back to article An iPhone with a keyboard?

It is an article of faith, of course, that whatever Steve Jobs does is right. And so, since the iPhone currently has no keyboard on it, it must logically follow that it is wrong to have a keyboard, and therefore that Steve Jobs will never produce a version that does have a keyboard. Fervent fans can therefore see no reason to …


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  1. Wonderkid

    What about 3rd party keyboards - today?!

    Am breaking my new rule of ceasing to post comments any more as have work to do, but this is a hot topic that could effect the future success of the iPhone - a device that despite a fluid GUI and excellent syncing skills, has flaws that could limit it's success against devices like the new Nokia E71. (A device that even records VGA res video, ironically, great for the market the current iPhone is targeted at!) Anyway, what is stopping Griffin, Belkin, Kensington and other purveyors of quality (i)peripherals from producing a range of mechanical keyboards that connect to the iPhone using a user selectable option of Bluetooth, WiFi or physical cable/dock connector? A nice leather bound wrap around case with a keyboard in one half would be perfect! Just unfold, and type away - or even fold the case around and have it prop up the iPhone on a desk while you blog your review: "Typing this from the 9:39 to Reading from Paddington using the new iType from iExtras, Inc. It's really great! Ouch! Bugger!! My coffee fell ov..." (Heart icon? Ah, Guy, one day, we'll catch up again. Think AMX Pagemaker, PCW etc...)

  2. Alastair Dodd

    It'll happen

    (to the Author) one solution IS NOT FOR EVERYONE

    "The market which buys these phones, wants QWERTY and they don't want to type on the screen. They "just know" that they wouldn't like it.

    Arguably, they're wrong, of course. Quite conceivably, after a week of sending emails typed on the touch-screen of the iPhone, they'd "get it" and love it. But how will they ever find out?"

    Tried the touch screen keyboard on the iPhone and used it lots.. I am MUCH more efficient and faster on my TyTN II proper keyboard. If one solution was always right we wouldn't have so many variants of literally everything. One size and most people know DOESN'T fit all so please PLEASE stop harping on assuming it does.

    I appreciate having a choice in the matter and I'll go on preferring a button keyboard as for me it definitely does work better - I know other people find they prefer the iPhone touchscreen and good for them.

    I'm sure Apple will go with a keyboard eventually, just like more than 1 button on the mouse and so many other things they have moved on from - it makes sense to appeal to more. Until they do I'll be checking out all they try and seeing if it works for me and rejecting what doesn't.

  3. Jerome


    Like so many things, the presence or absence of a keyboard is just a trade-off. You can have any two out of 1) a big screen for web browsing and video, 2) a decent keyboard for text entry, and 3) a nice sexy looking slimline device. Try to fit 1 and 2 into one phone, and it'll end up as an ugly brick. Fine for business users maybe, but probably not the rest of us.

  4. Ivan Headache

    The only thing I don't like about the touch screen keyboard

    is trying to insert a correction or alteration mid word. I have great difficulty getting the insert point to go where I want it to in a word. I can get it at the beginning or at the end of a word but I generally have 3 or 4 goes to get it into a word.

    Apart from that I can't fault it.

  5. Eric Worrall

    How about handwriting recognition?

    My fingers are too big to comfortably use IPhone touch keyboard or those tiny querty physical keyboards. There's a few dodgy third party recognition packages, but how about native support for handwriting recognition?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I dont personally own an iPhone, but having borrowed one for a week i started being able to type faster than any SE or Nokia i've ever owned, and for typing web addresses its a million miles ahead of the SE/Nokia keypads. If it had a keyboard, a physical one, would i use it? If i was writing up an email, maybe, but i could get by either way.

    But one thing i will say for sure, if the QWERTY keyboards are the crappy small little things the Blackberrys have, there's no chance id bother to use it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phat or Fat?

