QWERTY Keypads When Buying Mobiles and Smartphones

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Choosing Between Touch Screen and QWERTY Keypads When Buying Mobiles and Smartphones

QWERTY and touchscreen are the two prominent mobile form factors available today. The former has a full-fledged physical keypad while the latter has a touchscreen operated virtual keypad. The presence of the physical keypad improves typing efficiency at the cost of screen real estate. Choosing between QWERTY and touchscreen mobiles and smartphones is usually a matter of personal preference and requirements, although there are a number of features that must be considered before making any purchase decision.

About QWERTY and Touchscreen Mobiles and Smartphones

The QWERTY layout dates its origin back to the early 1870s to an inventor named Christopher Latham Sholes. The QWERTY layout intentionally kept common letter-pairs such as 'th' and 'st' apart to prevent key jamming when used simultaneously in typewriters. This layout resulted in lower typing speed but also reduced incidents of keys jamming when pressed together, thereby increasing typing efficiency. The QWERTY layout was adopted by the extremely popular Remington No.2 typewriter invented in 1878. In the years to follow, QWERTY layout would become standard in typewriters. With the invention of the computer, the QWERTY layout was transposed onto the computer keyboard. The QWERTY layout found its way onto phones with the Nokia 9000 Communicator developed in 1998. The phone incorporated a computer-like QWERTY keypad for use with its email and text messaging applications. The success of the phone prompted a slew of other business-oriented phone manufacturers such as BlackBerry to adopt the QWERTY keypad in business phones. Touchscreen technology, meanwhile, was relatively late to arrive on smartphones. While the technology can be dated back to the 1970s, it wasn't until the launch of Apple iPhone in 2007 that touchscreen technology became feasible for use in mobile phones. The wild success of the iPhone resulted in dozens of manufacturers adopting touchscreen technology en masse. Today, touchscreen smartphones outsell standard feature phones in most of the world.

Choosing Between QWERTY and Touchscreen Mobiles and Smartphones

QWERTY and touchscreen mobile phones are both meant for different purposes. The former is meant for text-heavy applications such as email and messaging apps. The diminished screen size makes it unsuitable for heavy browsing, playing games, or utilizing graphically intensive applications. Touchscreen phones, on the other hand, are much more versatile and usually come equipped with advanced operating systems like Google Android and Apple iOS.

Buying QWERTY Mobiles and Smartphones

QWERTY phones dominated mobile phone sales until the smartphone revolution of the late 2000s. They still command a large share of the mobile phone market with different manufacturers producing different types of QWERTY phones to fit consumer needs. As such, QWERTY phones vary widely in their range of features, operating system used, and form factor.

Types of QWERTY Mobiles and Smartphones

Based on the form factor and keyboard type, QWERTY phones can be divided into the following categories:


A full QWERTY phone has a full-fledged keyboard with individual keys for the QWERTY letters. Such phones are very easy to use but tend to be larger in size.


A half QWERTY phone incorporates two or more letters onto a single key. This diminishes typing efficiency while reducing phone size.

Landscape Slide-out QWERTY

This form factor includes a landscape-oriented screen with a slide-out physical keyboard underneath. Landscape screen increases screen real estate, but the slide-out keyboard adds considerable bulk to the device.

QWERTY + Touchscreen

This hybrid phone incorporates both a QWERTY keyboard and a touchscreen. Touchscreen makes navigation easier and more intuitive, while QWERTY ensures faster typing. This form factor is commonly found in business smartphones.

QWERTY Mobile and Smartphone Operating Systems

QWERTY phones describe a very broad category of mobile phones that include devices that operate on advanced OSes like Android and Windows Phone as well as those that run on feature phone operating systems. Broadly speaking, QWERTY phones may utilize any one of the following operating systems:

Operating System





RIM's BlackBerry is an advanced smartphone OS developed for use in the company's BlackBerry range of smartphones. The OS is primarily targeted toward business users and works very well with QWERTY phones.



Google Android is primarily a touchscreen smartphone operating system. However, some device manufacturers have ported Android to QWERTY phones as well. Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world and boasts a huge app library.

Series 40


Series 40 or S40 is Nokia's closed-source feature phone operating system. It is used in a lot of Nokia's low-end QWERTY phones.



Symbian OS is primarily used in Nokia's low-end smartphones and QWERTY phones, although the company has phased out support for Symbian in favour of Windows Phone.



Bada is Samsung's feature phone OS. It is used in a lot of low-end Samsung QWERTY phones.

Windows Phone


Windows Phone is a smartphone operating system. The OS is meant to be used with a touchscreen. Therefore, it is only used in QWERTY + touchscreen mobile phones.

