Then came the big change. A somewhat obscure device by a company named RIM started making some real waves in the industry. Suddenly, people were very dissatisfied with handwriting recognition, and on-screen keyboards as input methods, and some of the higher-end PDAs and newly dubbed Smartphones started putting full keyboards in their devices. Some like Sony tried to hide the keyboard in a clamshell so that it wouldn’t compromise screen size, but the inventors of the Palm, who had left and formed a company named Handspring went further, and shrunk the screen, and put a full keyboard on the front of the device, much like the way the RIM BlackBerry was configured.
That was pretty much the end of it. From there on, just about every PDA wanting to compete in the smartphone space had to have some sort of full keyboard, or at the very least a physical numeric keypad. As sizes got smaller, the keyboard stayed, and the screen just got smaller, and they sold like never before. In fact, through all this, the more buttons the device sprouted, the more the total market for the devices grew, to the point that now most of the devices on the market are festooned with buttons, and few of the screens even allow touch input anymore.
So, what is it that causes people to prefer buttons to touchscreens, and why is it that even a market founded on the touchscreen eventually mutates into devices encrusted with more buttons than one would have thought possible? In a word, indecision. The glory of a button is that there is a difference between touching it, and pressing it. You can sit all day with your finger resting on the call button, thinking about whether you want to talk to that girl you met last night or not, but you know that phone isn’t going to dial until you feel that button press. Touchscreens don’t work that way. You either have to be ready to press it, or keep your hand well away from it, because the instant you touch it, you are committed.