The full-size keyboard is an upcoming issue and each user that sends a lot of messages via mail or SMS desires a faster way of sending those messages. A full-size could be the solutions for this desire.
The rise of the mobile phone with build-in QWERTY keyboard has become a part of the market what a user cannot miss currently. It is a segment also known and called as messaging. Within the current market two main issues play a role for any user or provider. That is making a call and getting your SMS messages send to any friend or family. Manufacturers see those issues too and change their designs of the newest models.
People can buy phones that are specially ment for making a lot of phone calls or write an enormeous amount of SMS or mail messages. This group of users did not have a major set of devices to choice from. If there was a model that people would suggest buying, it would have been the T-mobile MDA Vario, Qtek 9100 or Orange SPV M3000. The device was available at several providers and in different looks.
Times have changed. Manufacturers have seen the success of the model with a build-in QWERTY keyboard and the unique opportunity to let people send messages on their device. It is also something providers would like to see, because next to calling and messaging there are no major driving items which bring in the profit. Mobile internet had a false start with high tarives and low speeds, mobile TV is not of interest currently and i-mode never came into business. They have to address the strong issues and that is making a call and sending a SMS message.
By looking at four new compact models with full-size keyboard it will be decided which device is the best for people that send of a lot messages and communicate constantly with others. Entering text via the keyboard and other keyboard options such as T9 will be discussed.
The four models that will be discussed are:
All these models will be discussed one by one and it are two models with touchscreen, two without, two with Windows Mobile (1 smartphone, 1 PocketPC) and two Symbian models (1 Series 60 and 1 UIQ). All devices are PDAs or smartphones and it’s divided exactly as it should be. Each operating system or input system will be discussed.
Each device will be judged on the quality of the keyboard, the size of the keys, the ergonomics and the ease of use of entering text and controlling the menu and all available options. Especially the user friendliness of the complete model shall be put into the spotlight. Everybody should be able to use the device. That is one of the major items within this test. The first device that will be discussed is the new Palm Treo 750v.
Palm Treo 750v
The Palm Treo 750v can be controlled quite easily with one hand. The device is equipped with a touchscreen, but because Palm has given Windows Mobile a great redecoration the touchscreen is not needed all the time. They changed the operating system into a well-balanced and easy controllable system.
The Treo 750v is a killer with respect to messaging. The way in which SMS messages will follow up each other, has some familiarity with a MSN or a chat system. As a user you are dying to use it and you need to reply each message when it is received.
A small drawback is the choice for a special material for the keys. The keys are not quite big and made of a hard plastic material. The keys are rounded and you can slip off quite easily, which does not happen while using the keys of the Nokia E61. Furthermore you need some power to use the keys while entering text.
Off course each keyboard needs to be learned and after some time it can be controlled more easily. The speed of entering characters will become quite high, but with fat fingers it will still be quite hard to enter info.
The virtual keyboard on the touchscreen is not really a great deal. Even on the Treo. The "keys' are too small to use fast enough. Next to that the touch is not that great.
The big plus of the Treo 750v are the special functions behind the keys. A computer user does not have the urge to search for the functionality. It will be found without any ease. The Nokia E61 looses points with respect to this.
Sony Ericsson M600i
The second member in this comparison is the new Sony Ericsson M600i. The device as compact in your hands as you would like, but controlled with a stylus and touchscreen. The scroll key and back key on the side of the device are not enough when you really need to control each function inside the device. It is not a plus. Relating the keyboard the same is addressed. Per key you will find a maximum of four functions in some cases. Quite a few. Mostly it are primary or secondary input functions, such as a characters, figure or other text character.
The keyboard and the keys are specially designed. One key has two movements. By pushing on the left hand side or right hand side of the key you will select a certain function. It will not work in the beginning. People are constantly fighting the keys and selecting the wrong function. It is impossible to select a function with the complete finger.
After some time people will start to get use to it. They will adjust to the set-up of the keyboard. However it takes some time to get to that stage. People will start tilting their finger while pressing the key. Pressing within the middle of the key will give you 50% chance of selecting the correct character or function. The other option is using your finger nail. It will enhance the accuracy.
When looking at it as a whole, this keyboard is not easy to use. The keyboards of the Treo 750v and E61 feel much better, work better and people do not have to take so much time to learn the keyboard before using it properly.
Entering text can be addressed in three separate ways within the M600i. The first way is by using the handwrite recognition. People write the shape of the character on the screen and get the character within the text line they use. The function works properly on the M600i. This way of entering text, characters or figures is a "must".
