MG Siegler wrote an article on Techcrunch titled “HTC Killed The Physical Keyboard. Smart Move.” The article quickly caught my interest because I naturally wanted to see if HTC was killing all physical keyboards for their devices. Fortunately, it wasn’t. I’m a big fan of HTC devices, particularly those with keyboards. In fact, I think it’s the differentiator for me between the iPhone and HTC devices. Reading the article, there are two arguments that stick out in my mind – the first is the physical versus virtual keyboard argument and the other is the Android versus the iPhone OS argument.
The implementation of the G1 was particularly awkward. I hate the lip because it got in the way of the keyboard. HTC has many other devices with keyboards with both slide-out implementations as well as vertical stand-up keyboards. Personally, I liked the physical keyboard implementation of the HTC Tytn 2 but the smooth screen of the HTC Touch Pro. The Tytn 2 keyboard has fewer keys but also larger and much more intuitive to use. It looks like they have brought back the same style of keyboard for the HTC Touch Pro 2. Personally, I have no issues with the extra bulk that comes with the keyboard as I use it lots. I have an iPod Touch and I never onced wish that I could bring it every where with me. In fact, it sits at home beside my bed for the most part. Ultimately, the question of physical versus virtual keyboard really is a matter of preference. I wouldn’t for one assume that all devices would only have virtual keyboards in the future. It’s like saying that the only style of cars in the future would be coupes.
While I really like the Android, the Android is not an iPhone killer. If anything, the Android will more likely be a Windows Mobile killer than an iPhone killer. After all that’s said and done, the iPhone’s strength is its multimedia capability. It’s great to watch movies, listen to music and play games. While the iPhone has a stunning design, underneath the beautiful exterior is a surprisingly weak hardware specs. In its current implementation, it only has about 20 MBs of free memory which is why it was brilliant of Apple to not allow the current generation of iPhones to allow more than one non-Apple application to run at the same time. Both the Android and Windows Mobile are more likely going to be the OS of choice for the market who wants to tweak their devices. Don’t like the browser, replace it. Don’t like the virtual keyboard, replace it. Again, it is a matter of personal preference if the Android, Windows Mobile and iPhone is better than the other. However, it is clear that the iPhone OS will continue to dominate in the consumer market because it does serve a much broader audience.
My conclusion – the physical keyboard is not dead even on the Android phones. Looking at HTC’s history of releasing devices, they will continue to release both form factors to appease both markets.