    Agreed it doesn't matter if it has a keyboard or not. But it does matter if it's fat and ugly rather than slim and beautiful. Apple products normally get slimmer and more beautiful with each generation, not fatter and uglier. So they'd have to be two versions, slim and light and full fat with a keyboard....

  8. Webster Phreaky
    Jobs Horns

    Yeah, it's called a MacBook .. put it to your ear .....

    and listen it crackle from over-heating, discolor for shabby packaging engineering and see the LCD close-up as it develops lines and then goes blank.

    But ALL Mac notebooks are very useful! They make wonderful door stops and iPhone the iPud on steroids are great suppositories for Apple buyers. Oh my, Apple the Great iNOvator. No other Cell phone has ever had a keyboard, have they??

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make your mind up!

    What a bizarre article. Summary: the iPhone virtual keyboard is "adequate" for simple tasks, but people who want a proper keyboard are nonetheless irrational living-in-the-past stick-in-the-muds (but on the other hand there's nothing wrong with being an irrational naysayer).

    Either a real keyboard would be better (for some users, for some applications) or it wouldn't. Either you can type faster on a HTC with a proper keyboard, or on an iPhone. Either a keyboard has some uses or it doesn't. Stop fence-sitting!

  10. foof
    Jobs Horns

    No CDMA? Don't bother.

    While the old farts look at anything without hard keys with skepticism, the line in the sand is networks.

    They don't care about GSM, CDMA, TDMA or analog. They only want to know if it works with their current provider. Superior technology be damned. What good is an iPhone in a area with no GSM service when a rival salesman next to you is making calls on his CDMA Blackberry. Like it or not, North America is still primarily CDMA.

    In Canada there is only one GSM network, and it has sub-standard coverage and outrageous rates. Our company has been waiting for the iPhone for over a year. Now that Rogers has released their rate plans, we can finally re-sign with our old provider, get our new Blackberries and forget about the iPhone for a few more years.

    Hard keys? Pfffft. It's the network that businesses will choose. Hardware is secondary.

  11. Jason The Saj

    What about...

    A nice leather/pleather protective case, with a built in keyboard and a dial-pad on the outside. Could use a tether/socket or bluetooth to communicate with the iPhone.

    You could dial a number via the pad on the outside of the case. Or open the case and text away on a querty keyboard.

    - The Saj

  12. Daniel B.

    Gimme my real keyboard

    I've tried the iTouch, which is basically an iPhone without the phone. It took me THREE minutes to type in my wireless passphrase ... 8-char as it might, it seems my fingers are not small enough to use the damn thing. I'm more capable of using the BlackBerry keyboard, even if the keys are so small.

    If I had an iPhone ... I'd probably never text from there. Actual QWERTY keyboards are better for texting.

  13. Rachel Greenham

    um, bluetooth?

    It *does* work with bluetooth keyboards? Doesn't it?

    So far I've only played briefly with a Touch, but I found typing on the keyboard OK, and after a few minutes, not much worse than on my E70 (so I could imagine I'd get better in time). But I think I'd want to be able to use an external keyboard *sometimes* - for working on entering stuff a bit longer than a name or a word (say, an email of a few paragraphs length, a long note, textfiles if/when an editor comes along) - at the very least to recoup the screen real-estate of the on-screen keyboard.

    An external bluetooth one would be fine. A slide-out one would be teh ugly and far too small.

  14. jai
    Jobs Halo

    your reality, sir, is balderdash and i'm delighted to say i have no grasp of it whatsoever

    i always said, if you need more than one mouse button to do something, then it is not worth doing!!

    admittedly, us mac acolytes now have the ability to right-click and very useful it is too, so my new devise-de-la-vie is "if you need keys to type it, it isn't worth typing"

  15. Chris Bidmead

    Stylus and text recognition

    Apple screwed this up with the Newton, but Palm and Graffiti showed the way to do it. Alas the SE P910 seems to be the last phone that offers this and escapes from a mandatory hardwired keyboard.

