I'm another Epic 4G user. I've used Swype extensively on my Samsung tablet. It gets words wrong far more than right, especially technical words and proper nouns, which I use extensively in business correspondence. It's especially awful for typing numeric figures and passwords. And doing remote work (using Connectbot or a VNC viewer app) is literally not possible using Swype. Having a keyboard vastly increases the number of places I don't need to bring my laptop with me. The LG Mach is on par with the Galaxy S2, if that. The Photon Q is slightly better, but has a non-removable battery, which rules it out.
A QWERTY phone is not useful for someone who's just sending texts, using Facebook or playing Angry Birds. It's useful for those of us who use our phones to do actual work. Not just answering work emails, but actually getting work done.
Now that a competing carrier offers unlimited data, I've begun evaluating my options for replacing the Epic. One of them is buying the Galaxy S3 on Sprint and getting one of the Chinese snap-on slider keyboard cases available for it, or waiting for something similar to appear for the S4, since I don't care about thickness. But reviews of those units have been mixed to poor, due to their nature as cheaply made accessories. (You also never know whether you're getting one with dedicated number keys, as you can see by looking at the product pictures and reviews on Amazon.)
Another option is leaving Sprint altogether. Don't really want to, but if Sprint won't cater to geeks anymore (actual geeks, not fans of Apple and its imitators), I'm guessing someone else will.
Thanks for the post. Have you tried changing the input method to a normal QWERTY from Swype? This would treat the on screen keyboard just like a slide out. With the newer devices having larger screens this on screen keyboard should be more than adequate for your needs.
Sprint Social Care
Yes, I've used the default Samsung QWERTY keyboard, both the Epic's and the one on the Galaxy S3. It has no Ctrl, Esc, or arrow keys, so it's literally impossible to do many things on web servers with it, such as edit code with emacs or vi. I'm not kidding you when I say that Connectbot is my third-most-often-used app after the browser and Handcent. I use it literally every day.
There is a free app called Hacker's Keyboard which does have all those keys (it emulates a full PC keyboard) but it takes up almost the entire screen in landscape mode, half the screen in portrait mode, there's no key repeat so if you have a 180-character line of code (just a ballpark example; I've written regular expressions that were 300 characters long, and other people's web pages frequently have lines that are thousands of characters long with no breaks) and need to change something in the middle you need to hit the arrow key 90 times rather than just holding it down, and most importantly, you can't touch-type on a touchscreen. There are also other options, such as using ES File Manager's text editor over an sftp tunnel. Unfortunately, I've already discovered that's not reliable when you're somewhere with 1-2 bars of service, which is pretty much anywhere more than a mile or two off of a freeway out here in the boondocks.
I've had a QWERTY phone since buying a Palm Pre on launch day in 2009. The Pre gave me the freedom to stop carrying my laptop everywhere when I'm on call, and the Epic is only an improvement due to the bigger screen and wider keyboard. A keyboardless phone will take that freedom away from me, as anything more than a trivial change will be impossible (as it is on my tablet when I don't have a Bluetooth keyboard available).
I've been through all these arguments, first with iPhone enthusiasts ("shouldn't you be using your laptop for real work?") and now with Android folks ("Swype will do anything you want, you just haven't used it enough") since Google has decided keyboards aren't cool anymore. I hate to be a curmudgeon about it and I know that most people don't have jobs where they need to edit code on remote servers from outside the office. However, I do. There is no substitute for a physical keyboard, so if Sprint doesn't have a new high-end device with another 5-row keyboard by the time my Epic fails, it will force me to switch carriers.