Sprint still sees demand for phones with qwerty keyboards

Sprint to sell LG Mach and Motorola Photon Q with physical keyboards

Behold the physical qwerty keyboard. It just seems to hang in there with smartphone users.

Sprint announced Tuesday that it plans to sell the LG Mach smartphone for use on its 4G LTE network this fall. That means the company will be selling two slider-style smartphones with physical qwerty keyboards. The other is the Motorola Photon Q, which also works on LTE networks. The Photon Q sells for $199 with a two-year Sprint contract.

LG Mach smartphone
Sprint is selling the LG Mach smartphone, which supports LTE service and features a physical keyboard, for $100.

The Mach will probably sell for about $100, a midrange price, said David Owens, vice president of product at Sprint, in an interview.

While Apple is promoting its iPhone 5 as a taller smartphone that can be used with one hand, Sprint says there is still plenty of demand for a two-handed texting device with a physical keyboard.

"People actually like the comfort of a physical keyboard and say there are fewer errors. They want a two-handed device," Owens said, explaining why Sprint sells phones with physical keyboards as opposed to touchscreens.

The two qwerty devices from Sprint have some similarities, including five rows of keys, a feature that was important to Sprint, which wants to offer users a smartphone keyboard that's similar to a PC keyboard.

The Mach has a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and a 4-in. screen, while the Photon has a 1.5GHz dual core and a 4.3-in. display.

Both run Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. Owens didn't say whether there are any plans for upgrades to Jelly Bean, however.

Sprint offers customers the opportunity to buy its LTE devices under its well-known unlimited voice, text and data plan. The Mach and Photon require an Everything Data plan, which starts at $80 a month.

Owens said Sprint is now offering LTE service in 24 cities and plans to add LTE in 100 more cities "in coming months." Moreover, he said the carrier "has no plans to move away from unlimited plans" even as its LTE network becomes more crowded with users. "Our pricing structure and value proposition is unlimited," he said.

Sprint is on track to be selling 15 LTE devices by the end of 2012, Owens said. That lineup will include the Samsung Galaxy S III, the iPhone 5 and, coming later this fall, the LG Optimus G. Sprint will be the only U.S. carrier to have the quad-core Optimus smartphone with a 13-megapixel camera.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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