For all the love and attention that has been showered on touchscreen smartphones in recent years, there’s just something about using a phone with a keyboard. At its heyday, Blackberry was the most popular device in the world and its keyboard was often seen as the secret sauce of success. In today’s age, QWERTY is often seen as an obsolete tech that’s clunky and unnecessary. While times are changing, it doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye for QWERTY smartphones. Below, we’ve rounded up the best phones with actual keyboards, so it’s easier to text your family and friends.
Featuring Android Lollipop, a 2560×1440 display, 3GB of RAM, 3410mAh battery, 32GB of storage and an 18-megapixel rear camera, the Priv is no slouch. It’s as powerful as most of the top-tier smartphones it competes against. Where it truly differentiates itself is the slide-out QWERTY keyboard that appears from under the display. The addition of Android offers BlackBerry something it struggled to compete against with its own OS: millions of apps available on the Google Play Store. This new strategy allows BlackBerry the best of both worlds, offering a slew of apps to its devoted fan base while still maintaining the status quo with the physical keyboard.
Unfortunately, the Priv’s display has less accurate colours than the competition. It’s by no means a deal breaker to the naked eye, but it’s an area of opportunity for BlackBerry in the future. As for the physical keyboard, it maintains all the tactile feeling you know and loves with its unique pop-up action, but it’s just a bit more than cramped previous models. It’s easy enough to bang out short e-mails and messages, but one critical note about the keyboard is the choice of the layout with the alt key above the shift key which leads to typing a whole lot of symbols instead of capitalizing words.
Although the budget ZTE Z431 fails to offer the rich feature set of today’s more advanced smartphones, it also offers an opportunity similar to that of the LG Extravert 2. There are no fancy bells or whistles and no high-speed connectivity, but you will find some highlights like GPS for navigation and an expandable microSD slot for music. If missing e-mail alarms you, all is not lost as there is a built-in email app but reading anything more than a few lines on the 2.4” TFT display will quickly be too much.
The 1,000mAh battery offers around 4.5 hours of talk time and 12.5 days of standby. The four-direction navigation toggle will help you move around the menu with ease with dedicated send and end buttons for phone calls. The keyboard itself is user-friendly but for anyone with big hands, be warned as there’s not a whole lot of space between keys and it’s easy to hit an extra key from time-to-time.
If you’re still fighting against making the transition from physical keyboard to the touchscreen, Samsung may have developed the best of both worlds. Their keyboard covers for the Galaxy S7 (and previous Galaxy iterations) slides right onto your phone and offers the same satisfying tactile keyboard you’re likely to find on BlackBerry. In addition to the QWERTY keyboard itself, you’ll also find the home, back, and recent app keys that offer the very same shortcuts one would find on the display itself without the cover.
The case is actually two pieces (the keyboard itself and a phone cover that wraps around the back). When you don’t need the keyboard, you can detach it from the front of the device and wrap it around the back of the device. There’s no wireless or Bluetooth connection and it doesn’t require any additional battery life because it’s simply simulating touch input on the display. When it is attached, Samsung’s smartphone models will automatically detect the connection and switch to “keyboard mode” which shrinks the screen to 70% normal size.
If you’ve been fighting the urge to move away from your BlackBerry, this may turn out to be a heaven-sent accessory. The buttons are solid and there’s nothing “cheap” feeling about this keyboard. It is light enough to stash it in your pocket and forget it’s there within minutes. Samsung manufactures excellent accessories and the keyboard cover is no exception.
For anyone reading this list, it likely won’t come as much of a surprise to see BlackBerry dominate the field of best QWERTY devices. The Blackberry Passport is our best recommendation for a business device. As a nice blend of traditional BlackBerry devices and modern design, the Passport is a boxier version that harkens back to the BlackBerry’s of yore. It’s no small investment for AT&T and T-Mobile owners and it should be noted that even as an unlocked device, there’s limited LTE functionality only available on certain frequencies in your area. You should check with T-Mobile before purchasing to ensure compatibility.
Let’s tackle perhaps the most polarizing part of the Passport, the square design. Realistically, it’s likely square-ish and there’s definitely a love-hate relationship with its size but there’s no question it’s unique and stands out against a sea of touchscreen devices. Arguably, it’s the best phone BlackBerry has ever made, “square-ish” design and all. The oft-rumoured take is that BlackBerry designed the Passport to be the size of an actual government-issued Passport, a slight take on the well-heeled international customer that was meant as the audience for this QWERTY model.
Thankfully, the 1440×1440 display is detailed and vibrant, and the 3.5” wide device is paired with the ultra-wide keyboard making for a frequent emailer’s dream phone. Powered by a 3,450mAh battery, there’s plenty of juice to power through the day sending off dozens of e-mails, phone calls and messages. Unfortunately, it’s paired with BlackBerry’s long-since dated 10.3 operating system, but you’ll find everything you need within the OS, including a large number of major apps including Facebook, Twitter and more.
For Verizon customers, the LG Extravert 2 is a fantastic phone (notice the lack of smart) that offers a QWERTY keyboard in a stylish package. With a 3.2” W-QVGA device, there’s no sense in comparing this to an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy device. They are designed for different users. The bottom line is that the display is functional, regardless of how it may compare in today’s competitive phone marketplace.
At 15mm thick, it’s twice the size of a new iPhone so we’re feeling safe calling it a little clunky. However, that additional size is overlooked as it fits the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the two-megapixel camera on the back also means you’ll probably want to pass up using this as your dedicated camera, but again, that is not the intended purpose. What you do get is 17 days’ standby time, something none of today’s best-known smartphones can match. Still, there’s no LTE data, no apps, games or Snapchat, just a phone that can send and receive text messages.
The BlackBerry Classic works on both AT&T and T-Mobile with caveats on T-Mobile’s LTE network. Check with your provider for more details. The 3.5” screen is paired with BlackBerry’s best keyboard in years and while OS 10 is a polarizing experience, there’s little question this is your best chance at recapturing the nostalgia of the pre-iPhone BlackBerry. Compared to many Android or iOS devices, at 0.40 pounds, it’s fairly weighty but that also offers a feel that the device is solidly constructed.
The overall look is refined and, dare we say, beautifully constructed. The BlackBerry Classic keyboard is in every way the keyboard you’ve long held a love affair with. There’s great action with comfortable typing allowing you to send dozens of e-mails and messages a day without skipping a beat. If you’re already familiar with the BlackBerry keyboard, your transition to the Classic will be nothing but seamless.
Unfortunately, we wish the display deserved the same praise as the keyboard but, at 720p, it was outgunned the moment it arrived on store shelves. Other internals of the device includes the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, eight-megapixel rear camera, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. While the hardware is less important in the QWERTY world, comparative to the Android and iOS world, it’s unfortunately outpaced by a number of high-profile devices.
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