always a good answer either, most of those use Bluetooth to communicate with a phone and I know people who've demonstrated hooking Wireshark up to Bluetooth and capturing every letter typed on a keyboard they weren't even paired with.

Re:Just get a case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47552003)

Hacker's Keyboard >>> Swift Key

[and free to boot]

Re:Just get a case (1)

Xenx (2211586) | about 6 months ago | (#47551915)

Keyboard cases are rare for new android phones. It's one of the downsides to having multiple manufacturers and designs. I haven't dug too deep yet, but of the current gen devices, I can only find a keyboard for the S5.

Re:Just get a case (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about 6 months ago | (#47551937)

Have not managed to find a keyboard case for a single phone that I would actually consider buying. iPhone? nope. Samsung Galaxy III? Nuh uh. There exists not a single keyboard case for the Nexus 4/5. If someone makes one, I will buy it in a heartbeat.

MyTouch 4G Slidw (4, Interesting)

Dukenukemx (1342047) | about 6 months ago | (#47551599)

I've been holding onto this phone for years and there's no replacement for it in sight. Photon Q is the best qwerty phone but it's only for Verizon. You could solder your own sim card slot but it won't get 3g/4g on T-Mobile.

Re:MyTouch 4G Slidw (2)

JDAustin (468180) | about 6 months ago | (#47551875)

Photon Q is on Sprint also. It's actually a decent phone.

Couldn't Agree More (1)

xd1936 (2676133) | about 6 months ago | (#47551601)

My favorite form-factor of all time was my Palm Pre2. That phone felt great in the hand, and although the keyboard had it's problems, it was so satisfying to slide out and use.

I would love to see a Dell Venue Pro with modern specs and Android 4.4.

Re:Couldn't Agree More (1)

Beavertank (1178717) | about 6 months ago | (#47551683)

There were so many great things about the Pre. But unfortunately, build quality wasn't one of them. If it had been a solidly built phone I'd probably still be using it. But when my last one finally died (again) and I was told there was no way to do an insurance replacement and get the same phone... I moved on.

COST (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551605)

It's about cost really. It's cheaper to manufacture phones without a physical keyboard. Less parts = higher margin for the phone vendor. It's the same reason they are wanting gesture control in cars. Less buttons = cheaper product. Welcome to the future where usability is secondary to how much money can be made and the vendors can convince users that's really what they want in the first place.

NO, all candy bar (5, Insightful)

brxndxn (461473) | about 6 months ago | (#47551615)

The big manufacturers are all too busy competing with Apple to actually notice there might be a market for something else.. For example, I want a Motorola Razr running Android. I don't care if it's slower, worse resolution, smaller screen than todays' big fat candy bar phones. I'm a guy and I don't carry a bag. The phone has got to fit in my pocket.

Re:NO, all candy bar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551743)

> I'm a guy and I don't carry a bag.

I'm a guy and thus don't consider pockets a fashion item but instead have pockets with enough space for tools larger than the average phone, and generally useful for carrying around things.
Sorry, being a bit provocative there but what kind of trousers do you guys buy?! I only ever heard this kind of comment in person from one guy, and he upon trying a smartphone figured out that even the bigger smartphones fit a lot better in his pockets than the old, fat phone he has been carrying around all the time!

Re:NO, all candy bar (5, Funny)

AnOnyxMouseCoward (3693517) | about 6 months ago | (#47551843)

Dress pants, for work. Tight jeans, for hipsterism.

Re:NO, all candy bar (2)

AuMatar (183847) | about 6 months ago | (#47551813)

What kind of pockets do you have? I fit my wallet, keys, and Note all in 1 pocket.

Re:NO, all candy bar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551823)

I've never had a problem fitting a 5 inch phone in my pocket, and I'll probably move to a 6" screen if Google releases the nexus 6. I'm not sure if you're clothes typically involve skinny jeans or what, but few pockets don't easily accept modern phones.

Re:NO, all candy bar (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 6 months ago | (#47551909)

Depends on the pants. The iPhone5 fits nicely in my front jeans (deep) pocket . The larger phones make sitting down difficult as the phone now presses up against my hip. I was thinking about upgrading to an iPhone6, but now i'm not so sure. The "phablets" can die in fire for all I care. I want my smart phone to be a phone first and foremost; that includes a small form-factor.

Re:NO, all candy bar (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 6 months ago | (#47551917)

Keyboard phones didn't sell well. People realised that swipe keyboards are actually faster than trying to type on tiny keys. Most people don't do massive amounts of typing on their phones anyway. Of they need to they get a tablet, Bluetooth keyboard or ultra portable laptop.

