What's the best cell phone for texting?
August 15, 2013 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Not your usual question. I'm on a family plan with unlimited everything so I'm not asking about plans or providers. I just want to be able to text a lot without strife.

I'm due for a new phone soon (would like to stay on Sprint, if that matters). Currently I have an LG Optimus running Android 2.3.3. It's OK, but I bet something even better is out there. I like texting, I like typing notes, all that. My ideal cell phone would have the following:
  • If it's a touchscreen, I DON'T want the keyboard to take up practically the ENTIRE screen, so that I only see what I type one or two lines at a time. On my phone in landscape orientation, my keyboard actually takes up the whole screen. :(
  • It can receive MMS (text messages with pics) too, hopefully
  • Not sure how to quantify this... but a screen that doesn't misintepret my intentions would be nice. Sometimes I have to hold down on a key to bring up a set of different keys, and holding down/sliding over to my desired key often presses other keys and then ugh I have to backspace and start over...
  • A decent UI for when I want to send a text message. None of this mess.
I like Android but I'm open to trying any others. Even Windows Phones or BlackBerries :). I just want something that's somewhat enjoyable to type a lot on.

P.S. Right now I'm seriously considering the Samsung Galaxy Note. Beyond the fact that sliding a stylus around feels utterly indiscreet, is it comfortable for long-term use?
posted by The Biggest Dreamer to Technology (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
iPhone does all those things.
posted by greta simone at 3:27 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

iPhone, iPhone, iPhone.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:42 PM on August 15, 2013

I like my iPhone a lot, but in landscape mode, the keyboard does, in fact, take up an enormous amount of space - I wouldn't really call it usable even. My solution to this is to not hold the phone that way when texting, but I also prefer the portrait keyboard to the landscape one, so that's no-brainer for me. If the OP prefers landscape keyboards while texting, I wouldn't recommend the iPhone.
posted by aubilenon at 3:43 PM on August 15, 2013

IPhone. I switched to a Galaxy S3 and have every keyboard available for the android, including different "swype" type options. Nothing works as well as the iPhone, period.
posted by Piano Raptor at 3:44 PM on August 15, 2013

If you like Android, I would suggest sticking with it and upgrading to JellyBean. So far as I know, Android is the only one with the make-it-or-break-it feature for texting (for me at least)...gesture keyboard. If you haven't tried it, give it a try for a few days. There should be a Swype app for your version of Android. Anything else after that is unbearably sluggish. (Assuming you're typing regular words that is. It's a different matter if you use a lot of slangs). There is a native Android gesture keyboard that comes standard with Jellybean or Swype (that comes default at least with Samsung and HTC android devices).

I think you need to jailbreak an iPhone to get it. Not sure about Windows or BB.
posted by 7life at 3:45 PM on August 15, 2013

Any phone these days will be able to send and receive MMS, so no worries there.

I recommend sticking with Android. You can install different keyboard apps (which iPhone can't do), so you can find the one that works best for you. This includes swiping where you don't pick up your finger as you move to each letter, great for one-handed typing (Swype, Swiftkey Flow, and stock Google keyboard), and amazing text prediction with practically all highly-rated keyboards in the play store.

The amount of space taken up by the keyboard in landscape will be a lot, no matter what phone you get. The keyboard has to be tall enough to fit in the 4 or 5 rows of keys.
However, the best way to get around this is to find a phone with a wide enough screen that you can comfortably type in portrait mode.

In response to Piano Raptor - it's all about the difference in calibration between Android and iOS. I have been on Android for quite a while now, through several devices, and can type ridiculously fast. When I try to type on a friend's iPhone I'm making mistakes left and right, even though the size of the screen or the keyboard isn't radically different from what I'm used to. So to OP, YMMV.

