Looks like Motorola is working on the successor to their Droid # phones. A photo of the Droid 3 has been leaked over at Howard Forums (hat tip to GottaBeMobile for pointing it out) and in addition to a design that departs from the Droid 2 — and instead harkens back to the original Droid — we can see that the keyboard has received a lot of work.
The hardware keyboard on the original Droid was a major selling point for many people. Unfortunately, the keyboard really under-delivered. Motorola made progress with the Droid 2, but typing speed still suffered a lot when you wanted needed to punctuate. Here’s an excerpt about the keyboard from our Droid 2 review published last September:
Typing alphabetical characters on the Droid 2’s keyboard is like cruising down the highway using punctuation is like sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The keyboard is speedy thanks to fairly good tactical feedback, but lack of auto-correction that is commonly found on modern OSKs means that you end up having to do more work than you really should. Things get messy when one key is bound with both a shift- and alt-modifier punctuation. Not to mentioned that in order to access the extended symbols list, you have to press alt, space, then tap your selection from the popup menu (taking your fingers from the keyboard slows down the process even more)
Things are looking up for the Droid 3’s keyboard. The keys closely resemble those on the N900 [keyboard section of our review] (which had great feedback and were very easy to type with), but unlike the N900, the Droid 3 has a dedicated number-row (5 rows total) which is very important for speed. By moving the numbers to their own keys, they can free up some of the punctuation congestion that was an issue on the Droid 2 and N900.
Of course, adding an additional row to the keyboard means that you’ll either need to make the device larger, or shrink the keys. In the photo we have, the number-row keys on the Droid 3 are half the height as the others.
Nokia decided to make nice large keys on the N900, and they felt excellent. Unfortunately, they could only fit three rows of keys on the device, and using symbols and punctuation really slowed things down.
Here’s to hoping that the Droid 3 keyboard will combine the strengths of the great key design on the N900 with the less congested punctuation typing that comes with a dedicated number row.