Keyboard phones sound good on paper but when people actually tried them the reality hit home.

Re:NO, all candy bar (1)

Alomex (148003) | about 6 months ago | (#47551955)

The other thing they are missing is a long battery life cellphone which is also a smart phone. Here's what I mean: a smart phone such that when the battery goes low it switches off all smart functions and is left with just enough battery to operate as basic cell phone+bare bones contact list for two days.

TL;DR (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551617)

Phone with slideout keyboard? No problem. Phone with slideout keyboard without being more expensive, heavier, thicker, and more likely to break? Well, that's the trick, isn't it?

Re:TL;DR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551933)

My HTC G1 and G2 are in a near perfect state, both only had to be abandoned after about 2.5 years of use due to a lack of RAM. At first I thought both were a bit fragile, but HTC proved me wrong. Sadly they don't make such phones anymore, I'll switch to a phone immediatly if it either:
-a trackpad like the G2
-a 4+ row keyboard
preferably both.

Switchin back to a Keyboard (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551619)

I recent dug out an old Palm Pre from a drawer. I charged it up and played with it a bit... one thing that immediately struck me is how amazingly fast I could type, with near perfect accuracy... this is after years of being on a touch screen phone, whether android or iPhone.

I was easily twice as fast and 5-10x as accurate. Touch typing was easy.

In the USA people don't pay for phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551625)

I think your flaw is the presumption that people are willing to pay for a feature on their phone. Most people seem willing to accept whatever they get for free with their 2 year contract. Or maybe they'll pay a bit more for something that is touted as popular.

Apparently slideout keyboards just aren't popular!

Re:In the USA people don't pay for phones (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about 6 months ago | (#47551659)

Two year contracts are on the way out. AT&T is in the process of ditching them, T-mobile already has. Verizon won't be far behind.

Re:In the USA people don't pay for phones (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 6 months ago | (#47551953)

They're not ditching the two year contracts. They're just locking you into a contract for 1 or 2 years without giving you a free phone. Big difference.

Re:In the USA people don't pay for phones (1)

meustrus (1588597) | about 6 months ago | (#47551839)

Most people seem willing to accept whatever they get for free with their 2 year contract.

That seems about right to me. It would explain the "stupid shit" problem too, since most users won't mind a phone where everything is broken in software as long as it's "free".

(after all, we're all used to Windows by now anyway - zing!)

The mobile phone market just doesn't work for anyone that cares about technology that just works. As long as it gets into the customer's hands, that customer will most of the time simply assume that all phones have this stupid shit and wait for an "upgrade" instead of shopping around. Let alone the dismal selection available to even check out at a store. And Apple doesn't count; even though there's an amazing minimum of stupid shit on iPhones, that's at the expense of customization, open markets, and in most cases hardware that makes very different tradeoffs than most users would pick.

The argument from the cell company representatives may be pretty useful though. Those people are the absolute lowest on the corporate totem pole and they are lied to even more than customers. The Sprint marketing materials probably told them to hawk candy bars because "that's what people want". Maybe the person at AT&T has more experience, maybe that person had more honest marketing materials, but maybe "slide-outs break more often" is the underlying reason that marketing is trying to discourage them.

I've got another research project for you (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551627)

My informal survey says a vast majority of people have been asking for a Slashdot without Mr. Haselton for quite a while. Why doesn't that slashdot exist anymore? Maybe Mr. Haselton should research and write an article about what strange reasoning or series of events leads his shitty work to be featured on this site.

(Confirmation text: "pinhead")

Not Odd (5, Interesting)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 6 months ago | (#47551645)

They are strapping a cheap part that breaks easy on an expensive phone. They keyboard breaks and they have to replace the whole thing. What you want is a case that has a bluetooth keyboard slider. Like the following. http://www.amazon.com/Naztech-... [amazon.com]

Re:Not Odd (2)

barlevg (2111272) | about 6 months ago | (#47551989)

The problem is that the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone are basically the only two phones for which someone has bothered to make one of these. If someone were to make one for the Nexus 4/5, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

slideout sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551653)

I've never liked slideout keyboards. I find that I'm far more accurate and quick with a touch keyboard and a decent (but not overbearing) correcting keyboard.

when it comes to this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551663)


Jumped over to the Photon Q due to the slider, then after ONLY SEVEN MONTHS they dropped it... release, then 7 months later a small update, then NOTHING... no 18months, no going the extra mile, no last min release... NADA!

