Observation and Design

Richard Stowey's localised view of the world.

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Quality of Text Input on a Handheld Device

January 15th, 2011 @ 20:22 BST by Richard Stowey

Blackberry Curve black closeup

I’ve used a few handheld devices over the years, and as there are a few more on the market now, but I’m wondering whether any of them are as efficient as they could be.

The Psion, Tapwave Zodiac, Nokia mobile phones, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, HTC Hero and Samsung Galaxy Tab – It’s interesting how the text input on these devices has developed over time and it got me wondering which input method is the most efficient. But there are lots of things which affect how good an input is.

Weighing them all up provides an accurate view of which one is the best. So bearing that in mind, I’ve separated the devices I’ve used into the types of input in order to compare.

I’ve rated them from a 1-5 (1=low, 5=high)

speed accuracy feedback accessibility difficulty learning curve usability
physical QUERTY keyboard 5 5 5 5 1 1 5
physical numerical keyboard 4 4 4 5 1 1 4
touch screen keyboard (iPhone/iPad) 2 3 1 4 3 3 4
touch screen keyboard (Android) 2 3 4 4 3 3 4
Swype touch keyboard (Android) 3 4 1 4 3 4 4
pen handwriting recognition 1 3 1 4 5 5 2

The early transition from QUERTY keyboard to was clearly met with issues. The pen input of the Tapwave Zodiac and other Palm based devices has definitely improved with the use of finger based touch inputs. I find that the next step now is to refine the devices and make them much easier to use, fool proof and really try and understand how people use their devices.

For me, QUERTY keyboards are still the clear winners, but they aren’t as versatile and interesting to use with other applications.

The next steps are ones of refinement rather than major changes, and I think that there will be a battle between the touch screen keyboard and the QUERTY keyboard for mobile devices.

Blackberry Curve black closeup by bigpresh, on Flickr

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