    Phone manufacturers seem to be scrabbling about trying to find out how to design these things -- and failing badly. Not much use asking users, as we don't have much of a clue either. Which is why there's so much really badly designed junk out there at the moment.



  16. Steve
    Thumb Down

    Does the iPhone support...

    folding bluetooth keyboards? I don't mind the stylus (palm) or thumbboard (treo) for most things, but love a full keyboard if I know I'm going to answer several emails, take notes for a meeting, write a document, etc. I also use it to control my HTPC.

    Oh... right... Steve Jobs has to give permission for a vendor to publish drivers for the iPhone. That's fine. I'm still waiting for more 3rd party apps and PROPER outlook sync (I don't use an exchange server - can I still sync my tasks, notes, calendar, and emails please? To multiple computers? Works great on a Treo with keysuite).

  17. Martin Lyne


    I'd like a proper SMartphone from Sony Ericsson, so I read that bit with a smile.

    Quick google I think.

    Can't be botheres to type it all out..

    SE - Sony Ericsson.


    SE X1.

    In fairness, it did give me the right link first.

  18. Vincent Rice

    Nope, no going to happen.

    These sorts of rumour generally occur because some high-up has been allowed to play with a prototype. The thing is Apple prototype EVERYTHING for useability studies and whatnot. Jonny Ive famously boasts that he can have an idea in the morning and a prototype by tea. Apple are in fact betting the farm on touch screen technology and intend to be first to mass market with haptic feedback screens and suchlike. Also a new Cocao Touch core framework for developers was unveiled recently.

  19. Dark_rain

    No keyboard? Oh well.

    Who cares if it doesn't have a keyboard? It doesn't bloody matter. Lets take a look at some of the things missing from the iPhone;

    1. Decent email (even if it is coming in the iPhone 3g/2/"The sequel" or whatever you wish to call it.

    2. Good Microsoft intergration. Like it or not (I don't), most of the worlds businesses are run on Microsoft products. The iPhone doesn't have good support for them.

    3. A decent mobile OS. The iPhone/iTouch OS is a JOKE compared to the flexibility and power offered by its Windows Mobile and Symbian competitors. What they hell were they thinking when they crippled what would otherwise be a reasonable device by gutting it's OS of critical things such as Java support and Adobe's Flash Player?!?

    Until they fix these things, it won't matter two squits whether or not it has a keyboard as business users won't touch it. Especially given that most mobile software is WM based.

    I have got a HTC TyTn and I love it. A decent array of software, good intergration with work's machines and its great for email.

  20. Tony Bove

    Hard keyboard needs soft keys

    Typing this with my iPhone, in horizontal mode in Safari (of course), I'm wishing I had some function keys... Guy, you do have a long memory so I know you remember the Sinclair Z-something that had a superb keyboard, also quiet (which at one time was an issue). If Apple does this (and you make a good argument), the keyboard would have to be much better than the competition. Programmable, perhaps, so we could have WP function keys and the like, and also custom keys for business applications. Not to mention multiple character sets for different languages. Looking forward to that. But you can't compare processor wars and OS wars to a purely physical design decision that is not governed by standardss other than the QWERTY keys I'm using now. So it's not religious IMHO.

    Sent from my iPhone.

  21. Alex Gollner
    Jobs Halo

    Significant minorities

    Once there are 15-20 million iPhones out there without keyboards, Apple will be happy to launch one with a keyboard. Steve doesn't mind a significant minority using the 'unapproved' option (multi-button mice for Macs, physical keyboards for iPhones) as long as they don't make up a significant majority.

    He doesn't want developers assuming that their entire audience will be using a physical keyboard with iPhone software. Hence the delay.

    They might not even approve physical keyboards to be branded as iPhone compatible until enough keyboardless iPhones have been sold.

  22. Tim Bates
    Thumb Up

    I'll take one...

    Assuming they are available to the regular Joe aswell as corporates, I'll have one.

    Oh, well, assuming the keyboard is decent too... I'm OK with the one on my HTC Blueangel, and the one on my Nokia 9500 was slightly better... But I loved the one on my Nokia 9210. If they add a keyboard like that they'll be only a winner.

