Does anyone still want an iPhone with a hardware keyboard?

When iPhone first launched there were a lot of calls for an "iPhone Pro" or "iPhone Slider" with a physical keyboard. Some believed that iPhone would never be a serious messaging, getting-things-done device without that tactile, hardware feeling. Others believed the keyboard was a crutch -- something long time smartphone users had grown accustomed to but not something new users, users who upgraded from feature phones, would even consider.

Since then competitors have counter-programmed iPhone with a physical keyboard. While still at Apple, Jon Rubinstein is rumored to have argued with Steve Jobs for the keyboard. Now as CEO of Palm, they're using keyboards as their differentiator. RIM's CEO, Mike Lazaridis infamously said neither her nor any of his friends could type on glass -- right before introducing the BlackBerry Storm. Yet RIM's BlackBerry Bold 9700 and now BlackBerry Torch 9800 are designed for those who want the physical keyboard. Likewise, the first really successful Android smartphone in the US was the sliding Motorola Droid, though its keyboard hardly received rave reviews. Still, after the slab form factor Droid Incredible and Droid X, Verizon and Motorola are set to introduce the next-generation slider, Droid 2.

Yet talk of an iPhone with a physical keyboard has all but disappeared. (I've gone so far as to, only semi-facetiously, declare the age of the hardware keyboard to be over). Have people come to the realization Apple will simply never, not ever, produce an iPhone with a slider or front facing keyboard and, if they really want one, moved on to another device? Has Apple's outstanding virtual keyboard combined with other features been enough to change minds and hearts? Is there a split between what new, mainstream users want and what long time, power users demand? All of the above?

Bottom line, does anyone still want an iPhone with a hardware 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.

  • An iPhone with a hardware keyboard wouldn't be called an "iPhone Pro". It would called an iPhone Jr. or Lady iPhone.
  • After 4 years of touch screen I don't think I can go back. Now just waiting on brain implants so I can type with my mind.
  • fastlane +1
  • No way Rene. Come on now, even you know this will never happen nor does the 99% of current iPhone owners want a physical keyboard either.
    It's one of the most successful phones ever made. Don't fix what's not broken.
    As soon as the iPhone goes to Verizon, everyone is literally going to have one. Seriously.
  • Physical keyboard, no way. But I would LOVE a small analog stick that can pop out (spring loaded). I can't play most iPhone games using a virtual dpad, it's just horrible.
  • YESSS!!! I can't stand a touch screen keyboard. I miss the perfect tactile feel of real buttons. I make SO many typing errors and cannot type as quickly. I went from a Treo to an iPhone. It's been a year and a half and I have not grown to like it. Bring on a keyboard! It's looong overdue!
  • No one is stopping anyone from making one of these as a bluetooth add on saying standard keyboards work?
  • Yes and no. I don't think we need a physical keyboard attached to the iPhone but we need continued development on the bluetooth keyboard driver (it doesn't support tricks that the onscreen keyboard does like double spaces turn into periods) and the ability to hook up to a USB keyboard so I don't have to go through batteries on my bluetooth keyboard. Also I'm not sure but I think that bluetooth keyboards might not be allowed on plane flights but I'm not sure about this. I'm typing my response to this with my iPhone 3GS with the Apple Bluetooth keyboard right now!
  • Heck no!! I hate physical keyboards on phones. I would never want to get another phone with one.
  • No !
  • Um, NO! It looks like cr@p, adds bulk, and is totally unnecessary. I hate phones like that. So ugly.
  • The iPhone soft QWERTY pretty much put the hardware keyboard stuff to bed. Generally it's just as good and people don't worry about it anymore.
    If anything, bigger screen is the bigger want. ;)
    Also, a candy bar QWERTY a la the Treo or non-Torch Blackberrys are the way to go. I also believe the "usability" of sliders aren't as good as soft QWERTY or candy bar QWERTY.
    But yeah, I think it would be great if Apple shipped 4" iPhones and iPod touches. Makes the keyboard a little bit easier to hit plus bigger screen for all your apps. That's all good.
