Next mobile device form-factor is QWERTY!!!

Often there is a debate on the next form factor (physical appearance) for mobile devices. There are fancy form factors like fold-able, morph, etc. that are often quoted but I believe that the next wave would be of an existing form factor which is QWERTY.

QWERTY phones have been in use for a long time but they have been widely marketed by device vendors as messaging phones. The trend of linking QWERTY with messaging was started by Blackberry with their ugly looking devices that had the perfect email solution. Later on any QWERTY device was labeled as business device. However, this myth is changing very fast now with the launch of cheap QWERTY devices particularly by Chinese vendors. Chinese vendors, known for innovation, launched QWERTY devices at around $50 price point which turned out to be the tipping point for such devices. These devices were lapped on by financially constraint individuals who were not much literate as well. They found that using a QWERTY phone made the storage of contact details in the phone book easy. They could write SMSs without any goof-ups like writing “Porn” for “POSM” (POSM-Point of Sale Material) or “Pink Panties” for “Pink Panther” while using the predictive text. It helps simplify the input mechanism which is a big barrier to cellphone adoption. The point is that it was wrong to club QWERTY devices with email and social networking. I am not saying that email is not easy with QWERTY but I am trying to emphasize that the market for QWERTY devices would have been much larger had the marketers realized the utility of QWERTY for the poor and illiterate people.

I would reckon that in the coming 3-4 years, we would see growth in shipments of QWERTY devices as high as 200% every year with most of the demand coming from emerging markets like China, India, Africa. The low cost vendors have been able to catch on with this trend pretty early. Will the established players see things from a different prism?

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