Anyone REALLY still want a physical keyboard on their iPhone?

While most of the smartphone world has long since moved on to virtual keyboards, Kevin Michaluk believes there's still an important place, and 5 important use-cases, for the traditional physical ones as well. CrackBerry:

I've spent enough time on both physical keyboards and touchscreen keyboards now that I'm equally happy on both. And as I stated at the top of the article, in controlled settings I can pump out the words faster on a touchscreen keyboard than a physical keyboard. But there's a lot more to a great typing experience than just speed, and there are simply benefits to a physical keyboard that no touchscreen can yet touch.

When the iPhone first launched a chorus of Treo and BlackBerry users lamented the lack of the hardware keyboard they'd grown up with, and grown accustomed to. They wanted an "iPhone Pro", and suggested no device would be taken seriously — would be more than a toy — unless and until it went full-on QWERTY.

Fast forward to 2014 and, BlackBerry Q10 aside, I'm hard pressed to remember the last time a front-facing QWERTY device hit the market... or anyone asked for one. Sure, there's the Typo, but I'm not convinced that it really has a market beyond Kevin Michaluk, Joanna Stern, and similar long-time BlackBerry users.

There are simply so many new, touch-native smartphones users that legacy hardware keyboards aren't even in their rear-view mirror. From kids to those who simply found the original smartphones inaccessible or unusable, there's hundreds of millions of people now whose first experience is virtual, maybe even vocal, and there's no turning back.

That's not to say the hardware keyboard doesn't have some legitimate advantages, it's simply that the advantages of the virtual keyboard overwhelms them to such a degree as to have almost completely replaced them on the market. Given that everything is a compromise, the virtual keyboard is simply a better compromise.

That's not to say the iPhone's virtual keyboard is perfect. It isn't. From learning algorithms to improved auto-correct to features such as those offered by SwiftKey and Swype, there's a lot of way it can and should be improved. But here's the point — it can be improved. It's dynamic. It's changeable.

To paraphrase Magneto, "Software is the future, Kevin, not QWERTY. Physical keyboards no longer matter."

Check out Kevin's 5 reasons why I'm wrong, and then you tell us — do you still demand a physical keyboard?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.