The second option is entering text via a special virtual keyboard. This can be opened via the upper line of the interface on which the coverage and GPRS status is shown. The icon for the keyboard will only be shown when in a text line. After that the keypad can be opened.
The final option is the most important one. It is the full-size keyboard that can be used within a text line or frame, but also when you need to walk thru a list. On other moments it is not possible to use the keyboard. There is one exception and that is entering a phone number.
The M600i uses a new T9 version, which is highly enhanced. It shows and suggests a corresponding word while entering a word. It will be shown to user and the user can select the word from the list. It is also possible to enter emoticons, pictures and standard text lines within messages. Also the size of the character can be adjusted.
Samsung tries to reach the market of messaging devices for the first time and uses the new i320. They saw the sales of the MDA Vario and decided to bring a device which people would love to use while entering SMS messages or chat messages in the MSN messenger client.
The keyboard is not that bad, but it is not that comfortable either. The keys are too small to use while entering the text quite rapidly. The double-sided keys are not great and do not contribute to the comfort and the speed while typing. The special secondary function keys on the lower end of the keyboard can be added to this opinion. Those keys are not well ergonomically placed. People will look for them and will not find them automatically. It will ask more training then the keyboard of the E61 or Treo 750v.
Entering text is not a punishment with the i320. The device does not offer the best keyboard within the market, but entering text does go quite well. The speed is not quite high and it takes some time before you can really use the keyboard as you would like to. However the i320 offers a new system called xT9. The newly added functionality of the well-known T9 system gives users the option to add words and messages more quickly. The system will show words while entering characters in a specially designed bar under the message. Especially when entering large words it can be handy to select the corresponding word from the list.
This way of entering text is completely new and will be placed within the complete device. Everywhere you enter text; this new text input system will be used. xT9 is not yet widely available on each device, but has a special version for touchscreen based devices which is quite familiar to the system the M600i from Sony Ericsson uses.
It should be mentioned on forehand that the review model was equipped with an AZERTY keyboard. But with some good imagination an opinion can be obtained about the QWERTY keyboard.
The Nokia E61 has the best handling of all the devices discussed here. The keys work quite well beneath the fingers. People will not slip of the keys like on the Treo 750. Tilting your fingers is not needed as on the M600i from Sony Ericsson and it is scores better than the Samsung i320.
The functionality behind the keys is rather simple. The Shift-key (key with the arrow in the up direction) is placed on a rather strange place. Nokia should have swapped the function key and the shift key, because the shift key is used more often.
Messaging with the Nokia E61 is quite standard. There is no active client of the device such as on the Palm Treo 750v. Besides that it is a pleasure to use the device to write messages. Writing long email messages is not a problem for the device. The speed is quite high.
Users which are used to normal Nokia devices will need to search when other functions as mail of SMS are used. The numerical keys are placed a main part in the middle of the keyboard, but you will need some time to find the keypad lock keys for instance.
Which device should you take when you are looking for user friendly device with build-in QWERTY keyboard? Other parts as a camera, MP3 player or any needed issue do not play a roll. People should have a look at it, but the rinse will become smaller and you will start talking about special models like the Nokia E70, Sony Ericsson P990i or T-mobile MDA Vario II. But that was not the main purpose of the comparison review. It was about four new compact models with full-size keyboard as discussed here. The keyboard is the main part; others are placed on the second place.
Which device has the highest score and why? The winner is the Treo 750v. It is the not the most compact model and relating comfort the E61 is the best. But the Treo 750v wins with respect to the need of messaging people will get while using the device. The software of the Palm enhances messaging and makes it fun to do. The combination between the software from Palm and the keyboard of the E61 would be the best messaging combination ever wanted!
Are there any other issues that need to be discussed? Yes, the E61 and Treo 750v are way ahead with respect to the others. The Sony Ericson M600i and Samsung i320 have lower scores. Mostly because of their keyboards. The fact that the M600i has more functions under one key is not the best option you should have. It is quite hard to get used to the system of keys. The large amount of input systems via the keyboard and touchscreen places the device above the Samsung i320.
The Samsung family member has really low scores, especially when you look at organisation of the keyboard and the ergonomics of the chosen keys. The new xT9 system is the only plus within the complete package, but cannot cover up the shortcomings.
No, the real messaging killers within this series of the devices are they E61 and Treo 750v. They are the right choice. The 750v even has a simple system for entering text and messages. The E61 has the best keyboard, but does not offer the messaging capabilities of the Treo. There are no other extra messaging enhancements. The winner is the Treo 750v closely followed by the E61.
For more information and pictures or videos of the devices check out the phone pages of the mentioned devices: