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6 Smartphone Keyboards Compared

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the none-can-stack-up-to-my-thrift-store-board dept.

Input Devices 161

Barence writes "A debate that crops up time and again is whether it's better to have a dedicated keyboard on your smartphone or whether an on-screen keyboard with text correction is adequate. Some phones with screen-based keyboards have started to provide tactile feedback, either using an ultra-quick spin of their vibration alert or, like the BlackBerry Storm2, using clever piezo-electric technology to simulate the feel of a button press. But which system works best? PC Pro's Paul Ockendon gathered six of the most popular handsets around and put them through a timed typing test to see which proved quickest and most typo-free."

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Debate (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31429806)

What debate? You're telling me that there are people who seriously prefer to *not* have a physical keyboard on their smartphone?

Re:Debate (3, Insightful)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429834)

Yes, the people who prefer not to have a physical keyboard are called iPhone users.

Don't look now, but there are millions of us.

Re:Debate (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31429898)

I could have been first post but my phone keyword is horrible!


Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31430332)

Be assured that you can be cured of your difficulty. Many have been, both male and female, and you can be also if you determine that it must be so.

This determination is the first step. That is where we begin. You must decide that you will end this practice, and when you make that decision, the problem will be greatly reduced at once.

But it must be more than a hope or a wish, more than knowing that it is good for you. It must be actually a DECISION. If you truly make up your mind that you will be cured, then you will have the strength to resist any tendencies which you may have and any temptations which may come to you.

After you have made this decision, then observe the following specific guidelines:

A Guide to Self-Control:

1. Never touch the intimate parts of your body except during normal toilet processes.

2. Avoid being alone as much as possible. Find good company and stay in this good company.

3. If you are associated with other persons having this same problem, YOU MUST BREAK OFF THEIR FRIENDSHIP. Never associate with other people having the same weakness. Don't suppose that two of you will quit together, you never will. You must get away from people of that kind. Just to be in their presence will keep your problem foremost in your mind. The problem must be taken OUT OF YOUR MIND for that is where it really exists. Your mind must be on other and more wholesome things.

4. When you bathe, do not admire yourself in a mirror. Never stay in the bath more than five or six minutes -- just long enough to bathe and dry and dress AND THEN GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM into a room where you will have some member of your family present.

5. When in bed, if that is where you have your problem for the most part, dress yourself for the night so securely that you cannot easily touch your vital parts, and so that it would be difficult and time consuming for you to remove those clothes. By the time you started to remove protective clothing you would have sufficiently controlled your thinking that the temptation would leave you.

6. If the temptation seems overpowering while you are in bed, GET OUT OF BED AND GO INTO THE KITCHEN AND FIX YOURSELF A SNACK, even if it is in the middle of the night, and even if you are not hungry, and despite your fears of gaining weight. The purpose behind this suggestion is that you GET YOUR MIND ON SOMETHING ELSE. You are the subject of your thoughts, so to speak.

7. Never read pornographic material. Never read about your problem. Keep it out of mind. Remember -- "First a thought, then an act."

The thought pattern must be changed. You must not allow this problem to remain in your mind. When you accomplish that, you soon will be free of the act.

8. Put wholesome thoughts into your mind at all times. Read good books -- Church books -- Scriptures -- Sermons of the Brethern [sic, Cistern too?]. Make a daily habit of reading at least one chapter of Scripture, preferably from one of the four Gospels in the New Testament, or the Book of Mormon. The four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- above anything else in the Bible can be helpful because of their uplifting qualities.

9. Pray. But when you pray, don't pray about this problem, for that will tend to keep [it] in your mind more than ever. Pray for faith, pray for understanding of the Scriptures, pray for the Missionaries, the General Authorities, your friends, your families, BUT KEEP THE PROBLEM OUT OF YOUR MIND BY NOT MENTIONING IT EVER -- NOT IN CONVERSATION WITH OTHERS, NOT IN YOUR PRAYERS. KEEP IT _OUT_ of your mind! The attitude of a person toward his problem has an affect on how easy it is to overcome. It is essential that a firm commitment be made to control the habit. As a person understands his reasons for the behavior, and is sensitive to the conditions or situations that may trigger a desire for the act, he develops the power to control it.

As one meets with his Priesthood Leader, a program for overcoming masturbation can be implemented using some of these suggestions. Remember it is essential that a regular report program be agreed on, so progress can be recognized and failures understood and eliminated.


