As touchscreens dominate, Nokia survey says keyboard phones preferred

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When asked which input method is preferred on a phone, the old QWERTY keyboard is still a winner. That’s according to a recent survey by the Nokia Conversations blog, who asked which of the following is your favorite input method: QWERTY keyboard, numeric keypad, voice or touchscreen. Nearly half opted for the hardware keyboard and in every country save the U.S., the QWERTY came out on top.

The results are a little surprising to me although it’s difficult to put too much stock in them. Nokia doesn’t say how many poll responses it received and let’s face it: Nokia was among the last to adopt full touchscreens on its phones and didn’t seem to want to bulk up many prior models with full QWERTY keyboards. Instead, it relied upon numeric keypad entry for the bulk of its devices in efforts to keep devices smaller.

For a company that led the first mobile phone era, it almost seems that Nokia is still a step behind in this regard. The stellar full keyboards on Research In Motion devices helped vault the BlackBerry to a market leader but Nokia still didn’t aggressively pursue QWERTY input on the majority its phones.

Later, the iPhone arguably created the next phone era with a touchscreen and on-screen keyboard, but Nokia’s Symbian OS wasn’t optimized for touchscreens until a few years later and by then it was too late. Now, with Windows Phone, Nokia has adopted the touchscreen and software keyboard, but still hasn’t made much of a dent in the overall smartphone market.

The U.S. was the only country in the poll to prefer the touchscreen over all other forms of input: 47.22 percent would rather type on a screen as opposed to the 33.3 percent who prefer a hardware keyboard. What’s odd to me is that the first full touchscreen phone to appeal widespread is the iPhone and the U.S. only accounts for around 40 percent of iPhone sales. That means in countries who prefer a QWERTY keyboard, some are forgoing that preference for Apple’s hardware and software.

This does reinforce to a degree, however, why Research In Motion sales have continued to drop in the U.S. What was once a key competitive advantage — the stellar keypads on a BlackBerry — is no longer as desirable. Instead, consumers have turned their focus on digital app or media ecosystems and the simplification of what used to be complex handset activities or settings. Regardless of input type, Nokia is at least making some strides in that regard with Microsoft’s Windows Phone, although it still has a long road ahead.

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