We spent some time trying to work out the best phone for her before, eventually, settling on.... another BlackBerry Torch!
My mum has an Android tablet which she likes very much. Her Windows laptop suits her needs fine. She admires her friends' iPhones and iPads. Yet she still chose the classic BlackBerry - not BB10 - over all the other phones on the market.
It comes down to the keyboard. My mum writes. Not just emails, but short stories, scripts, and novels. The BlackBerry keyboard is incredibly accurate - several times moreso than even the best touchscreen equivalent. Even when wearing gloves, the keyboard will clatter and clack away producing word-perfect results.
I love SwiftKey Flow for Android - but even that doesn't compare to the speed and accuracy of a physical keyboard.
Well, ok, what about the BlackBerry Q10? It has a keyboard and touchscreen, why not choose a more modern OS?
From my use of the Q10, it's no faster than BBOS7. The screen is tiny compared to the Torch, and the gesture driven interface is inaccurate and frustrating. Worse still is BlackBerry's decision to remove many of the features and shortcuts of the original BlackBerry. This means there's a steep learning curve - not an issue for a woman as switched on as my mother - but having so many half-familiar / half-broken UI elements is confusing and annoying.
Where Are The QWERTY Androids?
Back in 2011, I reviewed the Motorola Pro+. A phone so unloved by Motorola that they've subsequently thrown it down the memory hole.
The Pro+ had a pretty good form factor and an excellent keyboard. It was hamstrung by buggy software and underpowered hardware. But, boy, I loved that keyboard.
There are no Android phones currently on the market with a physical keyboard. Even the Chinese purveyors of ultra-niche phones don't supply them any more.
The BlackBerry Torch has a brilliant form factor. A large touchscreen covering a good sized keyboard. A little chunky - but big enough to store a capacious battery. That's one of the other reasons my mum went for it - who wants to recharge every single day?
So where are all the QWERTY Androids? I've heard unsubstantiated rumours that BlackBerry have so many patents on mobile phone keyboards that no one can produce a decent one without paying outrageous fees. That's certainly a possibility.
Or is it just a matter of fashion? Ever since Apple popularised the black slab of glass, all phones have moved towards that as a platonic ideal.
Will we ever see a modern phone with an integrated keyboard - or does my mother have to resign herself to buying increasingly outdated hardware in a bid to stay productive?