In the mobile game it pays to experiment with technology especially when it comes to design form. In this day and age one tends to have a short attention span, what with a new handset being announced almost daily. Then again, this applies to all areas of technology as well. The competition is getting a little tight right now with the mobile industry and the technology is only getting better and more innovative. The latest trend that seems to be catching on big time with mobile users is touch ad type functionality. What that translates to is a mobile phone that offers both a touchscreen and a keypad, in case you’ve been living in a box and didn’t know.

Obviously this is nothing really new to the community. Devices with dual input methods have been around for over a year now. We’ve had touch screen phones with slide out full QWERTY keypads like the Milestone or the BlackBerry Torch with a slide down option. The dual input method of data entry is old school. However, that being said, the tech has been redefined, re-introduced and re-applied into a slightly different form. Let’s just say you’re really not too fond of a full touchscreen device but do value the technology or you’re quick with the type on a QWERTY keypad but can’t stand the fact that totally touchscreen handsets offer slide out options that force you to change orientation for one and secondly require you to use both hands. This is where the touch and type handset could just be your saving grace. With the introduction of Nokia’s X3-02 and C3-01, the ball was rolling and the Touch & Type design form took on a whole new meaning.

Best of two worlds

Best of two worlds

Sticking to the standard candy-bar form factor, manufacturers took to this new trend like a mouse to cheese. They seemed to have really hit on something here and I have to admit, I’ve become quite a fan of the trend. I was always a little partial to touchscreen phones that came equipped with slide out keypads as it adds that little extra something to the functionality of a device. But that also meant having a slightly bulkier device or a one that necessarily required both hands for usage. Being a daily commuter in the Mumbai transit system, using both hands to send an email of text message is not a good option so touch and type to the rescue.

It’s going to work. It caters to all those users who have never been able to get used to virtual keypads that either block a part of the screen or all of it as in the case with Symbian. The system simplifies the menu navigation, web browsing and more. From where I’m standing, the need for a nav-pad is being rendered redundant. Unfortunately, it seems that’s not a sentiment shared by everyone. Devices like the Nokia E6 and upcoming BlackBerry Bold 9900 still feature a five way nav-pad and optical trackpad respectively. I find it a bit of a waste to have a touchscreen that allows you to access any and all parts of a page or menu and also have a nav-pad that does the same but requires a little more interaction on my part. As someone once told me, technology has got to work for you.

The Galaxy Pro running Android got it right. Samsung managed to offer a wide and well laid out keypad with simplistic but necessary control options neatly placed below the display. I strongly believe the Nokia E6 would have been able to capitalize on the extra space offered if the navigation “extras” weren’t part of the deal.

A touch and type device should be just that; no slide out keypads of any kind and no navigation pads that can get intrusive. Just a regular styled mobile handset combining the best of both worlds. A QWERTY styled keypad would work out best but Nokia’s funky styled X3-2 does mange to capture your attention with style and function just as good as any fully touchscreen handset. The BlackBerry 9900 that falls into this category just might be a game changer as an optical track pad is quite small and not really in the way. The trackpad and call buttons are no more than a slim bar under the display just a tad larger than the Samsung Galaxy Pro’s offering. RIM got it right with the newly launched BlackBerry Bold. It’s a whole lot wider than most handsets in its category, thus providing a larger keypad base and offering a wide 2.8-inch touchscreen display without compromising on space. Brilliant!

This new trend in mobile tech is gaining popularity as it conveniently combines the best of two worlds viz. touch input as well as regular or full QWERTY styled keypads. The touch and type era is changing the game and I for one, am eager to see just how it progresses.

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