How about a real hardware keyboard for the phone?


two years ago my old Nokia snuffed it, so I got my first ever smartphone. I like it, as a smartphone, but I don’t like it, as a phone. One of the reasons is Android, so I’m glad about Librem 5 being on the horizon. Another reason is having to type on the touchscreen. From an ergonomic point of view it’s a catastrophe (which is why I’m not so sure about the idea of making an e-ink keyboard, frankly). I’m really longing for a hardware keyboard with real keys with a real shape. Like on the Blackberry Passport for example. Have you ever thought about giving the Librem 5 one?


for me no, I understand the + of a HW keyboard, but I wish for a compact phone, where the keyb/display of virtual keyboards plays a big role.
Maybe a solution would be a cover/accessory with HW keyboard? The sw and HW is open, so it should be possible to make it compatible.

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I’d even go further and vote for square display (in addition to a hw keyboard). Make an end to that phone turning malady … :wink:

Oh and: Make the phone better not only by giving it a hardware keyboard but by making it thicker at the same time. That prevents the phone from turning around another axis and falling out of your hand. Another reason why I don’t like smartphones. The basic things just aren’t smart at all.

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I’d be all in for hardware keyboard case, feels like a good compromise. I doubt Librem 5 will be a very thin phone, so nicely built slide-out keyboard will add at max 7-9mm.

Nokia N900 has a decent keyboard, it is there on demand and also can contain additional stuff, like battery.

Besides that, in case of dealing with any sort of a Linux device (esp. those where you can install various distros) the chances are you might need a keyboard during booting stage.


A keyboard case wouldn’t be anything I’d really use for long, I guess. Except maybe if it’s a little keyboard with a lid you put the phone in. But then, who else would want something like this? Probably not even me, because it menas you have to turn the phone into landscape. And it would be wireless, which I don’t like either.

Square display and three or four rows of real keys (maybe working as a touch pad like on the Blackberry Passport, but I don’t know if that starts to suck after a while). That would make for proper pocket computer (which is what smartphones try to be since 2007).

Hmmm … No, please don’t :thinking:
It’s already troublesome at the Librem Laptops, just having the US and UK keyboards only.
I assume, repeating this with the Librem 5 as well will not really give any benefit to international users.
The Soft-Keyboard saves space and the Keyboard-Layout can be adjusted … and: There are really perfectly small Bluetooth Keyboards available, when there’s the need of treating a phone like a Laptop …


But that’s exactly the point: Not to treat it like a laptop by not attaching a seperate keyboard to it and still having real keys with feedback and all. Typing on a screen sucks. Profoundly.

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Typing on a keyboard with the “wrong” layout which you are not used to and which doesn’t provide you the letters you need for your language - sorry, that in deed sucks even more …
Not to talk about thickness or reduced space for content on the Display.
I mean, what do I want from a mobile phone ? Just doing a bit of social media or writing a Novel ? For the Novel, keys with feedback are really interesting.


exactly, but this is not problem of HW keyboard, instead the idiot creators of the system. On N900 I had DE-CH layout titles on keys but because of standard Xorg and xkb I could reconfigure layout to full EN+CZ layout. Of course, I need to know where is which key, but I know it. I am not like the persons they search every on keyboard. Now I have Blackberry keyone with HW kbd in portrait

The question is, where is the limit, what do you want to do with phone. For simple phone function, you don’t need any smartphone, just simple 0-9 keyboard. some people plays games on smartphone, they don’t need to write to often too. You want just write “hello” “i’m fine” or something like this, then you don’t need real kbd too. But on my smartphone, I have mailclient to write emails, webbrowser to write some posts, even ssh client and I want to write faster and perciselly, not edit every word, because of incorrect letter or because of incorrect auto-competition/correction. Even writing simple whatsapp message is hell for me on touchscreen-keyboard.

For me, N900 was the best (unfortunately it has bad HW, but maybe they will finish neo900). Now at least blackbarry has HW keyboard, unfortunately in portrait mode, but at least any HW kyeboard.

But yes, I am special case, which is not interresting for smart phone manufacturer.

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Typing on a keyboard with the “wrong” layout which you are not used to and which doesn’t provide you the letters you need for your language - sorry, that in deed sucks even more …

Well, not for me. A hardware keyboard and on a phone is different from a normal computer keyboard, the way you use them is all different (touch typing on a phone?!), so in my eyes being used to whatever isn’t the matter. But finding the right key immediately really is. Whenever I have to write more than three words in a message, the touchscreen keyboard puts my teeth on edge.

I don’t think it would cost too much screen size.

Okaaaaay … so why you want to buy a smartphone then ? :wink:
But let me stop kidding …

Jobwise I a coming from Mobile Phone business - to be more concrete from Mobile Phone display business. So: A hardware keyboard makes the mechanical design more complicated and costy. The hardware keyboard itself is an additional component, adding apart from the pure component costs overhead in purchasing, logistics, and not to forget in quality, since any additional component - especially the pure mechanical ones - multiply your Quality and RMA risks - all that for some haptic feeling.

On the other hand, the budget is limited and there is so much to do you need to put the money in, if you do something pretty new, like a privacy based, secure phone - so there are many costy things to do, since you are rather alone in the market with what you want to do.

