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QWERTY keyboards, traditional keypads or a touchscreen mobile phone?

QWERTY keyboards, traditional keypads or a touchscreen mobile phone?
One of the biggest choices you need to make before choosing a mobile is the input method – how you type and scroll through menus. Do you need a touchscreen? Would a QWERTY keyboard be better? Are there different types of touchscreen and QWERTY keyboard? It can be confusing, so here's our guide to QWERTY keyboards, traditional keypads & touchscreen mobile phones.

Many top of the range smartphones use touchscreens as their main input method, such as iPhone 4S, Nokia's Lumia 800 or Sony Ericsson's Xperia arc S. There are actually two types of touchscreens. One type is capacitive, which is sensitive to gentle touches and allows multi-touch, allowing you to pinch the screen for zooming in on pages and pictures. The other is resistive, which is sensitive to pressure, often requiring a stylus, but allowing only single-touch functions. Capacitive screens are found on top end devices, while resistive displays normally appear on lower spec phones and tablets, although capacitive displays are becoming ever more common. A device with only touchscreen input will have a larger screen than a device with a physical keyboard, making it great for all types of visual media such as videos and photos, as well as technologies such as GPS.
Touchscreen Typing
Touchscreen phones display a virtual QWERTY keyboard – the screen shows the keys which are laid out in the QWERTY layout like on a computer. In portrait mode the virtual keys are smaller, but it does allow for better one handed typing. In landscape mode the keys are larger and easier to hit, you can use both hands, and this is the best way for speed. Touchscreen QWERTY keyboards vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it's best to try the phone you've got your eye on. It's also worth keeping in mind that while touchscreens are fantastic for flicking through menus and zooming in on your photos, typing can be tricky if you're not used to a touchscreen.

However, there are apps and features that are available for touchscreen devices to improve their typing accuracy and practicality. Swype™, often found on Samsung smartphones, and Gesture input, available on Sony Ericsson's Xperia range, are great examples. To work these apps, start by pressing the first letter of the word you have in mind, then drag your finger to the next letters without taking your finger off the screen. It's very smooth, works perfectly one handed, and can give typing speeds of up to 40 words per minute, pretty respectable even if you were using a computer keyboard.
QWERTY keyboards

Candybar QWERTY keyboards
A candybar QWERTY keyboard device has a built-in QWERTY keyboard right on the front of the phone, replacing the traditional keypad, such as those on many BlackBerry® smartphones like the BlackBerry® Curve™ 9360, or on devices like the Sony Ericsson txt. They are great for texting accurately and quickly with correct spelling. You'll get a smaller display than with a touchscreen phone, or even a phone with a slide out keyboard, but accurate and fast typing is easier. There are phones such as the BlackBerry® Bold™ 9900 that include both physical keyboards and touchscreens, but the screens do not support typing or display virtual keyboards – they are only used for navigating through menus and webpages.
Candybar Typing
The QWERTY layout means you'll be familiar with the locations of the keys. This helps with both speed and accuracy. Also, since every letter of the alphabet is right there in front of you, 'text speak' becomes less of a necessity and you can focus on standard spellings. Many devices have tilted keys so it's surprisingly easy to hit the right letter, and the keys are well laid out, often in a more practical way than pull out keyboards. Also, a physical keypad lets you text discreetly, such as under a table in a meeting, as you can feel the keys and don't need to keep looking. Many phones have autocorrect features too, so if you slip up with your spelling they'll put in the right word. As you'll be typing more accurately, the autocorrect accuracy of QWERTY keyboard phones is often of a very high quality.
Pull out keyboards
A device with a pull out keyboard gives you a larger screen size than a candybar QWERTY device, and will be of a more compact shape than a touchscreen phone or a phone with a QWERTY keyboard built-in to the front. They are also often slightly heavier and thicker than other phones due to the mechanism that slides the keyboard out, and the display will be smaller than a touchscreen only phone. There are two types, those with keyboards that pull down when the phone is upright (portrait) and those that pull out from the side (landscape).
Portrait Portrait
Phones like the BlackBerry® Torch™ 9810 or the HP Pre3 have keyboards that drop straight out of the phone. With touchscreen displays you can navigate menus and webpages with ease, then pull down the keyboard for typing. A portrait keyboard is ideal for one-handed typing, but can be slightly uncomfortable for two handed use as the keyboard is often quite narrow.
Landscape Landscape
Phones such as the Sony Ericsson mini pro have keyboards that pull out of the side of the device. Flick the screen round and the software adjusts by spinning 90 degrees. Often slightly too big for easy one handed typing, portrait keyboards have lots of space, so often offer the best two handed typing experience. The Sony Ericsson mini pro also offers full touchscreen typing support with gesture input, so is a particularly handy device if you're after a choice of typing methods.
Traditional Keypads
These are phones with the same layout as home telephones, the numbers 0-9 and three or four letters on each key. These phones are often very practical and easy to use, and because they require less keys, can be very light and small. And, because the numbers are right there, just press the numbers you need and the call is made, ideal if you're always in a rush to make calls.
Traditional Keypads Typing
Many people are particularly familiar with the layout of traditional keyboards because of old mobile phones and home phones. One handed typing is often particularly easy with these types of keypads, as is typing without looking as there are so few keys. Traditional keypads are perhaps not the fastest way of typing as keys often need to be pressed multiple times to get the correct letter. The large buttons often found on these types of phones are, however, ideal for those with larger hands. Phones such as the Nokia C3-01 Touch & Type actually include a touchscreen and a traditional keypad, so you'll have the comfort of a keypad with the ease of use that the touchscreen provides.