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Best Overall: LG Extravert 2 at Amazon
"A fantastic phone that offers a QWERTY keyboard in a stylish package."
Best for Business: BlackBerry KeyOne at Amazon
"The cream of the QWERTY crop with a full keyboard and capacitive buttons."
Best Keyboard: BlackBerry KEY2 at Amazon
"The intelligent keyboard adds some of the best refinements for texting."
Best Display: Galaxy Note 9 at Amazon
"One of the best devices Samsung has ever produced."
Best Budget: Motorola E5 at Amazon
"The E5 has a 5.7-inch IPS LCD display that’s beautiful to text and type on."
Best Attachable Keyboard: S8 Keyboard Cover at Amazon
"Adds plenty of functionality without hindering anything else."
Best with Accessories: Motorola Moto Z2 Play at Amazon
"The 5.5-inch AMOLED display is perfectly sized for messaging."
Best Features: Apple iPhone 8 at Amazon
"Includes GIFs, drawing tools, and hundreds of stickers to use in conversation."
For Verizon customers, the LG Extravert 2 is a fantastic phone (notice the lack of smart) that offers a QWERTY keyboard in a stylish package. With a 3.2” W-QVGA device, there’s no sense in comparing this to an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy device. They are designed for different users. The bottom line is that the display is functional, regardless of how it may compare in today’s competitive phone marketplace.
At 15mm thick, it’s twice the size of a new iPhone so we’re feeling safe calling it a little clunky. However, that additional size is overlooked as it fits the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the two-megapixel camera on the back also means you’ll probably want to pass up using this as your dedicated camera, but again, that is not the intended purpose. What you do get is 17 days’ standby time, something none of today’s best-known smartphones can match. Still, there’s no LTE data, no apps, games or Snapchat, just a phone that can send and receive text messages.
If you just can’t quit BlackBerry’s QWERTY keyboard, the BlackBerry KeyOne will help you continue your addiction. The cream of the QWERTY crop, BlackBerry’s KeyOne adds a full keyboard and capacitive buttons. That means while you’re typing messages or email, you can also swipe up to pick the right words. As the device learns how you type, predictive text will assist with shortening the time it takes to type a message. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a neat trick that can save some time.
Even with a keyboard, BlackBerry still managed to offer a respectable 4.5-inch display. Running Android 7.1 Nougat, there are tons of popular text messaging apps available in the Google Play Store. These downloadable alternatives will allow you to change the entire look and feel of your messaging experience. This phone also has a massive 3505mAh battery that offers up to 26 hours of life. When you need power in a hurry, Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 can get you up to 50% in under 40 minutes.
Few devices over the years have had more impact on the way we text than BlackBerry. Their QWERTY keyboards are the stuff of legend. Their flagship phone, the KEY2, is no exception. The company’s “most intelligent keyboard ever” adds some of the best refinements for texting. The keys are large enough for comfortable typing without negatively impacting the phone’s design. It’s also backlit or nighttime visibility and touch-sensitive, which allows for “flick typing” or predictive typing. The spacebar also doubles as a fingerprint reader for extra security, and there is a hidden trackpad in the middle of the keyboard for easy scrolling.
The KEY2 has a 4.5-inch screen, and the whole device is encased in a sleek-looking aluminum alloy frame. A 12-megapixel camera rests of the back which captures impressive photos. An extra boon for businesspeople or travelers that don’t always have easy access to a phone charger: the KEY2 claims to support a whole 25 hours of mixed-use battery life.
If you’re willing to splurge, the Galaxy Note 9 is one of the best devices Samsung has ever produced. Texting aficionados will find plenty of creative ways to make use of the massive 6.4-inch display. And Samsung has included their own set of fun messaging features. With the available S Pen stylus, you can write and draw messages to friends and family. Want to add a smiley face to a photo before you send it? The Galaxy Note 9 can make that happen. You can even be creative with Samsung’s AR Emoji to send in messages.
The rest of the device is just as good as its messaging. The 12MP rear camera snaps great photos that are perfect for sharing, and built-in stereo speakers make music and videos sound great. Throw in a giant 3300mAh battery and you’ll have a texting-friendly smartphone that lasts all day.
At first glance, the Motorola E5 (or Moto E5) feels like just another budget-friendly smartphone. In this case, the sum is more than the parts. The E5 has a 5.7-inch IPS LCD display that’s beautiful to text and type on with a range of adjustable font sizes. There’s even the option of replacing the default Android 8.0 texting app with one of the hundreds of replacement texting apps in Google’s Play Store.
Looking beyond messaging, the E5 runs a fairly stock Android operating system. Powering the software is a Snapdragon 425 processor with 2GB of RAM. That’s more than enough power to keep messaging running smoothly. Multitasking is handled just as well with app switching occurring instantaneously. The 13-megapixel camera adds surprisingly good results for the money. Both photos and videos are well worth sharing through messaging or on social media. As a final bonus, Motorola added a huge 4000mAh battery which should not only last a single day but easily into a second day.
Samsung’s Galaxy S8 display is, in a word, gorgeous. Vibrant colors and good viewing angles make it a favorite for text messaging. The one way it can be improved is with the Galaxy S8 Keyboard Cover. Sometimes, the tactile feel of a keyboard is exactly what you need for long messages. This detachable full-size QWERTY keyboard is ergonomically friendly. It’s easy to add and remove and responds instantly to touch. The cover is a polycarbonate shell and a snap-on keyboard.
Once attached, the keyboard cover doesn’t distract from the rest of the device. There’s still plenty of room to hit the Bixby button as well as the volume and power buttons. The bottom of the keyboard cover also leaves ample space for the USB-C port, speaker and microphone. Needless to say, it adds plenty of functionality without hindering anything else.
Powered by the phone itself, there’s no pairing process required. Just attach and start typing. The display automatically resizes to accommodate the keyboard. The QWERTY lettering takes up the top three rows while the bottom two rows consist of multipurpose keys. Samsung has dedicated buttons for recent apps, home and back. When you want your full screen experience, just clip the keyboard to the back of the case for storage.
When we think about “modifying” our phones today, it’s likely our initial thought is exterior coloring, case selection, or home screen wallpaper. In the case of the Motorola Moto Z2 Play, it means something else entirely. If you’re a heavy texter who is often away from a charger, the Moto power back snaps onto the back of the device and adds up to 40 extra hours of battery. Do you like texting while listening to music? Snap on the Moto stereo speaker with a built-in kickstand. It never needs to be charged as it draws power from the phone. For sharing the absolute best photos with friends and family, there’s a multitude of camera-friendly modifications that greatly enhance the detail and clarity of photos.
The 5.5-inch AMOLED display with Full HD resolution is perfectly sized for messaging, but it doesn’t get as bright as similarly-priced smartphones which can hinder messaging while under direct sunlight.
Apple offers a uniquely simplified messaging experience. iMessage allows Apple users to message other Apple users using Wi-Fi or phone data instead of the traditional SMS. It was a paradigm shift in how we think of text messaging, but it’s opened the door to all kinds of new features. Apple’s recent iOS software updates have added dozens of new features including GIFs, drawing tools, and hundreds of stickers to use in conversation.
The strength of iMessage aside, the iPhone 8 in particular has proven to be an extremely popular device. With an App Store that has over one million downloadable apps for gaming, weather, productivity and more, there’s something for everyone. All of this takes place on a 4.7-inch Retina HD display with beautiful colors and sharp details. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel sensor. For extra peace of mind, Apple ensures the iPhone 8 is splash, water and dust resistant.
Our writers spent 132 hours researching and testing some of the most popular text messaging phones available. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.
Platform - Not all of our recommendations are smartphones or run conventional operating systems like Android. Before committing to one of the devices showcased, be sure that the applications you need on a daily basis are available on the platforms’ respective mobile app stores.
Keyboard feel - Understanding exactly how a keyboard feels is a difficult task to do via the Internet. If you’re purchasing a smartphone because of its keyboard, be sure to give it a test run at a local electronics store before buying it, as most carriers will charge a restocking fee if you change your mind.
Carrier - Not all phones will work with your mobile carrier. Whether you have T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or another service provider, be sure that your selected device will work with your existing network.
QWERTY keyboard makes typing easy
Battery lasts a week
Camera doesn’t take quality photos
Small keyboard keys
Without fail, every reviewer highlighted the QWERTY keyboard as this phone’s standout feature. "I like the tactile feel you get with this keyboard,” said one tester, “which is something you don't experience with a smartphone." Another added that it makes “typing messages fast and simple.” Other pluses included durability and an “unreal” battery life; According to one of our testers, you’ll only have to charge this phone every few days to once a week. One drawback? The phone loses some points for its photo quality. As one tester put it, "The photos are grainy and dark. I wouldn't use the camera to take any photos I was hoping to save."
Easy to multi-task
Smaller screen size
Not great with 3D graphics
“With the fantastic keyboard and emphasis on multitasking, the KeyOne shines as a premier business phone,” declared one of our testers. “I was also impressed with the user-friendly tutorials, helpful BlackBerry apps, and incredible customization options.” On the other hand, one of our testers felt its screen size was “smaller than every phone at its price level.”
Great battery life
One of our testers liked this phone’s physical keyboard, which he thought would be “a selling point for anyone nostalgic for the early 2000s.” Our reviewers also liked its robust security features, and one tester thought its battery life was “out of this world — you can easily expect this thing to last several days of light usage.” In terms of negatives, one reviewer noted thought it was “expensive” for having “mid-range Android hardware.” Also, our testers thought it was slow and that the keyboard does “take some getting used to — the gesture controls baked into it are genuinely frustrating.”
Long battery life
“This phone has all of the features of a classic Android with a lot of added functionality” reported one of our testers. Our reviewers were big fans of the camera, particularly the Flaw Detection feature, and the S pen: “The Galaxy Note 9's S Pen stylus is very responsive and useful for jotting down notes, sketching, and more,” one of our testers said. The main downsides, according to our reviewers, were its high price tag and durability — or lack thereof: “While I appreciate the large screen and immaculate display,” one tester noted, “I think that it might end up being more of a liability for accident-prone people.”