Apr 29 AT 2:45 AM Taylor Wimberly 77 Comments

QWERTY is king for U.S. Android buyers

What do the top three Android phones in the United States have in common? They all feature slide-out QWERTY keyboards. The recent trend from HTC and other handset makers has been towards the slim, slate form factor, but phones with a physical keyboard have proven to sell the most units so far.

Top 10 U.S. smartphones from AdMob.

A quick look at the top smartphones from the latest AdMob report shows the most popular three Android phones are the Motorola Droid, G1 (HTC Dream), and the Motorola CLIQ. Each phone has its own appeal, but they all share similar slide-out keyboards. The majority of Android owners have no clue what firmware their device is running and make their buying decision solely on looks.

I find it most interesting that the Motorola CLIQ appears to have out sold the myTouch 3G. T-Mobile launched the myTouch 3G first, heavily promoted it, and upgraded it to Android 1.6. The CLIQ went on sale several months later and only included Android 1.5, but it looks like more customers are choosing it based entirely on the form factor.

T-Mobile recognizes keyboards are still hot and it makes sense they are gearing up to make the myTouch 3G Slide one of their flagship phones this summer. Outside of that, there are not many options for new Android phones with keyboards coming to the U.S. LG might produce a Snapdragon slider later this year, but nothing official has been announced for the U.S. at this time.

I personally switched to the Nexus One earlier this year and I have adjusted to the virtual keypad quite well, but I still wish a physical keyboard was an option. Out of all the Android devices I’ve used over the last few years, the G1 still has the best keyboard layout in my opinion (5-row, big buttons, nice feedback). If someone releases a high-powered phone with a keyboard this year, that is likely my next purchase.

Which form factor do you prefer? Physical or virtual keyboard? If you have used multiple Android phones with keyboards, which did you like the most so far?

Source: AdMob

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://www.twitter.com/robotmaxtron robotmaxtron

    I hated giving up my keyboard when i moved from my G1 to the Hero. I never quite got over it until i played with Swype. The sliding soft keyboards just made it for me, i’ll never go back to a real keyboard again although i do kind of miss it on some games. Loving my N1 every day.

    • http://Website Zak Jones!

      Totally agree. Switched from my G1 to a N1, and I miss the keyboard. Stock Android keyboard isn’t that great. The HTC keyboard is better, so I used that for a while. Now that I got in on the Swype beta, though, I’m okay with the soft keyboard.

      Swype rapes.

  • http://twitter.com/mikeful/ mikeful

    Interesting. Here in Finland most users prefer on-screen keyboard. I think it’s mainly due difficulty of using umlaut characters on physical keyboards.

  • http://nieudan.com Eric Nieudan

    I would have upgraded a long time ago if I had found a good enough Android phone with a keyboard. For the moment, I’m sticking to my G1 (especially if I can make the next CM build work on it! =)

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomasklingen Tomas

    I actually don’t like the formfactor of slidephones. They’re just too fat. Typing on a virtual keyboard works perfectly for me. After a while you can type as fast as on a physical keyboard AND your phones stays sleek.

  • http://www.neiltantay.com Neil Tantay

    I have always been a fan of a real qwerty keyboard, had a sidekick for years, I’ve had the iphone and a blackberry 9700. I finally switched to the Nexus One and took the plunge without a physical keyboard (I hated the Iphone keyboard). I’ve had no problems with the virtual keyboard on the Nexus One and I feel like I don’t have to have one anymore. I was scared to make the move but as long as the virtual keyboard works, then go for it.

  • http://Website Andrew

    I switched from the G1 to an N1. I’ve played with all the virtual keyboards from Better to Smart to Swype now. Swype is my perferred? Maybe I’m just use to it, but I still my physical kb too… I think what annoyed me the most though was having to turn the phone to use it.. I’d rather a vertical slider like the palm pre, and i’m shocked no one has even attempted this yet…

  • http://twitter.com/Stefing Stefing

    I also moved from the G1 to the Nexus One – after having sworn I’d never have a phone without a keyboard again. Before the G1 I swore I’d never have one without handwriting recognition though… ;)

  • http://Website Eddie Pop

    The only thing stopping me buying the HTC Desire is the lack of a physical QWERTY keyboard. I don’t have the dexterity to use a touch screen keyboard. All I want is Android, min. 5 megapixel camera , FM Radio and a physical keyboard. At the moment the only thing that matches is the Xperia X10 Pro. Amazing. Out of all the models, only 1 phone matches my requirements. HTC are you listening ??

