In the always competitive and ever-changing world of mobile phone technology, the stakes have never been higher when it comes to competing for business. For customers, the prestige of owning the most up-to-date and fashionable phone is always offset by the need for functional practicality. As such, many consumers face a difficult decision: do they choose a phone with a separate keyboard or one on-screen? It may seem trivial, yet when it comes to selecting a mobile phone getting it right is incredibly important.
The Touchscreen Revolution
Though the iPhone was not the first to incorporate a non-alpha-numeric on-screen keyboard, it has certainly become associated with the trend. As such, most other ‘smartphone’ mobile phone handsets are now constructed in this way, and it is easy to see why. The benefits of such a design are easy to see: most significantly, it allows for the full screen to be utilised as space on the handset is not eaten up by a separate keyboard. For example, having the iPhone screen in addition to a separate keyboard would result in something of a 1980s-style brick! It’s not exactly the easiest gadget to carry around. But because it has an on-screen keyboard, taking pictures, viewing videos or browsing the internet are not obstructed by unnecessary functions. Yet when the keyboard is needed for sending a text message or writing an email, it is easily accessible.
The Argument for Separation
Though the advent of touchscreen capability has been a huge part of recent developments in the mobile phone industry, many remain unmoved by on-screen keyboards. A number of consumers are simply unhappy without the ability to physically hit the keyboard buttons. Lack of speed is another apparent drawback of on-screen keyboards. For many, typing an email or writing a text message is made much easier with a distinctly separate keyboard. Part of this is the ability to ‘feel’ what is being written without having to look. With an attached keyboard, users can know the buttons they are pressing and the characters being chosen often with just touch, making the whole process quick, simple and easy. An extension of this sensory argument is the assuredness of knowing a button has been pressed. The lack of uncertainty with an actual keyboard is something appreciated by many mobile phone users who choose this option.
It seems that the choice between on-screen and separate keyboards is one that essentially comes down to personal preference. The requirements of the user will have much to do with the eventual choice made. So the difficulty for mobile phone companies is striking a balance between the two sides successfully enough to find a niche in the market.
However, it is this ability to adapt that may see some companies sink whilst others swim. Take Blackberry, for example. It’s a brand synonymous with the separate keyboard for so many years. 2011 first saw them develop and sell Blackberry torch 9860 handsets that eschewed the traditional keyboard. Instead, the 9860 heralded Blackberry’s first foray into wholly touchscreen technology. So although choosing a definitive winner between on-screen and separate keyboards is perhaps an impossible task, defining how to achieve success in the mobile phone industry is maybe an easier undertaking — it’s adaptability and that’s exactly what Blackberry is still striving to achieve.