QWERTY Vs. Touchscreen Form Factor

Lauta photos courtesy of mynokiablog.

Inspired by some comments made by Ameego about the ‘axed’ Lauta on a previous blog, I felt inclined to put some thoughts together regarding the whole keyboard vs. keyboard-less argument.

It appears that most smartphone manufacturers these days are going with exactly the same old formula: that is a big plus 4″ touchscreen (verging on tablet territory AKA phablets).  But what about all us ‘old-fashioned’ tactile nuts?

The argument I’ve often read is that no-one wants a phone with a physical keyboard anymore because its ugly and bulky…. well, I’m a ‘consumer’ and I WANT , no ‘NEED’ a keyboard and I certainly do not think they are either ugly or bulky for my needs.

Take a look at these photos of the Lauta which were going to be the next MeeGo phone (follow up to the N9) before Nokia pulled the plug:

Lauta: Does this strike you as ugly or bulky ?

Lauta: the keyboard that could have been…

To my eyes at least, this design, if anything is the absolute opposite of ‘ugly and bulky’ – in fact, this is my idea of ‘techerotica’.   So why aren’t more manufacturers giving us a decent smartphone option with a slide-out qwerty I ask?    It’s either because there just really isn’t a demand (which I personally do not believe: see graph below), or it’s because extra manufacturing time and costs are a hinderance and therefore profit margins are lower etc etc.

Even Blackberry with their new dev phone have gone completely keyboardless; a company who have always had a rich tradition of keyboard-based models.   And what about Nokia, who have, in my mind always released the very best in slide-out qwerty based handset designs – even they – currently have nothing to show.

So what’s going on ?   I know there is a demand for these kind of handsets – especially with entrepreneurs and business professionals, who use their devices for hardcore emailing and other typing-based pursuits.  Just look at the results of this poll from a Nokia blog via androidauthority:

Nokia Blog Results: Qwerty vs Touchscreen

Based on this evidence and also the incredible demand for the developer-only MeeGo qwerty N950 (there were even public petitions to get this one released!!), I suggest to you that there is definitely a demand.

Look, even I have got fairly used to touchscreen by now, but I still find it fiddly to use at times and still curse every once in a while…. okay I’ll survive, but why just ‘survive’ when you could thrive ?  I’ve worked out that a physical keyboard on my phone saves me +/- 30 seconds a day so 30 x 7 x 52 x (years left to live approx) 40 would equal a total time saving in my lifetime of: 436,800 seconds which equates to…. wait for it…. 7,280 minutes = 121.333 hours =  err 5 days lifetime saving.

But lets just say for arguments sake that a qwerty based handset saves me a minute a day on average, or maybe even two, or perhaps if I was a developer it would probably be closer to an hour.   An hour a day would equate to almost two years (606.66 days) in time savings and that is a lot of holiday time I’d be missing out on!

So going back to the original argument are you ‘for’ a qwerty based handset or are you ‘for’ touchscreen or perhaps a compromise like this one?   Poll is here please vote to register your interest. :-)

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  1. I didn’t know about Lauta, it looks great I still use an E7-00, the main reason for not changing to a newer phone is that I find the keyboard such a useful addition. It’s worth commenting that a physical keyboard such as that on the E7 or the Lauta adds more functionality than just another means of input. It allows maximum use of screen real estate. You can scan much more of your document as you work. Also the slider mechanism makes it perfect for viewing whilst on a desk (you can read a book, watch videos or slide shows comfortably without having to prop up device or hold the thing). I use the touch input on the screen as well and find both input methods are complimentary. I don’t see why you can’t have a device that excels at both. I’m sure that the single biggest reason for me sticking with the e7-00 and for choosing it in the first place was down to form factor. When closed my phone is not much thicker than many out there today, but when needed I can plough into some pretty heavy text input wherever I may be. To all you other physical keyboard users out there, we need to let manufacturers know we are still here. If jolla make an E7-00/Lauta type device I will pre order tomorrow.

  2. Pingback: Jolla: Handset Poll – Give Jolla your feedback! « Latest Jolla Mobile News

  3. Hi Simon, I too have enjoyed the form factor of the E7 – such a sleek design considering there’s a full QWERTY keyboard tucked under the hood – wonderful engineering there and bullet proof to boot! The unreleased Lauta looks like a polycarbonate mould of the E7 to me – now something like that packed with Jolla’s MeeGo offering would be a very tasty proposition IMO. 100% agree on all points you make.

    • Dear Jolla Team,
      There are countless phones with touchscreen and high end windows or android or similar os form nokia, blackberry, lg. . . infact from every single consumer manufacturer.

