Why physical keypads still exist on smart devices

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There was a time when a physical keypad on a smartphone was not considered weird or a novelty: It was rather a normal, reasonable, and wanted feature. But as time went by, more and more people started wanting a bigger screen, and also touch panels have evolved enough to completely replace hard buttons with virtual ones. Today, consumer smartphone manufacturers no longer add hard keys along with the touch panel, filling the front of a device only with a display. However, for quite a few smart device markets, a full keypad right under the touch panel is considered desirable and roaming around even in 2021. Why is that?

Rugged devices with physical keypads

1. Fast and accurate

Speed directly links to efficiency for workers who need to enter a lot of data every day. The physical, almost satisfying feedback that you feel by touching each hard button still has advantages over virtual keypad solutions, as it makes faster data input with fewer typos possible. Your hands just remember the position of each key better when you can feel it rather than only see.

2. Easier to multitask

Each time the virtual keypad pops up, it hides almost half of the information you are seeing, which makes task harder and downright annoying: with physical keypads, you can still enjoy the full capabilities of the entire screen while you are typing.

3. Perfect for outdoor workers

Touchscreens, no matter how great they have become nowadays, still don’t work perfectly well if you are wearing gloves or your hands are wet as they rely on the teeny tiny bit of electricity that comes from the fingers. While the rugged mobile device manufacturers often support wet-touch and glove-touch that come in handy, any obstruction between your hands and touch panel makes it just not 100% reliable. Physical keypad, which relies on pressure, is free from this inconvenience – Workers may go outside in the rain and still make full use of a keypad device, without being forced to take off the gloves or dry their hands.

  • PM66 with illuminated keys

4. Easily customizable with F-keys

Another great benefit of a physical keypad is the integration of function, or F-keys. You all know them from your computer keyboard: Typically next to the ESC-key is where the F-keys start. On mobile computers, those keys are fully programmable. You have to take a lot of pictures? Simply assign F1 to your camera application. There’s an app you use every day? Put it on F2. For recurring tasks, this is a great shortcut and makes life a whole lot easier.

So for the above reasons, the demand for physical keypad on rugged mobile devices remain still very strong and manufacturers are living up to the expectation. Our portfolio consists of a variety of devices with hard keys, such as PM451 or PM550, and we are still designing new products with real keys, such as the upcoming PM67. Depending on the device, keypads are even available in different options, such as full numeric, alpha numeric or function numeric. Those devices are extremely important for industries among warehouse management, logistics, and delivery service industries, and help workers around the world to get their tasks done.

Discover Point Mobile devices with physical keypads

PM451

Three keypad options, three barcode scanner options, optional LTE modem, and detachable gun handle, Android 9 operating system.

PM550

Alpha-numeric and numeric keypad option, 6,300mAh battery in gun-handle for outstanding ergonomics, various charging options.

PM67

Android 11 operating system, compact form factor, big numeric keys & wide screen. Backwards compatible to predecessor, PM66.

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