I’m torn on buttons on mobile devices. You’ve got Apple on one end that detests buttons so much that it has only one click on the mouse while the iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad has just the home button on the surface.
Buttons – I love them. At least when I was a kid, I love buttons. See, I grew up watching anime, the kind with spaceships, giant robots, and futuristic command centers. And they have tons of button and flashing lights.
When it comes down to it, it reallly depends on what you do with your mobile device. I can write just as long a letter on the iPhone as I can on my G1. The only difference for me is that I spent years playing the piano and I like to keep what's left of the life of the joints On my fingers for the piano, not the smartphones.
So I definitely like the touch-type on a glass surface than buttons. No need to push down on a button. No need to exert pressure with the thumbs.
And you're constantly using your thumbs, there is no escaping that on a mobile device. On a phsyical keyboard for a smartphone, it can't be good in the long run if you have to produce dozens of emails or text a day.
Still, a part of me does like the idea of having physical buttons to work with, which for me, provides a sense of accomplishment. And honestly, until the iPhone came along and showed the world that you can create content on glass just as easily as a stylus or physical keyboard.
Right now, I am writing on the iPod touch. I am typing in portrait mode. And I can easily switch over to landscape.
What it comes down to is personal preference. Blackberry users swear by the physical keyboard while some prefer the slide-out keyboard. Android users have the best selection of devices with different keyboard layouts. So, you really have to pick your device when it comes to buttons.
With buttons, you've got the Blackberry variety which works well for a lot of folks. And honestly, it's very good. Then you've got the Pre version which can be frustrating after a while. You really don't want to be writing an essay on it. Then you've got the ones that slide-out like T-Mobile's G1 and G2, and both keyboards work well. Droid keyboards are too stuff for me to imagine writing anything other than text messages or tweets.
And for iPhoners, let's be honest. Apple is driving the trend with the chiplet keys on the desktop and laptop markets. Works well. Even the keyboard before that. But if you go back even further, Apple is really kind of hit-and-miss with them. I've experienced the sticky type on the Powerbook 500. Then I've gotten a few years in with the Powerbook 1400cs. They were a nice change but Powerbook was a Powerbook and it was running Mac OS. And not everyone liked those keyboards.
So there really is no way of knowing what kind if keyboard Apple will come up with should there ever be an iPhone with a physical keyboard. And there definitely is no way for us to be sure that we're even going to like it.
But give us mobile warriors a device with a top notch OS with a great keyboard, I promise it will do well.
Note: For the record, I no longer dig flashing lights.
Another note: RIM sued Handspring back in 2002. And in turn, it has also been sued in the past. Maybe Apple or anyone else might just as well avoid the headaches by avoiding making a device that looks similar to the Blackberries. Nokia and Samsung does have similar layouts but not being a tech/patent attorney, I think I'll leave the issue open and at that.