Sorry guys, from my point of view there are many costy things to do on librem 5, which from my pretty personal point of view should not be sacrificed for a hardware keyboard … no matter what haptic advantage this may give to some users …


I would also like to have a phone with a hardware keyboard (and I thing that the creators should be aware of a demand for HW kbd phones).
But these few posts reveals to me what is another reason why it is so hard to reintroduce phones with hardware keyboards. There is too much fragmentation. It is hard to come up with a design which will appeal to everyone.
I suppose that for now it would be better for Librem 5 to focus on a main audience (which I suppose are people wanting to have a traditional candybar form factor).
As for me - it won’t appeal to me unless I’ll be able to type on it (which means: either HW KBD or some kind of gesture typing - the best would be to have both)

This here would be my preferred solution. I really, really hate touchscreen keyboards, but I know how much of a pain in the arse it would be to stick a physical keyboard in to the base phone (either shrinking the screen, which means getting a non-standard display panel that costs more; or making a slide-out thing which adds mechanical complexity and fragility). An addon keyboard case (whether connecting via Bluetooth or USB) would be a decent compromise between maximum functionality, construction issues and size concerns.

Let’s not necrobump posts too much, the case seems to already have been settled :wink:

In Librem Phone Progress Report #4, we can see an early design draft, and the phone seems not to feature a hardware keyboard.

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Good question. Answer is: because I see the power, which is in every smartphone. The phones are really small computers: the difference between smart phone and raspberry pi is only display and phone functionality. But the CPU and RAM are same. Both can run real OS. Why do you think there are many external keyboards with or without docking station, docking stations to connect smart phone to monitor? Because smart phone can do it, but is made by default for BFU to browse simple websites, write simple “Hi, how are you” on facebook/instagram/twitter/google+ or play games. And most users are BFU.

I know this and I understand why the companies don’t want to make HW keyboards.

I understand this too. But I am ready to pay for Neo900 (with better HW than N900) between 700-1000 EUR with HW keyboard and normal linux system. Of course if it would run some Android-App emulator to get whatsapp (and a few other Android-Unique apps) to be able communicate with my wife, if would be great. But on N900 I was missing no other app. I have used standard Addressbook, Mail, Calendar, Phone (for GSM, VoIP-SIP, Skype) and Messaging (SMS, Jabber, Skype) App. For command line tools I have used standard N900 OS (debian based linux).

I know it must be very hard to make own device. I see the progress of Pyra and Neo900. Pyra is bit easier, because they make completely their own device, Neo900 is only better HW but must be created to get into original N900 case.

I understand that.

I thought, I could use external HW keyboard for Jolla. The connection was made really good. Some magnets were holding keyboard in closed and opened state, but user could detach the keyboard completely.

But then, I have seen the layout, which was totaly strange to me. Yes, N900 had non-PC-KBD layout too, but I could reconfigure all keys in XKB. Second problem on Jolla (and probably most external keyboards) was, that there was only EN layout (I mean mapping, not labels on keys) and you could not change it. The same is on my Blackberry keyone - there is qwertz layout and I even cannot tell in Android, that I want czech qwerty keyboard. There is only qwertz czech keyboard. The Android Hacker’s keyboard is great onscreen keyboard for this. You have every key and you can change many features. But it is onscreen.

This is same as for other smart phone companies - to focus to main audience, which is BFU. In Librem case these are extended BFU, which want some more security and privacy. But the BFU thinks “I want buy the cheapest one”. So you have to make nearly the same HW as others to make it cheap.

As I have written, I understand that to make something new special needs many courage and much money (because of small production). And it will be expensive for end user, because of expensive small production, because major users don’t need/want these special features.

@thib whatever the final design of the librem 5 end up beeing as long as the basic functionality and the libre philosophy is preserved i’m good with it.

what we have to agree on though is that future models need to have some type of physical keyboard if we are to have a smartphone that can be typed on “the field”

for example try typing on the touch screen when you have been outside with the phone unprotected for 1 hr at low temperatures and see how responsive that touch keyboard really is.

my point is that we need to decide if we only want people to use their libre smartphone indoors or we will want to have options on the table.

we can asume that we won’t have military grade hardware any time soon but still lets not take our options off the table.

personally i would expect the manufacturer to be able to inform us one way or the other if there will be a librem 5 variant with a keyboard or if we will might be able to see a librem 5 design model in the future maybe 2020 or more.

like Blackberry had a z10 model without the physical keyboard and a q10 with a square screen and a physical keyboard.

off topic : nowadays in their latest model with a keyboard they inlude a fingeprint scanner in the space key and i don’t like that. Not to mention the flagships from Samsung have/or will have embeded ultrasonic scanning technology under the whole screen. say goodbye to privacy.

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If you need to use your keyboard for hours in subfreezing weather, I would recommend purchasing a tiny bluetooth keyboard. 3D print some sort of case to hold them together and you’re good to go.

One “interesting” option for a separate hardware keyboard is the Twiddler 3 one-handed chording keyboard and mouse, which I have mentioned in another thread.

I imagine it divides opinion, but for me it looks like a great idea. (I should probably put my money where my mouth is and buy one.) One downside is the non-free firmware.