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Old October 24th, 2011, 05:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Physical vs virtual keyboard (especially with screens >= 4)

I have a Motorola Milestone 2 (the European version of the Droid 2). I have always been a big fan of physical qwerty keyboards, for example I used an iphone 3gs for over a year but could never get used to typing on the thing; however, with 4+ inch screens now becoming common, I do wonder if
smartphone screens are now big enough that a virtual keyboard can perform just as well as a physical one, especially with keyboard apps like Swiftkey X, which I find very good (it replaces the stock virtual keyboard; it tries to autocomplete the word you are typing but also the following one).

I appreciate this is very subjective, but what is your experience on this? Do you still find the physical keyboard of the Droid 3 unbeatable, or do you find that the virtual keyboard on the Droid 3 (4 inch, right?), or the likes of the Samsung Galaxy SII (4.3'') or the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy Nexus (4.65'') are good enough?

I use my smartphone mainly to write emails on the go, so this is clearly important to me.

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Old October 24th, 2011, 06:21 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The physical keyboard on the Droid3 is the deal-maker for me. It is very useful, particularly compared to the D2's. I cannot reliably enter passwords, for example, with any of the virtual keyboards, including Swype which is my second choice otherwise. Word prediction, for me, is just a pain in the ass. I want entered exactly the letters I typed, not a guess by a program at what I really meant to type.

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Old October 24th, 2011, 09:17 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I've used a non-keyboard Android phone for quite a while, running Swiftkey (and then Swiftkey X) from the time it was available. I didn't get the D3 for the keyboard; I have used it, and it's an excellent keyboard. In the past I have had a Psion Revo and Psion 5mx, as well as a Moto Q9, so I've use landscape hardware keyboards on mobile devices before. The D3 is far better than the Revo - which was comparable to the OG Droid - and even better than the 5mx, which was great.

Anyway, at this point I'm used to using an on-screen keyboard on a smaller device, and the larger D3 certainly makes me a better virtual typer.

BTW, another advantage of Swiftkey X is that you can use its prediction engine with the hardware keyboard as well.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 09:19 AM   #4 (permalink)
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The keyboard on the D3 is easily my favorite keyboard of any phone I have had. While it's much easier to use the on-screen keyboard than my Droid 1, due to the size of the screen and the Gingerbread layout, the physical keyboard can't be beat. There are 2 big advantages to physical keyboards. It's easy to adapt to them to the point where you just know where the keys are by feel AND when you're typing on a physical keyboard, you're not blocking anything on the screen.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 09:26 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks for the feedback, guys.

I wonder if Motorola will ever make a Droid 4 with a larger screen (and a physical keyboard, of course): the 4.65'' screen of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus seems perfect to watch video on the commute to work.

I also noticed that smartphones with physical keyboards seem more popular in the US than in Europe (Motorola did not release the Milestone 3 in the UK, for example) but I wonder which is the cause and which is the effect: are they less popular because they have not been marketed aggresively or have they not been marketed because companies thought it wouldn't have been worth the cost? For example, the Milestones are almost impossible to find in European stores, no carrier sells them, and they are effectively relegated to a more geeky user base who knows about them and buys them on online stores.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 01:34 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I too love my D3 for the keyboard. However, I only use the physical kb about 25% of the time, because of that I am considering getting the Galaxy Nexus.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 01:54 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Coming from a DX, whose thin-ness I loved, I have to say that the smaller screen in exchange for a keyboard is awesome. I went from an LG Dare to a DX, so I hadn't had physical typing keys in years, and really didn't want them due to the added bulk, but I liked the FFC, so I got the D3. Gotta say...I love the keyboard. I struggle to use the on screen one now. This keyboard is great compared to my friend's D2.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 05:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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The nice part about a physical keyboard is that you don't lose the screen space that a virtual keyboard needs each time it pops up. I find myself using Swype for short text entry, but longer emails, forum posts, etc are so much nicer on a physical keyboard.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 05:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spunker88 View Post
The nice part about a physical keyboard is that you don't lose the screen space that a virtual keyboard needs each time it pops up. I find myself using Swype for short text entry, but longer emails, forum posts, etc are so much nicer on a physical keyboard.
I'd tend to agree. It's just such a shame that slide out qwerty smartphones are almost disappearing, at least in Europe...
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Old October 24th, 2011, 09:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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That's a good point. On my DX, with its 4.3" screen, the virtual keyboard would often fill the entire usable portion of the screen and hide the text box when in landscape mode whereas the entire D3 screen is available with this keyboard. I think I've been converted to a physical keyboard ONLY person.
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