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The Top Android Smartphones with Physical Keyboards

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/3/2011

Most of today's smartphones use virtual keyboards, but some people do prefer the tactile feel of a physical keyboard. There are a handful of cutting-edge Android phones on the market that fill this niche.

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    Enjoying the Tactile Experience

    Android was designed primarily for use with touchscreen devices, which means the use of a virtual keyboard rather than a physical one. This makes it possible to include a relatively large display in a thin design, but it also means sacrificing the pleasant tactile feel a physical keyboard provides. For many users, this feel makes it possible to type more quickly.

    There are Android phones with full keyboards, but the selection is limited. Let's take a look at three great phones currently available that fit this niche.

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    Sprint Evo Shift

    Best Android Keyboards The HTC Evo 4G is one of the best phones currently available on any network, and it has been for some time. The Sprint Evo Shift is that phone's cousin, and while it shares the name, there are some substantial differences between the Evo 4G and the Evo Shift.

    Obviously, one of the differences is the inclusion of a physical slider keyboard - otherwise this phone wouldn't be on this list. With the slider retracted, it's virtually invisible, but it does result in some added thickness. When deployed, the physical keyboard proves to be responsive. It's a four-row model, so you'll have to press a function key to type numbers.

    The hardware in the Evo Shift is an 800 MHz Snapdragon processor, which includes the Adreno 200 GPU. This is also a 4G phone, just like the Evo 4G. The Evo Shift has a 3.6" display, which is quite a bit smaller than the 4.3" on the Evo 4G.

    Overall, the Sprint Evo Shift is solid Android phone with a full keyboard. Although the processor is not quick by today's standards, the 4G capability makes up for that somewhat.

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    Verizon Droid 2 Global

    Best Android with Full Keyboard The Droid 2 Global is simply the latest version of Motorola's Droid, although that's not to say this phone is a recent release. In fact, it has been on the market for about 8 months.

    Despite that, it is quicker than the Sprint Evo Shift thanks to a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor. The performance difference is certainly noticeable even in simple use - the graphics are smoother, and programs open more quickly. Another major selling point is the fact that, as the name implies, this is a "Global" phone. That means it has radios that will work outside of Verizon's US network.

    The Droid 2 Global has a 3.7 inch touchscreen display and a sliding physical keyboard. The keyboard is a 4-row model, the keys are very large, but there's not much room between them. On the downside, the Droid 2 Global only supports 3G.

    While there are pluses and minuses to the Droid 2 Global, it's the fastest and the most mature Android phone with a physical keyboard at the moment.

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    T-Mobile Sidekick 4G

    Android Physical Keyboards The Sidekick is a long-running brand of smartphones with physical keyboards that are designed for use by younger generations. The inclusion of a physical keyboard has long been a defining characteristic of the Sidekick brand, the reason being that younger buyers often make significant use of the texting and social networking features provided by their phones.

    Sidekick was thought to be dead as of 2009, but T-Mobile has brought it back as the Sidekick 4G. The new device is powered by a customized version of Android. Although made by Samsung, the Sidekick's version of Android is not TouchWiz but instead unique to the Sidekick. Inside the phone you'll find a single-core 1 GHz Hummingbird processor.

    Buyers who love physical keyboards will be pleased with the Sidekick's take. It's a 5-row, which means there are dedicated number keys. Although individual keys are small, there is substantial space between keys, which makes it easier to remember where your fingers are placed. Overall, the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G isn't necessarily the best smartphone, but it does have the best physical keyboard on an Android phone.

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    References

    • Phone Arena, http://www.phonearena.com/phones/HTC-EVO-Shift-4G_id4979
    • Phone Arena, http://www.phonearena.com/phones/Motorola-DROID-2-Global_id4842
    • Phone Arena, http://www.phonearena.com/phones/T-Mobile-Sidekick-4G_id5158
    • All images are from manufacturer press materials.