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?
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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.