This is not the only time Motorola has done this either, many other phones for friends/family that have had this happen with various model phones!
Sure, the GOOGLE/Motorola phones are fine in this regard (More Google control then Motorola), but if its not got Google flowing all over it, STAY AWAY FROM MOTOROLA!!!

Note: CM and other custom rom support is also lacking, tried to flash to a CM rom and its just... not all there... asked around and none of the devs want to be sent one for testing/improvement either... so... SLIDERPHONES FTL (even if I REALLY like them, aka my Mogul/TouchPro/TouchPro2/Evo Shift/PhotonQ)

Now get off my lawn (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551665)

What the hell am I supposed to jizz on if my keyboard doesn't slide out?

Re:Now get off my lawn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551821)

And today of all days I don't have mod points. You summed up the entire 3 page post in one sentence. Bravo.

Out of less the 50 people. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551667)

So only 49 people responded, and that's enough of to say that LOTS of people want slide out keyboards?

Where are the buggy whip dealers? (-1, Troll)

jsepeta (412566) | about 6 months ago | (#47551671)

I thought sales would be huge because people like horses more than cars. Somebody please help!

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (2)

jsepeta (412566) | about 6 months ago | (#47551701)

Also, you asked 49 people? What a statistically insignificant number. Way below the margin of error. come back when you have a sample size of 10,000.

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (1)

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) | about 6 months ago | (#47551741)

Probably 49 old people too.

"I can put my fingers on the actual keys just like a typewriter and know they won't slip off and hit the wrong key. I was heartbroken when then got rid of almost all qwerty keyboards in the new phones. They are now almost impossible to find."

What is a "typewriter"?

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551793)

I'm curious, given the nature of the survey did you perform sample size and power calculations?

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (0)

bennetthaselton (1016233) | about 6 months ago | (#47551929)

copied from a comment I just wrote elsewhere: it was just a quick and dirty survey to show that the proportion of people who want slideout keyboard phones is not zero, like the stores are pretending that it is

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551865)

This, mod parent up!!

it does mean that the near-extinction of slideout-keyboard phones in retail stores is probably not in proportion to what people actually want.

No! it does not mean that. It doesn't mean anything because your sample is statistically insignificant.

You even say so in the sentence just before:

Obviously that's too small of a sample to be very precise about the percentage of users that prefer slide-out keyboards (apart from the fact that Mechanical Turk users are unrepresentative of the general population in several ways)

So, you admit that your sample is not once but *twice* non-representative (too small, too biased) and still you managed to come and spam us with half a book of incoherent text about it ? all that shit because it fits your current "squirrel" ?! ...

Why in the name of the seven hells do we have to read again the idiotic rambling of that narcissistic offspring of APK ?

I really hope the blowjob was worth it timothy ...

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (0)

bennetthaselton (1016233) | about 6 months ago | (#47551919)

What I wrote was: "Obviously that's too small of a sample to be very precise about the percentage of users that prefer slide-out keyboards (apart from the fact that Mechanical Turk users are unrepresentative of the general population in several ways), but it does mean that the near-extinction of slideout-keyboard phones in retail stores is probably not in proportion to what people actually want."

i.e., it was just a quick and dirty survey to show that the proportion of people who want slideout keyboard phones is not zero, like the stores are pretending that it is.

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551957)

49 isn't statistically irrelevant, if all you need to prove that there is more than a third of smartphone users interested in this feature.

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (1)

ilparatzo (3627897) | about 6 months ago | (#47551983)

Not to mention that I would think biasing the results to only people who have used both a slide out keyboard and a touchscreen will mean you have more people that actively sought out a slide out keyboard, which is (by the accounts of the poster) difficult to come by. Those that actively sought it out are more likely to want and/or prefer one.

I used a slide out keyboard for 2 years and hated it. But if it hadn't been for a mandated company phone, I never would have even given it a try. So more importantly to the survey results, my wife has never had a phone with one and never will.

To be a fair assessment, you can't just say "of the people that have tried both , a small majority prefer the keyboard". You need to at least be able to also say "those that have never tried it want to try one". But you probably need to go even farther. Does it added thickness? Does it add weight? Does it add needed support (for fixing it)? Will it reduce my screen size? And finally, is my desire for a slide out keyboard outweighed by any or all of the above?

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (4, Insightful)

myrdos2 (989497) | about 6 months ago | (#47551987)

His sample size isn't necessary too small - I've seen plenty of papers with statistical significance at 12 to 20 participants. No, his problem is more likely self-selection bias. That is, people who are frustrated with the lack of slide-out phones may be much more likely to respond to the survey.

Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (0)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#47551777)

There probably was still a decent market for horses as cars started to become the norm. There will be people who don't like change, or are allergic to oil or what-not.

In the longer term it's probably a bad bet as a company, but if you can make a profit from a physical keyboard market that may last 5 or 10 years, it may be worth a product line.

Obligatory personal blog remark (1, Insightful)

Himmy32 (650060) | about 6 months ago | (#47551673)

This week in the exciting adventures of what irks Bennett.... cellphone keyboards.

Tune in next week for yet another complaint about something that no one cares about.

Re:Obligatory personal blog remark (5, Funny)

j2.718ff (2441884) | about 6 months ago | (#47551879)

Tune in next week for yet another complaint about something that no one cares about.

What do you mean "no one"?! According to his post, 27 of the 49 respondents agreed with him. If we extrapolate that number to the population of the Earth, we find that 3.9 billion people agree with him.

Wrong device (2, Interesting)

ddt (14627) | about 6 months ago | (#47551677)

Moving parts cost more to manufacture and test, and they fail faster, but y'all are missing the point. Your mistake was letting your phone become a text input device. Even with a mechanical keyboard, it's still an incredibly inferior experience to thumb out your words like a hunt-and-peck typist as your phone flails about trying to auto-correct your spelling. Type on your computer. Talk on your phone.

T9 Typing (1)

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) | about 6 months ago | (#47551679)

I'll never be able to type as fast as I could using the T9 System. That's the last keyboard I could actually type on without looking, very quickly and very accurately. Then I jumped right onto a smart phone touchscreen keyboard. For me, it really doesn't make a difference if I have to look at the keys and the screen, because they're so close together anyway.

My final point: slide-out keyboards are just one more physical moving part that can break on a cell phone. Don't need it.

SWIFT Key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551685)

Get SWIFT key... it predicts your typing using a Virtual Keyboard.

-They are cumbersome
-Additional moving parts = Higher risk of breaking
-Add unnecessary weight to the device

If you can't "feel" the keys, turn on hapticfeed back. This is an argument I heard my manager use, but he's never even used a virtual keyboard.... Which made me laugh at his reasoning....

I would also hazard a guess that a lot of the users wanting a physical slide out keyboard are the older generation, not the younger one which is up and coming.

Re:SWIFT Key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551721)

I've used swift, swype and about every other keyboard you can imagine and it still doesn't compare to a physical keyboard.

Hardware overhead (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551693)

If you're already geared for a full glass touchscreen a keyboard is another 80+ contacts and points of mechanical failure. I had a phone a few years back with a full flip out keyboard and it was a great phone - but it was also big and thick, twice the thickness of an iPhone. Having one or two keys go out on it would pretty much ruin its functionality.

Also Bennett can fuck off, this is almost as bad as Picquepaille back in the day

Rather than making a phone do it (1)

cps42 (102752) | about 6 months ago | (#47551703)

Why not pay someone to make a case mod for an existing phone, a la the bluetooth keyboards for tablets? There's no reason to require the phone manufacturers to do it, they just to get out of the way when we want to extend the phone. NB: I stuck with the Motorola Backflip as long as I could for the external keyboard as well. I liked being able to use it as a kickstand as well as a keyboard, and the hinges were pretty sturdy. It got too hard to play Ingress on, though, because it couldn't keep up with the latest code. :-/

suckling from the physical keyboard teet is sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551719)

I will not buy a phone without a physical keyboard.

I don't use it as a fashion accessory. I don't buy the latest phone to be 'hip'. I don't need 100GB of storage for apps 'n crap.

I use it to text, make the occasional phone call, and maybe look at some websites on the crapper.

I currently have a HTC cha-cha, and before that a glorious giant blue blackberry monstrosity (monochrome screen). still have the blackberry waiting in the stables should I need to fall back to it.

It's not the carrier (1)

apraetor (248989) | about 6 months ago | (#47551723)

The feature you want isn't built into high-end smartphones, which is a decision of the smartphone manufacturers -- that's why carriers don't have them. Stop blaming the wrong people and just go buy a slide-out keyboard iPhone or Android case.

Really miss my Sidekick (2)

DiabolicalTMcD (3768171) | about 6 months ago | (#47551725)

It's been a while since I had to give up my Sidekick LX. Microsoft shut down the servers that made the web browsing possible. I strongly considered keeping the account just so I could use my Sidekick for messaging with its fantastic keyboard, but ended up switching to an iPhone. The iPhone is great in many ways but I really don't like the virtual keyboard.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551727)

Why is slashdot the sounding board for this guy's long and uninteresting complaints about things?

