We all remember the year 2007 when Steve Jobs got on stage to announce the first iPhone. It was the first phone that came with multitouch display support and a capacitive touch panel. Before that touch screens did exist, but they could only read one touch at a time.
In simpler terms, you could only touch the screen with one finger/stylus at a time. Apple iPhone changed it all. And with that change came the first phone without a physical keyboard. The keyboard can come and go as needed, freeing up space, which was earlier taken by a physical keyboard. We have come a long way in smartphone technology from that, but it all started there.
So, I was in the office, just another regular day at work and my co-worker noticed that I have a habit of using my laptop to reply to messages, may it be on WhatsApp or Slack. I usually read the messages on the phone, then pull up the web interface and reply to the messages.
That was strange according to him, because I could directly reply off the phone when I saw the messages. This got me wondering why I tend to gravitate towards the laptop to reply to messages. Was it the bigger screen or the physical keyboard?
So I set out to see whether using a physical keyboard really makes a difference or not. During the time I typed articles on the phone, a tablet and a laptop. I used an instant messaging service, Telegram to chat using the same three devices. Which is when I experienced the difference. The physical key presses were not only faster but less tiring on the hands and more natural.
I opted for a keyboard cover for the tablet and even turned on vibration on keypress to try to get the feedback. The type case was flimsy and not well built, but it made a lot of difference when it came to doing any real typing. Yes, things like scrolling and browsing the web were easier with a touchscreen, but you can have a touchscreen with a physical keyboard on a tablet or a laptop.
This made me realize the need for a physical keyboard on a modern day smartphone. So I did what a responsible person would do, went ahead and bought myself a smartphone with a physical keyboard. After using the device for two weeks, FYI that's the amount of time we spend on a review unit at minimum to test it out, I figured out one thing.
The feel of a physical key press is not the only thing that makes the laptop my go to preference. It's also the ability to mash on it and feel something responding that makes people including me want a physical keyboard to type on.
Humans want to feel a part of something, want to feel loved and have a response to their actions to remind them they are not alone, the touch screen cannot really offer that experience. The physical keyboard not only makes it faster and less tiring for the hands but also gives us a feeling of it responding to our actions.
To test my theory out, I let other people in the office use the device I got and they all felt that the physical keyboard is much faster and easier to type on for long durations after they got used to actually pressing keys on their smartphone.
Sure, there are some flaws with the physical keyboard. It robs valuable screen space, it doesn't go away when you don't need it. But the advantage of the physical keyboard during typing is something we need in our life. That's why I guess manufacturers like Blackberry still makes these smartphones and people still buy them.
So in a nutshell why smartphones with physical keyboards exist in 2019 is because there are people who want a physical keyboard to type on and they want it everywhere, even on their smartphone.