2006: The year of the QWERTY smartphone

RIM has dominated the QWERTY mobile device market with their BlackBerry devices, but 2006 saw a huge influx of mobile devices running Palm, Windows Mobile, and S60 operating systems with thumb keyboards. There are devices in just about every size and style someone could want ranging in price from US$100 up to US$600+ with specifications to match just about any need as well.

T-Mobile Dash
Prior to this year we had a few Pocket PC Phone Edition devices, the Treo 600/650, a couple Nokia Communicators, Sony Ericsson P900/P910 models and, of course, RIM BlackBerry devices to choose from if we wanted a mobile device with a keyboard. Actually, now that I put that list together it looks like there was a decent choice for consumers, but the Phone Edition, Sony Ericsson and Nokia Communicator devices were not that popular in the U.S. The Treo 600 and 650 were hot sellers, but still could not compete with the RIM BlackBerry for email functionality. I believe all that changed in 2006 when we saw Push email expand outside the BlackBerry experience and onto several mobile devices that have gotten better and better throughout the year.

The Palm Treo 700w launched at the end of 2005 and was the first Palm branded device to run the Windows Mobile operating system that exposed many new users to the Treo hardware. The Treo 700w had a few hardware issues (low RAM, basic 1 megapixel camera, 240x240 display), but was and still is used by many people today. The Motorola Q was announced in mid-2005, but wasn't actually released until May 2006. While the Q was targeted to take on the BlackBerry, the first release did not include the Direct Push software update so it started out a bit behind the curve. The software update was released a few months later, but the high monthly data fee from Verizon killed a bunch of excitement as well.

QWERTY devices seemed to roll out with a bang after the Motorola Q opened the floodgates. The models include the following devices:

  • The Nokia E61 and eventually the Nokia E62 from Cingular in the U.S.
  • The HTC TyTN Phone Edition device that leads the pack for the larger devices with a QWERTY keyboard
  • The most powerful Palm OS-based smartphone, the Treo 700p
  • The Palm Windows Mobile upgraded Treo 700wx from Sprint
  • The Nokia E70-2 that used a unique flip over keyboard solution
  • The GSM version Treo 750v currently only available in Europe from Vodafone
  • The Sony Ericsson P990 that suffers from software issues
  • The HP 6900 series Phone Edition device with a GPS radio
  • The Treo 680 that added colors and a slightly new design to the Palm OS Treo
  • The Samsung SGH-i320 that brought a super slim form factor to compete with the Q
  • My current favorite device, the T-Mobile Dash
  • The recently released Samsung Blackjack (SGH-i600) that adds a 3G radio to the i320 design

Many of these devices can be found for free through a new account and Amazon. You can even pick up the devices directly from your carrier ranging in price from US$100 to US$600+. The QWERTY devices come in all shapes and sizes with some like the E61, HTC TyTN/Cingular 8525, and Palm Treo devices allowing full document creation and other providing more limited functionality from a PDA viewpoint. Even with all the new competition this year RIM seems to be holding off competitors for now. Their latest preliminary earnings report shows that revenues continue to move upwards.

I think more QWERTY devices will be released in 2007, but the further rollout of 3G data networks and other high speed wireless data technologies may be the story for mobile devices this next year.

Did you pick up a QWERTY device in 2006 and if so what do you like about it?