  • Yes, I absolutely want an iPhone with a real keyboard. I don't want one that slides out, or a BlackBerry style portrait keyboard, I want a clamshell similar to the HTC Universal from years ago...
    I also want Red Bull to send me one fo their RB6's, a supercharged M3 for daily use, and Jada Pinkett.
    All likely and within reason...
  • Also Apple should by the rights for the Stowaway keyboard from iGo who stopped making them once Apple announced the original iPhone wouldn't support bluetooth keyboards. The Stowaway still remains the best collapsable bluetooth keyboard ever made.
  • No.
  • Hell NO!!!
    An iDevice with a physical keyboard defeats the entire idea of multi-touch, doesn't it?
  • No.
  • The beauty of the “smartphone wars” is that there’s something for everyone. One doesn’t have to be “better” than the other and nothing has to offer “everything,” and no one device is perfect – but there’s plenty of choice out there for everyone these days, and that is a very good thing.
  • I saw those pictures above and yelled "EW! KILL IT! KILL IT!"
    So, no, I don't think I'll ever be able to use a hardware keyboard.
  • Apple may never produce a mouse with two buttons, but people still right click, and countless people - myself among them - choose to use aftermarket products that do have a second button. Likewise, Apple may well keep its head buried in the sand with regard to keyboards, but many of us will continue to use real, push-the-button keyboards whenever possible...on our computers AND our phones.
  • My heart tells me NO, but my head tells me YES. Seriously, if you do any kind of REAL work on your iPhone, you need a keyboard. I mean, when typing an email, it takes me as long to correct mistakes than it does to write the whole email.
    It sure would be an ugly phone, but I would certainly use the physical keyboard.
    But let's be realistic here, Apple will NEVER ever bring a keyboard to the iPhone.
  • Definitely. On screen keyboarding can be a pain in the arse. That was one thing the BlackBerry did do right - beyond that they are off course.
  • Hell No!!
  • It's funny I see that some are complaining that they can not type as fast and make more mistakes with the iPhone then they did using physical keyboards. I was a blackberry users for years and my experience has been just very different. I have found that I type faster and make fewer mistakes on my iPhone then I did with my blackberry.
  • Almost every BlackBerry user I know hates the Torch's slider they say sliders are a thing of the past.. but they still wont embrace a touch screen.. Weird.. I'm touchscreen till I die and No apple will never make a slider or a phone with a keyboard..
  • @Timmer,
    I completeley agree. The keyboard is what I miss most about from my Blackberry.
    I could type 100 times faster without any errors on a physical keyboard.
    But the iphone isn't a business phone or a "get things done" phone. It's more of a fun and entertaining phone.
    Get on an airplane and look at all the people in business class (the businessmen, not the rich people). They all have Blackberries, not iphones. Blackberry/physical keyboards are much quicker and better to get things done without all the BS. Its very boring, but it gets right to the point.
    I also miss the flashing red light when I have a new message.
    How about an iBerry :)
    Best of both worlds.
  • No no no no no... never
  • @David Hart: I'm with you. Mine is finally giving out. I loved that thing back when I was using Dell Axim x50v and x30 Pocket PCs. My letters "i","o", and "u" are not working anymore. =(
  • Apple will never do it (hardware keyboard) but I'd love it if they did... Landscape slider though... NOT portrait slider...
  • Yes, but not exactly what you're thinking:
    I want the ThinkOutside/iGo Slim Bluetooth Keyboard back on the market, and updated with iOS-compatible shortcut keys.
    Mine is awesome ... but old and getting a bit beat up! No replacements available!!
    This (used to be $40...):
  • That looks terrible! That's a big negative
  • Like several other commenters, I prefer a hardware keyboard in general for the ability to touch-type and the speed associated with that. The speed of iOS's UI helps make the touchscreen keyboard tolerable. However, when the UI starts hiccuping on my aging 3G, the touchscreen keyboard also becomes unusable.
