The smartphone was the pioneering device which ushered in numerous new consumer technologies, including texting, wireless photos and video, and the illustrious touchscreen. But this week we watched smartphone company Blackberry slowly begin its descent in a ball of digital flames, selling for a small percentage of what it used to be worth not too long ago. Touchscreen users worldwide were waving their technology flags, proclaiming that the physical keyboard was dead. But hidden in the shadows are users like myself who still cling to our clickety, keyboard-armed devices, refusing to give in to the sin that is the virtual keyboard.
What's with you touchscreen fanatics anyways?
As evidenced by the success of the Apple iPhone and the Samsung series of devices, the touchscreen is here to stay. On any given day, in any coffee shop, library or McDonald's drive thru line, one only needs a casual glance to see people swishing and swiping away at their devices. Smartphones, tablets, media players, almost everything is armed with a touch-ready screen.
Microsoft finally made a decent foray into the touchscreen market with its Window 8 operating system; one that finally seems to agree with (some) Apple-based users to some degree. The ability to extend an index finger and move objects on-screen has become the default method for user interfaces to act. Even seniors and youngsters have fallen prey to the addiction of touchscreen manipulation. Recently I watched sadly as a kid picked up a calculator, only to begin swiping the LCD screen to try and make it work.
I shook my head in disgust.
Smartphone users saw the Blackberry as the Cadillac of cellphones. Fast, nimble, and easy to use with the keyboard and trackball that made navigating easy and intuitive. What makes sense today is the lack of physical controls, which new users have to learn to manipulate. Touching a screen and moving objects is pretty intuitive. But there will always be people who long for reality. Real buttons to push, real levers to flip, tactile controls that provide immediate feedback (something that touchscreens never really did well).
It's sad to think that a juggernaut like Blackberry could and would fall so easily. In my mind, I think there will always be room for tactile controls for a tactile world, lest we all become bodiless human heads with wires connected to our brains, in which case even the touchscreen would become useless and mute.
Until that day comes, I'm still holding onto my Motorola Q, keyboard and all...