We get it. The appeal of a physical keyboard is undeniable. Ever since BlackBerry did it so well back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the physical keyboard has had a fanbase. Since the field of QWERTY bearing phones has shrunk so precipitously, that fanbase has grown more fervent in its support. So, while the keyboard may be considered a quaint throwback to a large portion of the smartphone world, there are still a few phones with a keyboard, keeping your thumbs grounded in reality.
Here is our current list of phones with a keyboard, and we will update this article when more are launched.
After TCL launched the BlackBerry KEYone, with the physical keyboard that the BlackBerry brand is known for, fans were hoping to see a followup in 2018. TCL didn’t disappoint with the release of the BlackBerry Key2, and it has a number of improvements compared to the KEYone.
The keyboard itself has gotten a facelift, with keys that are 20 percent larger than the ones on the KEYone. There’s also the new Speed Key, a dedicated key on the bottom-right of the keyboard that lets you quickly jump to any app you’d like, from wherever you currently are on the screen.
The specs on the Key2 include two rear-facing 12MP sensors, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor and 6GB of RAM, which is twice the memory that the KEYone contains. You can also get at least 64GB of onboard storage, although some versions sold outside the US will be able to get 128GB of storage. There’s also a 3,500mAh battery inside. There are also some excellent software security features such as a Private Locker feature where you can place photos, files, videos, and even applications inside. You can only access this section of the phone with a fingerprint, PIN, or password.
The BlackBerry Key2 may be a bit of a niche device, but it certainly will please hardcore BlackBerry phone fans or anyone else who wants a solid smartphone made for business and security. It’s available now on Amazon unlocked for $649.99 and works with GSM wireless carriers, including AT&T and T-Mobile.
The BlackBerry KEYOne is also still available if you want to get one with a somewhat lower price It has a really great keyboard, with wonderful travel on the keys and all the keyboard shortcuts you remember from the BlackBerry of old. You can map keys to quick launch apps, plus the fingerprint sensor resides in the space bar of the keyboard. The BlackBerry KEYone makes smart use of that keyboard.
Beyond that, the specifications are pretty good. The Black and Bronze editions on the KEYOne carry almost-flagship specifications. 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage combined with the Snapdragon 625 processor give the phone a fair amount of performance, though not at the level you’ll see on flagships from Samsung or HTC. But if you’re a keyboard puncher, the field is pretty narrow for phones with onboard keyboards. If you want to add accessories, though, things start to look a little better. You can get the phone on Amazon now for $398.
The Moto Z line of phones is famous for its Moto Mods – accessories that snap on to the phone and add some functionality. A company called Livermorium brings us a new Moto Mod which adds a landscape keyboard to your favorite Moto Phone. The keyboard even includes a smart hinge, so you can even place the keyboard on a table, and type away. It’s not exactly like using a laptop or bluetooth keyboard – it’s still quite small, but it should give you a decent physical keyboard experience.
Meantime, the Moto Z2 Play is a great phone in its own right. It’s a solid upper midrange option that works with all moto mods – not just the keyboard. It has a Snapdragon 626 processor, and the higher end model has 64GB of onboard storage and 4GB of RAM. It’s a solid performer that could easily stand up to the KEYOne, plus you don’t have to have a keyboard all the time. In addition to removing the mod when you don’t want it, it is a sliding keyboard, so it tucks away very easily.
Last year’s biggest flagship of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S8, was a top notch performer. And it carried with it a little-known trick up its sleeve. Samsung built and sells a keyboard case for the Galaxy S8. This keyboard case is a typical smartphone case that protects the back of the phone, but also carries with is a removable keyboard you can magnetically attach to the bottom of the phone. Doing so reveals how neat this concept is – usable screen space shrinks to fit above the keyboard.
It’s this type of smart implementation that almost makes us yearn for other devices to pick up this concept. This is one of the flagship phones with a real keyboard. Granted, it’s a 2017 flagship, but still. It remains to be seen whether or not Samsung will release a keyboard case for the S9; none have been announced yet. But if it did, that would be a pretty great phone to pick up if you’re looking for a keyboard – and have an extra $800 or so laying around.
Bonus: Planet Gemini
Finally, we get to our last entry for phones with a keyboard, but with a pretty big caveat. This isn’t really a phone, but it does run Android. The Gemini, from Planet is a reimagination of PDAs of old. It is currently fully funded on Indiegogo. This is an intriguing device that has some potential to make it in an increasingly mobile world. It is not intended to be a phone, but we wanted to include it on this list, just in case you were feeling a bit daring.
This device is a thin clamshell style device that opens to a landscape oriented keyboard. The PDA itself can run Android Nougat or Linux, if that’s more your style. But when it comes to keyboards, the Gemini has the biggest one on the block right now. Paired along with a 6-inch screen creators will get a kick out of this device. Add to that dual USB Type-C ports, and optional 4G connectivity, and this could be a legitimate mobile computing platform.
Phones with a keyboard – Conclusion
That’s our look at the very few phones with a actual keyboard. Do you wish more phones had keyboards? Let us know in the comments.