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Nov 262011

Typing SMS, emails, tweets, and status updates using an Android smartphone’s virtual keyboard can be a big pain in users’ behinds.  Despite the existence of Android keyboard apps with intelligent learning machines reportedly to make virtual typing faster, so many users all over town still believe that a physical QWERTY keyboard on an Android smartphone beats even the most artificially intelligent virtual keyboard.

Thus, Android smartphones with physical keyboards have not really fallen out of fashion yet, even if touch input technology on the more recent Android smartphones has been rolling forward at a crazy speed.

The year 2011 saw numerous Android QWERTY smartphones hit the market, although most of them carried low- to mid-range hardware.  They’re great QWERTY smartphones–and in almost all cases, very friendly to the wallet and the pocket, too.  But, for the power user, their single-core mobile processors and their relatively slower performance seem inadequate for smartphone tasks that require more muscle for heavy lifting.

This year also saw a few powerful Android smartphone with full physical QWERTY keyboards in tow.  They fall under the high-end category primarily because they sport dual-core processors, which significantly boost the speed and performance of the said devices.  Though they don’t come as cheap as their single-core counterparts, they are worth every penny you’d ever invest in a QWERTY Android smartphone.

Read further to know more about the best dual-core QWERTY Android smartphones of 2011 — the Samsung Captivate Glide on AT&T, the Motorola DROID 3 on Verizon Wireless, and the HTC myTouch 4G Slide on T-Mobile.

Samsung Captivate Glide (AT&T)

Riding on AT&T’s HSPA+ network, the Samsung Captivate Glide is one superfast QWERTY smartphone owing to its dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor (1.0 GHz).  Its powerful internals are covered in durable, lightweight, textured plastic–which is a design feature that Samsung is quite known for.

The Samsung Captivate Glide carries a 4.0-inch touchscreen, on which you can also use a virtual keyboard.  The screen uses Super AMOLED display technology, which means that at its native resolution of 800×480 pixels, the stuff you view on the screen ought to appear sharp and brilliant.

Its 4-row QWERTY keyboard slides out from the side, and is intended to be used in landscape mode.  The keyboard slides out easily–and this has been a source of diverging opinions among users of the Samsung Captivate Glide.  On the one hand, there’s the “Look, Ma! Easy to slide out!” camp.  On the other hand, there’s the “Oh, no! Look, Ma! It slides out too easily!” camp.

The keys on the QWERTY keyboard are also comfortably spaced, which means you would have less trouble punching the wrong keys than you would on a tightly spaced and cramped keyboard.  One downside that some users mention is that the keyboard on the Samsung Captivate Glide is too flat.  But, presumably, that’s a small price to pay for slimness.

The Samsung Captivate Glide also comes with an 8-megapixel main camera for capturing 720p HD videos, as well as a 1.3-megapixel for high-resolution video calls.  Its main camera captures perfect shots (with minimal shutter lag reported) especially with adequate lighting.

And, for storing files and other data, the device comes with 8 gigabytes of built-in storage, plus a microSD expansion card slot for additional 32 gigabytes of storage.

For email, SMS, casual Web surfing, and occasional gameplay, the Samsung Captivate Glide’s 1,650-mAh battery pack could easily provide power up to about 10 hours.  That could potentially shorten with heavier use, though.

Pulling the strings together underneath is Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread in tandem with the user-friendly Samsung TouchWiz UI.  AT&T has thrown in a bunch of useful apps, too, although not everyone is happy with them.  And, yeah–you have access to exclusive Tegra-optimized high-definition games through NVIDIA Tegra Zone, so you can easily install Riptide GP and play right away without worrying about whether your phone will stutter or crawl.

Amazon Wireless is currently offering the Samsung Captivate Glide for–hold your breath–a mere penny.  You’d normally get this at full retail price of somewhere between $500 and $600 (off-contract), or at a subsidized price of around $150 to $250 (with 2-year contract).

Find out more about the Samsung Captivate Glide on Amazon.

(Important note:  Do not confuse the Samsung Captivate Glide with the Samsung Captivate, which does not have a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.  Incidentally, the Samsung Captivate is also available for a penny on Amazon, so you might want to check it out, too.)

Motorola DROID 3 (Verizon Wireless)

Now here’s an Android QWERTY smartphone that will put the Samsung Captivate Glide to shame.  The Motorola DROID 3 (launched in other international markets as the Motorola Milestone 3) has a 5-row, full, physical QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the phone’s side.

While other QWERTY Android smartphones provide only 4 rows of keys, the DROID 3 gives you 5 rows–with that fifth row dedicated to numbers.  Translated to simpler terms: less time typing, since you won’t need to frequently hunt for the Fn or ALT key to input numbers.

The Motorola DROID 3 and the Samsung Captivate Glide have the same screen size of 4.0 inches, but the DROID 3 provides a sharper resolution–qHD or 960×540 pixels.

Both phones also have the same pixel resolution on their main cameras–8 megapixels–yet the DROID 3 captures more detail with its 1080p Full HD video capture capability.  Although I’m not sure whether it will disappoint you or not, Motorola skipped putting a dedicated camera button on the DROID 3.  It was on the original DROID, the DROID 2, and the DROID X2, though.

