Do you want a physical BlackBerry keyboard on your Android phone?Evan Selleck - Contributing Editor
I could be wrong, but I think even if you aren't a fan of BlackBerry-branded devices, and choose not to use one as your own daily driver, you still don't want anything awful to happen to the company. BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion, has been such a huge force in the mobile industry for so long, and such a defining presence, that it's hard to believe that they are having such troubles now. For a lot of people, BlackBerry was their first real jump into smartphones -- myself included. And, now, we're all waiting for some kind of announcement about the company's dismantling.
The most common belief right now is that BlackBerry is literally going to be picked apart, and specific departments, like BlackBerry Messenger or the division in charge of the hardware keyboard, are going to find their way to other companies and see their wares cannibalized into other platforms. We're already seeing that with BlackBerry Messenger, as the messaging service is about to see a global release on iOS and Android here soon.
The difference in that situation, for now, is that BlackBerry is still the company in charge of the show. And there does seem to be some excitement out there in the world for BBM on Android and iOS, despite the fact messaging apps like WhatsApp and GroupMe have basically taken over the space.
Every time I see some form of excitement about BBM launching on another mobile platform after all these years, I can't help but wonder about other specific BlackBerry features or services. Are there other pieces of the BlackBerry ecosystem, whether it be hardware or software, that people (and manufacturers) would love to get their hands on, to fold into their current operation?
Because if there's excitement for BBM, and the messaging app market is so competitive, how would something like a physical BlackBerry keyboard fare? While we have seen what the Motorola-branded Droid 5 will look like, it's still rare to see a full, physical keyboard these days.
Could that change in 2014? And does anyone want it to?
Manufacturers tend to phase out certain device hardware designs for a lot of reasons, but one common excuse is that a design didn't sell very well, especially compared to another style. While Apple has never delved into the full physical keyboard market (despite a ridiculous number of rumors every year), pretty much every other major manufacturer has at some point or another. LG, Samsung, HTC, and especially BlackBerry.
Out of all of them, BlackBerry is still the only manufacturer that practically relies on its hardware keyboard to stand out. And while BlackBerry made all sorts of noise about their new software keyboard in BlackBerry 10, everyone knows their hardware keyboard is really the only version that's "the best of the best." Because it is. BlackBerry's hardware keyboards are outstanding in just about every way you'd want a physical smartphone keyboard to be. They work, and very well.
So if BBM, in a ridiculously competitive niche market, is apparently so popular and anticipated, is it the same thing for BlackBerry keyboards? Are there a lot of people out there eager to get their hands on an Android-based device that boasts a BlackBerry constructed keyboard beneath (or behind, sometimes) the display?
We've seen plenty of Android devices with a physical keyboard come and go, and there's no doubt that HTC, Samsung and other Android manufacturers have pretty much stuck to all-touchscreen devices. If Samsung or HTC could get their hands on a BlackBerry physical keyboard, would that work in their favor?
Would you buy a variation of the One if it had a physical, BlackBerry keyboard below a moderately sized 720p or 1080p HD display? What about a device with similar internals as the Galaxy S 4, but with a BlackBerry keyboard on a slide-out form factor? Or have you given up on hardware keyboards altogether, and could care less? Let me know!