    • http://Website JR

      Okay really the FM radio requirement makes your demands just silly.

  • http://Website Deej

    When I switched to the Mytouch a few months ago, I was hesitant for a while because lack of a physical keyboard. Since I couldn’t afford an Nexus 1 I was limited. However with the introduction to swype or for me an app that resembles it I love the virtual keyboard I don’t even have to put my phone in landscape for a larger keyboard. I’m a pro at the slide or swype option. Will probably never go back to a physical keyboard again, unless some kick ass new phone comes out and I come into a lot of money.

  • http://Website Keith M.

    I have a Samsung Moment and like it very much. If I ever get Android 2.1, I’ll be in love with it. Hey Taylor, have you played with a Samsung Moment with the new update? I was wondering how well it runs.

  • http://Website Donks

    Hanging out for the rumored nexus enterprise phone (well, mentioned by Android VP and said to possibly have a keyboard).

  • http://Website Andrew

    I am on a Droid, and I came from a Blackberry Storm. I don’t really care for the keyboard on the Droid, but that is probably one of the reasons I’m switching to a Droid Incredible later today.

  • juanito

    G1 since last June.

    Must. Have. Physical. Keyboard.

    • http://Website William

      I got mine right at the end of May last year, and I can’t wait until I can get my Nexus. I wanted it instead of the MT3G because of the physical keboard, but now, I have realized that the virtual keyboard is actually pretty good.

  • http://Website Jeff

    I came from a Blackberry Curve and selected the Droid because it had a physical keyboard. Now, having had the phone for about 4 months, I exclusively use, and prefer, the virtual keyboard. I would however, like Andrew, be interested in a vertical slider.

  • http://Website Joanne

    I love, need, want, a Qwerty keyboard….cannot have a phone without one. I love my Droid. Have had no problems whatsoever with the keyboard coming from a Voyager. I would never ever consider a phone without a physical keyboard. For me, the iphone was never and will not ever be an option because it is all touch. I am very satisfied with my Droid and will have to wait to see what comes out later on that I would think is a step-up from the Droid….possible a Droid 2? I hope they continue to make updated versions of the Droid. Of course the 1st and foremost priority is a PHYSICAL KEYBOARD!!!

    • http://Website st4xor

      My sentiments exactly. And you can make that 2 votes for a “Droid 2.”

      I primarily use the physical keyboard (mostly if i’m sitting down somewhere), but I also use the virtual keyboard (on the go). I like having the option available.

      Also, as a user with big hands, I like being able to slide out the screen and make the phone 50% bigger if i’m sitting down browsing the web or w/e, even if i’m not actually using the keyboard.

  • http://Website Westy

    Man Taylor we are on the same boat. I have a N1 but it would be nice to have a keyboard to go back too. I also loved the G1 setup but the motorola cliq setup with the dpad on the left is so fresh. PLEASE MAKE A PHONE HTC WITH THE DPAD ON LEFT. Games are among the most downloaded apps. dpad is supposed to be on the left. PLEASE. Make a power phone with atleast 4 rows 5 if you can squeeze it in there, dpad on the left atleast a 3.7 inch screen. There should always be a keyboard version of all touch phones in my opinion.

  • http://Website Andre

    I’m using a Treo Pro at the moment, waiting to switch to the Evo 4G. I really wish some company on the Android side would release a front qwerty device instead of a slider. I hate having to flip or slide open a phone just to use it. If I had to choose between a virtual keyboard, and a slide-out physical keyboard, I’d definitely go for the virtual.

    • http://Website Westy

      What is it about the slide that you dont like? I dont think you will be seeing very many phones with out the slide out because with out the slide out you will lose screen real estate. I would think a touch screen phone with anything less then 3.2 inches of a screen is useless. a vertical slide phone should fit your taste i would think.

