My first smartphone was a Motorola OG Droid with a side-out keyboard. it was one of the reasons I got that phone.
And then I discovered Swype and found that I never actually used the physical keyboard. Once I figured out that I could switch between the Hacker Keyboard for ssh sessions and Swype for everything else, the virtual keyboard became much less of a pain to deal with than the physical keyboard. Even with the tiny, low-res screen on the old Droid, the virtual keyboard was better. With newer phones that have better screens, the amount of screen real estate that gets covered by the virtual keyboard is not much of a problem.