    I don't think Apple will ever develop a hardware keyboard or include compatibility with one on their iPhone or Touch platforms. They are more of the mindset that the UI is everything. I don't have any problem with that design philosophy, but I do miss having a hardware keyboard.
  • How is a physical keyboard faster? I type a lot quicker on iPhone without many errors. One might be used to physical keyboards more, but I would think not having to press down on a physical button would be faster.
  • As an avid iPhone 4 user and indie musician, typing is a constant thing for me. A slide out keyboard would make things ugly and while, I have little trouble typing on the touch keyboard, I am in the process of buying a Bluetooth keyboard.
  • The first iPhone didn't do Bluetooth keyboards but ios 4 does for 3GS and iPhone 4. Maybe someone could invent a case with a built in Bluetooth keyboard for those who want it but for me mine is great as is.
    Ps if your keyboard is too small for your liking , just turn your phone sideways !
  • I'd kill a puppy to get a physical keyboard on my iPhone.
  • ACTUALLY, I don't even want an iPhone 4 anymore. It was a hard choice to make, but I'm jumping ship and boarding Android. ios4, and the iphone 3g was imo the best smart phone on the market, if jailbroken. However, I've noticed Android has caught up, and imo surpassed ios4. The customization available on an Android is really appealing. Considering the amount of money I've spent in the app store, and still choosing to switch says a lot about where I think Android is right now, and will be. I could jb the iPhone 4, but it's just a hassle, waiting for devs to update and make sure everything runs smoothly. Other than Android looking fantastic nowadays, that... Galaxy S Captivate's 4" screen looks mighty compelling, not to mention the rest of the phone. Smart phones have come a long way. Competitors are realizing they need to offer better quality products. They're also switching from plastic screens to glass. (Surprisingly, it took management a few years to catch up. I find that shocking considering how much they get paid sometimes...). I don't see apple opening up anytime soon, or in the distant future. Actually never. I'll lose money in the hole for paid apps, but I THINK i'll get a better smart phone experience, now and more in the future. Sorry iPhone, but it's been fun.
  • Not no but hell no....
  • Not only is my answer a no, but this crushes and argument for hardware keyboard superiority... Let me see your hardware keyboard do that.
  • I'd rather have iOS incorporated into a flip form factor
  • I went back to use a friends Blackberry the other day and I felt like I had some kind of finger disability. I was completely incapable of using it despite having used it for 100 emails a day just 4 years ago. I can't go back to that. I've adapted.
  • I switched from an iPhone 3G to a Palm Pre Plus on Verizon because I couldn't handle AT&T's terrible coverage anymore. I thought I'd like the physical keyboard, but I regret it constantly. Give me the convenience of the onscreen any day.
  • Hell no. Physical phone keyboards are always way too small for me. The only one that ever got close to being usable for me was my old Sidekick 2. I had a Samsung BlackJack 2 and the tiny keyboard was awful. Blackberrys are the same way.
  • Not anymore, I adapted
  • Never! I want to make it clear that this isn't a symptom of Fanboyism —if it were, I'd admit it. I think the virtual keyboard ON THE iPhone is much more effective and efficient than the physical keyboards on smartphones. I think 90% of the people who view the iPhone's virtual keyboard as a setback have never used the iPhone's keyboard for more than a few days; I think a lot of them just THINK it's inferior, or have never tried using it for more than 3 days.
    It only took me about 2 days to get really comfortable with the keyboard, and it took me about 2 weeks to get "nice" with the keyboard. Today, after having used the virtual keyboard for more than 2 years, I would never dream of giving it up. I can type --on average-- about 15-20 wpm faster on the iPhone's keyboard (and that's test programs, I type a lot faster than that when typing from my head, naturally).