  • http://Website 2C

    I started with a G1 and have now moved on to the Nexus One. With that said I’d prefer to have a physical keyboard because it just makes typing all the move easier. If I could get a HTC Touch Pro 2 with the same specs as the HTC Incredible running stock Android I’d buy two. I prefer the HTC Touch Pro 2s keyboard over the G1 because of the bigger buttons…got to love the 5 rows.

    • http://Website Westy

      I agree bro, only thing i would add is if they could make it a little skinnier and add that D-pad on the left

      • http://Website 2C

        Definitely needs to be thinner but I’d prefer to keep the speaker from the Touch Pro 2 and the 2nd Mic for noise cancelling from the Nexus One. As for the d pad if they give me the button layout of the Incredible with touch pad I’d be fine with that.

        • http://reukiodo.dyndns.org/ reukiodo

          Touch Pro 2 does have a 2nd mic for noise cancellation. And if you buy the international version, it has a 2nd (VGA) camera on the front for video calls. It also has FM (receiver only, I think) and TV out. The main problems with the TP2 are:
          1. last gen hardware (same old MSM72xx Qualcomm 528MHz)
          2. no native Android
          3. no compass
          4. no WiFi n
          5. no FM transmitter
          6. arrow keys (d-pad on left is where it’s supposed to be)
          7. thick (about the same as the G1 w/o chin)
          8. resistive touch
          9. no dedicated camera button (am I the only one that appreciates this feature on the G1??)

  • http://Website ivaylo

    G1 ha a great keyboard really? Before g1 I was using HTC/att 8525. That was a nice keyboard. 4 rows with big keys. After that switching to G1′s keyboard was a torture. Not even mentioning the crazy key backlight problem. Now using n1 and I like it. But still miss that 8525 keyboard.

  • TornadoTexan

    I really like the keyboard on my G1. The only reason I haven’t upgraded to a N1 (besides not having the money for it) is that I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up my hardware keyboard. I would certainly love a faster processor but it seems I’m out of luck if I wanna keep my hardware keyboard.

  • http://Website Jon

    I’m a CLIQ/DEXT user and I use the physical keyboard almost exclusively. The smaller (vertical orient) keyboard I’ll use occasionally for quick notes/single words, but for anything more than a sentence it’s the physical for me.

    It’s faster, I can hold the phone more comfortably when it’s extended and it’s a lot harder to make mistakes when walking.

    I’ve used a G1 and a Hero too, and while the Hero form factor is nice I just wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice my physical keyboard. The iPhone is the only device that pulls virtual keyboards off with any degree of real accuracy/feeling good to use. Android’s isn’t bad, (not as bad as samsung devices) – but I still want buttons, proper tactile feedback etc.

  • http://Website DyzoBandit

    The lack of good QWERTY phones is why I still have my G1 (and still love it though I wouldn’t mind a more powerful phone). Even using my thumbs, I type more by feel than by eye, and I just can’t do it with a virtual keyboard.

  • http://Website Juan

    The prob w/virtual keyboards is that u have to switch screens to enter numbers and characters. It would be nice if someone came out w/a multi-touch virtual keyboard so you could hold down alt or shift on the fly to enter numbers and characters like you do on a physical KB. Some of us type just as fast on our phones as we do on a PC and some of us type w/out lookn at the KB. That’s hard to do on a virtual KB.

    • http://Website 2C

      With HTCs virtual keyboard all you have to do is long press for numbers and symbols. That’s what I use on my Nexus One.

  • http://Website kathi17

    I also long for a powerful phone with a five row physical keyboard. I use the VK on my G1 only for short texts. For anything longer, it’s so much nicer to be able to just type without having to switch back and forth between number/symbol screens and letter screens. Also, on the VK s I’m always hitting the wrong keys because they are so small, even though I have tiny fingers. (My ring size is four, which is really small).

    The MyTouch slide is a real disappointment to me because it’s keyboard is only four rows, and it is not much of an upgrade.

    At the moment, my dream phone would have the specs of the EVO with a five row slide out keyboard running on T-Mo.

  • http://Website Brent

    Despite the effectiveness of the virtual keyboard, there is no one on here that can say that the virtual is more comfortable to use due to a few things…

    1. Nearly impossible to type without looking. How many of us have had to stop typing while walking out of fear of running into poles or people.

