I also have mixed feelings towards that row of numbered buttons. If the joystick button had had a better implementation their use would have been superseded and the price of the reader could have gone down. On the other hand, if a phone type alphabet and input capability had been added, that row could have been really justified.
All in all it looks like those missing software bits are a voluntary neutering of the device. It could have had and still could have many other functions. But for what it does it really does good.