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Looking for intermediate keyboard phone


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Hi all,

Still eagerly awaiting my Pro 1 X, and having missed out on the recent second hand Pro 1’s sold in the Netherland, my frustration level with screen typing is rising so I am (ever) looking for an intermediate acceptable[1] solution involving a landscape[2] sliding keyboard. Can anybody provide affordable[3] hardware, or an alternative I’ve not thought of?

The (4G enabled[4]) options I came up with is the Motorola Droid 4 (XT894) or one of the sliding keyboard cases for the Samsung Galaxy S4 (obviously leaning towards Android, option to de-google with LineageOS preferred). The first one is hard to get by and pricey to import in terms of shipping. The second one is virtually extinct except for an Ebay option which was (apart from also expensive shipping) promptly intercepted and destroyed at the US border (yeah, no idea why...). The third is a Jolla but I can’t find a TOHKBD (and it’s also a bit unclear whether that would work in Android or only in SailfishOS). I also fancy the Nokia N900 currently offered but that does not meet my requirements since the Neo900 never can to fruitation 😕

I’ve tried an HTC Desire Z which was unusable in terms of system resources after updating it to Android 4.4.4: browsing was pretty much impossible, and although Signal worked video/audio calls failed. Also, it does not support 4G.

Oh, and I’ve seen some home brew mods for phones, but those are rather clunky in terms of usability (e.g.: using it standing, instead oh having to put it doen somewhere).

So there you have it. I was hoping perhaps somebody has one of the options lying around and willing to sell, or knows of another one?

Regards,

Arn
 

[1] Acceptable to me means the ability to use Signal (Android >= 4.4) and a reasonable browsing experience (yes, there were also iPhone keyboards, but that was for the 4 or 5; also rather dated/unsupported).

[2] I am not a fan of the small Blackberry style keyboards at the bottom, and looking for a layout similar of the Pro 1.

[3] The Gemini PDA/Cosmo communicator ranks to expensive for me for a temporary solution. Also, not liking the clamshell design much.

[4] 3G is about to be shutdown in the Netherlands next year, and would also prefer this to be my backup option considering the amount of hardware failures in the Pro 1 I’ve read about here.

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I have one phone i stuck an iphone 4 keypad to I found still in stock in a local webshop after a long search:

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I cut off the edge of the iphone case thing with a knife and put double-sided tape on there. Removing the case entirely wasn't possible as it's integral part of the sliding mechanism.

It works allright but there only being a shift key on the left side is rather annoying, also it slightly interferes with the camera when closed but if I'd been more thoughtful before sticking it on there that could have been prevented I think. Also the keypad is quite low quality and it's not very well balanced, but at least it works. Beats not having the keyboard, but as a permanent solution you'd need a continuous supply of these keypads for when they break I think xD. The worst parts are the single shift key and that it sometimes gets stuck and becomes very hard to open.
 

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I have a Droid4 I can send you (from France should be easy), but it is one I got used and yet in a pretty bad outside shape. If I remember correctly I've put cyanogenMod on it...

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I gave up on my Droid 4 and Photon Q back in 2016. To me they became unusable, underpowered sluggish. I would not recommend those. So unless you go for the netman solution, your only option is to drop the landscape requirement and search for either a Galaxy s6 Plus or s7 with a keyboard cover or search for a Priv. The Photon Q was the last slider that I know of. If I recall correctly there was also a landscap clamshell LG for the Japanese market. Good luck tracking on of those.

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1 hour ago, DieBruine said:

I gave up on my Droid 4 and Photon Q back in 2016. To me they became unusable, underpowered sluggish. I would not recommend those. So unless you go for the netman solution, your only option is to drop the landscape requirement and search for either a Galaxy s6 Plus or s7 with a keyboard cover or search for a Priv. The Photon Q was the last slider that I know of. If I recall correctly there was also a landscap clamshell LG for the Japanese market. Good luck tracking on of those.

You're right. I just checked by powering it back to life. I've put lineage 14 at that time. And it's damn slow... It boots and charge the battery though.

It's funny how it looked big at the time I got it, and now it is cute and the good size to me. Sad in a sense...

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I'm still using a Photon Q running LOS 14.1 (Feb 2020 security patch) and microG on a daily basis. You've to avoid gapps, decreases performance considerably. Much faster compared to Droid 4, still somehow sluggish, but sufficient for my requirements: phone/SMS, email, whatsapp/signal, webbrowsing with opera, ebook reading with moonreader, even navigation with sygic works pretty well, as well as vnc to fiddle with a raspberrypi. Of course you have to forget the camera and gaming (both I don't really need).

Still hoping/waiting for an affordable Pro1...

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Posted (edited)

All responses much appreciated! It seems I/we do not strive for an easy goal 😉

I’ve expended my search with the iPhone keyboard case, but it seems these are equally elusive. In all honesty I prefer a (C)OTS solution, but perhaps that is just not obtainable given my strict preferences.

I’ll also contact Muth to explore our options for the very kind offer made, especially given the experience from JamesB and some comments I’ve seen on XDA for some performance tweaked ROMs.

In regards to Photon Q, I thought the specs were equally close not to be of relevance, but perhaps this is a faulty assumption. It also seems to require a hardware mod for the fixed SIM card, and I am not fully confident in my soldering skills for that. Or is there also a version with a swap-able SIM?