    2. Speed is a big factor. Yes the swype is quick but quick with full attention(refer to #1). How many times have our girl or boyfriends sent us mutiple messages while trying to type a long message on a virtual, I get at least three when it gets heated.

    3. Last But Not Least, The feel… yes we love to touch the touchscreen, but all my fells and even ladies can agree that they like to have a good feel of things and flat doesnt always cut it, we like to be able to feel every little bit not just taste it… I’m speaking on cherry coke, get your minds out of the gutter….

  • http://Website Jay

    I have a Motorola Cliq and when I purchased it at launch I was deciding between the Cliq or jumping ship to Sprint for the Palm Pre…..What really sold me on the Cliq was not its hardware but the MotoBlur service….I loved the idea of streaming social networks without using the apps constantly….The Pre does things similar but the Cliq allowed me to stay with T-Mobile and my beloved sim card…..Had T-Mobile had the Palm Pre it would have been a tough buying decision but I think the Cliq keyboard is much easier for my large thumbs and its perfect for playing all of my old school Nintendo games because of the control pad on the keyboard…..I just wish 2.1 would get here already ! ! !

  • krazytrixxxsta

    i’ve never been a fan of a qwerty keyboards

  • http://Website William Furr

    I think you’re reading too much into that data. I’d say the iPhone has already proved that consumers don’t mind or even prefer screen keyboards.

    The G1 was the original “Google phone” and generated a lot of buzz and sold a lot of units. There were no other Android phones for it to compete with at the time.

    The Droid is the first powerful Android phone to come out, and the first to have a major primetime advertising blitz. All the rest of the Android advertising has been peanuts compared to the advertising for the Droid. The Droid’s only real competitor right now is the Nexus One, which has flopped because of the sales strategy, lack of mainstream advertising, and bad press from the 3G issues, not the form factor.

    All the rest of those Android phones are poorly marketed underpowered also-rans compared to the Droid and iPhone 3GS.

    Let’s look at these numbers again three months after the HTC Droid Incredible and HTC Evo 4G have been out. Both are getting a lot of buzz, great hands on impressions, and are really powerful phones likely to appeal to smartphone buyers. I suspect you’ll see a major upset in favor of the slate-style soon.

  • http://Website chancy

    I’ve had a G1 since it came out and I’ve never been happier with any other phone in my life. Of course, the G1 is slowly getting outdated and the hardware is starting to show aging signs but I am still unwilling to buy a new phone mainly because T-Mobile doesn’t offer any other strong phones. The Cliq? Yes it has a keyboard but it is still a joke. The MyTouch is essentially a G1 without a keyboard.

    I guess I’ll just wait for the MyTouch Slide and see what it holds. If it’s disappointing, I may switch to Sprint.

  • http://Website McLovin

    I am disappointed that the new phones do not have a QWERTY keyboard. I am always frustrated using the soft keyboard and revert back to the physical keyboard to get things done right the first time.

    One of the big reasons I choose the G-1 over the iPhone was because of the physical keyboard. Right now everyone thinks they need to copy the iPhone’s design and the soft keyboard which I think is a mistake.

  • http://Website Wesley

    I bought a g1 the day it came out. I loved the keyboard and liked the phone. I ended up giving it to my fiance and switching to the mt3g, and I have to say, I don’t like the on-screen keyboard. This is probably due to processing power though… I think the n1, incedible, and evo are better for on-screen typing. The lag kills on mytouch…. my 2 cents

  • http://Website Kerry

    I was a Sidekick user for years, and now I have a G1. Physical, five-row QWERTY is the way to go for me. You simply can’t touch-type on a virtual keyboard; you have to be looking at it to use it, and there’s no tactile feedback. This translates into speed and accuracy.

    I’m considering the MyTouch Slide, simply because my G1 is so woefully underpowered. I’m not wild about not having a dedicated number row (lived with that on my TyTN), but I’ll have to settle for now.

  • http://Website no-qwerty

    If there were more of a distinguishing factor between physical qwerty phones and touch-screen keyboards. Theoretically the virtual keyboard phones should be more thinner & lighter, and also cheaper. But somehow those differences are minimized in the US Android market.

