After my post about the fluidity of using the Symbolics keyboard, I thought Phil Gyford’s recent post about typing speeds on different devices, Pen v keyboard v Newton v Graffiti v Treo v iPhone, was very cool. As an experiment, he entered the same paragraph of text into using six different devices to see which was fastest. Sure – it’s a sample of just one person – but it’s so interesting to see that, despite all the grumbling people make about wanting the tactility of a physical keyboard, the iPhone’s glass keyboard is only slightly slower than one. And faster than all the others.
Much of the iPhone’s keyboard speed comes down to UI design details. In Lukas Mathis’ comparison of the iPhone and Android’s keyboards he shows in fascinating detail, how the subtle placement of touch highlights, element size, and multitouch make a big difference.
In addition, the iPhone anticipates what letter you’re going to hit next, and invisibly resizes the hot area around the most-likely keys to make them feel easier to press. There’s the qwerted Android keyboard that does this quite literally – by actually resizing the keys. It’s pretty disorienting. A reminder that sometimes magic should remain invisible.
The thumb-based typing on a small device like the iPhone also works well because you’re holding the device while you’re typing on it. Thus your hands are steady with only your thumbs moving. It’ll be interesting to see with the iPad — where your hands will be positioned as if using a physical keyboard, not holding the device, and so might drift — how the typing experience will compare.
Hmm… this wasn’t intended to be a post about the glory of the iPhone’s keyboard. It was supposed to be about the value of design details and the importance of refinement, as opposed to radical change (like the DialKeys concept below). Drat!