      When it comes to touch phones with slider qwerty keypad, there are none with good hardware sparing motorola droid4 and photon 4q which are for limited markets like US. I cant get them here and change the sim to use here. . :(

      I live in India and I want to buy a phone with decent hardware and slide out qwerty keyboard. I was searching for almost 6 months now and couldn’t find a decent one. . for touch screen. . there are many form samsung, lg, htc, etc. . . but with qwerty keyboard, there are none with quad core or dual core processor with decent graphics and good camera.

      I feel really helpless when it comes to upgarading my mobile phone and feel like my interest is curbed by mobile manufacturers. I personally don’t prefer touch screen phones and am still stuck with my old nokia 6030i which has proper keyboard.

      Please make a proper landscape slider keyboard like nokia n9 or e7 or motorola photon q or droid 4 with amazing harware that will put samsung and lg to shame. . Please dont disappoint me by making YATSM (Yet another Touch Screen Mobile),
      If that were the case, I will have to wait for few more years to make my own phone. . i just cant help it. .

      Please consider my request and make a proper qwerty slider keyboard mobile like droid or photon q or nokia n9 or n9500 or e7 or some thing similar. The difference in thickness is hardly noticeable. It is always better to have a phone which is slightly thicker and more ergonomic than have a delicate phone like a glass pane and need to be held by two fingers that will give pain in the joints. .

      Hope you will not disappoint me. .

      Looking very eagerly for jolla launch. .


  4. It is probably safe to assume that most of us following this site are techies, and so might be more inclined to keyboard use. But fwiw, my (non-technical) wife & daughter also prefer and use phones with landscape keyboards. Apple seems (at least in the states) to have made keyboard-less some sort of “in” thing, but those of us who interact with our phones (instead of, e.g., watching cat videos) seem to lean otherwise.

    Gotta add though, while the Lauta form factor looks nice enough, the red color on the keyboard really does not do it for me. Would prefer a neutral, darker color. Boring I know, but would rather have that in my field of view instead of the screaming red. :-)

    • My mom (age 66) currently uses an LG KS360 mobile phone. It is a mere featurephone but it has a slide out keyboard. Recently she asked me, if there are newer phones with keyboards as the battery is showing its age now. When I told here that there are only touchscreens today, she could not understand why. Plus, she has Polyarthritis, so using a real keyboard is much easier for her.

      If Jolla releases a phone with a hardware keyboard, I will preorder two pieces. One for me, one for my mom. And if it will be the developer edition, I don’t care but I will have the cooles mom around. =:o)

  5. Sometimes you need a pickup, sometimes you need a motorbike.

    There isn’t a perfect form factor, only personal preference. Nokia’s past success was their ability to bring out the best in a variety of form factors, to cater for as wide a market as possible. This only faltered when they failed to get on the ‘iPhone’ bandwagon quick enough.

    It’s going to be hard for you to pick a single form factor to run with as a launch device, especially as the market is going to be telling you to make a 4″ slab, and like you, I’d be wanting something like Lauta.

    I think a two device strategy, like Nokia attempted with N9/N950 would be the way to go – a slide out qwerty ‘premium’ device, and a mass market slab, both based on the same HW platform, and styled along similar lines would be the ideal answer.

    Then you can get to making a better E71, and totally pwn BlackBerry! >:-D

  6. I’m still using my old E75. I just love it’s compact size and slide-out qwery. I passed E7 because I think it was too big to fit nicely in jeans pocket. Too bad that after that only oversized touchscreen phones have come out and I’m stucked with my vintage E75.

  7. The qwerty keyboard is sth i’ll always want in my phone.. Let’s hope Nokia or Jolla releases a new more powerful mobile. Actually using a E7-00 and i’ll be pretty happy to change it with a new one with another OS..

  8. I have both an E7-00 and an N9. A phone with E7’s keyboard but made in plastic and with the extremely comfortable curved glass surface like in N9 would be just perfect.

    The Lauta prototype in the pictures looks like just such a concept. The fact that it was never released shows how confused Nokia had become.

  9. hello,
    Personaly I hesitate between a n900/n950 like keyboard and battery removable (that does not seem to exist anymore) or an waterproof shockresist touchscreen with ‘closed’ battery (only motorola?). Last about the keyboard, only qwerty? (only chinese market? please no!) difficult to answer.
    I prefer waterproof choice, but if not possible n900like is the best. Another thing, forr me a tuner FM is necessary for running, cycling, walking, (if waterproof swimming ;)) non FM no phone :) .