    You can't really appreciate the iPhone's keyboard until --after using it for a few weeks-- you try using a physical keyboard on another phone. It feels very weird typing on plastic keys after tapping on glass. The biggest factor is gravity. Typing on plastic keys is sloooow (compared to tapping on glass). The best analogy to use is a drummer who tried using a drum that can't be tapped on the surface, but has to be pushed down (like a button) when trying to create a sound. A drum like that would definitely make playing the drums no fun. This is the same with the iPhone. It's like a got my own symphony going everytime I type a text message or email. I'm sorry, but for me, the auto-correct trumps tactile feedback. I usually don't even look at the keyboard when typing, that's how good the auto-correct is. 95% of the time, you just have to type in the immediate vicinity of the key your trying to touch, and the auto-correct does the rest. Not to mention the convenience of auto-cap, auto-contractions, etc. Yes, sometimes it's not perfect, but MOST times it is. The 'double-tap-on-space' for a period is so convenient and natural that I'm always subconsciously doing it on my MacBook Pro.
    Have an excellent virtual keyboard is better than having an excellent physical keyboard --as long as you give it a little trust and time. If Apple announced 2 versions of the next iPhone --one regular and one with a physical keyboard-- I would without a doubt get the regular one; the one without the physical keyboard. However, I think we all know that Apple would NEVER do that.
    These were just a few of the reasons why I love the iPhone's keyboard. There are still many more reasons. The point I've been trying to make is that the iPhone's keyboard makes typing fun. One of the reasons people love the iPhone is because it's very powerful (smart), but at the same time is simple to use. Therefore, the iPhone's keyboard is one of the many things that makes the iPhone the iPhone. If Apple decided to release the original iPhone with a physical keyboard, I think things would have been a lot different (in a bad way). However, they didn't, and that's why Apple is Apple, Microsoft is Microsoft, and HTC is HTC.
  • Not anymore. The virtual keyboard is great...and its easy on the thumbs, no clicking!
  • I'd take one but it isn't a deal breaker anymore. But I also like the Droid keyboard contrary to most.
  • April Fool's day was more than 4 months ago!
  • I would absolutely take one as long as it resembles the fake iPhone pictured above on the left. (like the Moto Backflip or Samsung Epic) At times it's difficult to type out an email, text message or navigate a website because I have to go back and correct my mistakes. Sign me up for one!
  • Wish I could enjoy a slow day at work. And.. No.
  • I would consider a slider keyboard add-on accessory for my current iPhone 4. I'm surprised they're not available yet considering the new bluetooth keyboard update.
  • Why go backward? I think the virtual keyboard is fine.
  • No and umm no. The added bulk is not worth it. I am smoking on the soft keyboard. Way better then the physical keyboard I had on my bold. Plus like sj said if you want to add a extra button later you can't.
  • I wouldn't dream of going back to hardware keyboard. I've had a few HTC with keyboard and I never want hardware keyboard. They add to the thickness and usually harder to hold in your hand while typing
  • I loved my BB keyboard and could type one handed lightening fast with barely a glance downward, but I don't miss it as much I thought I would. I'm still learning how to best use the iPhone keyboard. I wouldn't buy an iPhone with a physical keyboard. It won't look as sleek.
  • Why add more harware when it is already in the software? Anyone agree?
  • Hell to the no.... it will never happen... Next subject??!
  • If it had a keyboRd then it would be the mightiest phone on earth now would it!
    Typed out very efficiently on my iPhone 4 virtual keyboard
  • After using the touch keyboard on my iPhone for the last 2 years, there's absolutely no way I would switch to a new iPhone that had a physical keyboard, or any other phone with a physical keyboard for that matter
  • No do not need one.
  • Bugger that.
  • No way. I just tap as fast as I would on a regular keyboard ( almost^^)
    You get used to it, especially after 3 years using an iPhone...
  • No thanks, hw-keyb makes the phone bulky. SW-keyb is flexable and fast, even with 1 hand. Palm, if you read this, do you get the message why sales were not that good? SW-keyb is prefered by most! Now go do it!
  • I'm of two minds... on the one hand, I really wouldn't dig the added bulk and complexity of a slider, but the soft keyboard is really slow and hard to type accurately on. I could get into a Bluetooth keyboard, though.
