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Nokia poll says QWERTY keyboards still rule

Nokia's online poll shows that the majority of users prefer QWERTY keyboards over touchscreen phones. But is this representative of the entire mobile market, or is Nokia looking at data skewed toward the old way of using smartphones?
August 11, 2012

Nokia has run an online poll on their official blog, asking people whether they prefer a QWERTY keyboard, a touchscreen, a number keypad, or voice control as their favorite way of controlling their device. The data may seem surprising at first, considering how many of us today cannot imagine using anything but a touchscreen as our preferred input method. But when you realize where this is coming from, it’s not so surprising anymore. It is, in fact, expected.

Nokia’s data shows that the majority of users prefer QWERTY keyboards —  almost half of the online respondents on their site, at 48.64%. The touchscreen-loving people make up a pretty distant 34.69%, while  number keypad and voice control get 8.91% and 7.75%, respectively.

Let’s take this with a grain of salt. I think this data may not be very relevant for either today’s markets nor future smarphone users. Look where the data is coming from: Nokia’s official blog. It’s a company that, so far, has not yet mastered the touchscreen phone. Nokia still sells a lot of phones with either a QWERTY keyboard (they used to have some really popular devices with it) and the number keypad.

It’s quite expected that Nokia fans and users — the vast majority of them who aren’t used to Nokia selling and promoting touchscreen phones — would say they prefer QWERTY over touchscreens, because that’s all they know coming from Nokia. It’s almost like RIM doing a poll right now for their users and asking them if they prefer using a keyboard or a touchscreen. I think we all know what the majority of them would say.

There is an inherent problem with doing polls like these for your own customers (and make no mistake, both Nokia and RIM have been asking their users questions like these for years). When the rules of the market change, and “something else” is the future of the market, the vast majority of your users, if asked, would still say they prefer the old way of doing things. At least this is the case in the first few years after the rules start changing.

It’s human nature to dislike change, and in the beginning, only the “early adopters” get on board.

This is why both Nokia and RIM have been blind for years about the fact that neither Symbian nor the BlackBerry OS were good enough for the new age of the touchscreens. Most of their customers are still telling them that they want to keep doing things the same way, and to change nothing. But look where that has gotten both Nokia and RIM. They’re almost to the point of bankruptcy. That’s because sooner or later, the new way of doing things will start chipping away at the old way of doing things, and people move on.

So are there people out there that still prefer QWERTY keyboards? Definitely. Does Nokia’s poll represent the whole market currently, or more importantly the future of the market? Definitely not.

The future of phones is in touchscreens, and that should’ve been obvious to all phone manufacturers from the day the iPhone came out. Android entering the scene only accelerated this trend greatly. Plus, as time goes by — and as virtual keyboards become better and better — more QWERTY keyboard lovers will start switching to touchscreen phones. It’s inevitable.

Image credit: QWERTY keyboard / Shutterstock