  23. TeeCee Gold badge
    Jobs Horns

    Don't care about the keyboard.

    But if they can make it talk directly to Exchange while also ignoring the security policies pushed from the server, I'll switch from WM6 tomorrow.

    Anyhow, what's with the stories today? Is it national fucking iPhone day or something?

  24. Adam Foxton

    Wrong, wrong wrong.

    "Apple's rivals have the opposite problem. They want touch-screen technology and they are working hard on it. And they, too, have "issues" with making it work properly."

    Please amend this to "multi-touch screen". I've been using touch-screen phones from HTC for years. And, incidentally, not found anything that I couldn't do with a single-touch display apart from play a small piano keyboard. Which on a 3.5" display would be bloody difficult anyway.


    "Like a small child who won't try porridge because they don't like it, they know they don't like it"

    Thanks for the patronising tone, Guy. The fact is that there is no haptic feedback on touchscreens (well, maybe one or two, but it's pretty awful). I can type on my keyboard in the dark, with a blindfold on, drunk, AND simultaneously using the loo. Don't ask me how I know this, it was a crazy night...

    However, my iPhone wielding friend- similarly skilled in the art of using a touchscreen- can barely work her phone while merely tipsy. Her fingers slide over the touchscreen and she ends up typing rty instead of t.

    @Chris Bidmead

    "Palm and Graffiti showed the way to do [stylus/handwriting rec]. Alas the SE P910 seems to be the last phone that offers this and escapes from a mandatory hardwired keyboard."

    Don't forget Windows Mobile, which has pretty good handwriting recognition- and has the ability to use Graffiti as well.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so i herd u liek keyboards.

    How would an add on keyboard even work? Wouldn't every program on the device need rewriting to support it?

  26. Mark Rendle


    Why not put edge-connectors on the iPhone and iPod Touch which allow you to chain them together? Then you could use the Touch as a keyboard for the Phone, or have Nintendo-DS style dual-screen goodness. Chain 16 together for Beowulf clustering on the move!

  27. Ascylto

    No hard keyboard

    I doubt Apple will intro a fixed keyboard. In a sense, it negates the beauty of the iPhone ... no, not the looks, but the fact that the keys are SOFTWARE.

    When I started typing with the iPhone I, like most I imagine, went very gingerly. However, I now type with little regard to the on-screen results, trusting the correction software greatly. I seldom have to correct more than one word in twenty or thirty.

    The beauty is that Apple can intro a huge touch keyboard (possibly with haptic feedback) occupying most of the large screen with just a software option. It could have a ribbon of type for viewing. You can't do that with a physical QWERTY board.

    What is sorely needed, though, is cut, copy and paste!

  28. David Pickering
    Jobs Horns


    "The Mac OS was inherently superior to anything *nixy"

    ever so slightly subjective (and incredibly wrong in so many ways)?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You don't say.....

    "Will Jobs launch an iPhone with a keyboard? He says "definitely not" and is emphatic about it. So that's that."

    Jobs says a lot of things.... remember when he rubbished solid-state MP3 players, whilst Apple were working on the Shuffle?

    Surprisingly, not every CEO speaks the truth when they talk in public... Jobs certainly doesn't - so why write this? Other than padding, I mean?

    Recently, there's been a fair few stories about the iPhone getting a physical keyboard… this long-winded one is rather late off the press.

    As far as I can see, the only new claim here is that Apple have prototypes of iPhone with keyboards – very believable as I would have thought the company would have been looking at this, but it’s rather stating the bleeding obvious and no guarantee that such a model will be introduce.

  30. Neil


    Have tried on screen keyboards. Palms graffiti method was usable, Windows Mobile onscreen keyboard is fiddly, my HTC slide out qwerty keyboard is spot on and I can type far quicker than I can dob with a stylus.

    Functionality and ease of use will always prevail.

