There's no crueler phrase in the tech world than "You'll get used to it."
Despite the best intentions of developers, every change and tweak to familiar ground is fraught with sacrifice and compromise. Rarely does a new version of an app, an operating system, or a device please 100% of the masses, and the fraction (or majority) of users left dissatisfied with the changes are forced to abandon their preferences and go along for the ride -- lest they stick with an older app or device and remain in an obsolete, unsupported digital purgatory.
And what do they get in return? A smirking CEO glibly silencing legitimate complaints with "You'll get used to it."
Everyone has felt that burn before, but few mobile users have been spurned and abandoned quite like fans of QWERTY keyboards and small screens.
(NASDAQ:AAPL) forged headlong into the smartphone world, the landscape was a sea of tactile buttons. There were a share of touchscreens, sure, but the sleek and fully functional iPhone screen revolutionized how users expected to interact with their devices in a way that BlackBerry
(NASDAQ:MSFT), and Palm
(NYSE:HPQ) had yet to explore. Even Google's
(NASDAQ:GOOG) first foray in mobile hardware -- the HTC Dream -- had a slide-out QWERTY keyboard beneath its touchscreen, which bridged a gap between the new and the soon-to-be obsolete. But after a few taps, swipes, and pinches, it was clear that QWERTY keyboards were no longer necessary.
Fans of tactile keys were given a reprieve before seeing their bumpy brethren completely disappear from high-end smartphones. Although Apple never saw a point in including them in the iPhone, Motorola's popular Droid line maintained slide-out keyboards in its form factor and, despite its development of strictly touchscreen devices, BlackBerry firmly kept a familiar design for enterprise users -- admittedly, to a fault.
But now, in 2013, folks who want to feel the peaks and valleys beneath their thumbs are left with mid-range devices at best running software that's far from the latest and greatest. With little to no options for QWERTY fans seeking support from Apple, Google, and Windows devices, users are forced to buy a BlackBerry for their tactile needs, and given the current state of the platform, it's not an ideal situation.
Similarly, users who prefer a smaller screen for their smartphones are left with middling or obsolete options.
As Android grew in popularity, its screens, too, expanded. Soon, four inches became the bare minimum to a screen size, and then, as phablets entered the scene, 4.3 inches (or thereabouts) became the default minimum for high-end devices. And just last year, after Apple saw the demand for larger screens, it debuted an expanded landscape version of the iPhone. As of yet, the company offers no smaller alternative to the iPhone 5 that doesn't involve a downgrade to an older model.
While Android manufacturers do still supply a few smaller-screened phones, like the devices that sport QWERTY keyboards, the products are decidedly mid-range. Case in point, the HTC One Mini -- a tinier version of the flagship HTC One -- should, by all accounts, be as powerful as its big brother. But not only does it have a slower processor, inferior screen resolution, and missing features, only in a phablet world could a 4.3-inch screen be considered "mini."
So, again, that leaves individuals with diminutive hands and shallow pockets with little choice but to change the way they hold and operate their too-big smartphones -- not to mention the expense of designer fanny packs to hold them.
But it doesn't have to be this way. These are two notable types of users who could be sated with one or two high-end options.
A mini iPhone has long been rumored, but would it be as powerful and feature-heavy as the regular model? It would only take one Android manufacturer to offer a 4-inch device sporting a QWERTY keyboard, top-of-the-line specs, and Jelly Bean support to satisfy both groups. But is that also just a pipe dream?
Apple and Google are dictating where the mobile industry is headed, and in doing so, they've abandoned two significant user bases. Although they have little choice but to suck it up and join the masses, it's doubtful that they'll ever get used to it.
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Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry.
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