10 of the best QWERTY smartphones from when hardware keyboards were cool

10 of the best QWERTY smartphones from when hardware keyboards were cool
Launching later this month, the Android-based BlackBerry Priv comes with a feature that we rarely see on high-end smartphones these days: a hardware QWERTY keyboard. Taking advantage of multi-touch OSes and high-quality displays, most handset manufacturers have ditched hardware keyboards altogether, despite the fact that some users may still want them.

Seeing that the Priv is coming soon, we were hit by nostalgia and remembered many of the great QWERTY-equipped smartphones that were released throughout the years, starting over a decade ago. Join us below in taking a quick look at them, will you? In chronological order:


Released more than 10 years ago (in 2004, to be exact), the P910 was a high-end Sony Ericsson smartphone that succeeded the P900 from one year earlier, and the P800 from 2002. Running Symbian UIQ, the Sony Ericsson P910 offered a 2.9-inch resistive touchscreen display with 208 x 320 pixels, stylus pen, a VGA rear camera, and a 1000 mAh battery. Some of the features that its predecessors didn't have include 64 MB of internal memory, support for external memory cards, and HTML browsing. The QWERTY keyboard of the Sony Ericsson P910 was hidden on the other side of its normal, alphanumeric keyboard, being revealed with a flip.
 


A true mini computer of the last decade, the Nokia E90 Communicator was introduced in 2007 to succeed the bulky (but highly praised) Nokia 9500 Communicator from 2004. Based on Symbian S60, the E90 was the first in the Communicator series to have 3G connectivity and a GPS receiver. Like many other handsets at the time, the Nokia E90 Communicator had two displays (external and internal), plus two keyboards (also external and internal). The internal keyboard was a full QWERTY one, while the internal display accompanying it was a 4-inch, 800 x 352 pixels one. The E90 also featured Wi-Fi, a 332 MHz single core processor, 128 MB of internal memory, microSD card support, and a 3.2 MP rear camera.
 


Also known as AT&T Tilt, T-Mobile MDA Vario III, or O2 XDA Stellar, the HTC TyTN II was released in 2007 as an improvement over the original TyTN from 2006. Like the first model, the HTC TyTN II was a Windows Mobile handset with a 2.8-inch, 240 x 340 pixels resistive touchscreen display, stylus pen, and a sliding QWERTY keyboard - a pretty good one, too. 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, a 3.2 MP rear camera and a VGA front-facing camera were also on board.
 


The first in BlackBerry's line of Bold smartphones, the Bold 9000 was a premium device introduced in 2008 - when BlackBerry was one of the world's top smartphone makers. The 2.6-inch, 480 x 320 pixels screen of the Bold 9000 wasn't touch-sensitive, but the handset had a great full QWERTY keyboard that made typing a breeze. Other features included a trackball, 3G connectivity, Wi-Fi, GPS, 128 MB of RAM, 1 GB of expandable internal memory, a 624 MHz single-core processor, and a 2 MP rear camera.
 


Available since October 2008 (in the US), the T-Mobile G1 / HTC Dream made history as the world's first Android smartphone. With its peculiar look, the G1 / Dream was not exactly a commercial success, but it opened the way for what was about to quickly become the most popular smartphone OS to date. Powered by a 528 MHz single-core CPU, the G1 had a 3.2-inch HVGA (320 x 480 pixels) touchscreen display, and a sliding QWERTY keyboard - more exactly, the screen was the one that was slid to reveal the keyboard. The device came with all the connectivity features that were normal for a respectable smartphone at the time (3G, Wi-Fi, GPS), plus 192 MB of RAM, 256 MB of internal memory, microSD card support, and a 3.2 MP rear camera.
 


Regarded by many as one of the best Windows Mobile smartphones of its time (2009), the HTC Touch Pro2 (also known as Tilt 2) had an excellent slide-out QWERTY keyboard accompanied by a 3.6-inch, 480 x 800 pixels tilting touchscreen display. The Touch Pro2 also featured a touch-sensitive zoom bar, 288 MB of RAM, 512 MB of expandable internal memory, a 528 MHz single-core processor, plus 3.2 MP and VGA cameras (on the rear and front, respectively).