Thanks again, and I’ll keep you posted on any solution 🙂

Edited by Arn
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33 minutes ago, Arn said:

In regards to Photon Q, I thought the specs were equally close not to be of relevance, but perhaps this is a faulty assumption. It also seems to require a hardware mod for the fixed SIM card, and I am not fully confident in my soldering skills for that. Or is there also a version with a swap-able SIM?

Seems if you can still find one on ebay, it may already be modded to take a SIM card, like this: https://www.ebay.com/itm/174709456691

But I guess the specs are too low now for still being usable, the Photon Q is 8 years old now and has only 1 GB of RAM. In 2016, when I had been overusing my second HTC Desire Z aka HTC Vision for so long that it wasn't usable anymore, I thought about getting such a modded Photon Q instead, but I decided that it wouldn't have been enough of a progress over the HTC for me to bother even then. Also, its 4G frequencies didn't include the band used here in Germany. That was when I decided to buy a BlackBerry PRIV even though it was expensive and I didn't (and don't) like the portrait-orientation keyboard. I still liked the phone, it was beautifully made, the keyboard was nicer than I thought, screen and camera were great.  If security updates having stopped in October 2017 wouldn't bother me, I would still consider using one today. It's definitely better than no hardware keyboard at all – and I would think it is also better than the DIY keyboards shown in this thread.

Edited by Rob. S.
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10 hours ago, Rob. S. said:

Seems if you can still find one on ebay, it may already be modded to take a SIM card, like this: https://www.ebay.com/itm/174709456691

That's quite steeply priced, even considering the hardware mod. Also, lesson learned: the Ebay app did not show that as a result for me; had to go through the website.

10 hours ago, Rob. S. said:

But I guess the specs are too low now for still being usable, the Photon Q is 8 years old now and has only 1 GB of RAM. In 2016, when I had been overusing my second HTC Desire Z aka HTC Vision for so long that it wasn't usable anymore, I thought about getting such a modded Photon Q instead, but I decided that it wouldn't have been enough of a progress over the HTC for me to bother even then. Also, its 4G frequencies didn't include the band used here in Germany.

Ah nuts... luckily you made me double-check and apparently I was working of a faulty source/assumption before: my telco supports 1800 and 2600MHz; the Droid 4 uses band 13 (~700MHz) and the Photon Q band 2 (~1900 MHz). I'll double check with some experts on those telco bands, but I doubt these phones are usable for me for 4G 😕

10 hours ago, Rob. S. said:

That was when I decided to buy a BlackBerry PRIV even though it was expensive and I didn't (and don't) like the portrait-orientation keyboard. I still liked the phone, it was beautifully made, the keyboard was nicer than I thought, screen and camera were great.  If security updates having stopped in October 2017 wouldn't bother me, I would still consider using one today. It's definitely better than no hardware keyboard at all – and I would think it is also better than the DIY keyboards shown in this thread.

Yeah, there are several aspects to this phone that don't appeal to me either (but at least it supports band 3 (~1800MHz)): portrait keyboards tend to cramp up my fingers, and lack of security updates is concerning indeed (although I was willing to make short-term concessions there as well for the Droid 4). I see I can get my hands on a second-hand model for €70, so perhaps I am just going to give that a try to see if I am not to assumptious. Also, at least it has more decent specs then the other options I was considering :)

 

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2 hours ago, DieBruine said:

Nononononono to the D4! PQ was noticeably 'faster'.  By the way in NL 4G worked with KPN, Simyo and Vodafone.SIM mods were always done by Cornholio, at least mine.

Ah darn; so spec-wise a Photon Q would be preferable over a Droid 4 then.

Are you sure you had 4G connectivity? It seems in theory it should be possible with the modem, but that it was never achieved?

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On 4/16/2021 at 10:47 PM, DieBruine said:

We had 5 Q's in total. Trust me I'm sure 🤓.

PhotonQ:  can confirm 4G works (or at least 3.5G, HSPA+, tested in several countries in Europe). Bought mine last August SIM-modded from Korea for 145$. Yes, quite expensive, but the seller gave me an additional mainboard and a 2nd battery for free.

Stay away from the Droid4. I had one; although specs are similar its practically unusable nowadays if you install more than a few apps.

And stay away from gapps. really decreases performance considerably. If you need PlayStore microG works much better.

With more RAM it would be the perfect device, excellent keyboard, optimal form factor (don't need heavy big screen machines), still hoping for the RAM upgrade discussed at XDA 😉

 

Edited by JamesB
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Appreciate all the input and people thinking along!

Sadly it turns out the 1900MHz/band 25 band was never used for mobile communication in the Netherlands either for 3G (including HSPA+) nor 4G, and the 700MHz/band 13 is not currently used for 3G. This means that both the Droid 4 and the Photon Q cannot use a data connection anymore after the end of the year (barring any miraculous breakthrough with the PQ baseband firmware and a hardware mod).

So for 4G that leaves the Blackberry Priv, key1 and key2 (LE) I guess, which cannot be flashed with a custom ROM, but for the price of the latter one might as well go for a Gemini PDA or Cosmo Communicator (even though those are clamshells).

Well, I am going back to pondering whether a PQ is worth the price for the short period of time I would be able to use it.

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Wise decision you had to check the frequency!

I would personally don't recommend the Gemini as a phone. It is almost unusable to make and receive phone call. It is quite fragile as well...

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