There’s still at least one good reason to keep BlackBerry around: The physical keyboardAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
When I think of BlackBerry these days, it always feels like my mind shifts into “nostalgia” mode; I haven’t had a real desire to pick up a BlackBerry phone since I found out that BlackBerry 10 wasn’t as much of a hero as I initially thought it would be. That isn’t to say that the platform is bad necessarily, it just doesn’t exactly tickle my fancy. BlackBerry’s revamped OS with BlackBerry 10 definitely brought the company some much needed attention, but obviously the outcome didn’t exactly go as planned as BlackBerry profits keep dropping.
Still, BlackBerry CEO John Chen seems to be optimistic about the turnaround of the company. As the old saying goes, “It’s not over ‘til it’s over,” right? Right.
BlackBerry doesn’t have nearly as powerful of an influence as it once did. Being in direct competition with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android handsets has been a major setback for the company’s handset business. Still, when it comes to BlackBerry devices, the company has something that most companies have tossed aside at this point, and that's the physical keyboard.
At this point in time, a lot of people have made the transition from physical keyboards to virtual ones. Even my parents, who I swore would never leave physical keyboards, both use phones that only use virtual ones. With keyboards like Swype, Minuum, and Fleksy, there are a lot of variations of how one can more efficiently use a keyboard these days. Physical keyboards, on the other hand, are more limited. Despite that, it’s also hard to deny that for a lot of people, feeling the physical push down on a key is a much more comfortable feeling than typing on a glass surface.
Although Apple’s iPhone never bothered with a physical keyboard, both Android and Windows Phone devices have in the past. These days, you’d have to search eBay, Amazon, or Craigslist to find one, but Android phones with keyboards weren’t too hard to find in the past. The Samsung Epic 4G, HTC EVO Shift, HTC MyTouch 3G Slide, MyTouch 4G, Motorola Droid, and HTC G2 are just some of the ones that stick out in my mind. When it comes to Windows Phone, physical keyboards were easy to find when Windows Phone 7 was popular. But much like Android phones, you won’t be seeing many phones, if any, with physical keyboards now.
Perhaps it was because the slide-out keyboard concept that many of these phones had just wasn’t as convenient as the candybar-style keyboard of a traditional BlackBerry phone, but I think it also has to do with efficiency. I was wary of switching from physical keyboard to virtual at first, but now I don’t think I will ever go back. Once in a while I get the urge to switch to a BlackBerry because of the satisfying click you get when you press down on the keys, but it’s not enough.
That doesn’t mean it’s not enough for other people, though.
It’s one of the biggest advantages that I think BlackBerry has going for it right now. There are other perks, of course, but the physical keyboard is still a really important feature for some people to have, and nobody else really has it right now. This is the one case where sticking to the past probably benefits BlackBerry the most. The Z10 is a nice phone, but I think if the Q5 and Q10 hadn’t been debuted shortly after the Z10 that BlackBerry would have been in an even deeper hole than it is already in. The small appreciation that physical keyboards are given goes far when there are no other options.
It sounds silly to think that a company should be praised for keeping physical keyboards, but I have to commend BlackBerry for sticking to their roots about it. The option, in my opinion, still needs to be there, somewhere.