  • Yes... yes I would. I really dislike the touch keyboard and prefer a physical one. It's really the only thing that is marring my 3G.
  • I didn't get an iPhone until the 3GS came out last year, and one of the reasons I held off so long was because I disliked the lack of physical keyboard. It took me a grand total of two days to get used to it once I got the iPhone, and I'd never, ever go back to even the best cell phone keyboards I've seen. I'm a total convert.
  • Heck NO! Why go backward with a physical keyboard.
  • I like the idea of having the option to use a physical keyboard.
  • No the virtual one is fine
  • No.
  • i could see why people would want one.....however when i was looking at getting my first smartphone i was looking at 3 different ones...the iPhone, the blackberry storm 2, and the motorola droid. the droid was first to go for me because i didnt like the slider or the physical keyboard. storm just because i didnt think it was all that great of a phone, with the sure click and all. iPhone was something that was all touch except a few neccasary buttons, and easy to use. and thats alot of why i chose iphone. so no, no physical keyboard, and if they ever do make one with a keyboard, which i dont see them doing, i hope they make a pure touch version as well.
  • good choice man, because i really think the touch keyboard is to cool!so i think your opinoin is alsome!bye.derek
  • I think it should have both a tk and a pk. I expect them to make the phone really small so why not add a extra keyboard to it for people who just can't get used to the touch.
  • Has any manufacturer thought of utilizing the ease of removing the backside of the iPhone 4 and building an attachable keyboard, whether it be via Bluetooth or wraparound slim dock connector?
    Accessory manufacturers can make lots of things - take the backside off and screw on a keyboard, gamepad, a battery pack, a case, a wall mount attachment, a loud flat speaker, notification or flashy LEDs, and more.
  • No.
  • If the iphone had a keyboard that will be the end of apple !!!!!
  • No
  • In the best of all worlds:
    Leave the front of iPhone 4 ALONE. Software keyboard pretty darn good.
    Note, the actual light-up part of screen only takes up 3/4 of the iPhone height.
    So now flip the phone over, insert second screen, but place it higher, just shy of the top to accommodate camera/flash. Below, add discreet, even flush hard keyboard, slightly rounded glass button keyboard. Maybe keys even light up with LCD screen behind them too.
    Anyway, with this dual screen version, normal input on front works like current, including landscape software keyboard like usual, but if you wish, flip that iPhone 5 over, the back screen alights, and hard-keyboard-type your little thumbprints smooth.
    I'd buy that phone in a heartbeat.
  • No way. iPhone's virtual keyboard is much more better than other smartphone's hardware keyboards. It is true to be adapted to the virtual keyboard for the first time. However once you are tamed to iPhone's virtual keyboard you can't go back to physical keyboards. Typing with iPhone's virtual keyboard is fast, accuratre and convinient. Oh and it's even fun
  • Most of these posts make absolutely NO sense to me. How can anyone honestly say they feel a touchscreen keyboard is preferred or more convenient or easier than a physical keyboard? It seems to me that some of the "opinions" posted here today are slanted. (Apple loyalties - Apple "cultish" loyalties.) Fact is physical tactile keyboards are easier, more accurate, more user friendly, and faster. And if Apple designed an iPhone with a physical keyboard (which they probably will never do) but if they did, Apple would design the best physical keyboard on the market and everyone would most likely love it - Because that's what Apple has proven they do, they design the best. And if Apple ever designed an iPhone with a physical keyboard I'm quite certain they would design the phone so you could have the option to use the touchscreen keyboard or the physical keyboard, which would make everyone happy. I think its time for the neigh-sayers to open their minds and their imaginations. The iPhone is still quite young and still has A LOT of evolving it needs to do. I believe the iPhone of the future is capable if being all things to all people. No sense in discriminating ideas and shutting the door on quality, aesthetics, AND total functionality. Right? Right!
  • After having used the iPhone/itouch kb for a year when I try to go to a physical keyboard like on a droid I am nowhere as fast. In fact I'm faster on a t9 phone the a physical qwerty keyboard but not as fast as an I device. I'm even faster on my phone then an actual computer.
