Keypad or Touchscreen: Which is Best for Your Workforce?

Physical Keypads

Mobile computers with physical keyboards have been around for decades. The most common uses for mobile computers with physical keyboards can be seen in retail environments, warehouse data entry, and manufacturing.

Their history in the industry brings some definite pros as the majority of current workers in these industries are used to physical keyboards. Physical keypads have the following benefits:

  • Workers are used to physical keypads

  • Physical keypads can be helpful for efficiency when data entry includes words

  • Workers know where buttons are by looking at them, no need to sort through menus or keyboard types on a touchscreen

  • Physical keys can be mapped to frequently used short cuts to save steps

Once you choose a device with a physical keypad, you are locked into that keypad layout, unless you pay for a (sometimes costly) keypad replacement. Another weakness of physical keypads is that they can be susceptible to operational failure if debris or liquid gets in the keys.  


As more mobile computers move to touch input based operating systems like Android, touchscreen input is more common. Now that smartphones dominate the cell phone industry, touch input is definitely becoming the norm for the upcoming generation of workers.
However, general familiarity with touchscreens is not the only benefit of this flexible input method. Here are a few more benefits of using touchscreen input in a business environment:

  • Custom keyboards with screen specific keys that show only the keys required for the current app

  • Larger buttons

  • The keyboard can be hidden when not in use, improving efficiency and device ergonomics

  • Moving from Telnet to Android or SmartTE environments, function keys and key combinations can be mapped to custom keyboards

  • For seasonal or temp workers, custom keyboards can make training easier

There is a time and cost requirement up front to make custom screens and keyboards to fully take advantage of touchscreen input, but this investment pays for itself in no time because workers are that much more efficient.

The best of both worlds?

If you’re used to physical keypads, but interested in exploring Android and touchscreen devices, the new MC3300 mobile computer from Zebra is a perfect choice. The Zebra MC3300 features not only a full size, four-inch touchscreen, but also your choice of three physical keypads.

This type of hybrid device is a perfect fit for a broad range of workplaces and employees. The near / far scan engine in the MC3300 allows for use in retail, manufacturing and warehouse industries.

So, which is best for your workplace: touchscreens or keypads? With the release of the new Zebra MC3300 Mobile Computer, now is the perfect time to find out! Contact an AbeTech representative to learn more about what input method would be best for your company.

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