Me, I don't like logging in, or paying for LTE access, or heck going to work most days, but I'm not penning 500+ word screeds about it that are then, somehow, posted to the slashdot homepage.

cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551731)

sliders cost more to make, requires a larger (thickness) phone, and are prone to breaking, which often falls under warranty service... and forget slider, i want an old style candybar unsmart phone with real mechanical buttons, small non touch screen, maybe even a nub of an antenna sticking up, the whole bit. cant get that either.

apple did a good job getting the masses to accept touch-only... good thing most of them dont know how to type anyway.

There is one, sort of (1)

Godai (104143) | about 6 months ago | (#47551739)

Isn't that what Seacrest's Typo (currently in litigation with BlackBerry) keyboard/case is for?

iphone bluetooth keyboard case = problem solved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551747)


iphone bluetooth keyboard case = problem solved (1)

DiabolicalTMcD (3768171) | about 6 months ago | (#47551819)

I tried that as a replacement for the Sidekick keyboard and it just isn't the same. The physical keys on the sidekick had really nice action and were separated sufficiently to avoid hitting the wrong keys. This one, they keys are too close together and they're arranged in a grid, not like a traditional qwerty keyboard.

Sorry to tell you... (3, Informative)

sudden.zero (981475) | about 6 months ago | (#47551755)

...but physical keyboards are just not being made much anymore. I am a software engineering contractor, and I work in the cellular industry. Most of the manufacturers are dropping all physical "qwerty" keyboard designs because they don't see a market for them anymore. Motorola is one of the only exceptions that I am aware of that has a "Smart" phone with a physical keyboard that isn't too horrible. http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/2... [ebay.com] Other than that you are pretty much out of luck.

Re:Sorry to tell you... (1)

sudden.zero (981475) | about 6 months ago | (#47551791)

Oh, I forgot to mention that if you don't mind the keyboard not actually being part of the phone there is a case for the Galaxy S4/S5 that has a slide out bluetooth keyboard. http://www.focuscamera.com/sam... [focuscamera.com]

Re:Sorry to tell you... (4, Funny)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 6 months ago | (#47552011)

Yeah, because who in the fuck doesn't want to compose a business e-mail on a qwerty keyboard with tactile (click) feedback?! Bunch of crazy motherfuckers out there I tell you. Surely this must be why Black Berry failed.

-end sarcasm

Nothing surprising (1)

dos1 (2950945) | about 6 months ago | (#47551757)

There's a reason why Neo900 [neo900.org] is Neo900 and not Neo9.

Another bloviation from Bennett (3, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | about 6 months ago | (#47551761)

Who the hell is this guy sleeping with, that Slashdot has become his personal blog-pimp site? (Rhetorical question, it's clearly timothy, soulskill, and samzenpus....do you guys know about each other?)

Seriously? If his points were insightful, it might just BARELY be acceptable (but still, not really - did we want this to become the 21st century's Chaos Manor column?)...but I have to say, they aren't. I was going just refute as an example a few of his issues, but they're so fucking obvious, what's the point?

Bennett, I'm not going to educate you basic premises of business, marketing, anecdotal evidence, etc. Seriously, talking about the goddamn WEATHER?


Re:Another bloviation from Bennett (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551803)

Fuck off, troll. Maybe you'd be happier reading another site, one which doesn't force you to read and comment on articles you're not interested in?

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Re:Another bloviation from Bennett (3, Funny)

XanC (644172) | about 6 months ago | (#47551871)

Be polite, Bennett.

Re:Another bloviation from Bennett (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551831)

He is the Andy Rooney of Slashdot.

Re:Another bloviation from Bennett (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551841)

/. is a hipster site focused on Tesla, global climate change, and trendy-fad-du-jour.

Re:Another bloviation from Bennett (2)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 6 months ago | (#47551847)

What we really need is to stop posting Bennett blogs every time he writes one (usually once a week) and instead do a "Monthly Bennett Roundup" in which all of his posts from the past month are put together. It'd be kind of like a Tamagotchi, only more annoying.

