Although RIM has experimented with different form factors in recent years the BlackBerry brand is still known for having a full physical QWERTY keyboard beneath the display. There are now plenty of alternative smartphones from other manufacturers with the same form factor.
Classic BlackBerry Form Factor
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 encapsulates the classic BlackBerry form factor. Most people picture this design when they think of a BlackBerry smartphone, even although RIM has introduced some alternative styles. The landscape display with a full, physical QWERTY keyboard beneath it is no longer a design unique to the BlackBerry range. Let’s take a look at the phones from other manufacturers that have copied the BB design.
HTC Status (ChaCha)
This Android smartphone from HTC is a relatively cheap messaging phone with dedicated Facebook support. It was released on AT&T as the Status in the United States but it is known as the ChaCha in Europe. It has a 2.6 inch display with the full physical QWERTY keyboard beneath and it runs Android 2.3. The rest of the specs are mid-range and it is intended as a dedicated messaging device, complete with a dedicated Facebook key for quick access. The form is slightly different from the classic BlackBerry because the bottom edge curves slightly to make it more comfortable to hold.
The Charm from Motorola is another entry-level Android smartphone with a landscape display and that physical keyboard. The display is 2.8 inches and it’s a touch screen. The keyboard is roomy and easy to use but the user interface is let down by the MOTOBlur overlay which sits on top of Android 2.1. It’s not a very powerful smartphone with a 600 MHz processor and the features, such as the 3 MP camera, are a little disappointing.
The Samsung Jack was released back in 2009 before Microsoft overhauled their mobile platform and released Windows Phone 7. The Jack is the last in the Windows Mobile line and followed on from the BlackJack series which also featured the classic BlackBerry form factor. It was available on AT&T and featured a 2.4 inch display but it has since been discontinued.
Motorola Droid Pro
The Droid Pro from Motorola was also released as the XPRT on Sprint. It takes a slightly different approach with a portrait touch screen and a physical keyboard. It is intended as a great smartphone for business users and it supports data encryption and remote wiping capabilities. It runs Android 2.2 and it’s an ideal device for any business user looking to jump ship from BlackBerry and try out the world of Android.
The Titanium looks a lot like the Droid Pro but it is actually much tougher. It is designed to withstand dust, shock, vibration, low pressure, solar radiation, and high or low temperatures. It is a bulky phone that runs Android 2.1 and the keyboard is very reminiscent of the BB Bold. It is available from Sprint and it supports push-to-talk, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but not 3G.
Many manufacturers have copied the basic form factor of the BlackBerry but released budget messaging phones and the Saber from LG fits into that category. It has a 2.2 inch portrait display with a very compact keyboard. The specs are really basic but it does the job as a quick messaging device and it won’t break the bank.
Here we have a 2.46 inch touch screen with a QWERTY keyboard. The E6 from Nokia is also aimed at the business community. It runs on the Symbian OS (Anna) and it has a great 640 x 480 pixel resolution for such a small screen. It’s not especially powerful but it does have an 8 MP camera and plenty of multimedia and, of course, messaging support.
Pantech Link II
The original Pantech Link also resembled a BlackBerry and the second version is a budget offering on AT&T. The display is 2.4 inches and the keyboard features slightly curved keys that sit beneath the classic D-Pad navigation. The specs are extremely basic and there’s a 2 MP camera, but it’s suitable for messaging and the lack of features is reflected in the price.
There are a few different versions of the Samsung Freeform that are available from various US carriers. They are all budget, feature phones but they do have the physical keyboard which makes them handy as messaging devices. If you’re a text addict and you don’t need a smartphone then this is a decent option.
BlackBerry Torch 9850
As everyone else offers some version of the classic BB form it is no surprise to find RIM going the other way. Their latest Torch is a touch screen only smartphone. Realistically most people want big screens on their smartphone so they can enjoy games and movies. Touch screens are fast becoming essential, so much so that even the new Bold combines a small touch screen with the usual physical keyboard. However, there will always be a place for the classic BlackBerry form factor, especially for text addicts.
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