(19 June 2012)
Everyone was critical of the iPhone when it came out because it didn't have a keyboard. They missed the point, and the iPhone did just fine with the on-screen keyboard.
However, the reason why the iPhone (and follow-on phones) have done so well without a keyboard is not that the on-screen keyboards are any good. It is because those on-screen keyboards are really no better -- or worse -- than the physical keyboards they replaced.
And they really are not. I'm not any more or less hateful of my iPhone 4 keyboard than I was with the RIM Pearl 8100 or 9100. I do hate the iPhone somewhat less than the RIM 7250 I had before the Pearls. It was the keyboard that drove me to the Pearls, because it made me realize that these devices are really for information consumption rather than production.
Getting a decent keyboard into a phone form-factor is a serious challenge that hasn't been defeated yet.
(Aside: the fact that teenagers can and will send thousands of emails, texts, tweets, facebook updates or whatever does nothing to change this fact. All it shows is that teenagers can adapt to anything they really want to, despite what they try to tell their parents.)