With the recent announcement of the BlackBerry Torch and BlackBerry 6 last week, BlackBerry has been making headlines everywhere. In addition to the expected reviews and buzz surrounding these new products, I've noticed a common theme emerge in a lot of these stories regarding the smartphone keyboard. Specifically, it's the old debate about physical keyboards vs. touchscreen keyboards. Is the physical keyboard the critical factor that makes a person buy a BlackBerry? Will the demand for physical keyboards continue long term or will they eventually become a piece of history in favor of full touchscreen devices?
RIM is known for making the best physical keyboards in the industry, and for the most part it's one of the key visible attributes that make a BlackBerry easily recognizable. As I told CNN last week in an interview (check out the full story here), I think a lot of people see a phone with a full keyboard and they immediately assume it's a BlackBerry whether it is or isn't. It's almost as if the competition has conceded the physical keyboard market to RIM while most new devices hitting the market are focused on delivering a big touchscreen experience. That's good news for RIM and BlackBerry, so long as that need for a physical keyboard not only continues, but continues to grow along with the growth in the smartphone market.
Personally, I love physical keyboards and think it'll be a long, long time before that changes. The tactile feedback builds a muscle memory you just can't develop to the same extent on a touchscreen (how many of you can type on your berry without even looking at the keys?!) and the rhythm of pushing buttons is just so much more rewarding than having to watch the screen to see that the letters you've tapped have been entered properly. And of course, a physical keyboard allows you to still pound out messages in bumpy enviroments -- while walking, in the back of an NYC taxi cab, etc. -- with much more ease than trying to type on a touchscreen. That's not to say I don't like touchscreens as I definitely do, but I like having a physical keyboard too (hence why I'm liking the Torch). But I'm just one person with one vote in the poll above. So where do you stand up on the keyboard debate? Cast your vote above and be sure to sound off in the comments with your theories on the future of the physical keyboard and BlackBerry's dependence or lack of dependance on it.