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.
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?