Since the beginning of the month, I have been using The Unihertz Titan Pocket. This phone was released in 2021 and features a 3.1 inch display with a Qwerty keyboard. It’s clear that I chose to use this phone. My editors did not assign me to use it as a joke (some of them even clowned me for using it), nor do I lack other options. I gave up a perfectly functional iPhone 12 Mini to get this phone.
First, it’s fun to try new things. In this case, you can go back to an older model. My first experience with a smartphone was when I stole my dad’s Navy BlackBerry in middle school to email my girlfriend. In the last 10 years, I’ve had phones that have essentially the same design. Just the size has changed.
This is also true in large part for the rest of us. I don’t believe I’ve gotten so many comments about a gadget before as I have on the Titan Pocket. I’ve received several comments like “is that BlackBerry?” and “whoa cool, what phone’s that?” I think this is mostly because people aren’t accustomed to seeing someone using this type of phone. There are dozens of us! It was a surprise to me to find out that someone who attends my gym has a Titan Pocket. I had never seen another one before. The Titan Pocket is as thin and compact as the iPhone Mini.
The keyboard is the reason why I chose this phone. I will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for a few weeks and my primary form of communication with those back home is through emails. This is a fundamental shift in how I communicate. I won’t send texts every hour as I usually do. Why not combine that with a fundamentally different communication device?
This phone is made to write on. The keyboard is tactile – you are pressing on real keys – and has a variety of function keys at the top. There are two programmable buttons, as well as the shift and alt keys to access capital letters and symbols. The symbol key is used for what it was intended to do, which is to bring up a virtual keyboard where I can enter characters not found on the hardware keyboard. The Fn key is configured to behave like a standard control key.
You can use all your desktop keyboard shortcuts from my phone. Want to select everything? Function-A. Want to search for a specific page? Function-F. Undo? Yes, I’m sure you can. You can also use Function-L to quickly jump to the address bar in Chrome and start typing the website you want to visit.
A keyboard on your phone is useful for more than just typing in apps. If I want to launch an iOS app, I swipe up to get to my homescreen, pull the Spotlight down, then start typing its name and tap on its icon. Double-tap the Titan Pocket’s home button to get the launcher if you aren’t already there. Then, start typing. After I’ve entered the app name or enough to make it the first result in the search, I press the enter key to launch it.The time saved isn’t significant. It’s much cooler to press the enter button rather than tap on an icon.
Unihertz has a system where you can set shortcuts to apps and actions. No matter where I’m on my phone I can press the “t” button to start a timer, or the “c”, to open Chrome. Having extra buttons is super helpful if you need to do things quickly.
The keyboard is not the only thing that makes this phone stand out. It has features my iPhone 12 Mini which costs $479 more does not. Everyone complains that phones no longer have microSD cards or headphone jacks. Titan Pocket has both. These are going to come in handy for me as I attempt to hike across America for reasons I discussed with my colleague David Pierce during an episode.
The IR blaster allows me to control the TV, oscillating fan and FM radio with wired headphones. You can also program an extra hardware key to perform three different actions depending on whether it is pressed once, twice, or repeatedly. Why is it that the market has decided there should be no or flagships that offer these features, when so many budget phones do?
Please also look at the battery chart. This is a device that’s about the same size as a mini iPhone. It’s thicker but I find it just as comfortable to hold.The phone can last up to two days without a charge.
This phone is not perfect. I’ll list some of my complaints in no particular sequence.
- The vibration motor is so low-end that it feels like a phone from 2012.
- The MediaTek Helios P70 processor, which was launched in 2019, is now a midrange processor.
- It does not support 5G or ESIMs.
- The security patch for Android 11 is from September 2022. (Don’t hack me, pls.)
- It’s better to describe what I see than take a photo.
- I would do anything to get this phone a BlackBerry-style trackpad, or rollerball. Because manipulating a mouse on a small screen is hell.
- Despite the 6GB RAM, it still feels like I have to re-launch apps a lot.
- It’s fine to use the touchscreen, but many apps weren’t designed for a square-shaped screen. To view Instagram Stories for example, I have to use the goofy “letterbox” mode.
- It is very difficult to complete my transformation from my father because the leather pouch for it has been sold out.
There’s also this incredibly annoying bug that causes things to break if I enter a number or a symbol as the first character in a text field. It only happens if you use the keyboard. The on-screen keyboard does not have this problem. However, some fields prevent it from appearing. It’s very annoying when I try to type in something like a ZIP code, or reply to something using an emoticon.
Okay, I admit that this is a long list of complaints. You could also make some objective criticisms of the Titan Pocket as a writing machine. I type faster on my iPhone (59 words per minutes versus 50) and I use the physical keyboard more if I need to add a character that isn’t available via the alt key. The dollar sign, for example, is often the culprit. This screen can’t display that much text, so I have to scroll a lot when I read back to make sure it’s logical.
All of these problems just disappear when I use the phone to send a text, write a message, or pound out a blog post or email. I can switch between apps and copy and paste text without touching the screen. It makes me feel like an productivity god. My fingers may be slower, but it’s my brain that has held me back from writing faster. I can still write as fast as my brain can process coherent thoughts. The iPhone keyboard is great, but the haptics feature can’t compare to the actual buttons.
It may just be in my head but the Pocket gets me into the writing mood and allows me to focus on the task at hand in a manner that other phones don’t. This thing is so bad at watching YouTube videos that I can’t bring myself to do it. My wife teases me for how close I hold my phone to my face to watch videos.
It’s fair to criticize Titan Pocket’s shortcomings. (Though, in reality, these are inherent to keyboard phones as Steve Job pointed out when he announced the iPhone.) In some ways they are part of the reason I love this phone. Since I’ve spent my life on the internet, it is understandable that I hesitate before picking up the phone. It’s also not very easy to use with one hand, so it requires me to be committed to using it.
I am not trying to argue for phones to be less convenient in general so people will use them less. Just saying I’m glad myis. Yes, I like that everything I do on it feels serious, even when I’m typing silly jokes for friends or co-workers. It’s difficult to think of any other phone that fundamentally changed the way I use my phone. When I rejoin society, I will probably return to my iPhone. I’m hoping that some of my BlackBerry habits will remain.