Back to school special: QWERTY messaging phones

Summary:It's that time of year when kids go back to school and people start to think of ways to stay connected and in touch. If your kids are like mine, text messaging is used 90% of the time compared to voice calls on mobile phones and they are all about the QWERTY keyboard for easier, faster texting than a phone keypad. Every carrier realizes this too and has a lineup of QWERTY phones to meet these texting needs. Let's take a look at two of the best QWERTY phones available from each of the four major wireless carriers.

It's that time of year when kids go back to school and people start to think of ways to stay connected and in touch. If your kids are like mine, text messaging is used 90% of the time compared to voice calls on mobile phones and they are all about the QWERTY keyboard for easier, faster texting than a phone keypad. Every carrier realizes this too and has a lineup of QWERTY phones to meet these texting needs. Let's take a look at two of the best QWERTY phones available from each of the four major wireless carriers.

I personally have tried several times to move away from a QWERTY keyboard device, but realized it is time to give up on that idea as the QWERTY keeps drawing me back and I am just more comfortable using them for messaging purposes.

While there are several BlackBerry and other smartphone QWERTY devices available (check out my recent King of the QWERTYs articles), we are going to take a quick look at the feature phone set since they are less expensive, more likely to be purchased for school aged children, and are heavily focused on text messaging. As I have talked about before, the lines are actually getting quite blurry between smartphone and feature phones as feature phones offer people more and more.

T-Mobile

Samsung Gravity 2
T-Mobile is the smallest of the four major U.S. carriers in terms of subscribers, but they also have the best rates for the included number of minutes. T-Mobile regularly takes the prize for best customer service and as a subscriber myself for over 7 years I can attest to their excellent service.

The Samsung Gravity 2 brings an upgrade to the popular Gravity device with redesigned keyboard that gives the owner four rows instead of three, upgrades from a 1.3 megapixel camera to a 2 megapixel camera, adds a GPS receiver, and 3G wireless data radio. I am working on a review of the Metallic Pumpkin Gravity 2 and there is also a Berry Mauve model to choose from.

The QWERTY keyboard is very functional and is accessed by sliding the upper part of the phone to the right (up in landscape orientation). The Gravity 2 keyboard has the two phone soft keys at the extreme ends of the keyboard centered vertically for very easy usage. The number row is along the top and accessed with a function key since there is a full phone keypad on the front part of the phone. There are directional arrows to help with navigation in keyboard mode and the buttons are well defined with good feedback.

Price: $29.99 after instant discount, rebate and contract [Read the review (Berry-Mauve) and (Metallic Pumpkin)]

Samsung Comeback

The newest QWERTY messaging phone from T-Mobile is the Samsung Comeback in both Frost Silver Cherry and Pearl White Plum. The Comeback has more of a Sidekick-like design with a flip up middle section that reveals a full QWERTY keyboard. The keys are quite small and close together with a straight layout and small space bar. There is a directional pad on the right and phone hardware buttons to control the phone.

There is both a front outer display and inner display as the from transforms from phone mode to keyboard mode. The Comeback has a 2 megapixel camera, integrated GPS receiver, and 3G wireless data radio. A microSD card is supported, along with stereo Bluetooth capability.

Price: $74.99 after instant discount, rebate and contract [Read the review (Pearl White Plum) and (Frost Silver Cherry)]

Let's check out AT&T's offerings ª

AT&T

Motorola Karma
The Motorola Karma has a bit different form factor than most QWERTY phones you probably have seen with a rather minimalist design and a keyboard that is revealed when the front panel is slid up. There are only a few buttons found on the front main part of the phone and a phone keypad is not included so you will be sliding the display up to reveal the keyboard to enter phone numbers for those not in your contact list.

The phone supports the 3G wireless data network and includes a GPS receiver, 2 megapixel camera, and Bluetooth radio for wireless connections. The phone is advertised with a focus on social networking and includes software to help you connect with Facebook, MySpace, and more.

Price: $79.99 after mail-in rebate and contract [Read the review]

LG Xenon

One unique aspect of the LG Xenon is that it has a full touchscreen display in addition to a QWERTY hardware keyboard so you get the best of both worlds in one device. The QWERTY keyboard appears when you slide the display to the right (up in landscape mode). The keyboard extends most of the full width of the device with the number appearing in phone keypad layout accessed by pressing the function key. There are directional arrows on the lower right and a few shortcut buttons on the left side.

There is no physical phone keypad on the front, but the Xenon does have a touchscreen so you can tap on the display to enter a phone number.

The Xenon is available in blue, red, or black. A 2 megapixel camera is included, along with 3G data, and Bluetooth. Several AT&T services are available on the Xenon, including Cellular Video and Video Share.

Price: $99.99 after mail-in rebate and contract [Read the review (Blue) and (Black)]

What does Verizon have to offer?

Verizon Wireless

Motorola Rival
The Motorola Rival comes in both Tin Silver and Purple color schemes. It has a form factor similar to many of these QWERTY devices with the keyboard hidden under the front panel. Sliding to the right (up in landscape) reveals the QWERTY keyboard. There is no phone keypad on the front panel and the numbers appear on the top row of the keyboard. There is no directional pad on the keyboard, but there are a couple of application shortcuts.

The Rival supports GPS, 3G EV-DO, and Bluetooth. Several Verizon Wireless services are available, including V CAST Music, V CAST Videos, Visual Voice Mail, and more. A 2 megapixel camera is present along with a Bluetooth radio and microSD card slot.

Price: $29.99 after discount and contract [Read the review (Silver) and (Purple)]

LG enV3

The LG enV series has been very popular with the messaging crowd and the enV3 continues to improve the series. You can find the enV3 in Maroon and Slate Blue colors. There is a traditional phone keypad on the front with a very functional QWERTY keyboard available when you flip the front from left to right (up in the landscape mode). The keys are well spaced and well defined with a full directional pad over on the right centered between hardware buttons.

The enV3 has an external and internal display with a 3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth stereo support, GPS receiver, EV-DO radio support, and support for Verizon Wireless services.

Price: $79.99 after online discount and contract [Read the review (Maroon) and (Slate Blue)]

Sprint has some compelling choices too

Sprint

Samsung Exclaim
Looking through all of latest and greatest messaging devices, it looks like Samsung is very good at these designs. The Samsung Exclaim is available in both Blueberry and Raspberry color schemes. Similar to others we have seen you slide the top part to the right (up in landscape) to reveal the 4-row QWERTY keyboard. The Exclaim is very similar to the Samsung Gravity 2 from T-Mobile.

The Exclaim is outfitted with a 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, GPS, and 3G radio. Sprint services such as Sprint TV and streaming music are supported and with Sprint's outstanding Simply Everything plans you get unlimited minutes, data, and messaging to make this quite a bargain.

Price: $79.99 after instant discount, rebate and contract [Read the review (Raspberry) and (Blueberry)]

Samsung Reclaim

The Samsung Reclaim has a form factor where the QWERTY keyboard is accessed by sliding the top upwards. The Reclaim's claim to fame is the fact that it is built from 80% recycled material with 40% of the casing made from corn-based bio-plastic.

The QWERTY keyboard is quite compact and will take a bit of practice to get used to, but this also makes the device quite compact. A 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth radio, 3G wireless data, and GPS receiver are all packed into the device along with support for Sprint wireless services.

Price: $49.99 after mail-in rebate, discounts and contract [Read the review (Ocean Blue) and (Earth Green)]

Go back to the beginning ª

Topics: Wi-Fi, Hardware, Mobility, Samsung, Telcos

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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