In a recent article at Tech Crunch about hardware keyboard shortcuts for GMail, MG Siegler rips pretty hard into the G1's QWERTY - having much higher hopes for an Android phone with a software-only option. I'm ready to try something different as well, but I have a feeling I'm going to miss the hard keys now and then. Then again, I'm coming from a brand new black G1. Does that make a difference? Yes.
Not only are the silver keyboards of the bronze and white G1s more difficult to see in the light, the material used for the keys is different. Black G1s have a friendlier finish than the silver keys. They feel softer, more tactile. I had a bad exchange experience with T-Mobile ( I went through several damaged devices) and found that refurbished G1s have horrible keyboards. Horrible. At least the bronze ones did.
I finally got a brand new black G1, and with it, the centered, unsquashed keyboard I had known from my first G1. On top of that, I no longer had the light issues. I know the subtle differences in a G1's keyboard that can make one great and another unusable. I also know that you roll the dice when you buy a G1 - the QWERTY build quality you'll get is not guaranteed.
So is a software QWERTY the answer to uniform quality of Android keyboards? That's one solution. But if everyone had the same typing experience I had on my most recent device, I think more folks would be reluctant to let it go.