1. Pray daily, ask for the gifts of the Spirit, that which will strengthen you against temptation. Pray fervently and out loud when the temptations are the strongest.

2. Follow a program of vigorous daily exercise. The exercises reduce emotional tension and depression and are absolutely basic to the solution of this problem. Double your physical activity when you feel stress increasing.

3. When the temptation to masturbate is strong, yell STOP to those thoughts as loudly as you can in your mind and then recite a prechosen Scripture or sing an inspirational hymn. It is important to turn your thoughts away from the selfish need to indulge.

4. Set goals of abstinence, begin with a day, then a week, month, year and finally commit to never doing it again. Until you commit yourself to never again you will always be open to temptation.

5. Change in behavior and attitude is most easily achieved through a changed self-image. Spend time every day imagining yourself strong and in control, easily overcoming tempting situations.

6. Begin to work daily on a self-improvement program. Relate this plan to improving your Church service, to improving your relationships with your family, God and others. Strive to enhance your strengths and talents.

7. Be outgoing and friendly. Force yourself to be with others and learn to enjoy working and talking to them. Use principles of developing friendships found in books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

8. Be aware of situations that depress you or that cause you to feel lonely, bored, frustrated or discouraged. These emotional states can trigger the desire to masturbate as a way of escape. Plan in advance to counter these low periods through various activities, such as reading a book, visiting a friend, doing something athletic, etc.

9. Make a pocket calendar for a month on a small card. Carry it with you, but show it to no one. If you have a lapse of self control, color the day black. Your goal will be to have no black days. The calendar becomes a strong visual reminder of self control and should be looked at when you are tempted to add another black day. Keep your calendar up until you have at least three clear months.

10. A careful study will indicate you have had the problem at certain times and under certain conditions. Try and recall, in detail, what your particular times and conditions were. Now that you understand how it happens, plan to break the pattern through counter activities.

11. In the field of psychotherapy there is a very effective technique called aversion therapy. When we associate or think of something very distasteful with something which has been pleasurable, but undesirable, the distasteful thought and feeling will begin to cancel out that which was pleasurable. If you associate something very distasteful with your loss of self-control it will help you to stop the act. For example, if you are tempted to masturbate, think of having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eat several of them as you do the act.

12. During your toileting and shower activities leave the bathroom door or shower curtain partly open, to discourage being alone in total privacy. Take cool brief showers.

13. Arise immediately in the mornings. Do not lie in bed awake, no matter what time of day it is. Get up and do something. Start each day with an enthusiastic activity.

14. Keep your bladder empty. Refrain from drinking large amounts of fluids before retiring.

15. Reduce the amount of spices and condiments in your food. Eat as lightly as possible at night.

16. Wear pajamas that are difficult to open, yet loose and not binding.

17. Avoid people, situations, pictures or reading materials that might create sexual excitement.

18. It is sometimes helpful to have a physical object to use in overcoming this problem. A Book of Mormon, firmly held in hand, even in bed at night has proven helpful in extreme cases.

19. In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame with a tie in order that the habit of masturbating in a semi-sleep condition can be broken. This can also be accomplished by wearing several layers of clothing which would be difficult to remove while half asleep.

20. Set up a reward system for your successes. It does not have to be a big reward. A quarter in a receptacle each time you overcome or reach a goal. Spend it on something which delights you and will be a continuing reminder of your progress.

21. Do not let yourself return to any past habit or attitude patterns which were part of your problem. Satan Never Gives Up. Be calmly and confidently on guard. Keep a positive mental attitude. You can win this fight! The joy and strength you will feel when you do will give your whole life a radiant and spiritual glow of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Re:Debate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31429932)

There are you zany iPhone users, and then there are those of us (Droid Eris FTW) who just don't want yet *another* point of failure to cope with. If someone hammers out enough email that having a physical keyboard is a make-or-break proposition, just buy a netbook and tether.

Re:Debate (4, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430148)

If someone hammers out enough email that having a physical keyboard is a make-or-break proposition, just buy a netbook and tether.

Speaking as one of the many millions for whom a physical keyboard is definitely a must, email is not the only reason to need a keyboard. Some of us use our phones for serious work like remote sysadmin tasks and document editing (to name just two). Both types of phones exist because different people have different needs and preferences.

