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BlackBerry ditches physical keyboard for first BB10 phone

When the new BlackBerry 10 software arrives, it'll be on a touchscreen phone -- a move that could alienate BackBerry's best customers.

BlackBerry 10 is ditching the signature keyboard for the next generation of phones. When the new BlackBerry software arrives, it'll be on a touchscreen phone -- a forward-looking move, but one that could alienate BlackBerry's best customers.

BlackBerry 10 is the next generation of software for BlackBerry phones, with features that drag the venerable emailers into the smart phone revolution. Favoured by business types for their security and teenagers for the unlimited BlackBerry Messenger service, BlackBerry phones have looked increasingly outdated since the arrival of Android and the iPhone.

A new software keyboard is included in BlackBerry 10, which learns how you type -- noticing if you tend to strike the top left hand corner of a key when typing that letter, then in future it'll register it as perfect keystroke.

The BB10 keyboard also learns the words you use so it can make an informed prediction for what word you're going to type next, as pictured above when we tried out the new software.

The Washington Post reports that BlackBerry builder Research in Motion will bring the new software to phones with physical keyboards at some stage, but RIM isn't saying when.

Traditionally, the keyboard has been RIM's key feature. The BlackBerry is the precursor to the modern smart phone, and the signature keyboard is often considered essential for typing emails, texts and BlackBerry Messenger chats.

But since the rise of the iPhone and Android, smart phones have abandoned physical keyboards for touchscreens and virtual onscreen buttons. BlackBerry fans cling to their clicky keys, but the fact is they belong to the past now. After all, a touchscreen can be a keyboard, can show videos, display apps and games... but a keyboard can only ever be a keyboard. It's time to let the keyboard go, BlackBerry fans.

There's a lot riding on BlackBerry 10, already delayed for about a year. RIM needs a huge win after a string of high-profile cock-ups, including the half-baked BlackBerry PlayBook and last year's disastrous Internet and BBM outage. Meanwhile even its traditional strongholds are being eroded as teens desert BBM, and rivals such as Samsung seek to cash in on the 'bring your own device' trend in IT.

Should BlackBerry ditch the keyboard, or will it alienate long-time users? Can BlackBerry 10 compete with the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.