Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I Miss My Physical Keyboard

Technology moves so fast that consumers can’t even catch up the latest trends.  There is so much hype and exposure to the latest gadgets and gizmos, that we have forgotten the simplicity of technology.  Every time you flip on the television you are exposed to new types of digital hardware especially smartphones.

Smartphones have conveniently come a long way with added capabilities and firmware upgrades.  Their network connectivity is rapidly evolving, making these new conveniences become nested into our daily lives from maps, to talking to texting.  Even though these devices are handy, there is one thing it is lacking that we need on our smartphone: the keyboard.

One of the things that drew me to my first smartphone, the original Motorola Droid, was the slide-out keyboard. It made the lap from Blackberry to Android that much easier. When it was time to switch out of my original generation Droid to something new, I searched for an Android Phone that also supported 4G but was unable to find one. So, I sucked it up, went with the Droid Bionic and dealt with the virtual keyboard. Two years later, I'm still agonizing over it and physical keyboards on smartphones are becoming harder to find.

What happened to the keyboard on smartphones?  Don’t cell phone companies understand that having a physical keyboard on the phone is more safe and practical than virtual keyboards?  The sensitivity of Android OS makes people spend more time correcting “fat fingered” messages than what it’s worth. Not too long ago, while discussing Tropico 4 via txt to a lady gamer friend of mine, I explained to her about how big my virtual city's dock was. "You should see how big my dock is and what I'm doing with it right now", I txted. But I didn't say "dock". I accidentally txted something much worse. And then there was the follow-up txt about big shitments my dock was handling.

If smartphone users don’t have the ability to correct messages with a hard keyboard, they are setting themselves up for failure.  The reason is simple, people take messages out of context and if the wrong word is inserted into a text then the recipient will receive mixed messages.  Unfortunately people have become depended on text messaging, when in reality, they should just speak on the phone instead of had jamming text messages that auto-correct words and send the wrong message.

Virtual keyboards are cool, and nice to have but pose the treat of miscommunication all the time.  One main reason is the way the virtual keyboard blocks other information on the phone.  How can you read a text message dialogue and provide valid responses if you can’t read the full text message.  The virtual keyboard is a visual distraction that doesn’t give the user full visibility to information published behind the virtual keyboard.  That’s why having a real QWERTY keyboard on a cell phone is better.  You can type and hit letters and expressions accurately without visually blocking the dialogue of multiple in and outbound text messages. 

Virtual keyboards sometimes have a mind of their own and will send the message at the wrong time.  This can cause a huge miscommunication and potentially break a business relationship or offend the other party.  The biggest problem is the sensitivity of virtual keyboards.  They will fire of premature and incomplete text messages and the text conversation doesn’t’ flow like a natural conversation and the participants are always in a scramble to find out if they are “on the same page” with each other.

Virtual keyboards are also not trustworthy because you can type a message and accidently send sensitive information to the wrong recipient, again causing a communication disaster.  Hard keyboards offer more securing and minimize error over virtual keyboards.

Currently, Verizon only offers one smartphone that has both 4G and a physical keyboard: The Droid 4. It's over a year old, though, and the general consensus is that there won't be a Droid 5.  It looks like the mob has spoken and virtual keyboards shall rule the smartphone galaxy.

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