Android and Hardware Keyboards
The Android system first saw the light of day on a device with a slide-out keyboard in the form of the T-Mobile G1. The very first version of the platform didn’t even have a software keyboard at all, it only came with version 1.5 of the system. However, ever since it has been awfully quiet for physical keyboard devotees. So much even, that the Android platform as a whole is almost entirely associated with touchscreen controls exclusively. Is this prejudice still a valid one, or has the keyboard landscape changed since then? This overview of Android phones with physical keyboards provides an answer to that question. The best Android phones with a keyboard are discussed below and should be perfect for anyone seeking the best Android phone for texting or typing.
Motorola Droid 2
The Motorola Droid 2, as the name implies, is the successor of the first Droid. By design the second version is not that much different, it is an upgraded hardware set. The first Droid was a highly successful device for Verizon Wireless, where it was initially presented as the carriers’ rival to the iPhone. The success of the handset lay primarily in the fact that it was, at the time, the only competitive Android handset with a physical keyboard, and in a way, the successor to the T-Mobile G1 because of it. The Droid 2 sports a 1GHz processor with 512 of RAM, an industry standard for high-end Android phones at the moment. The second Droid has a 3.7 inch TFT LCD screen, in a 16:9 aspect ratio. It runs the latest version of Android, 2.2, albeit with a customized interface. The second Droid is a good all-rounder that may be a little less groundbreaking than the 4G but will satisfy many Verizon Wireless customers wanting a solid Android experience.
The LG Ally is a mid-range Android slider phone that comes with a modified version of the platform. The hardware specs are decent enough with a Qualcomm processor running at 600mhz. The phone has 512 MB internal memory for storing apps on and has 256 MB’s of RAM. The phone runs the 2.1 version of the Android system and is therefore a good choice for everyone that wants a relatively inexpensive Android phone, while also being able to use many of the most recent features of the platform.
The Motorola Devour is a handset that runs Motorola’s custom Android user interface, dubbed as ‘Blur’. The handset resembles the LG Ally in terms of hardware specs, but only runs on version 1.6 of the platform. Even though released not too long ago, the phone has a slight disadvantage, as the most recent features of Android, such as voice search or Flash 10.1, will not be able to run on it. In terms of looks, the Devour somewhat resembles the T-Mobile Sidekick, but is built out of more durable aluminum. As Motorola has already indicated that Motoblur will not be their focus going forward, the Devour may not be the best-supported phone. As it was already outdated at launch, Verizon Wireless seems to have better handsets on offer that have a physical keyboard present.
The T-Mobile G2 is the true successor to the G1. What is unique about the G2 is that it will be the only Android handset with a physical keyboard that will run on the stock, or ‘clean’, version of Froyo. The handset is therefore labeled as a ‘With Google’ handset, which could potentially mean that any updates to Android itself may appear quickly on the device. Like Samsung’s ‘Epic’, the G2 will also be able to handle ‘4G’ speeds, even though the HSPA+ network from T-Mobile differs from Sprint’s WiMAX. The handset runs on a SnapDragon processor, running at 800 Mhz. As it is a newer generation of the processor as compared to those running at 1GHz, the phone should, in theory, run even smoother at the lower clock speed. Furthermore the phone has 4GB internal memory with an 8GB SD card included, shoots 720p video, has a 3.7 inch Super-TFT screen and 512mb of RAM, making it a top of the range handset.
The MyTouch 3G Slide is T-Mobile’s mid-budget slider Android phone. It is a successor to the original MyTouch 3G that did not have a physical keyboard. The Slide characterizes itself by running on a heavily modified version of the Android Platform, that somewhat resembles HTC Sense in some ways. As the phone is produced by HTC, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. The fact that it is a mid-range phone is evident through the hardware specs. Compared to the G2 it has a slower processor, running at 600 MHz, with 512 MB a lot less internal space and a 3.4 inch screen. Nevertheless as the phone is part of the MyTouch line of T-Mobile it is well supported and therefore a worthy alternative for everybody that doesn’t need a more expensive high-end handset like the G2.
The Motorola Cliq is not necessarily the worst handset with a physical keyboard available on the T-Mobile network, but it doesn’t have many of the features that the other two have. As it is also the oldest of the three, and the first phone to feature Motorola’s ‘Blur’ interface, the handset has the lowest hardware specs, albeit only slightly less than the MyTouch 3G Slide. However, as Motorola has not dedicated itself to updating the software version of the phone beyond version 1.5 of Android, the phone has a lot to catch up on at the moment. If the T-Mobile G2 is ‘High End’, and the MyTouch 3G Slide is ‘Mid-Range’, then the Motorola Cliq would be the ‘Low End’ offering.
Samsung Epic 4G
The Epic 4G is Samsung’s Galaxy S version for the Sprint Network. Of all the Galaxy S line handsets, this is also the only one capable of combining ‘4G’ speeds with a slide-out keyboard. It is a ‘High-End’ handset and it could well be the best Android phone for texting or typing. If you are looking for an Android phone with a slide-out keyboard that lives up to the highest performance standards on Sprint, the Samsung Epic 4G is the one to get. Like the other Galaxy S line phones, the Epic 4G has a 1GHz ‘Hummingbird’ processor, a Super AMOLED Screen, 5 MP camera capable of shooting 720p video and 512 MB RAM. Besides the addition of a physical keyboard the phone also sports a front facing camera, capable of video chatting and an LED flash, which others in the Galaxy S line are lacking. The phone runs on the custom built Touchwiz 3.0 interface, which isn’t as intrusive as previous versions. All in all the Samsung Epic 4G is one of the best Android phones on sale today.
There isn’t too much to say about Motorola’s Backflip Android handset. As it is the only Android handset with a physical keyboard at the moment on AT&T, there isn’t much choice. The Backflip features the same modest hardware specs as the ‘Cliq’. It was released with the 1.5 version of Android and an upgrade is rumored to happen by the end of 2010. The Backflip distinguishes itself by a unique keyboard system where instead of sliding out, the keyboard is reversed around the back. The handset also includes what Motorola calls a ‘backtrack’ trackpad, which is basically a touchpad on the back of the device. As such the phone does have a few unique features on offer for its (potential) owners. Other than these extras, however, there aren’t too many reasons to choose the Motorola Backflip. Unless a physical keyboard is indeed the main driving force for purchasing a phone, the carrier has a few better non-keyboard options on Android. All of them would be a better choice than the Motorola Backflip.
Hardware Keyboards and Android, There is Plenty of Choice!
This roundup of Android phones with hardware keyboards clearly indicates that Android has broken from the ‘touchscreen’ only label. There are many options now for those that demand a keyboard-capable handset in any sort on any platform, with the exception of AT&T. As AT&T is the exclusive carrier of Apple’s iPhone, their Android offering in general has been lacking, which wouldn’t make them the default choice in this regard. Nevertheless, most other popular carriers have a decent variety of phones to choose from, that should suit the desire of many Android and physical keyboard devotees!