A few years ago, if you wanted a smartphone, options were pretty slim. Depending on your wireless provider, you could choose between a few BlackBerry models, a couple Palm devices and even fewer Windows Mobile phones. These were the BlackBerry days – the days where RIM ruled the majority of the smartphone market share and ran the show with their topnotch handsets.
Fast forward a couple years and things have changed quite a bit. RIM's mobile market share has nearly halved in the past year. The portrait QWERTY has remained their bread and butter. But in light of large, touchscreen displays and more touch-friendly operating systems, RIM was caught on their heels and have been forced to begin testing other designs.
Even while testing new designs like the Torch models and appeasing (or attempting to, at least) to the new market, RIM has aimed to keep their enterprise relations strong and kept their favorite, QWERTY-toting 'Berrys in the mix. They've apparently been slipping in this area as well, with 94 percent of the Fortune 500 companies testing the iPhone and 92 percent testing the iPad instead of their "businessman's tablet," the PlayBook.
All the while (and even during RIM's best years), other manufacturers have tried to replicate the BlackBerry design. More recently, this has been an attempt to pull straggling BlackBerry users to the Android camp. This effort has been met with little success. But why, exactly?
It's all centered around the keyboard, and nobody can seem to get the specs at a sufficient level. Research In Motion has they keyboard part down to an art by now, but others can seem to put the pieces together. They seem to forget, if you're going to make a handset with a portrait keyboard, the QWERTY should be the highlight of the device, not an afterthought. And when it comes to specs, people have learned to expect nothing particularly mind-blowing from RIM's handsets. But Android manufacturers can't quite get away with it like RIM has.
The Motorola DROID Pro is a perfect example of a portrait QWERTY done wrong. The design was decent, and although the display was only sub-par, the keyboard was atrocious. It was easy to navigate with raised, ridged keys, but they were extremely small, sticky, mushy and hard to depress. Others that have also failed at this design are the Samsung Replenish, HTC ChaCha, Motorola XPRT and Titanium.
But it isn't just about the keyboard; nobody has made a BlackBerry-like Android phone with decent specs either. Just this Saturday, some photos of the Motorola Admiral leaked. At first glance, I thought, "That doesn't look half bad." It's actually not too far off from my perfect superphone design. After taking a second look and glancing at the purported specs, however, I quickly moved on. The Admiral touts a 1.2GHz Qaulcomm MSM8655 processor (that's single-core), a 5-megapixel camera, 4GB built-in storage and a 1,860mAh battery. Severely underwhelming amid phones like the Amaze 4G or Galaxy S II.
If it were introduced last year, the Admiral would have been an eye-catcher. That said, no matter how much I love the portrait QWERTY form factor, it's impossible for me to take a step back and use something like the DROID Pro or Admiral. These are the kind of low-end phones that taint Android's reputation.
Personally, I'm keeping up hopes that some OEM will come along with a high-end portrait QWERTY. Who knows, maybe that will be RIM with their QNX devices. All I'm asking for is a phone with a portrait QWERTY (worth typing on), 3.5-inch (WVGA) display, dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, an advanced lens camera, decent battery life and no ugly custom UI. It that too much to ask?
Who else is dying for a serious portrait QWERTY phone with high-end specs? Which OEM would you like to see make it? And what are your thoughts on the Admiral and other existing portrait QWERTY Android phones?