There is clearly something about using a smartphone with a physical keyboard. Often regarded as old, defunct tech; the QWERTY phone still lives, and there are various examples out there that are still on sale. Surprisingly, they aren’t all made by BlackBerry, either. If you like the soft click of a key under your finger instead of the cold, unforgiving surface of a touchscreen, then this roundup is especially for you.
Regardless which major network you prefer, and even if you want to spend no money at all, there is a QWERTY-equipped smartphone out there with your name on. Just don’t expect any of them to rival an iPhone 6 or an LG G3 for stunning high-specs, or amazing games-playing ability.
Built to meet military toughness standards, the Terrain will withstand some abuse, plus it’s water and dust resistant too. It has a 3.1-inch touchscreen with a 640 x 480 pixel resolution, fixed above a four row QWERTY keyboard. Below this, there are a pair of forward facing speakers, so you can hear the caller even in very loud environments. Other specs include a 5-megapixel rear camera, a VGA front cam, and 4G LTE connectivity.
Android 4.0 is the operating system, which isn’t the most up to date version, and the dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip probably won’t be the best for gaming either. However, it’s not really about specs or power, the NEC Terrain is a workhorse; and for surviving where other phones fail, it’ll probably do a good job.
If you sign-up for a 2-year contract it’ll cost you $100, or $430 if you want to buy the phone outright.
If the fixed QWERTY keyboard doesn’t bring back enough old memories, then the Expression will, thanks to a slide-out keyboard. The phone is about as basic as it gets for phones today. It has a 3-inch touchscreen, a 2-megapixel rear camera, 3G, and an almost unimaginably small 50MB of internal memory.
Don’t go looking for Android either, it’s not there; this phone runs a proprietary OS, like the good ol’ days before the iPhone. What does it have going for it, aside from the physical keyboard? It’s cheap — as in free. That’s if you don’t mind signing up for two years. If that sounds like a long time, then you can pay $170 and own the phone outright.
The Q10 is perhaps the only choice for anyone slightly used to a modern smartphone, but still wants a physical keyboard. The 3.1-inch screen has a 720 x 720 pixel resolution, and the QWERTY keyboard below it is widely regarded as one of the best there is. A dual-core chip provides the power, along with 2GB of RAM, plus there’s 4G LTE connectivity.
BlackBerry OS 10 is installed, and although the BlackBerry store may not be the busiest marketplace, the phone can run Android apps downloaded through the Amazon Appstore. An 8-megapixel camera is on the back, and there’s a 2-megapixel selfie cam above the screen.
Unless you really need the NEC Terrain’s toughness, then the Q10 is the best choice from AT&T. It’s also sensibly priced at $50 with a contract, or $390 without.
There’s only one QWERTY choice with T-Mobile, and it’s the LG Optimus F3Q. LG hasn’t used the Optimus name on high-end phones for a while, so don’t expect this one to rival the G3 in terms of technical ability. It has a 4-inch touchscreen covering the wide QWERTY keyboard, runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor.
It connects to T-Mobile’s fastest network, and has a 5-megapixel camera on the back, plus it’ll cost you nothing at all up front. It’s $324 in total, or $13.50 per month over the course of two years.
Motorola Admiral ($100)
Desperate for a QWERTY phone, and don’t care about the specs? Sprint sells refurbished Motorola Admiral phones for $100 without a contract, making them very cheap indeed. However, you’ll have to make some compromises. It runs Android 2.3 – yes, Gingerbread, from 2011 – and the 3.1-inch screen has a 320 x 480 pixel resolution.
There is a 5-megapixel camera on the back, and a Snapdragon processor inside, so it’s not all terrible. It’ll connect to Sprint’s 3G network, plus it comes with GPS and Wi-Fi. Exciting it’s not, but the tough body shell will keep it safe even if you don’t look after it.
Oh my, now we’re really going back into the mists of time in our quest for a QWERTY phone. The Kyocera Verve has an alphanumeric keypad below a 2.4-inch screen, plus a slide-out QWERTY keyboard underneath. Before you ask, this is a feature phone with 3G connectivity, and not an Android smartphone.
However, to make up for looking like a phone from a bygone era (which it is), it is very cheap. It’ll cost $130 without a contract, or you can pick one up through Sprint for nothing up front, and around $5 per month for two years.
The optimistically named Extravert 2 is another device with a side-sliding QWERTY keyboard, which is covered over by a 3.2-inch touchscreen. It’s a chunky little thing at 15mm thick (twice that of a new iPhone), and only has a 2-megapixel camera on the back, but the battery should last 17 days on standby, which the new iPhone definitely can’t match.
At $200 without a contract, it’s pretty expensive for a feature phone, and pricier than the very similar LG Expression through AT&T. Alternatively, it’s free on a two-year contract if you’re really keen.
If the Extravert’s 17 days of standby isn’t enough, then how about the more than 30 offered by the Cosmos 3? This feature phone also has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard hidden underneath a small screen and alphanumeric keypad combo, and comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera, and – wait for it – software that includes a tip calculator. Dizzying stuff. It’s cheaper to buy outright than the Extravert at $150, and free on a two-year contract.
Unconnected QWERTY phones
The most desirable phone with a fixed QWERTY keyboard out there at the moment is the BlackBerry Passport, but you’ll need to have patience if you want to buy it through a carrier. If you can’t wait, online retailer Expansys has both the black and white LTE models in stock right now.
The price is a high $650, but you are getting decent specs, including a quad-core Snapdragon processor, a 4.5-inch HD screen, and a 13-megapixel rear camera. The keyboard has been updated for modern times, and is designed for total typing accuracy, plus it has a cool set of touch-based gesture controls.
Expansys also stocks the BlackBerry Classic, if waiting for it to arrive on a network isn’t an option. It’s priced at $430, runs BlackBerry 10, and has a 3.5-inch screen above the traditional physical keyboard. It’ll connect to 4G networks, and has an 8-megapixel camera on the back.
If you’re questioning why you should get this over the BlackBerry Q10, then it’s a difficult one to answer. The Classic does have a slightly larger screen, and an arguably slightly more attractive design, but the rest of the specs are almost identical. If you can find a bargain Q10, it may be the better buy.