Re:Debate (1, Informative)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430806)

Some of us use our phones for serious work like remote sysadmin tasks and document editing (to name just two). Both types of phones exist because different people have different needs and preferences.

I've done remote access sysadmin work from my iPhone plenty of times and it was never a hassle at all. While I originally preferred physical keyboards, after having an iPhone for the last 7 months or so, I actually prefer the keyboard because it only shows one symbol on each key (and you hit a button on the side to change what the keyboard shows), which makes it much easier to find what I'm looking for instead of having to look for less frequently used buttons where there are 3 symbols all in different colors on the button. I just wish that it had the Storm 2's tactile feel, but that's a minor quibble. It's all a matter of personal preference / priorities. In your case you place a high value on having the physical feel of a button to push. In my case I place a high value on a clean looking keyboard where I can easily find what I'm looking for.

Re:Debate (2, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430382)

iPhone users

buy a netbook and tether.

Sing it with me, "One of these things is not like the others..."

Yes, I'm sure the Eris can tether, but not all of us want to lug around a netbook for the occasional support email.

I respect your choice of phones for your usage pattern, and I'm sure it works great. For you.

PS: "another" point of failure to cope with, for me, would be to lug a netbook AND a phone AND depend on a cable or Bluetooth to connect the two. Battery goes dead on one or the other, I'm screwed. One integrated phone with a usable keyboard means all my needs are met with one point of failure - my phone.

Re:Debate (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431158)

I call it a point of redundancy, as I can work with a failed touchscreen, or a failed keyboard.

Re:Debate (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31430408)

I love my iPhone as much as the next guy, but I was a way faster typer on my Blackberry, even a year after switching. Its reality. If I could have the appstore / iphone SDK / general UI quality and a real keyboard? please please please...

Re:Debate (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429864)

I prefer not to have a keyboard on my smartphone because typing on a tiny keyboard, whether physical or not, is an enormous pain in the ass and I try to avoid it whenever possible. Since a tiny physical keyboard is only marginally less painful to use than the on-screen one, I'd prefer not to waste space with one.

three words: (4, Insightful)

YouWantFriesWithThat (1123591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430104)

screen real estate.

i have a moto droid and while the onscreen keyboard is awesome and the predictive text works great, it takes up about 75% of the screen. if i am on a site (like /.) where i am going to be reading and typing with regularity it is nice to have the option to slide out a physical keyboard and get the screen back.

Re:three words: (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430242)

Luckily Slashdot is pretty much entirely broken on the iPhone (still!), so this issue hasn't come up.

Re:three words: (1)

Tikkun (992269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430430)

Slashdot works fine on my Nokia e51 (S60 running Opera Mini). Perhaps you need a different web browser?

Re:three words: (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430842)

I just find it odd that Slashdot has apparently made no effort to make their site compatible with a phone that represents something like 25% of the smartphone market.

Re:three words: (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430966)

I just find it odd that Slashdot has apparently made no effort to make their site compatible with a phone that represents something like 25% of the smartphone market.

Possibly it is because the kinds of people that frequent Slashdot are most likely the kinds of people that will have no problem modifying their equipment for their own needs. Its not Slashdot's fault that the iPhone is specifically built to prevent people from modifying their experience.

Judging from the anti-Apple hatred that is spewed here, it wouldn't surprise me if Slashdot didn't want to be associated with that specific 25% of the smartphone market.

Re:three words: (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432168)

Judging from the anti-Apple hatred that is spewed here, it wouldn't surprise me if Slashdot didn't want to be associated with that specific 25% of the smartphone market.

I wonder how their corporate overlords would feel about the lost readership/lost ad revenue...

Re:three words: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31431216)

I just find it odd that the iPhone which represents something like 25% of the smartphone market hasn't conformed to html standards with its browser.

Re:three words: (1)

macs4all (973270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432204)

I just find it odd that the iPhone which represents something like 25% of the smartphone market hasn't conformed to html standards with its browser.

Citation, please?

I would assume that Mobile Safari (like it's desktop brother) is based on WebKit, which is 100% ACID3 compliant.

So, what were you saying, again?

Re:three words: (1)

binford2k (142561) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432236)

.... I read slashdot all the time on my iphone. Don't know what you tards are wanking about.

And for what it's worth, the iphone browser runs on webkit. Which is the same engine that powers chrome that you probably rub one out to every night.

