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Why is AT&T asking if you want an iPhone with a hardware keyboard?

AT&T asking if you want an iPhone with a hardware keyboard?

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AT&T seems to be conducting an online survey, asking customers if they'd like an iPhone with a hardware keyboard.

Which one smartphone, if any, would you most likely consider buying if they were all using the iOS (Apple) operating system.

Along with the traditional full touchscreen slab (think all iPhone models to date, four other options are presented:

  1. Front-facing QWERTY (think BlackBerry Bold
  2. Vertical slider (think HP Pre)
  3. Horizontal slider (think Droid)
  4. Extended front-facing QWERTY (think Droid Pro)

Apple hasn't ever offered any type of hardware keyboard on any iOS device, and I doubt that's going to change any time soon. iPhone 5 almost certainly won't have a hardware keyboard, and even if Apple decides to pull the trigger on a lower-priced iPhone for emerging markets, it's hard to imagine them putting a hardware keyboard on that either. So why exactly AT&T is testing these waters is unknown. (Unless Samsung is doing some stealth product research...)

[Thanks to Phil from Android Central passing this on.]

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

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.

20 Comments
  • If this were to happen, it could potentially be game, set and match for Apple.
  • No chance of any iPhone with a keyboard though - it will never happen.
  • You are missing something... It says IOS (apple) operating system. Aka an iPhone in a different device. Did YOU actually look at the screen shot posted before you posted on the article?
  • Here's what I think: they just put iOS in there to remove the variable. If they're all using iOS, then that takes that out of the equation.
  • Num. 2 Smart Phone T
  • Seems like they are trying to figure out what phones to buy from non-Apple venders that best satisfy the unmet needs from Apple. A marketing tool to round out their phone offerings, not an indication of what Apple is doing.
  • I agree with you. Since we all know the iPhone is a popular phone and recent research showed that it makes up a huge chuk of AT&T that let's say Samsung or whoever else wants to know what the market wants. It also benefits AT&T because they know what to carry and if the merger with T-Mobile goes through, they need to know why devices to cut.
  • You got it right. As good as the iPhone is, it still leaves a gap for those that desire a physical keyboard above all else.
    Though, if a future iPhone were to have a Blackberry Bold 9000/9900 style keyboard, it would pretty much be game over.
  • It's already game over (for RIM), nature of keyboard notwithstanding.
  • ATT gathering ammo to convince Apple to try a different form factor?
    It isn't Apple's game though. Soft QWERTY on a slate form factor is the dominant form factor with the best set of trades. And after a Treo 650 and a Blackberry 8800, I think the 3GS soft QWERTY is the best keyboard. Not by a little, but by a whole lot.
  • I second you opinion, yet i disagree that it isn't apple game.
    adding a hardware keyboard to any device is a plus for business needs, its faster, more responsive and more aesthetic... talking about qwerty that is.
    Imagine smartphone V with 3.0 end to end HD screen and a shiny qwerty, that would be awesome!
  • YES YES YES!! I want a keyboard!!
  • I'd like them to ask me if I want unlimited data...and not feel guilty for using that data.
    I'd also like them to ask me if I want them to take some of the money they make to fix their dang network.
    I'd like them to ask me if I like dropped calls. I work in the SF area and well let's just say I carry string and cups around.
  • Right, I didnt say apple would make it. Its a survey done to see what device people would like to see an apple operating in. It's not done by Apple so personally I think this survey is irrelevant but still interesting
  • Anyone have experience with one of the current aftermarket iPhone keyboards? Like Bixwave's Keyboard Buddy iPhone 4 Case: http://www.boxwave.com/iphone-4/keyboard-buddy-iphone-4-case/bwpdd/pkz-twvc
  • I bought one for my girlfriend last Christmas and she is in LOVE with it! I'm not much of a keyboard fan but if I was I would be satisfied. The worst part about it would be the thickness it adds to the phone which isn't THAT bad anyway.
  • AT&T could simply sell a snap-on iPhone case with a slide-out wireless Bluetooth keyboards, like iVogue's kiBoard: http://apps-for-apple.com/04/13020.html
  • I agree completely with slinky317. It's an old marketing trick of removing the variables so that other prejudices don't interfere with the real point of the survey, which is "what keyboard style phones should be stock heaviest in this Christmas?". They could have mentioned any phone OS, but I'm guessing they chose iOS since most phone consumers know that iPhone does not have a hard keyboard. Using another OS in the question would have some people thinking about thier likes or dislikes of a keyboard on that type of phone.
    Point is that Apple had nothing to do with this survey. More than any other manufacturer, Apple cares as much about how their products look and feel, as how they work. Hard keyboards are functoinal, but they are also ugly and require plastic bits and springs that eventually start to wear down and jam. This is all AT&T finding out what non-iPhone purchasers will most likely buy.
  • They just use iOS cause it's the most desirable platform, all they wanna know is what kind of form factor would you like. As in would you rather a full touch candybar, a touch&qwerty candybar etc. iOS is not there to try and convince Apple to make keyboard phones.
    I thought you'd figure this one out.
  • Why is AT&T asking if you want an iPhone with a hardware keyboard?
    - They aren't.