Re:Another bloviation from Bennett (1)

meustrus (1588597) | about 6 months ago | (#47551935)

I saw this article and thought, "I've really wanted to find out why I can't get a slide-out keyboard." Nevermind the poster. Too bad the thoughts consist of a bunch of rambling. The only actually new information consists of two things:

  • 1. A seriously flawed poll suggesting more than 50% of people want slide-out keyboards, but since there were fewer than 100 responses and the crowd is biased towards techies, who's to say he didn't actually find the only 27 people in the world who want what he wants?
  • 2. When asked about a specific kind of phone, Sprint sales guy spouts marketing crap, and AT&T store manager says lots of people want it but it's expensive to make and breaks more often.

If by some happy accident you read this comment before the article, don't bother to read the article. It's a person of probably average intelligence trying to draw insight from those facts, so by definition about 50% of the readers should be able to come up with something better on their own.

Hello there! (2)

rwa2 (4391) | about 6 months ago | (#47551773)

I had been using an HTC myTouch Slide 4G (doubleshot) , and the MTS3G (espresso) before that.

It was great, I would always win at the little online "pictionary" games since I could type out the answer faster than practically anyone else. Also, it was good for reading in a supine or other odd positions, because I could set it to only switch to landscape mode if the keyboard was slid out... it's a constant annoyance to me when other phones switch orientations because the accelerometer is giving readings it doesn't cope with well.

The MTS4G was not supposed to run Android 4, but thanks to CyanogenMOD... http://trumblings.blogspot.com... [blogspot.com]

Gradually, all of the apps on it got slower and less responsive, and I would gradually get rid of widgets and apps that would run into the background until I just had the bare essentials... Chrome, Maps, and Hangouts. But what finally did it in was that the SD card would get corrupted every time I let the batteries run all the way down.

Finally broke down and picked up a Nexus 5. The screen is big enough, esp. in landscape mode, to hunt and peck out the keys with reasonable accuracy. Unfortunately, Google hasn't made every app work in landscape mode, and some critical things (like the launcher and the frickin' Google search widget) force you to enter stuff on the tiny portrait mode keyboard. I think CyanogenMOD's Trebuchet launcher app was better with this, and I'm eagerly awaiting it to go stable on the Nexus 5 so I can switch over.

I've also been looking for a good Bluetooth keyboard case, but haven't found one yet. There are several good-looking ones for the Nexus 7, though. That would certainly scratch the itch for me. Of course, not many Android apps have good keyboard support, but they're out there... Jota+ , VXConnectBot, etc.

As an aside, after the last update to 4.4.4, my wife's Nexus 4 started getting noticeably less responsive too. Hoping it's just a matter of going through and clearing some of the Dalvik cache, and not because Google is (intentionally?) making older devices obsolete faster by adding in too many bloated features in their core apps :P

My preference too (3, Funny)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 6 months ago | (#47551781)

I rally prevent my slid out keyfob.

Re:My preference too (1)

bennetthaselton (1016233) | about 6 months ago | (#47551857)

hig fve!

good question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551783)

I haven't seen any slider type phones. I do see big bar phones that look like Blackberries with a QWERTY keyboard with 3G access.

Come to think of it, I haven't seen any flip phones at the store lately either. All I see are smartphones with touch screens (Android, Windows 8 Mobile, Iphone), Blackberries or phones that look like a PDA and small candy-bar type phones for $30.

Because physical keyboards aren't universal (4, Insightful)

Ereth (194013) | about 6 months ago | (#47551795)

I thought that the reason physical keyboards were going away was obvious... with a software keyboard you can make one part and sell it in every country in the world. The software keyboard is infinitely flexible and can be changed to represent any language. A physical keyboard can't, and so a phone manufacturer has to make a different physical keyboard for each market, complicating inventory management and increasing price overall since they can't amortize chinese keyboards with US phones.

The cost of giving it to you isn't the cost of making it for you, it's the cost of not being able to sell your phone in all the other countries, and THAT is the truly "high" cost that you can't afford to pay to get them to make one for you.

miss my flip phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551797)

I miss my samsung 6100 flip phone as well; but I deal

But seriously, asking an AT&T store manager?

Congratulations on losing credibility and becoming just bunch of Luddite whiners.

They don't really want them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551805)

People say they want them, but they don't really want them.

You may see a slider phone with a handy keyboard. I see a nightmare of moving parts, added complexity, and more things to break. Shiny slab unibody phones are smaller, lighter, stronger, more durable, and less expensive to make.

Still want one? No, you don't.

Because you're going to see your slider phone next to a comparable slab phone and you're going to buy the slab phone because it's realistically going to be 100-200 dollars cheaper. I know this. The carriers know this. The phone makers know this.