In contrast with Samsung’s penchant for beautiful and light plastic chassis, the Motorola DROID 3 sports the tougher cover with polished metal on its sides.  Its back cover is designed with rubberized plastic for firm and comfortable grasping.  Corning Gorilla Glass protects the DROID 3’s touchscreen from scratches and scrapes.

For storage, the DROID 3 comes with twice as much built-in storage–at 16 gigabytes–as the Samsung Captivate Glide provides.  Plus, you can easily add more storage room through the microSD card slot capable of holding up to 32 gigabytes more storage.  That’s a total of 48 gigabytes of storage space.

This Verizon phone also uses a 1.0-GHz, dual-core processor, which means you can expect performance and speed to be silky smooth.  Android 2.3 Gingerbread runs the show underneath.  There have been reports of laggy animations and transitions on the DROID 3, but that is not necessarily on account of its hardware. Rather, Motorola loaded the device with its own customizations (such as transition effects), which tend to bear down heavily on the hardware.  However, those can be easily switched off–and the phone gets back to being snappy again.

The device’s 1,540-mAh battery can last up to about 10 hours of moderate use (e.g., SMS, moderate browsing, emails, photo snapping, occasional video capture).

Like the Samsung Captivate Glide, the Motorola DROID 3 is also being offered on Amazon for a penny.

Normally priced at around $460 without contract, or $200 with a two-year contract on Verizon, this powerful Android QWERTY smartphone is available briefly on Amazon for only $0.01.

Find out more about the Motorola DROID 3 on its product page on Amazon.

HTC myTouch 4G Slide (T-Mobile)

Also known as the HTC Doubleshot, the HTC myTouch 4G Slide is T-Mobile’s centerpiece dual-core Android QWERTY smartphone for the year.  While it is the successor to the HTC myTouch 3G Slide, HTC did not skimp the device on upgraded specs.  Most other manufacturers would simply whip up new colors, slightly altered shapes, slight camera upgrade, and other minor bump-ups in both cosmetic and hardware departments for successor versions of earlier devices, but the HTC myTouch 4G Slide instead packs real upgrades.

Compared to the other two handsets, the HTC myTouch 4G Slide has a dual-core processor clocked at a faster frequency of 1.2 GHz.  Being a dual-core Android smartphone, the device can be expected to deliver speed and performance that one could only dream of when using a single-core smartphone.

Aside from that, the myTouch 4G Slide surfs on the waves of T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, which provides faster connectivity to the Web.  Running the whole show is Android 2.3 Gingerbread coupled with HTC Sense 3.0, which is a popular favorite among the various manufacturer-customized user interfaces.

Unlike most other HTC Android smartphones that sport HTC’s signature aluminum unibody casing, the HTC myTouch 4G Slide has the same plastic body with smooth finish just like its predecessor.  It is available in either classic black or trendy khaki.

Its QWERTY keyboard has 4 rows of keys and is amazingly thin.  But, then again, to keep it thin, HTC had to keep the keys flat.  So, just like in the Samsung Captivate Glide, users have been heard whining about how flat it is.

Yet, HTC was able to keep the myTouch 4G Slide’s QWERTY keyboard slim and sexy while packing a full set of QWERTY keys into a device with only 3.7 inches of display.  It’s no small feat, actually, since compared to the other two QWERTY Android smartphones featured in this post, the HTC myTouch 4G Slide seems to be the more pocketable device on account of its smaller form factor.

Take note, however, that the smaller screen size does not necessarily mean grainy or pixelated displays.  On the contrary, the images and videos that you see on the myTouch 4G Slide remain sharp and brilliant at a native resolution of 800×400 pixels.

And, here’s an area where the HTC myTouch 4G Slide trumps the other two QWERTY Android smartphones: the camera.  Its 8-megapixel main camera not only has dual-LED flash for those dim-lit photoshooting moments and 1080p Full HD video capture ability but also a dedicated camera button.

For many Android smartphone users who use their smartphones also as point-and-shoot digital cameras, the dedicated camera button provides literally quick, one-button access to the camera function–perfect for moments when you’d need to capture a subject as fast as you can. (“Oh, look! My baby’s hugging the dog!”)

More than that, the HTC myTouch 4G Slide ‘s camera includes a wider camera aperture and features backside illumination–both of which make the camera capable of capturing clear still photos even under poor lighting.

With a Li-ion battery rated at 1,520 mAh, the HTC myTouch 4G Slide can last about 9 to 10 hours under low to moderate use, and up to 13 days on standby mode.

Just like the other two phones, the HTC myTouch 4G Slide is also available on Amazon, although Amazon did not include it on the list of one-penny Android smartphones.

Full retail, off-contract price for the HTC myTouch 4G Slide is around $500, while subsidized price with a two-year contract on T-Mobile is around $200.

Take a look at other details of this wonderful HTC Android smartphone on the HTC myTouch 4G Slide product page on Amazon.

Images courtesy of TmoNews, TechCrunch, Engadget

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