Launched in mid-2009 in the US, the Palm Pre was the world's first webOS smartphone - representing a new beginning for Palm. The Pre became a hot seller at Sprint in the US, as it was a well made smartphone with attractive features, including a 3.1-inch, 320 x 480 pixels touchscreen display, and a portrait slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Powered by a 600 MHz single-core processor, the Palm Pre offered 256 MB of RAM and 8 GB of storage space, but there was no microSD card support. The Pre had several successors (Pre Plus, Pre 2, and Pre 3), but these failed to gain popularity. Eventually, Palm was sold to HP, while webOS was acquired by LG, which is now using it for smart TVs and wearable devices.
 


The original Motorola Droid (also known as Milestone - GSM variant) is perhaps best remembered as the first Android smartphone that was marketed as a viable iPhone alternative. In 2009, the iPhone was an AT&T-exclusive device in the US, so it made perfect sense for Verizon to search for an alternative. And it found a great one in Motorola's first Droid, a handset released in late 2009 helped by a "Droid Does" marketing campaign - which underlined the things that iPhones couldn't do at the time (like multitasking). Compared to the 2009 iPhone 3GS, the Droid had a larger screen with a higher pixel resolution (3.7 inches, 480 x 854 pixels). Of course, the handset also featured a sliding QWERTY keyboard.

The Motorola Droid had various well received successors. In fact, Verizon's Droid brand is alive and well today, though none of the current handsets using it (like the Droid Turbo or Droid Maxx) offer QWERTY keyboards.



Presented as an "internet tablet", the Nokia N900 was first announced on 2008, but it only became available in November 2009. Among other things, the N900 featured a 3.5-inch touchscreen display with 480 x 800 pixels, a 3-row sliding QWERTY keyboard, and a 5 MP Carl Zeiss rear camera. The device was praised for its web browser, which included support for Flash. However, since the N900 ran Maemo, there weren't too many applications available for it. Eventually, Maemo was merged with Intel's Moblin to form MeeGo - which was terminated in favor of Tizen. Currently, Jolla's Sailfish OS is based on MeeGo.



One of the latest high-end smartphones to run the now-defunct Symbian OS, the Nokia E7 was released in early 2011, when Nokia announced plans to use Microsoft's Windows Phone as its main mobile platform. That alone made the E7 a device that some may have been reluctant to buy. Even so, the E7 was a notable handset, having an anodized aluminum body, a 4-row QWERTY keyboard, a 4-inch AMOLED display with 360 x 640 pixels, and an 8 MP rear camera.


Have you owned any QWERTY smartphones? Which one was your favorite? Or least favorite?

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46 Comments

1. shnibz

Posts: 505; Member since: Sep 18, 2011

The Widows Phone 7, HTC Arrive was by far the best keyboard I ever used on a phone. The keyboard itself was amazing and the screen stayed at a perfect angle instead of laying flat like most. Loved that phone

8. QWERTYphone

Posts: 654; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

QWERTY KEYBOARDS WILL ALWAYS BE THE SUPERIOR HARDWARE CONFIGURATION. Intelligent adults do NOT care what children think are "cool". Samsung's ORIGNAL galaxy, the SAMSUNG EPIC 4G remains the perfect design: A LANDSCAPE SLIDER

10. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

Please note that we are in 2015 now.

31. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

Yea and we should have something better than swipe or onscreen keyboards they take up all teh real estate. With a slider keyboard you dont lose the screen space for the keyboard.

27. RELAXyougeeks

Posts: 24; Member since: Apr 07, 2015

The fact that you attribute using a physical set of keys to intelligence shows what a complete lack of intelligence you have. Why do you frequent a site like this at all if you prefer old tech? No one likes you. Go away.

32. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

Its not "old Tech" physical keyboards are a reference.. on screen keyboards suck..

30. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

I wouldnt say it has to do with intelligence.. and personally I like a portrait slider best.. but they are the rare configuration. For me its all about my hand and finger size.. the screen keyboards are horrible.. no tactical feedback that works and screen isnt properly responsive. If you have small or normal hands/fingers it probably isnta big deal. But anyone that wears a L or XL glove will tell you screen keyboards suck..

39. Hellouser

Posts: 39; Member since: Feb 05, 2015

Eh if anything qwerty keyboards have more parts to break. So i don't understand how it is superior.

43. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

Its all about hand size and preference. I waste so much time fixed and retyping and editing my texts and posts with a on screen keyboard due to my large hands.. Physical keyboards are MUCH easier to use and the feedback is 1000x better. My thumbs are over 3/4" wide I have to hit the keys of an onscreen keyboard slowly and with the side of my thumb.. with a physical one the contact is the center of my thumb and I FEEL that I am making contact with the right key. IF you were raised on on screen keyboards, have small hands, or are good at "swiping" I understand where you don't get it. But if you used BlackBerry or any of the other Physical keyboard phones back in the day you would know how much more accurate and easy to use they are than on screen keyboards. Again, not to over hype the point.. hand size makes a HUGE difference as well.

2. Commentator

Posts: 3722; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

I was a huge fan of the Samsung Epic 4G.

3. Johnnokia

Posts: 1158; Member since: May 27, 2012

BlackBerry Bold and Nokia E series had the best QWERTY keyboard in the smartphone history.

4. Rager722

Posts: 617; Member since: Jan 30, 2013

T-Mobike Sidekick? SHARP

28. lJesseCusterl

Posts: 96; Member since: Apr 27, 2015

Agreed. Best QWERTY keyboard of any portable device, also had an app store AND cloud data storage for contacts and messages. It was a better device than it's ever gotten credit for.

5. monoke

Posts: 1126; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Gawd I miss this golden age of devices. So much variety of os's and form factors. Great era for consumers. Not this one or the other android/iphone and who has higher antutu points bs. N900 was da bomb btw!

6. Settings

Posts: 2942; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Tho it's tiny, the SE X10 mini pro really was good. I enjoyed it also while playing GBA and NES emulators.

9. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

Apple destroyed all these phones by its first iPhone. Apple does the others follow.

11. carlemillward unregistered

Oh Nokia N900, what should of been the start of a great story.

37. monoke

Posts: 1126; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

Gotta say Maemo5 puts today's android to shame. I have the z3 and often wonder "damn imagine if this thing ran maemo5!" lol.

12. pt020

Posts: 150; Member since: Apr 08, 2014

Loved mine Sony Ericsson Mini Pro and it's keyboard,pity it was discontinued.

13. skyline88

Posts: 697; Member since: Jul 15, 2013

N97, N97 Mini, E90, E7 best of the best!

14. NIK01

Posts: 40; Member since: Apr 29, 2013

My Galaxy S Relay still works fine.

15. mobilekiwi

Posts: 3; Member since: Nov 02, 2015

Palm Treo 650 = best Kb out imo..indestructible phone with handy antennae knob to pull out of pocket.....how I miss those days. Beautifully raised keys with back lighting and spaced apart as well as a click to let you know it was pressed.

16. Spedez

Posts: 542; Member since: Aug 29, 2014

Nokia-devices are the only ones worth mentioning. Rest is junk.

17. nicholassss

Posts: 368; Member since: May 10, 2012

I think the Moto Droid 3 had the best physical keyboard

18. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

no blackberry? great...

24. matistight

Posts: 911; Member since: May 13, 2009

There is a 9000 on the list....

19. Kelley71

Posts: 105; Member since: Nov 26, 2012

Samsung Epic 4G and Motorola Photon & Photon Q LTE. The Photons were late to the party, skimped on storage and processor, but no one implemented better keyboards.

20. rsiders

Posts: 1860; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

Let's not gorgeous the gorgeous HTC Fuze which was my favorite.

21. TBomb

Posts: 1106; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

LG EnV was my favorite phone to date.... that keyboard was amazing. If only it was still around and ran Android.......

22. nenadmitrovic

Posts: 64; Member since: Aug 01, 2014

Nokia e71 and e72, big hits at the time

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