Today with a saturated market and razor thin profit margins, the slider phone does not get made. Not enough people care about the feature for the phone maker to eat the cost. Not enough people care about the feature enough to pay the premium either.

Re:They don't really want them. (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 6 months ago | (#47551931)

On top of it all, the candy bar phone has Bluetooth and Bluetooth keyboards can be had separately or built into a phone case in the $20 to $70 range. This allows people willing to pay extra for a keyboard to pick the one they want and replace it separately from the phone if they need to replace it.

The sample was not random. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551809)

Mechanical Turk users (workers?) are a self-selected odd bunch. I'm not at all surprised that people who make their livings doing work on a computer may be more picky about their input devices, and/or may use them in a way different from the regular population.

The user who uses Siri to "Text mom I will be home late" is going to have an entirely different opinion, "why would I ever use a keyboard". I suspect many of those people do not overlap with the Mechanical Turk base at all.

I've had a few... (1)

Bin_jammin (684517) | about 6 months ago | (#47551817)

I went through a string of slider-keyboard phones, as I prefer the tactile feedback of a real keyboard. The troubles with them were numerous though. The slide-mech always ended up "gumming up" after a few months of use. The keyboard layout was always less than optimal, because while the alphabet on the keyboard was laid out as qwerty, everything else was suspect. No Tab key, no control keys, etc... These phones also went through a series of failures of ribbon cables etc. Over a dozen phones in two years. The thing that sealed the deal for switching to a touch-key phone was crushing my left thumb in an accident. I have slight nerve damage, and pressing keys with that thumb was discomforting, at best. I don't really think this issue is one for the carriers so much as it is the manufacturers not offering them, or if it's on the carrier end they probably don't want to deal with the breakage issues with the phones. Parts counts on a touch-key phone will be lower, and without the mechanical part of the phone to go bad they're inherently more reliable and lighter.

neo900 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551835)

Not available yet: http://neo900.org/

Kyocera Rise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551849)

I use a Kyocera Rise (http://www.cnet.com/products/kyocera-rise-series/) smartphone on Virgin Mobile simply because it has the slideout keyboard. The phone is crap and was purchased for around $40 bucks new with no contract.

You're the product, not the customer. (0)

Animats (122034) | about 6 months ago | (#47551859)

It doesn't matter what the users want. It matters what the advertisers want. They want a big screen with room for ads.

This is especially true of Android, since Google gets their revenue from ads, not phones or phone software.

Going to miss my Droid 4's keyboard (1)

Wokan (14062) | about 6 months ago | (#47551863)

I get the reason why manufacturers aren't producing slide out keyboards. Internationalization, easier to break, etc. That doesn't mean I like what's happening.

I'd like to see a flip phone that doubles as a wi-fi hotspot and then I'll just use a tablet for the things I wanted the "smart" part of the smartphone to do. (And it will look a lot less stupid than talking on a phablet that barely fits in anyone's hands who isn't 7 feet tall.)

Hot air (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551869)

More hot air clickbait from Windbag Haselton.

Opportunity Cost (3, Insightful)

timmyf2371 (586051) | about 6 months ago | (#47551873)

You don't tell us the question you asked your survey respondents so I'm making the assumption that you asked a simple question to see if people prefer a slideout or virtual keyboard. It would have been more interesting to ask users if they would still prefer a slideout keyboard at the expense of extra thickness and cost when compared to the non-slideout model.

Back in the day, I loved my Nokia N97's slideout keyboard; it was one of the best mobile keyboards I've had the pleasure to use. But I wouldn't want to swap the thickness of my current phone for a qwerty - it's just too much of a tradeoff.

You have 49 users responding (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 6 months ago | (#47551889)

You have a tiny self selecting sample. In other words you have no idea if "a lot" of people want slide out keyboards or not.
The manufactures on the other hand do well planned studies and have come to a different conclusion.

touchsceens are perfectly okk (5, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | about 6 months ago | (#47551893)

Pasting farm a HTC 1 I can confirm touchscreens car joust as reliable as hair slice out counterparts. i also donut thing anyone still makes anymor slideboar keybots these days

Give it up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551895)

Weird slider phones are fragile and no easier or faster to use than touchscreen input. It's a throwback idea, like manual shifting in a world of hybrids and CVTs.

