There’s something about using a smartphone with a physical keyboard that feels good. Sometimes regarded as defunct tech, QWERTY phones sporting full keyboards still live, and there are numerous examples on sale today. Surprisingly, they aren’t all made by BlackBerry, though the best ones definitely are. 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 of which major network you prefer, there is a QWERTY-equipped smartphone out there with your name on it — even if you want to spend no money at all. Just don’t expect any of them to rival an iPhone X or a Samsung Galaxy S9 when it comes to design and specs.
The return of the BlackBerry brand on the Android platform has been an unexpected success story and the BlackBerry Key2 is its high point so far. Sporting the best keyboard experience you’ll find on a smartphone today, this is also an attractive, powerful phone with plenty of stamina and a host of security and privacy features. BlackBerry has worked to refine the keyboard experience offered on the KeyOne by adding slightly larger keys and dropping the frets between them down to provide more room. The backlit keyboard is also capacitive, which means it’s touch sensitive, so you can just flick up to select suggested words that pop up on the predictive bar and you can use the whole keyboard as a trackpad for scrolling. You can still program button functions, but there’s also a Speed key now which acts as a shortcut into apps.
Do you have to compromise to get a keyboard like this one? Maybe a little. Performance doesn’t quite hit the highs of the latest flagships, though it’s not far away. The camera suffers from some shutter lag and mixed low-light performance, but the Portrait Mode is excellent. The screen is only 4.5 inches to accommodate the keyboard. But the Key2 is also reasonably priced at $650, so it’s not entirely fair to compare it with the iPhone X. Ultimately, this is the best QWERTY phone out there, bar none. Read our full BlackBerry Key2 review to learn more.
If you’re like us, you have a soft spot in your heart for BlackBerry phones. With great battery life, unmatched keyboard shortcuts and customization, and excellent build quality, BlackBerry’s phones are the cream of the QWERTY keyboard crop. The BlackBerry KeyOne topped our list until its successor came out. This TCL-built smartphone has the superb build quality that you expect from a traditional BlackBerry phone. The full QWERTY keyboard has capacitive buttons, so you can use it to swipe and scroll — or swipe up to pick suggested words — as well as type. The space bar doubles as the fingerprint sensor. It also has a vibrant 4.5-inch, 1080p display, and comes bundled with Android 7.1.1, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, and 32GB of built-in storage with a MicroSD card slot in case you need more. BlackBerry is all about security, so it comes with added security features as well.
It’s a chunky phone and performance isn’t top tier. It also has a decent camera, though there are many better options in that department. The KeyOne will set you back $450 if you buy it from Amazon or BestBuy and $500 to $530 if you buy it from Sprint or AT&T. You can opt to pay for it monthly, however, if you buy it through a carrier. You can read our in-depth review of the BlackBerry KeyOne to find out why we love it so much.
Before the KeyOne, the Priv was the most sought-after phone with a QWERTY keyboard, and for good reason. It was BlackBerry’s flagship and looks much like a standard touchscreen phone, but with a slide-out keyboard that lives under the display when not in use.
In making the Priv, BlackBerry did away with BlackBerry OS in favor of Android, opening up the device to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store, as well as an operating system that many people are probably more familiar with. It also offers a display with a 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a MicroSD card to expand on that storage. The rear camera is rated at 18 megapixels, and there’s a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. It’s a cool $250-plus to buy unlocked. Read our full BlackBerry Priv review for more.
The Passport looks like a blend of classic BlackBerry devices and modern design, and while it’s a nice-looking phone, it will only work through GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.
The price is $195, and for that, you are getting decent specs, including a quad-core Snapdragon processor, a 4.5-inch HD screen, and a 13-megapixel rear camera. The compact keyboard has been designed for typing accuracy, plus it has a cool set of touch-based gesture controls. Read our full BlackBerry Passport review here.
LG Extravert 2 or Xpression
While there are other options beyond BlackBerry, to find an alternative keyboard phone that’s still being sold we had to dive into the feature phone market for this 6-year-old offering from LG. The optimistically named Extravert 2 sports 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 $89 without a contract, it’s just the right price for a feature phone. The Xpression is the same phone, but for AT&T instead of Verizon, and it’s a little cheaper at $80.