Sprint still sees demand for phones with Qwerty keyboard

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Behold the Qwerty physical keyboard. It just seems to hang in there with customers.

Sprint announced Tuesday that it plans to sell the LG Mach smartphone with 4G LTE this fall, adding a second slider-style smartphone with a physical Qwerty keyboard. The other is the Motorola Photon Q, also with LTE, which sells for $199 with a two-year Sprint contract.

The Mach will probably sell for about $100, in the mid-price range, 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 plenty of demand still 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,” Owen said, explaining why Sprint sells devices with the physical keyboard as opposed to a touchscreen.

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

Both run Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. Owens didn’t offer any upgrade plans to Jelly Bean, however.

Sprint sells its LTE devices along with its well-known offer of unlimited voice, text and data. The Mach and Photon require an Everything Data plan which starts at $80 a month.

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

Sprint is on track to sell 15 LTE devices by the end of 2012, he said, including the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5, and coming 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.

This story, "Sprint still sees demand for phones with Qwerty keyboard" was originally published by Computerworld.

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