With all respect to Steve Jobs, one size does not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551899)

Whomever will make an Iphone sized touch-screen device with a built-in Qwerty keyboard, that vendor will change the history of smartphones again. It does not matter if it is a slide-out keyboard or not. A 1/3rd of extra hight for a smartphone with a full qwerty keyboard would be the productivity device for many business people. Keyboard is an application no.1 Iphone's style virtual keyboard sucks, hiding half of the valuable screen estate. So irritating for business documents, emails etc. Perhaps half of consumers are thinking similarly. Hope this ad hoc survey will stop device makers blindly following the former genious of Jobs. In fact, he might be the one who would shock the world with a keyboard-Iphone, if still alive. Device makers seem to be copying today, not innovating through out of the box thinking like Jobs used to do.

Uh, cause you're a step behind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551943)

The thing now is to have the keyboard as a separate accessory that connects via Bluetooth. For iPhone, for example: Link to such a case at Amazon. [amazon.com]

There. FTFY.

Samsung Galay S Relay 4G (2)

kiwix (1810960) | about 6 months ago | (#47551949)

I got a Samsung Galay S Relay 4G [wikipedia.org] from T-mobile, and I'm rather happy about it (well, not really from T-mobile, I'm in Europe, so I had to unlock it). It's not the very latest hardware, but it's still decent, and it runs the latest Cyanogenmod [cyanogenmod.org] .

My own experience (1)

apharmdq (219181) | about 6 months ago | (#47551951)

I was one of those that preferred slideout-keyboard phones for the longest time. However, earlier this year, when I was considering moving to a phone without one, I tried an experiment. For 2 months, I went without using the hardware keyboard, using the touchscreen exclusively. Surprisingly enough, it turned out that the software keyboard was faster and more efficient, most notably due to the swipe capabiities. For the most part, I found I could live with it, minus some inconveniences. First, it does use up screenspace when you're typing, but I find that when I'm typing I don't really need much screenspace anyway. Secondly, entering in non-standard text, such as console commands when I'm using ssh, is slower and less reliable. But those cases turn out to be few and far between. (The ssh sessions tend to be short, and if they need to be longer, I'm more likely to pull out my netbook for the task anyway. Yeah, I still use a netbook. 5 years old, and still a beast. But that's for another thread.) And finally, the tactile feel of pressing the keys, along with the individual key precision is really nice to have.

But despite that I've been using a touchscreen-only phone for about half a year, and I don't really mind at all. Neither the slideout nor the touchscreen is ideal, but of the two, the touchscreen (on modern phones) probably has enough benefits to give it the edge.

Some other things to consider: Slideouts are more prone to breakage and malfunctioning. They add to not only the monetary cost, but also the time cost of the phone. They make the phone bulkier and less marketable. They make accessory design more complicated.

And here's a really important one to consider: Language. With a software keyboard, there is virtually no effort required to make a phone accessible to any audience, in any country. A keyboard requires a lot of extra manufacturing considerations and iterations to deliver the same accessibility.

On the downside, it's harder to get a software keyboard to work out for the vision-impaired, but for the most part, hardware keyboards are hardly ideal in that area too.

I hope they bring them back (1)

FrozenToothbrush (3466403) | about 6 months ago | (#47551963)

I've been wanting a slide keyboard on a high end phone for years, they just stopped making them. Personally I can't stand typing on glass, plus you give up a lot of control on games. I often miss my old Epic 4g and realize in hindsite that it was a better phone than anything out today.

Me from several years ago: (1)

quietwalker (969769) | about 6 months ago | (#47551973)

"Why are we switching to flatscreen LCD monitors that don't even have 1/3 of the resolution of my admittedly bulky CRT monitor? I can't even find one that does the same res, even at 3x the price!"

Response then is probably just as valid for phones today: "Cost to manufacture."(*)

(*) - also shelf space and shipping costs, but that's not applicable for slideout phones. In the end those are just varieties of 'money' as well.

(Willingness to pay - cost of feature) 0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47551975)

People (including myself) want the feature, but won't actually pay for the extra $X it costs to produce, support, service, and warranty the feature.

The reason we know this is true is that no carrier offers it. If there were a true competitive advantage that generated profit in offering that phone, at least one carrier would still be offering it.

Even Google recognizes it. The G1 had a keyboard. The G2 had a keyboard.... Nexus 5... nope.

People say they want them, but no one buys them (1)

jonnythan (79727) | about 6 months ago | (#47551991)

You can find a lot of people that SAY they want these things, but no one buys them. Pretty much all of the slide-out keyboard phones have been commercial failures.

Tricorder is a flip phone. (1)

kenj123 (658721) | about 6 months ago | (#47552001)

I checked, the star trek tricorder is a flip phone. At least you have that to look forward to getting someday.
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