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Can a Galaxy S II with keyboard steal iPhone sales?

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AT&T’s (s t) version of the hotly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone appears to have a slide-out hardware keyboard, something we’ll never likely see on Apple’s iPhone.(s aapl) The reported keyboard is shown on the Boy Genius Report site, which has an image of what clearly resembles a Samsung smartphone running Google Android 2.3.4. The four-row keypad is supplemented by two tall, thin buttons on the left and right; each doubles as a button for the four capacitive touch buttons on the display for search, home, menu and back functions. AT&T still sells the lion’s share of iPhones, but a high-powered Android handset with a hardware keyboard could sway some away from Apple.

I have no doubt that when Apple introduces the next iPhone model, AT&T will still continue to sell millions of the device. Surprisingly, even though the iPhone is on many networks around the world and available on Verizon(s vz) since February, AT&T appears to have sold 17.1 percent of all iPhones last quarter. Apple reported sales of 20.34 million iPhones and just days later AT&T claimed 3.6 million iPhone activations in the same time period. That’s a big number in relation to all iPhones sold.

As strong as those numbers are, there’s still money being left on the table, because no matter how good the software keyboard is on the iPhone, there are consumers that simply won’t consider it due to the lack of a hardware keyboard. I’ve heard this complaint time and again in various conversations and it comes more from women in my experience. It turns out that women with long fingernails — again, based on my conversations — can’t easily use a capacitive touchscreen keyboard. That’s just one example of many I hear; talk to a long-time BlackBerry(s rimm) user and you’re likely to hear a similar aversion to touchscreen keyboards.

So while the Samsung Galaxy S II is no iPhone when it comes to software or ecosystem, it may drive sales on AT&T’s network for those seeking the touchscreen smartphone experience but with the addition of a hardware keypad. The Galaxy S II is certainly powerful enough to please with Samsung’s 1.2 GHz dual-core processor; early benchmarks from the overseas model show it to run rings around most other smartphones. A Super AMOLED Plus display brings vibrant colors that draw the eye. And even with a peppy processor, early reviews show the phone capable of lasting a full day on a single charge. It’s no wonder the Galaxy S II is the company’s fastest selling smartphone with 3 million sales in 55 days.

Hardware keyboard aside, potential customers will still focus on iOS vs Android as a major part of their purchase decision. But if these folks consider the two platforms to be “close enough” to parity, a keyboard could help Samsung move more Galaxy S II smartphones on AT&T. And given AT&T’s importance to iPhone sales, that helps Samsung as it battles Apple to become the new smartphone king.

28 Responses to “Can a Galaxy S II with keyboard steal iPhone sales?”

  1. I have seen this phone and it is definitely doesnt feel sleek and se#y as the non keyboard version. The slider and the keys feel flimsy. Not a great selling point unless they have a keyboard comparable to the xperia-pro lineup

  2. karthiq

    I have commented a few days back that for android tablets to better compete against the ipad, need to have stuff like slider keyboards. Well now it looks like android phones atleast, are featuring slide out keyboards to take on the iphone.

  3. Alan Tikwart

    Wow! AT&T is a year behind Sprint on this one…I have a Samsung Galaxy with Android, a full keyboard and 4G …the Samsung Epic 4G. It definitely did not stop the iPhone Express! Apple gained literally $130B+ in market cap since the Samsung EPIC launch. Now if they could stop Android from crashing every 30 minutes!

    • Peter Deep

      I believe that Android will eventually fail because the user experience is so inconsistent. When I say fail, I think that Android will be the OS of cheapie phones – filling Nokia’s shoes – while Palm (or god-I-hope-not-Windows) steps in to share the top end with Apple. Android will then say goodbye to the quality tablet market as well. The experience is too inconsistent because anyone can churn out an Android device; they let anyone do it. Once many of the manufacturers have your money, they’re done with you. Many of them operate by shipping out the latest imitation-iPhone-iPad without much thought on what happens after purchase. I’m old enough to remember the original iMacs with tube-TVs and they came in all these wild colors, and they were popular. All of a sudden every Wal-Mart and JC Penney was filled with crap PCs trimmed with brightly colored plastic, trying to cash in on the “craze.” That’s what many Android phones and tablets remind me of. Let’s throw something together and include the gimmick du jour – dual screens, the phone slips into the tablet, sliding keyboard, rotating screen, the phone comes with a dock that turns into a makeshift PC etc etc etc – and maybe some idiot will buy it. It’s sad really, to watch.

