There's no crueler phrase in the tech world than "You'll get
used to it."
Despite the best intentions of developers, every change and tweak
to familiar ground is fraught with sacrifice and compromise. Rarely
does a new version of an app, an operating system, or a device
please 100% of the masses, and the fraction (or majority) of users
left dissatisfied with the changes are forced to abandon their
preferences and go along for the ride -- lest they stick with an
older app or device and remain in an obsolete, unsupported digital
And what do they get in return? A smirking CEO glibly silencing
legitimate complaints with "You'll get used to it."
Everyone has felt that burn before, but few mobile users have been
spurned and abandoned quite like fans of QWERTY keyboards and small
) forged headlong into the smartphone world, the landscape was a
sea of tactile buttons. There were a share of touchscreens, sure,
but the sleek and fully functional iPhone screen revolutionized how
users expected to interact with their devices in a way that
) had yet to explore. Even
) first foray in mobile hardware -- the HTC Dream -- had a
slide-out QWERTY keyboard beneath its touchscreen, which bridged a
gap between the new and the soon-to-be obsolete. But after a few
taps, swipes, and pinches, it was clear that QWERTY keyboards were
no longer necessary.
Fans of tactile keys were given a reprieve before seeing their
bumpy brethren completely disappear from high-end smartphones.
Although Apple never saw a point in including them in the iPhone,
Motorola's popular Droid line maintained slide-out keyboards in its
form factor and, despite its development of strictly touchscreen
devices, BlackBerry firmly kept a familiar design for enterprise
users -- admittedly, to a fault.
But now, in 2013, folks who want to feel the peaks and valleys
beneath their thumbs are left with mid-range devices at best
running software that's far from the latest and greatest. With
little to no options for QWERTY fans seeking support from Apple,
Google, and Windows devices, users are forced to buy a BlackBerry
for their tactile needs, and given the current state of the
platform, it's not an ideal situation.
Similarly, users who prefer a smaller screen for their smartphones
are left with middling or obsolete options.
As Android grew in popularity, its screens, too, expanded. Soon,
four inches became the bare minimum to a screen size, and then, as
phablets entered the scene, 4.3 inches (or thereabouts) became the
default minimum for high-end devices. And just last year, after
Apple saw the demand for larger screens, it debuted an expanded
landscape version of the iPhone. As of yet, the company offers no
smaller alternative to the iPhone 5 that doesn't involve a
downgrade to an older model.
While Android manufacturers do still supply a few smaller-screened
phones, like the devices that sport QWERTY keyboards, the products
are decidedly mid-range. Case in point, the HTC One Mini -- a
tinier version of the flagship HTC One -- should, by all accounts,
be as powerful as its big brother. But not only does it have a
slower processor, inferior screen resolution, and missing features,
only in a phablet world could a 4.3-inch screen be considered
So, again, that leaves individuals with diminutive hands and
shallow pockets with little choice but to change the way they hold
and operate their too-big smartphones -- not to mention the expense
of designer fanny packs to hold them.
But it doesn't have to be this way. These are two notable types of
users who could be sated with one or two high-end options.
A mini iPhone has long been rumored, but would it be as powerful
and feature-heavy as the regular model? It would only take one
Android manufacturer to offer a 4-inch device sporting a QWERTY
keyboard, top-of-the-line specs, and Jelly Bean support to satisfy
both groups. But is that also just a pipe dream?
Apple and Google are dictating where the mobile industry is headed,
and in doing so, they've abandoned two significant user bases.
Although they have little choice but to suck it up and join the
masses, it's doubtful that they'll ever get used to it.
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Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville
Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.