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Rumor: Apple testing iPhone prototypes with physical keyboards

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Rumor: Apple testing iPhone prototypes with physical keyboardsThe iPhone's conspicuous lack of a physical keyboard is at once a draw for those in-the-know and a deal-breaker for the virtual-QWERTY-wary. By nixing a physical keyboard from the iPhone's design, Apple has been able to further their minimalistic design philosophy with the iPhone and iPhone 3G. But, clean lines and sleek style come at a price - namely the absence of a physical keyboard.

Despite much improved enterprise support in the iPhone 2.0 OS firmware that will be available as a free update for iPhone users and pre-installed on all iPhone 3G hardware, Apple is rumored to be testing prototypes for an iPhone with a physical, slide-out keyboard. The prototypes are said to have been seeded to unnamed wireless carrier executives for in-the-field feedback.

Steve Jobs previously criticized the need for physical keyboard on touchscreen handsets, but that doesn't necessarily mean he and Apple won't be going after another profitable niche with a keyboard-toting iPhone.

Physical-QWERTY lovers out there might do well to keep their hopes from flying too high for now, however, since Apple is known for throwing us for a loop with leaked misinformation.

If true, we could see yet another iPhone variant hit the market - iPhone Pro, anyone? Or, at the very least, support for Bluetooth keyboards…

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