  • Personally I think Apple has done a terrific job with it's virtual keyboard. By having a physical keyboard Apple would be moving backwards. Keep the virtual keyboard, it's excellent.
  • Capacitive VB sucks when you have to where gloves... Plus if you want more viewing space while typing KB > VB every time. Having both a VB and KB is better than only having one.
    I think that the reason that other phone manufacturers are offering more physical keyboards is that they can't get the soft keyboard to work as well as the iphone's does.
    A soft keyboard: Does not have any buttons to break (sooo frustrating to not be able to type an "r", as happened on my Treo 750, or any other letter for that matter). Is multinational; for those who speak more than one language (or for those who like fun emoji ) there is no way a hardware keyboard can compete with this. Does not numb your thumbs and fingers. Allows for large screen real estate and small phone bulk. Can be used in landscape or portrait mode...on the same device. Can be replaced by a number pad or a spinner, depending on the field where you are entering the information. Can be updated to include even more features with only a software upgrade. A physical keyboard: Is what a lot of people are used to. Has a more tactile sensation. Can have shortcuts programmed to the buttons. These are not plusses to me. Get over it. If you need a physical keyboard, Buy a different phone!
  • NOOOOO!!! Sucky idea that's moving backwards, less buttons,
  • No, type from my Ipad!
  • Give me Swipe and I probably won't care. :)
    A smartphone keyboard really has to be treated as part of the design, not an afterthought.
    It's pretty sad that the 'ancient' discontinued T-Mobile Sidekick (barely more than a featurephone as it was) has yet to be topped as far as phone keyboard ergonomics go.
    (the d-pad speaker was a nice touch too)
  • The iPhone needs SWYPE
  • Quoting Microcosmos
    My gosh No No Nooo!right why go backward with all the mechanical problems results? I using my Mac wireless one when I'm indoor and outdoor the touch keys are pretty good, fast, and reliable to type.
    Most of the other phones still using kb 'cos their touch are disgusting :)
    Yeah if you need to type while driving..that's other story, here in faraway Italy, is prohibited!!!
  • As far as typing, I am perfectly fine with the virtual keyboard. But playing roms, and other games where you have to use the controls on the screen is just sucky. Tactical feedback would be awesome for those games. And if Apple is gonna market the iPhone and iPod touch as a gaming device. This should be a no brainer. Even though I know it will never happen.
  • Former BB user. I don't miss the physical keyboard at all. Swype on the iPhone better get here soon or I'm going to android
  • Apple did come out with a physical keyboard for the iPhone. It's full sized and connects via Bluetooth... Lol
  • Yes I would still love a keyboard on the iphone. A keyabord would make typing long emails so much easier ad well as playing games. Imagine being able to actually see the whole screen while playing a game!
  • This is the single factor keeping me from purchasing an iPhone. After dealing with the LG Dare, as well as my iPod Touch, I absolutely hate touch screens for typing anything longer than a few characters. I "downgraded" to a Samsung Reality (Until my free upgrade in March, at least) for the simple fact that it had a slide out keyboard-similar to the image on the left. Perhaps Apple could produce two models: the traditional iPhone, and one with a slide out keyboard (Say what, please everyone?!). I know then that there would be absolutely no question in what phone I would buy. (And the iPhone4's new design/construction is set up perfectly to handle one...)
  • When where for keyboard.
  • When Apple "invents" the smartphone keyboard, all you fanboys will be raving about it. It is the lack of keyboard that stops me considering an iPhone to be a viable choice as a serious smartphone. Software keyboards are ok, but hardware ones are better to use, and you get the use the whole screen, as a screen. Software keyboards are all about compromise. I am sure Apple could make a great keyboard, and finally make that phone complete. And perhaps take it from gimmicky fashion accessory to serious pocket PC.
  • yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
  • I want a blackberry keyboard. not just any keyboard! I WANT IT SO BADLY! I'm even considering buying a blackberry just for the KEYBOARD. I'm in love.