  4. Peter Deep

    But but but regarding keyboards, people always complain about missing “expired” technology. I dare say your Win PC might still have a floppy drive if Apple hadn’t led the way on that because someone, somewhere, would be upset that they couldn’t use their floppies any more and some manufacturers would be afraid to take the bold step of getting rid of them. Physical keyboards on smartphones are extremely limiting. They cannot change their format to adapt to the circumstances like an onscreen keyboard can, so they have to be all things to all people in all circumstances. And that’s impossible. Shift-function-what do I press now-why is it all CAPS???? I’m glad to be done with them. And I think shortly they will be few and far between.

    • Mark Harris

      True, but in my experience, they are still extremely useful. Maybe it’s just our conditioning to tactile input, but I know I can type much much faster on a physical keyboard. And one of the big issues with smartphones is getting large amounts of data into them. Android does nicely with the speech->text feature, which is surprisingly good. But to me software keyboards really make it hard to use smartphones for say, writing a blog post from your phone, or taking a lot of notes at a conference. I still think the physical keyboard is far superior.

  5. The Galaxy is no iPhone when it comes to software?
    Sounds like an uneducated and ignorant user comment from an Apple fanboy.
    The GS2 blows the doors or the iPhone4, and most likely the 5 as well – more video codec support, OTA updates (yes, iOS is finally joining the party) etc etc.
    But keep living in your cutesy little iNot world

    • I publicly dumped the iPhone for a Nexus One and did the same with a 7″ Galaxy Tab in place of an iPad. No need for the rudeness, especially when it’s unjustified to begin with. ;)

      And even as an Android user, there are still top tier app titles that are iOS only, hence my statement.

      • I appreciate your calm response. I took you to be a Siegler/Mossberg clone; I apologize.
        I would rather have a phone with better features, whatever that means to me (bigger screen, deeper blacks) and perhaps miss one or two games. I also prefer true multi-tasking, rather than have to live with crippled apps like Instapaper not being able to download articles automatically. But then, the average iPhone user doesn’t have a clue as to what he or she wants; anything that Steve Jobs provides is manna from heaven. Hence my comment earlier.
        As you may have guessed – Android user here; CM7 SGS1 :)

      • Mark Harris

        This is a big thing. As an app developer I decided to focus on Android simply because my background made it faster and easier to get up and running. But I also think there is great opportunity for developers to start creating some of those apps. Having released my first app to the Google store this year, it’s become clear that good design and functionality can really stand out. Not enough Android devs focus on these things, and the Android standard interface is…well, designed by engineers. But customers notice. So we’re focusing on making really good looking apps that we hope stand above the crowd.

    • Peter Deep

      Think what you like about the author but if you’ve read his columns with any regularity then you’d know he’s not an Apple fanboy, far from it. If anything, he goes out of his way (IMO) to be honest and unbiased but can’t help but tipping his hand that he has a favorite mobile OS, and that would be Android – not Apple’s.

    • Peter Deep

      I can understand why someone might prefer one phone over another, but just because they don’t like the same phone you do, they are clueless idiots? Really? Are you sure?

  6. Michael Koby

    I personally will not be buying the SGS2 on AT&T if it comes only in slider format. If this is indeed the case, I will either go with the Atrix or wait on an Ice Cream Sandwich device.

    Unless you absolutely need the keyboard (which I do not) it makes no sense to get a phone with a sliding keyboard. It adds bulk and weight to the device.

  7. A hardware keyboard would be nice, but I’ve had an Android phone for a year, and I’m pretty disgusted with it. Android is to smartphones what Windows is to PC’s — a buggy piece of garbage. I eagerly await the iPhone 5 or 6, whatever version is out (or near out) when my contract on this thing is up.