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why am i using a keyboard phone in 2023

why am i using a keyboard phone in 2023

For the past month, I've been using the Unihertz Titan Pocket, a phone slated to be released in 2021 with a 3.1-inch display atop a full QWERTY keyboard. To be clear, this is by my choice - my editors didn't assign me to do this as a prank (in fact, some of them have made fun of me for using it), and it's not that I don't have any other option. I have the exact same iPhone 12 mini that I actively abandoned to switch to this phone.

So uh... why?

The first reason is that trying something new can be fun. Or, in this case, go back to something old; My first experience with a smartphone was stealing my dad's Navy-issued Blackberry to email my significant other when I was in middle school. But for the past 10 years, all the phones I've used have largely had the same form factor. He has just changed form.

This is true for pretty much everyone else as well. I don't think I've ever received as many comments on a gadget as I have on the Titan Pocket. I got several "Is that a Blackberry?" or "Wow, cool, what a phone that is" comments, and I think it's mostly due to the fact that people aren't used to seeing someone use this type of phone. (Though there are dozens of us! Everyone I visit at my gym also has a Titan Pocket, which took me by surprise; I never expected to see another in the wild.)

However, the main reason I switched to this phone is actually because of its main selling point: the keyboard. I'm going to disappear into the woods for a few months to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and during that time, my contact with people back home will be through long emails sent every week or two. . I won't be firing off texts every hour like I normally do, which marks a fundamental change for how I communicate. So why not combine it with a fundamental change in my means of communication?

It looks like this phone was made for writing. The keyboard is tactile - obviously, you're pressing down on the actual keys - and the top includes a bevy of function keys that add another layer to the experience. Of course, there are Shift and Alt keys for accessing capital letters and some symbols, but there are also two programmable keys as well. I use the symbol keys for their intended purpose, popping up a virtual keyboard that lets me enter characters that aren't on the hardware. The Fn key, however, I've configured to basically act like the Control key.

Yes, this means I can access all my favorite desktop keyboard shortcuts on my phone. Need to select all? Function-a. Want to find a page? Function-F. Undo? Yes, I can do that too. I can also hit Function-L in Chrome to go to the address bar and immediately start typing the site I want to visit.

The usefulness of having a keyboard attached to your phone goes beyond the in-app or typing experience. When I need to launch an app on iOS, I swipe up to go to the homescreen, pull down to open Spotlight, and start typing its name, then tap its icon when it appears. doing. On the Titan Pocket, I double-tap the home button (if I'm not already on the launcher) and just start typing. Once I put in the app's name, or enough to get it as the first search result, I mash the enter key and it launches.

The Unihertz also has a system that lets you set keys as shortcuts for apps and actions. For example, no matter where I am on my phone, I can long-press the "T" key to start a new timer or the "C" key to open Chrome. It turns out that extra buttons can be extremely useful if you want to do things quickly.

There is a lot more to this phone than just the keyboard. For one, it has features that my iPhone 12 mini, which costs more than $479, does not. You know how everyone complains that phones no longer have a headphone jack or microSD card slot? Titan Pockets. They're going to be very useful to me when I attempt to hike across America for reasons explained to my colleague David Pierce on an episode of The Vargacast.

It also has an IR blaster that I can use to control my TV and oscillating fan, and if I plug in some wired headphones, I can use it as an FM radio. Plus, there's an additional hardware button that you can program to perform three different actions based on single-, double-, or long-presses. Why has the market decided that there should be no flagship phone with these features in so many budget handsets?

Now, I'm not trying to say that this phone is perfect because it isn't at all. Here are some of my complaints, in no particular order:

The vibration motor feels like it could have come from a low-end phone in 2012.
Its MediaTek Helio P70 processor was midrange when it launched in 2019 – and its age is noticeable.
It does not support 5G or eSIM.
It's stuck on Android 11 forever, and the security patch on it is from September 2022. (Don't hack me, please.)
The camera is so bad that it would be better to write a description of what I see than to take a photo.
I'd give anything for a real BlackBerry-style trackpad or rollerball for this phone because manipulating the cursor on screen is this little hell.
Despite its 6GB of RAM, I still feel like apps take up a lot of memory.
Touchscreens are fine, but a lot of apps aren't made to run on a square screen. For example, to view Instagram Stories I have to put it in a goofy letterbox mode (which to be fair is very cleverly designed).
The leather holster for it is sold out, making it very difficult for me to completely convert it to my father's holster.
Also, it has this amazingly annoying bug where if the first thing I type in the text box is a number or symbol. (At least it does if I use the keyboard to type it; the on-screen keyboard doesn't have that problem, but some fields prevent it from coming up.) If I try, it's too It gets annoying. Type in a zip code or reply to something with an emoticon.

And yeah, okay now that I look at it, that's a pretty long list of complaints. And you can even make some objective points against the Titan Pocket for being a good writing machine. I actually type faster on the iPhone than on the Titan (59 words per minute versus 50), and the physical keyboard lags if I have to do something like add a special character via the alt key. is not accessible from - the dollar sign is a common culprit, as is the semicolon. Plus, this screen can't show that much text at once, which means when I'm reading something I have to scroll a lot to check that it makes sense.

But when I use the phone to message a friend, write a note, or post a long email or blog, all those problems go away. It's a tactile experience that my iPhone can't touch, and being able to switch between apps, copy and paste text without touching the screen makes me feel like a productivity god. Sure, I may be slow at typing, but my mind has always been the driver of my writing speed, not my fingers. I can still type as fast as I can form coherent thoughts.

It may all be in my head, but using Pocket gets me in the mood to write and helps me focus on what I'm doing in a way that other phones don't. I'm not tempted to just walk away from a draft and watch a YouTube video, because honestly, watching YouTube on this thing sucks! My wife makes fun of me for having to hold my phone up to my face when I watch videos.

And yes, it's entirely fair to criticize the Titan Pocket for those shortcomings (though, really, they're built-in to all keyboard phones, as Steve Jobs pointed out when announcing the iPhone). But in some ways, they're part of why I love this phone so much. As someone who has spent my entire life addicted to the Internet, I appreciate that little moment of hesitation before I pick up my phone, and it's not usable with one hand, so when I decide If I have to commit to it, then use it.

I'm not exactly trying to argue that phones in general should be a little less convenient so that people use them less. All I'm saying is I'm glad it's mine. And yes, I love that everything I do with it sounds like serious business, even when I'm just playing silly pranks on friends and co-workers. It's hard to think of another phone that has fundamentally changed the way I think about what I actually use a phone for. And of course, when I return to society, I'll probably go back to my iPhone. But I'm hoping to retain at least some of my Blackberry habits. 

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