QWERTY Mobile and Smartphone Features

Besides form factor and operating system, a number of features must be considered before buying QWERTY mobile phones. Some of these features are:

Large Keys

Large keys make typing easier, although they may also add to device weight and size.

Back Camera

A high-resolution back camera is standard with most QWERTY phones sold today. Cameras capable of recording HD videos are highly recommended.

Screen Size

Larger screens are useful for browsing, playing games, and running apps. Phones that run smartphone operating systems benefit the most from large screens.

Battery Life

QWERTY phones running smartphone operating systems tend to consume a lot of power. Phone battery life is measured in a unit called milliampere Hour (mAh). Higher mAh rating translates into better battery life.

Buying Touchscreen Mobiles and Smartphones

Touchscreens entered the mainstream with the launch of the Apple iPhone in 2007. Previously, touchscreens were a niche technology used mostly in high-end smartphones and PDAs. Today, touchscreens are used in both feature phones and smartphones. Touchscreens phones vary widely in the type of touchscreen technology used, operating system, features, and form factors, which can be seen below. The majority of popular smartphones today are touchscreen, such as the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S7.

Touchscreen Technologies Used in Mobiles and Smartphones

There are two types of touchscreen technologies used in mobiles and smartphones today: resistive and capacitive. The differences between these are:

Touchscreen Type





The screen consists of two layers of resistive material separated by air. When a finger or stylus touches the screen, the two layers get in contact, producing an electric current. Resistive screens are mostly used in low-end smartphones and feature phones.

Resistive touchscreens are very cheap and easy to manufacture.

Resistive touchscreens suffer from poor performance and do not have multi-touch capability.


Capacitive touchscreens are made of a top layer of insulating material (like glass) coated with a transparent conductor. Touching the screen with the finger causes a change in the screen's capacitance, producing an electric current. Capacitive touchscreens are typically used in mid to high-end smartphones.

Capacitive touchscreens are multi-touch sensitive. They are also more responsive than resistive screens.

Capacitive screens are expensive to manufacture. Thus, they can only be used in high-end phones.

Types of Touchscreen Mobiles and Smartphones

Depending on the form factor and features, touchscreen phones can be divided into the following three categories:

Touchscreen Smartphone

Any phone that utilizes an advanced operating system like Google Android or Apple iOS is called a smartphone. Most touchscreen phones are smartphones, though quite a few also use standard feature-phone operating systems.

Touchscreen Feature Phones

Touchscreen feature phones run on standard operating systems like Nokia Symbian and are targeted at budget buyers. Such feature phones typically utilize poorer quality resistive touchscreens and suffer from performance issues.

Touch + Type

A number of feature phones incorporate both a touchscreen and a standard keypad into the design. These are called touch + type phones.

Touchscreen Mobile and Smartphone Operating Systems Touchscreen phones may use any one of the following operating systems:

Operating System





Google Android is used only in touchscreen smartphones. The OS has a huge library of applications and offers extensive customisation options.

Windows Phone


Windows Phone is a modern OS developed for use in touchscreen smartphones. It has a growing app library and is available in a range of handsets.



iOS is Apple's closed-source, proprietary OS used only in Apple iPhone and iPad devices. It has the largest application library of all mobile operating systems.



RIM's BlackBerry is a closed-source OS used exclusively in the company's BlackBerry devices.



Nokia Symbian OS is generally used only in low-end touchscreen phones. It is a closed-source OS with a small app library.

Touchscreen Mobile and Smartphone Features

Besides the features mentioned above in QWRTY phones, touchscreen mobiles and smartphones also offer a number of other features such as multiple connectivity options, dual cameras, etc. Chief features to consider when buying touchscreen mobiles are:


4G LTE is the fastest mobile data transfer protocol. It is available in most modern touchscreen phones.


NFC (Near-Field Communication) enables mobiles to communicate with NFC tags. It essentially turns the phone into a mobile wallet, allowing the user to pay for products and check into flights/buses/trains. NFC is available in most new touchscreen phones.

Dual Cameras

Touchscreen smartphones sold today usually come equipped with front and rear cameras. The rear camera is used for taking pictures, while the front camera can be used for making video calls.

Screen Type

Touchscreen phones can utilize any number of screen types, such as LCD, IPS LCD, AMOLED, and OLED. These vary greatly in cost and performance.


Touchscreen and QWERTY are the two major interaction methods used in mobiles and smartphones. QWERTY phones offer the advantage of a physical keyboard, while touchscreen phones are more intuitive. QWERTY phones are available in different form factors and utilize both smartphone and feature phone operating systems. Touchscreen phones, on the other hand, utilize either resistive or capacitive touchscreens. They usually run smartphone operating systems and come equipped with advanced features like 4G LTE, NFC, etc. A number of QWERTY and touchscreen devices are available on eBay at affordable prices.

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