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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Is the keyboard phone making a comeback?

AFP   August 27, 2013
First Published: 10:43 IST(27/8/2013) | Last Updated: 11:18 IST(27/8/2013)

Following Samsung's attempts to reinvent the flip phone, Motorola is aiming to bring the physical keyboard back to smartphones.

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Leaked images and specifications, which were first posted on Sina Weibo and subsequently picked up by New Cell Phones, show a new Motorola smartphone with a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard -- a feature that many thought had been consigned to the history books thanks to touch screens and voice recognition.

However, Motorola isn't the only company that has been looking to the past for future inspiration over the course of 2013. While other companies have been focused on improving water resistance, upping their screens to 5 inches, making "mini" versions of their flagship devices and squeezing professional cameras into their handsets, Samsung has been attempting to resurrect the flip phone design for the smartphone generation.

Its Hennessy SCH W789, which launched at the beginning of August, boasts two 3.3-inch touch screens and a numerical keypad, runs Android version 4.1 and is aimed at the Chinese market. What's more, Samsung didn't stop with one device, subsequently unveiling the Galaxy Golden, a bigger flip phone with dual 3.7-inch super AMOLED screens and version 4.2 of Android, for the South Korean market.

And just as for a short time at the beginning of the century, the folding phone or ‘clamshell' design (popularized by Motorola, incidentally) was considered the standard for all mobile phones, the slide-out keyboard phone was once considered the de-facto standard for any smartphone with business use aspirations. As such a ‘slider' keyboard was a standard feature on many high-end devices, that is until a certain iPhone came along.

Fast-forward six years and the only smartphone maker still committed to the physical keyboard, BlackBerry, is on a very uncertain footing and could soon cease to exist as a phone maker altogether.

That's what makes the leaked images so interesting. Motorola is currently under the stewardship of Google and therefore living in the shockwave directly ahead of the cutting edge in terms of smartphone technology, trends, demands and user habits. All of which suggests the company knows something that the rest of the phone-making world doesn't.

According to New Cell Phones, the Verizon (US network operator)-branded  phone will feature a 4.3-inch or 4.5-inch display, wireless charging and NFC compatibility and will be water and dust resistant. However, there are no details about a potential release date or whether it will be launched beyond the US.

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