  • http://Website ermac

    The cliq is on there cause of two reasons: the keyboards d-pad which makes it perfect for gaming, and the motoLogo on the back lol

  • http://Website da boss

    in my opinion the htc g1 has the best keyboard of all sliding keyboard until now 5 row. but the only thing thats bad about it was just the fact its big maybe if they slim it down it would be good. but over all g1 is the best

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  • http://Website Scott

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I was starting to think the Android makers out there were abandoning us QWERTY folks.

    It’s till an absolutely must for me. If it makes it a little fatter. So be it. I’ll take it. As long as it fits in my pocket (and the G1 does, even with the third party extra fat battery).

    If HTC made a phone that had the exact same form factor (and keyboard) as the G! with just upgraded memory / CPU, I would buy it in a heartbeat!

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  • http://Website Jak Crow

    If you add up all the android requests, it beats the iphone, 43% to 39%.

  • http://Website Rivas

    I prefer HW keyboards, so I’m still using a G1, and expect to replace it for the Nexus “Two”? the one that should have a HW keyboard.

    The G1 keyboard is very good, but I miss the one from my old Nokia N810.

  • http://Website Takahito Torimoto

    My wife and I bought the Samsung Moment on Sprint – mainly due to the QWERTY hardware keyboard.
    She swears by the hardware keyboard, but ever since I installed and started using Swype and SlideIT a month or two ago – I have yet to use the hardware keyboard. I can type (swipe) MUCH MUCH faster on these swiping keyboards than on a hardware keyboard. I purchased a license to SlideIT, because I think it has a slight edge over Swype – especially the way you add/remove words and the ability to make your own “aliases” that expand when you enter them. There are a few annoyances in SlideIT that Swype does better – but overall, I think SlideIT is slightly better and therefore paid for it.
    Again, once I started learning to “slide” (not much of a learning curve, really) using Swype/SlideIT – I have yet to go back to using a hardware keyboard. At this point, I actually regret getting the Moment – almost wished I had gotten the Hero (smaller form factor) – and will be looking forward to, hopefully, moving to the EVO 4G.

    • http://Website Keith J

      My Apologies… I meant to upgrade that comment. Thanks for the info on virtual keyboard options.
      My family might split the difference as you suggested in our overresearched jump from Verizon to Sprint. Going from reg. phones to Android will be great!
      Just wish 2.1 was onboard so I could make a true comparison, but I digress.

  • http://Website Al

    I have a G1 and N1 (which I got free) but I still can’t bear to move over to a keyboard-less phone. The N1 has newest Android version, looks better then a G1 and is much faster but I cringe at the thought of using _just_ a virtual keyboard and assigning my G1 to my desk drawer.

  • http://Website Juan

    I own a Motorola Cliq. While I hate the ever-changing drama of not knowing when the next version upgrade is coming (still running version 1.4.8 uggggg!!!!!!), I have to say that one of the main reasons for my purchasing the Cliq as the keyboard. Today, I’m already looking for a phone with more internal memory, but the android platform is leagues ahead of the Windows Pocket PC crap I had on my last phone.

    I have several friends in the tech department I work for who have the same minimum spec requirement for a “real” keyboard. The add mm in physical space is really minimal these days, and definitely a “deal-keeper” for me.

  • http://Website Juan

    I own a Motorola Cliq. While I hate the ever-changing drama of not knowing when the next version upgrade is coming (still running version 1.4.8 uggggg!!!!!!), I have to say that one of the main reasons for my purchasing the Cliq was the keyboard. Today, I’m already looking for a phone with more internal memory, but the android platform is leagues ahead of the Windows Pocket PC crap I had on my last phone.

    I have several friends in the tech department I work for who have the same minimum spec requirement for a “real” keyboard. The add mm in physical space is really minimal these days, and definitely a “deal-keeper” for me.

  • http://www.hyperborea.org/journal/ Kelson

    The physical keyboard is a big part of the reason I haven’t walked away from my G1 yet. Well, that and the fact that I can’t get an upgrade price on the Nexus One. I’m keeping an eye on the MyTouch Slide, though.

  • http://Website Paul

    Physical keyboards are not popular in UK & Europe, if you have a touchscreen of at least 3.5″ then is know need to use a physical keyboard, we dont like physical keyboards & prefer a thinner phone. In europe we have more phone choice as ever phone released can work on every network by changing the sim (if not sim locked) but in the US almost every network you need a specific mobile, So I think its not that america prefers qwerty keyboards I thing it is the lack of choice on a specific network.

  • http://Website Ray

    I don’t get it – the G1 keyboard a bunch of you are praising is absolutely terrible. It’s off-center which makes it absolutely painful to thumb type on for more than a few words, and in any case has very little clicky tactile feedback.

    The last smartphone I owned with a great thumb keyboard was the Treo 650. I could actually touch-thumb-type on that thing and pound out emails without looking at the screen, and it wan’t painful or uncomfortable to use because it was centered and in a sensible, ergonomic position.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my Nexus One now – I got used to using a virtual keyboard with the iPhone and then iPhone 3G. The Nexus One’s built in virtual keyboard is pretty good – with the vibration feedback turned on so you can feel what you are doing, it’s very usable. I installed the virtual keyboard from HTC Sense on my G1/Cyanogen phone and it worked nicely too for the slower processor until I got the NexusOne.

    The point is that physical keyboards on phones are very nice *if* they are placed sensibly and in a usable, ergonomic position. The loss of screen real estate with a stationary keyboard (like on the old Treos) and the added thickness from slider keyboards like on the G1, however, are often not worth it. But a keyboard that is flat and provides no tactile feedback is no better than a virtual keyboard in any case, and a keyboard that is off center worse than useless – it tempts you to use it and then causes pain and discomfort in your hands.

  • http://gardenwife.com Gardenwife

    “the G1 still has the best keyboard layout in my opinion (5-row, big buttons, nice feedback). If someone releases a high-powered phone with a keyboard this year, that is likely my next purchase.”

    Ditto. I really like the G1′s keyboard. I am waiting for a QWERTY phone with a truly updated processor and storage to come out before I upgrade. I’ve had my G1 since the first week they came out and to me there’s no point in upgrading to another QWERTY phone unless it has the same processor power as the N1. So…I’m waiting. I just flash the latest Cyanogen mods and enjoy the new Android versions that way.

  • http://Website Charles Whealton

    Make no mistake about it – I love my G1′s keyboard. A colleague just got one of the new Incredibles. I don’t like these virtual keypads. They’re too small for my comfort.

  • http://Website avi0@gmail.c

    I have N1 and love it very much then got Motorola cliq as a second phone because of its physical keyboard. Well I love both phone and the N1 is definitely much better than the cliq but for typing I like the cliq’s keyboard more…it’s just I don’t make that many mistake and can type a a lot faster.

  • AndMac

    i hate physical keyboards.

    I had a WM6 HTC8125 with a slider, and I never used it. It’s easier to just type short sentences on the screen.

    Physical keyboards just add bulk and I never use them, so for me, sleek shape and a good on-screen keyboard is a must.

  • http://Website Dan B

    Having just previously had an HTC Touch Pro with a slide-out keyboard, the lack of one was the only reservation I had when I ordered my Droid Incredible. That being said, I’ve had it a little over a week now and I’ve become more used to the virtual keyboard. I prefer the Swype k/b but can also use the standard HTC one. The slim design of the DI, along with the good soft keyboard options, more than make up for the lack of a physical keyboard.

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  • http://Website Andy K

    Apart from an innate belief that you can type faster on an HK than a VK, I have one immutable reason for getting an HK: ConnectBot. If you have to shell into a machine, you need to see the terminal window, not the VK.

    Like everyone else, I’m waiting on my G1 for something with a 5-row QWERTY. And a flash for the camera.

    Seriously: Who needs a real keyboard? Nerds. What do nerds need to be able to type? Numbers. Stop making 4-row QWERTY units unless you’re selling them to texters and FB freaks.

  • http://Website jimbo

    Give me a 5-row keyboard! I don’t want to hit alt every time I want to type a number!!!!! Go 5-row or go home. 4 rows are cramped and might as well just use a touch screen if you have 4 rows. I want 5 rows or nothing! At LEAST 5 rows. 6 would be better.

  • http://Website Allym

    I used to have a Tmobile sidekick for like 5 years (different model of course) and I also switched to the Nexus One I love it but I really miss the keyboard.

    it’s not a real keyboard in my opinion without at least 5 rows

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