    Phone waterproof chockresist and phone with keyboard misses in the actual market. Why? Maybe to expensive to produce, if we consider that’s the actual phone on the market are already expensive; maybe planned obsolescence. I really don’t know.
    My 2cents…

    ps: sorry for my english..
    all day n900 user with no usb but with three battery ;)

  10. Hello,

    My two cents,
    Personally, I hesitate between a n900 like (keyboard AND touchscreen, with removable battery) that does not seem to exist anymore, or a waterproof shockresist phone (only motorola do that?).
    I prefer a waterproof/chockresist GPL phone (I dream, I know) but the subject is keyboard or not.
    Keyboard and no touchscreen, of course not.
    Touchscreen and no keyboard, why not.
    TOuchscreen and keyboard? Of course yes, the best (if keyboard can slide)
    About the keyboard, only qwerty ? It could be difficult to do different nationality keyboard?; only chinese market? Please no!
    Another thing, forr me a tuner FM is necessary for running, cycling, walking, if waterproof swimming, no FM no phone :) .

    Phone waterproof chockresist and phone with keyboard misses in the actual market. Why? Maybe to expensive to produce, if we consider that’s the actual phone on the market are already expensive, or manufacturer are stupid if we consider they only copy each other, or planned obsolescence sorry I digress ;)

    ps: sorry for my english

    A n900 maemo/meego lover, with no usb but with three battery ;)
    Still wait for a better phone than n900, still wait for a better OSphone than maemo even meego..

  11. After having used the N770, the N800, the N810, the N900, the N9 and the Nexus S, I must say that the main feature of a separate keyboard is to leave a usable working space to the application. With a separate keyboard you can really edit document, use a terminal or chat in a efficient and natural way. But a touchscreen have some inherent advantage like easy localization ans customization. If something new need to be done, I propose to analyse the opportunity to add a “hybrid” keyboard: a separate touchscreen.

    Imagine a keyboard that get out the same way of the N950 or Lauta, but instead of physical keys it entirely consist of a touchscreen with a physical surface that feel like there are keys on it. The screen could be a cheap monochrome one. The feedback could be done by the screen (inversion of the key button), a vibration or a sound.

    This will bring back the main advantage of a keyboard: leave space for the application on the main screen. It don’t take some disadvantages of a real keyboard like difficult localization, impossible customization and mechanical fatigue. A touchscreen keyboard will probably be experimented someday on a smartphone. Who will make it a first ?

  12. I want keyboard too in the N950 style: it’s very practical and will make my phone unique compared to all these bar phones out there.

    PS 1: a little bit of shiny colors will be good too, I am tired of all these black and white models. Maybe interchangeable casings will do the trick. Like when Nokia started it all with 3310.

    PS 2: I like Jean-Christian’s idea.

  13. Keyboard that can be detached is the best solution. It could be sold separately and that means designing only one model that consists of two parts. Keyboard could contain secondary battery thus prolonging operating time of the unit.Instant money saver for Jolla and customer that like qwerty would be setisfied.

  14. el nokia N950 iba a ser una de mis proximas adquisiciones, me parecia perfecto!, si Jolla lo vuelve a lanzar , no dudaria en comprarlo. por mi trabajo necesito, mandar muchos emails y el messenger, por lo que el N950 era ideal. si se le incorpora el cuerpo de policarbonato, estaría todavia mejor. por no encontrar un equipo que tenga un buen teclado, debo seguir usando mi blackberry 9900,
    pero siendo realista , como en el mercado los equipos android e ios , predominan , y nadie quiere un equipo que no le permita interactuar con otras marcas, es indispensable que el sistema operativo tenga compatibilidad con Whatsapp, caso contrario pasaria el mismo dolor de cabeza de los propietarios de N9 que deben instalar aplicaciones beta.

    N950 !!! te esperamos con emoción !!!!

  15. Hi Guys, I bought the N9 to be a bit different from my crowd, lovers of iphone and samsung galaxy series.
    I had an N8 before the N9, so I got used to touchscreen quite quickly, especially with the N8’s 4×3 alphanumeric keypad which included T9 support, but this feature is not present in N9, it’s all about qwerty, which I do not like or want to get on with. QWERTY is for your pc not for ‘sausage fingers’ that own smartphones!
    Hopefully, Jolla have implemented a 4×3 alphanumeric keypad into Sailfish, if not, my N9 goes back on ebay from wence it came!
    Regards :-)

  16. I was bought Nokia N9 couple of weeks ago.I am really like this touches phone because the screen of this phone is almost 4″ and the picture quality is higher than other touches phone.I don’t like to use external keyboard because I don’t comfortable with this.I just feeling comfortable with my phone’s keyboard.