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Apple "Discussed" Putting a Hardware Keyboard on the iPhone

According to former Apple executive Tony Fadell -- these days remaking the thermostat -- Apple's designers had extensive discussions about including a hardware keyboard on the iPhone, but ultimately decided against it. Fadell discussed the iPhone design process in a sit-down interview on Josh Topolsky's On The Verge show.
I wanted to try [a touchscreen keyboard]... I wanted it to work. It made sense that you wanted a full screen, you didn't want a keyboard.

Fadell also mentions the other designs for the iPhone, including the iPod + Phone concept using the iPod click wheel as a controller, but noted that the team ultimately discarded that concept because the control scheme was too restricting.


Apple's designers make many prototypes that never hit the light of day. We didn't know it at the time, but the iPod with click-wheel dial that Steve Jobs jokingly showed at the original iPhone announcement wasn't too far off from something Apple had actually created.

In his biography, we learned that Jobs had set up two competing teams to find the best iPhone design. One based its designs off the existing iPod, while the other designed a brand new touchscreen system that ultimately became the iPhone.

Top Rated Comments

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Posted: 26 months ago
Apple like any other company discuss a lot of bad ideas. The difference between Apple and the rest though is Apple don't let the bad ideas (mostly) become part of the final product.
Rating: 16 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago
A hardware keyboard is obviously better. It doesn’t reduce the visible screen, and has a pleasant familiarity if you’re used to tiny physical keyboards. (Personally I wasn’t—I was used to BIG keyboards—so I didn’t care. No tiny keyboard, physical or not, was going to fit my habits.)

It’s also worse—it can’t adapt to the context (different languages, entering an email address, big numpad for numbers, Emoji, etc.). It can’t be used in both portrait and landscape. It can’t be upgraded. You can’t swipe your finger smoothly across it (a great solution for accents and special characters, for instance). It needs more force to type. Buttons can jam up, wear out, and get crud in the cracks. It has mechanical complexity (hinges, sliders) to break, and it’s less drop-proof. And it makes your phone bigger and heavier.

Luckily there ARE options for hardware keyboards on iPhone—but not as many as I’d have expected. I kind of like the non-attached ones: you can easily leave them at home, and they don’t force you to use a certain case just to attach the keyboard.
Rating: 8 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago

A hardware keyboard is obviously better. It doesn’t reduce the visible screen,...


It's only "obviously better" to you.

And physical keyboards don't reduce the visible screen because the screen is made tiny to MAKE ROOM for the keyboard! Or, in the case of slider keyboards, the phone is compromised by the additional thickness, added weight, and less room for other features (e.g. a decent battery).

Only in bizarro world is a physical keyboard "obviously better"
Rating: 8 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago
Apple also discussed needing to use a cord and wall jack with the iPhone.
Rating: 7 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago

I wanted to try [a touchscreen keyboard]... I wanted it to work. It made sense that you wanted a full screen, you didn't want a keyboard.


And sometimes I wish I had full screen without the keyboard taking up half of it. It's the biggest draw back that on such a small screen so much is taken up by a keyboard.
Rating: 6 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago
Of course Apple fails with designs. Anyone should remember what happened to MacBook Wheel. ;)
Rating: 6 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago
I know there are still a lot of people who hate the iPhone's current keyboard, but I love it. It could have been a mess, but the size is just right. It's really the software that makes it useable, though. I'm amazed at how fast I can type with it, and I usually never have to worry about making mistakes; the software accurately corrects it for me.
Rating: 6 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago
I just keep hoping we will one day get haptic feedback on the touch keyboard. That would make me very happy.
Rating: 5 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago
Ok. So what. You can "discuss" anything.

A lot of lousy ideas don't make it into the final product.
Rating: 5 Positives
Posted: 26 months ago
I love how this has become such a huge news story around the web, especially since it has been years since the first iPhone.

Considering the time period when the first iPhone is released, Apple would have been crazy not to consider hardware keyboards considering RIM's dominant position at the time, which was pretty much built on their keyboard.
Rating: 5 Positives

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