Why not go to a Sprint store or third-party dealer store (or mall kiosk) and play around with the different options? That's really the best way to find what fits comfortably in your hands and will allow you to type well.
posted by trivia genius at 3:51 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make sure you've tried Swiftkey before abandoning Android! Its predictions are phenomenal.
My new Windows phone also makes suggestions while typing, but it's not nearly as good an experience. And typing on my wife's iPhone is far, far slower without the suggestions.
posted by rouftop at 4:06 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely not iPhone -- after using some of the good Android keyboards (the built in one in the new version of the OS, Swype, and Swiftkey are all ones to try to see which you like best), using the iPhone keyboard is incredibly infuriating. I'd get any Android phone with a recent OS version, and play with it for a while.
posted by brainmouse at 4:15 PM on August 15, 2013

If you really want to do a lot of typing, then the blackberry is in a different class. I'm using one at the moment, while I wait for a replacement iPhone. It has reminded me that it is possible to comfortably compose fairly long bits of text that would take forever on a touchscreen.

In every other way its years behind, and there are a host of apps that I'm dying to get back. There is so much other functionality that I need that the blackberry doesn't have. However it your absolutely clear that you prioritise typing above other functions, then a blackberry would probably do it for you better than anything else.
posted by Touchstone at 4:33 PM on August 15, 2013

Seconding touchstone. Blackberry is the absolute best way to go if you want a mostly communication device. (I am on my second in 4 years, and plan to get another one when this plan expires.) Granted: that's all I really use it for. It's a work phone, a work pager, a work email device and secondarily a minor web browsing device. Anything "app" like that I want to do, I use my tablet.

Also, the BB OS10 is supposed to be different. I don't know anything about it, but I seem to remember hearing that it would run Android apps.

And I'm not a fanboy, really. When I couldn't resist any longer and had to get a smartphone, I went to the store and played with them. I hated the older blackberries, loved the iPhone except for the keyboard which made me crazy, and loved the Blackberry Bold 9000 despite its lack of coolness. And that's what I stuck with.

(Another non traditional plug: I kinda like my Win 8 tablet. Win 8 is not perfect yet, but the virtual keyboard is really, really good, and most apps are fine. What I really like is that it does tablet stuff well enough, and also computer stuff well enough. If I plug a mouse and keyboard into it, it's a real, live computer. I think it launches Word and Excel faster than my real computer.)
posted by gjc at 5:16 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not sure how to quantify this... but a screen that doesn't misintepret my intentions would be nice. Sometimes I have to hold down on a key to bring up a set of different keys, and holding down/sliding over to my desired key often presses other keys and then ugh I have to backspace and start over...

Nothing can beat the iphone at this. Regardless of what people try and say or argue, apple has some kind of weird proprietary black magic algorithm to make exactly this sort of thing work as close to perfectly as possible. It actually learns from how you type over time(which was a stark contrast when i had to completely start from scratch without all my settings/files at one point).

I've owned or used all manner of phones from black and white screened little flip phones 12 years ago, to pocketpc and palm stuff, and then android and even the new windows phone stuff. I have never owned a better phone to type on than my iphone.

Also, when you actually get used to typing on it you can type faster than you can with a physical keyboard because you aren't having to both concentrate on pushing in the keys hard enough but also hitting the right keys most of the time. You can type entire sentences on an iphone with entire words misspelled and they come out perfectly.

As a specific note(heh) on the galaxy note, a friend got one for free and offered to trade it to me for almost nothing. I have serious, Shaquille O'Neal sized hands. Like, i have yet to meet another person in my entire life with hands as big as mine. More than an octave on a piano, palm a basketball sized hands. Like, longer base of palm to tip of finger than all but the largest laptops are front to back.

The galaxy note was quite awkward for me to hold. It feels like one of these in the way that it's shape/size is awkward. I prefer the iphone, or most other smaller phones even though i can wrap my hand around the thing like the hilt of a sword.

