On a previous blog I took a look at the available options for qwerty smartphones in 2007, and followed up with the evolution of Nokia Eseries qwerty keypads as of 2008. Back then an Nseries qwerty was the stuff of fantasy; today there are no less than 3 of them!
Though I’ve mastered the art of T9 on my N86 (kinda), I’ll always have a soft spot for qwerty handsets. And seeing how I’ve got an N900 for a week or two let’s see how it fares in comparison to the rest of Nokia’s current lineup of smartphones for two-thumbs.
In other words, it’s time for a smackdown!
5th Place – E75
The oldest handset of the group is showing its age here, with big flat rubbery buttons that are very stiff. Key travel is mercifully short, at least.
The E75’s slide-out keypad is certainly usable, and gets points for the added number-pad, but it’s still the worst of the bunch. And is that silver bar down the middle really necessary?
Disclaimer: I’m basing my ranking on a dummy device (albeit an official Nokia one) — if you think I got it wrong, leave a comment below…
4th Place – N97
The very first Nseries qwerty is, in fact, nothing to write home about — putting the shift key and d-pad right next to each other makes selecting a block of text a real pain — it’s much easier to press and drag on the touchscreen directly above.
The keys themselves are generously spaced apart, but they’re so shallow that you’ll often find yourself checking if the character you entered actually took.
3rd place – N900
I put the N900 around the middle of the pack. Despite the keys being crammed up against each other they’ve a slight contour to them, so you’ll have little trouble finding the one you want. Pressing a key yields a satisfying click, but compared to my #2 keypad they’re maybe just a bit stiff.
Other usability fails include the comma and period not being beside each other and, more importantly, the ‘@’ symbol requiring a simultaneous press of both the blue ‘sym’ key and the space bar, as there’s no long-press functionality built into this handset. Apparently that’s on the way, though…
2nd Place – N97 mini
Nokia’s updated N97 fixes all the issues with the previous keypad. Like on the N900, the navigation and shift keys are now at opposite ends, but unlike the N900 all the keys have some breathing room between them. And the addition of just a little bit of key travel makes a world of difference.
You could argue that the mini’s touchscreen options trump my #1 choice — I gave it second place solely because of the distance my thumbs had to travel across the width of the handset. For example, I often hit the ‘t’ key with my right thumb, and that’s a bit of an awkward stretch.
By the way, you may have noticed that this too is a dummy phone — but rest assured I had my hands on the real deal in the UK last November…
1st Place – E72
It’s truly an amazing thing that Nokia could fit such a fantastic keypad in so narrow a space, but that’s exactly what they’ve done with the E72. I reckon it’s even better than the qwerty on the BlackBerry Bold — I don’t find that handset’s ridged keypad comfortable at all. Plus on this Nokia a long-press will yield an alternate character, or a handy flashlight in the case of the space bar.
And yes, this too is a dummy… What, you think I can afford to have five high-end Nokia handsets just lying around?