As smartphones evolve so do the features that come with them. Some of them stick around for a very long time, some trend down due lack in popularity or usefulness, and some simply fade away into obscurity and become obsolete. The point is, we’ve seen a lot of smartphone features come and go over the years for a variety of reasons, so let’s take a look at a handful of smartphone features that have trended down or no longer exist in the smartphone world.
Back when smartphones used to have a wider array of form factors and capacitive touch screens weren’t as prevalent, physical keyboards on smartphones were extremely popular. We had the popular T-Mobile Sidekick line, Palm Pre and Blackberries dominated the smartphone market. Physical keyboards were everywhere.
Physical keyboards did not go away instantly following the introduction of the capacitive touch screen, but it did play a huge role in why we no longer see many phones with physical keyboards. There were plenty of popular Android phones like the Motorola Droid, the T-Mobile G1/G2, Sprint Epic 4G Touch, and many others that kept this form factor alive, but it wasn’t long until this feature slowly got phased out.
Over time touch screens became more responsive and so did the typing experiences on them, and gradually the arguments in favor of physical keyboards diminished. Manufacturers at the time were also striving to make their phones thinner, and with slimmer phones there just wasn’t room for physical keyboards anymore.
On a more materialistic level, as touch screens rose in popularity, physical keyboards just lost their “cool” factor. Obviously physical keyboards aren’t completely gone as one of the most current Android phones, the BlackBerry KEYOne, has a physical keyboard, but I highly doubt this means that physical keyboards are on the resurgence.
The capacitive touch screen really did change the way we use and interact with our smartphones in many ways and another feature that saw its demise from the rise of the touch screen were trackballs and trackpads. Trackballs made a lot sense when smartphones didn’t have touch screens and it served as our primary source of navigation. It was fast, accurate and much easier than using a d-pad. Many Blackberries like the Bold and Pearl and T-Mobile’s Sidekick line were some of the most popular devices at the time that featured this legacy navigation method.
Just like the physical keyboard, trackballs stuck around for a short while, but it’s role on touch screen phones became quite different than it was on a non-touch screen device. Many early Android phones had a capacitive touchscreen and a trackball including the T-Mobile G1 and the very first Nexus phone, the Nexus One. The touchscreen became our primary source of navigating around the OS and the only time the trackball had a purpose were in situations where our fingers weren’t accurate enough i.e. positioning a cursor within a block of text.
The trackball eventually went away in favor of trackpads due to it’s lower rate – Source