Oh, and on the "keyboard takes up a ton of space in landscape mode" thing, i've NEVER seen a phone that didn't have that issue unless it had a landscape-side slide out physical keyboard. Even the Note suffers from that. You're going to get that on any smartphone you'd want to buy nowadays. Might as well get the one with the best keyboard.
posted by emptythought at 5:36 PM on August 15, 2013

BlackBerry Q10. No one disputes that they are the masters of physical keyboards. If texting is what you are mainly going to be doing (and/or emails), nothing beats a BlackBerry. Their new models are a different OS (better), but their keyboard still rocks. It has a more limited app selection (and does run android apps that have been packaged for the OS), but that's not what you asked about.

I would recommend you go to a store and play with one (as well as some other phones for comparison). Then buy the cheapest you can find online.
posted by el io at 5:55 PM on August 15, 2013

The touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 keyboard is one of the best because BlackBerry had to keep differentiating themselves. The Q10 is something you'd be comfortable writing letters to grandma on. Long. Letters. Any decent modern Android phone with SwiftKey will conquer the iPhone mightily and there's no disputing it. ;) But seriously, SwiftKey is worth the $5 or whatever and the speech recognition on modern Android Jellybean devices is impeccable.
posted by lordaych at 6:13 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a Droid 3, which I purchased mainly for the sake of the slide-out, physical keyboard. It's great for heavy-duty writing tasks (I've literally written entire papers on this thing, not to mention that I'm writing with it right now). Props to those who can work with touchscreens, but I find this infinitely easier to use.
posted by eponym at 6:16 PM on August 15, 2013

Like, SwiftKey markov predicts your whole next word, which isn't always great, but usually pretty awesome. Like, it predicts the whole word, and you type a letter or two and it predicts even better, learning the sentences you commonly type. It keeps usage statistics to prove how many keystrokes it saves and I hop android phones pretty frequently due to work and hit 50,000 keystrokes saved obscenely fast. I also type a lot.
posted by lordaych at 6:16 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently upgraded my iPhone and have been particularly impressed with the talk to type a text feature. (Siri, I guess?) I also like that I can type in portrait with one hand. Landscape does kind of suck, though.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:46 PM on August 15, 2013

How do you feel about sliders? A physical keyboard can be nice for heavy typing, and with a slider you're not sacrificing screen space. There are two current cutting-edge models on Sprint, the Motorola Photon Q and the LG Mach. Neither is exactly without flaws (the Photon Q, in particular, does not have a removable/replacable battery).

For my part (since I do like sliders) I wasn't actually enamored with either choice and hunted down a used Epic 4G (not to be confused with the Epic 4G Touch). It's a slider, and it has official support up through Android 2.3.6, and unofficial (Cyanogen, and possibly other) support up through the most recent kernel version, with expectation of continuing unofficial support.
posted by jackbishop at 8:52 PM on August 15, 2013

I have a Droid Pro and I love it for texting. The physical keyboard is easy to use, and while the screen is small, it's not impossibly tiny.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:14 PM on August 15, 2013

Why don't you just find a pushy salesperson that sells iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberries so that you can draw your own conclusion after deciding what's right for you and your preferences?
posted by oceanjesse at 5:58 AM on August 16, 2013

Response by poster: @oceanjesse: On the off-chance that the hive mind might contain some kindred text/type-happy spirits that could give me a more personal recommendation.

I've never owned an iPhone before, and I didn't think it was that special when playing with them in stores, but these stories are maybe pushing me towards giving them some more consideration.

Also, I used to own a BlackBerry Curve 2-3 years ago. I quite liked it, but felt left out because of the lack of apps. I'm glad there are still BB fans in existence here..
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 8:34 AM on August 16, 2013

I use Swype on Android as my keyboard, and recommend it wholeheartedly--especially for it's terrific shortuts, which Swiftkey lacks.

However, if you're worried about the physical space your keyboard takes up, check out minuum, which can be pretty tiny.

Of course, if you went with the iPhone, you're stuck with their crappy keyboard.
posted by dobbs at 11:42 AM on January 6, 2014

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