  31. MrT

    Keyboards... - doesn't come in white though...

    @ Tony Bove - 'Z-something' : I remember that most of the ZX stuff had poor keys as standard (Spectrum, QL - wrote/programmed on and for them all - Schön QL case anyone?), but Sir Clive's follow-on, the Cambridge Computing Z88, was very nice to use.

    Still might replace my Tytn with the SE Experia - - should avoid O2 for a while longer. Do I still not have the option of moving my number to the iPhone?

    I like using real keys, but the thing about them is that they can fail - touch screen stuff isn't necessarily going to drop out on the most used keys (the number/shift 'spot' key on my Tytn is now getting a bit forgetful).

    Never had a problem on either of my Psion 5s though. Could it be that stuff these days is thrown out onto the subsidised handset market with, erm, lower standards of build quality?

  32. Ben Lewis

    Pining for the fjords?

    The current iPhone BlueTooth stack only supports audio connections for headsets and the like. No support at all for file transfer or external data equipment.

    Pity really as Apples own aluminium Bluetooth keyboard is pretty cute. No need to lug a laptop around if you've got POP/IMAP email setup on your iPhone and can actually type at a decent rate. The on-screen keyboard is painful for anything more than an SMS.


  33. Tim Cook


    So in the author's opinion we're all "like small children who won't try porridge because they don't like it, they know they don't like it"? Righto.

    The only truly amazing thing about the Iphone is the way that it seems to have convinced so many people that the idea of a touchscreen-driven smartphone is revolutionary in some way. I had a Sony Ericsson P800 back in 2002 (a truly revolutionary device) from which you could optionally remove the flip up keypad, and operate the entire phone purely through the touchscreen, complete with a choice of on-screen keyboard, phone keypad, or letter recognition. On that phone the letter recognition was actually the much easier option, but the principle was the same - a completely keypadless phone.

    Pocket PC/Windows Mobile devices have similarly experimented with these form factors and long featured a variety of touch-driven input methods and finger-friendly on-screen keyboards. None of this is remotely new. All the Iphone does is remove the stabilising wheel of the physical keypad entirely, and say "off you go, just rely on the screen now".

    My current phone is a Tytn II, which features something Apple are less than revolutionary in, called "choice". I can choose to use an on-screen keyboard (either the piddly little one built in, or any number of downloadable alternatives), or handwriting recognition (a choice of two methods there too, either transcriber or basic graffiti-style), or of course I can slide out the real, tactile, physical keyboard and use that. When presented with the choice, depending on the circumstance, I'll usually choose the keyboard. It's better for me. I can touch-type to some extent, it's fast, convenient, and it suits me.

    I don't choose not to have an Iphone because I "just know" I wouldn't like the on-screen keyboard, I simply choose not to have an Iphone partly because I *do* know that on-screen keyboards aren't the best for me. It's not a showstopper in itself, but it's one of various reasons why I'm more likely to choose a better equipped phone like the Tytn II (or in the future a Touch Pro, or possibly an Xperia X1).

  34. This post has been deleted by its author

  35. MrT

    Bluetooth... @Ben

    What, so it can't do HID? Bummer. Even my old T610 could cope with that - I remember using it to control the mouse pointer in Windows (pointless exercise really, but had a 'because it can' sort of feel to it).

    Well, scratch that iTech keyboard then - the only other option is a serial cable, but needs driver support and this isn't supported.

    Shame, 'cos I've seen it working from a Mac Mini with reasonable success as a generic HID-Bluetooth device (so long at the Mac is set to use the same PIN - occasionally it would change, so out came the old wired keyboard again!).

  36. James Wilson
    Jobs Halo

    @Ivan Headache

    Try holding your finger on the word, you'll get a little magnifier which you can then just move the cursor by moving your finger right / left, and will do it letter by letter rather than word by word.

  37. Ivan Headache

    @ James Wilson

    Now how come I hadn't spotted that?

    Perhaps I've been too impatient.


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