Friday, November 26, 2010

QWERTY or Touchscreen?

I have been using a QWERTY messenger phone for the past four years, since my telecom service provider, Smart Communications, had been offering QWERTY messenger phones for the consumer market. Ironically enough, none has been the world's most popular QWERTY messenger phone, Blackberry. When I applied for a Blackberry and a BIS plan a few years back, I was declined since they were offered only to corporate clients. Later, when they were offered to non-corporate clients, I found the price too high and at my monthly plan, I could avail of Nokia or Samsung QWERTY messenger phones for free so I opted for those instead which allowed me email access.

The QWERTY messenger phone changed the way I used a mobile phone. I never learned how to multi-tap so sending SMS had always been a chore. Before I had a QWERTY messenger phone, I would not even consume my allocation of free SMS and my phone was really mainly for voice calls. These days I do not know whether I spend more on voice calls or SMS. When I saw the bevy of touchscreen phones hitting the market two years ago, I swore I would never abandon the QWERTY messenger format.

What I have been using for the past year, a Samsung OMNIAPro B7320. 
While there is the OMNIAPro 7330 with a larger screen, I like the balance
of the B7320 in my hand better. 

As a messaging platform I think the QWERTY messenger is still the best choice.  Phones with a QWERTY keypad were once the trademark of a "business" phone. Today, the number of low cost QWERTY phones in the market now like the Nokia C3 which has suggested retail price of Php7,295 and even more humble offering like the My Phone Q19 with a retail price of Php1,990 is proof of utility of the QWERTY phone.

With the advent of 3G technology, mobile phones are able to access regular internet at high speeds. When I got a 3G capable QWERTY smartphone, I started to use my mobile phone for internet access on a regular basis. But after a month or so, I stopped. The small 2.6 inch screen and having to navigate and zoom into webpages with the D-PAD worked well enough, but I guess I did not find the experience sufficiently comfortable to use it for extended periods. Soon, it became a novelty that wore off, I really only rarely access the internet to browse using my mobile phone. Mainly just for things like checking movie schedules. My main use for mobile internet is, downloading email.

Now there are the touchscreen phones, and these once expensive phones are getting more and more affordable every year. Touchscreen phones allow for the use of larger screens and the touchscreen is undoubtedly the most comfortable way to navigate websites on a mobile phone. Most touchscreen phones also have a virtual QWERTY keypad. I have tried a virtual QWERTY keypad and the lack of the tactile feel of a physical QWERTY keypad hampers my typing speed. That is really only an issue while firing away long SMS or typing emails. If it is just taking short notes and making entries into your calendar, the virtual QWERTY keypad is more than sufficient. In every other respect, searching through your contacts to make a phone call, reading documents and of course handheld web-browsing, the touchscreen is superior.

The wide availability of mid to low cost touchscreen smartphones are really tempting. 
When I ask my friends which one to get... this is the one they recommend: the HTC Wildfire
 and on the higher end of the scale, Apple's iPhone.  

It is kind of funny, a QWERTY messenger actually fits all my needs, and I do carry a less-than-3-pound laptop with me most of the time so I really won't be doing much internet surfing on a mobile phone. But something about getting a touchscreen phone is really appealing to me right now. Maybe it is because I like technology and these are currently at the cutting edge, or maybe because a touchscreen phone makes every other phone look archaic. Build it, and they will come. Sigh.

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