Tuesday, June 10, 2008

QWERTY phone keyboards: Not Created Equal

So why do I have an E62 and an E61 on one hand? They both came from the same manufacturer and they came to market around the same time so what am I trying to show you? Probably something you've already noticed, they have symbols placed differently between handset keyboards.

The differences between keyboards make transitioning between handsets take a little longer as your fingers have a habit of travelling a certain distance on one handset that needs to adjust for another handset.

RIM Blackberry
The workhorse of the business world, Blackberries can be seen on every corner of the financial district, subways, restaurants, and even at schools.
Blackberry 6230
My second favorite keyboard. My first favorite is the RIM 950.
Blackberry 8830
Blackberry Curve
A tight keyboard

The keyboard layout is consistent throughout the various Blackberry models.

Once the darling of the business world, Palm has lost a lot of market share because of a stale PalmOS or buggy Windows Mobile devices.
Palm Treo
The keys are stiff and hard.
Palm Centro

Similar to RIM's Blackberry, the keyboard is consistent between the models.

Hoping to grab more of business users
Nokia E61
Different regions have a different layout for the special characters.
Nokia E61i
Almost the same layout as the E61 if you have the same regions to compare.
Nokia E71
At least the space bar is wide.

Nokia kept the same keyboard layout between thte E61 and E61i but the E71 will change it's layout. Unlike the Blackberry, Motorola, Samsung, and Palm, the Q, A, and Z keys are aligned all to the left for Nokia keyboards.

The first manufacturer to build and sell a thin qwerty keyboard smartphone.
Motorola Q
Hard keys, similar to a Treo
Motorola Q9h

Motorola changed the placement of all the special characters between their two phones.

Following hot on the heels of Motorola, Samsung was the second manufacturer to sell a thin qwerty smartphone.
Samsung Blackjack
Samsung Blackjack 2

Some of the special characters remain in the same position between the two versions but some changed.

They are the manufacturer of most Microsoft Mobile phones in the market today.
HTC S620
All left aligned alphabets.
HTC S720
Only Q is aligned to the left
HTC S730
All aligned 1 character to the right.
The Z is aligned one character to the right.

HTC has a different keyboard layout between their many handset models. Some have Q, A, and Z aligned ontop of each other (S730, S620), some have Z one character to the right (HTC Tytn II), while others have both A and Z one character to the right (S720). It's not even worth mentioning the special characters change places between the layouts. HTC has got to get its act together and make one consistent keyboard layout for all their phones.

It's understandable for one manufacturer to have a different keyboard layout than another so users tend to stick to a familar layout. But some manufacturers like HTC vary their special characters and alphabet alignment entirely between handsets and some manufacturers like Nokia and Motorola change the special characters layout. Hopefully the qwerty keyboard on smartphones mature to the point that all handsets share the same layout like computer keyboards so transitioning between them will be seemless.

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