Re:three words: (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430514)

Works great on my HTC Ozone...I gotta have a physical keyboard, I can't stand touchscreen keyboards.

Re:three words: (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430882)

Actually they've improved it a lot recently! Now the "submit" and "cancel reply" buttons no longer overlap so you don't cancel everything you typed! Now all they need to do is get comments to appear correctly and they're good to go. Either that or they could just make an iPhone app for reading slashdot....

Re:three words: (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432380)

That's the part that bugs me. Most of Slashdot's articles are marginally interesting at best, and contain information available from a number of sources with better mobile-enabled websites, but the comments are usually really good. Without the ability to non-painfully read (and in a perfect world, respond to) the comments, reading Slashdot on the iPhone just isn't worth it.

Re: Translucent Onscreen Keyboards (1)

seawall (549985) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430508)

Some programs (e.g. TouchTerm on the iPhone) have an interesting twist on screen real estate:

Translucent Keyboard

I don't like it as much as my old Droid and Palm physical keyboards but it does let me see more of the screen when using an on-screen keyboard by letting me see THROUGH the keyboard.

Re:three words: (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430614)

But if you ditch a physical keyboard you can use that to increase your screen real estate.

Re:three words: (2, Informative)

YouWantFriesWithThat (1123591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430692)

i am not sure that i understand what you are trying to say. the moto droid has basically the exact same dimensions as the iphone within a millimeter. however it has a slide-out keyboard so when i use that 100% of my screen is displaying the app or site

Re:three words: (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431032)

Anywhere you could put a keyboard you could also put a screen. Slide out keyboard => slide out screen. Dual screens!

There is a lot to be said for tactile feedback though.

Re:three words: (1)

precariousgray (1663153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430622)

Real estate is a great, oft-overlooked point. I'd have to disagree with the original comment that it's a pain in the ass to type on a slide-out keyboard, though. On my XV6700 [google.com] I was able to input text than most people can on a regular keyboard. =/

Re:three words: (1)

YouWantFriesWithThat (1123591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430762)

i always liked how those keyboards looked. the moto droid keyboard is okay, better than a piece of glass, but i would love to have bigger more defined buttons like that. i sometimes miss the keyboard on my old green LG [slipperybrick.com], but i am getting over it...

Real keyboard wanted! (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430420)

I prefer not to have a keyboard on my smartphone because typing on a tiny keyboard, whether physical or not, is an enormous pain in the ass

Yes-- complete agreement here.

What I really want is a full-size keyboard as a detachable accessory. When I'm using the phone as just a phone, or for most simple browsing, I don't need to carry a keyboard around, but when I do need one, I'd like a full-sized one, not the little toys.

(It doesn't have to have all the useless keys that clutter up most computer keyboards these days-- just the old QWERTY ones.)

Re:Debate (3, Informative)

DIplomatic (1759914) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429950)

I have a BlackBerry Storm and I swear by RIM's SureType. (That's the one with 2 letters on each soft key)

The predictive text learns as I use the device and I can type incredibly fast on it. Lengthy correspondence is not a problem.

It's just my preference, but now I would never use a physical keyboard. The keys are tiny and fixed, whereas on my BB they are large and can change to match whatever input I happen to need. (letters, caps, symbols, web signs)

Just my two cents.

Re:Debate (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431394)

I'm now a proud owner of a HTC Hero android phone. I absolutely love the way you can type on it. It does not have two letters on each soft key - but the idea is more or less the same. If I mistype one or two characters I just select the right word that is displayed on top (most of the time it is the default). The keyboard auto-adapts to the input required and it is relatively easy to switch languages. web-addresses can be a bit of a hassle though, since auto-predict is useless for most pages. The input seems to really capture the center of my finger though, so I don't mistype much. This is fortunate since the otherwise excellent capacitive screen *does* require a special stylus, which seems to be unavailable in the Netherlands.

Of course, nothing is perfect. A language indicator/switching button would be nice. The vibration during typing could be slightly faster. Some tricks like swiping for capitals might be interesting to be able to turn on. But for searching in documents, SMS and short emails, it's more than adequate. And if in a tight spot I turn the device and I can touch type in landscape using larger keys. Of course, that means I've got less screen estate but I don't actually need much screen estate while typing.

Copying and pasting is a bit horrible though - I would love to have an additional keyboard layout for navigation, copy & paste.

Re:Debate (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432328)

Doesn't it let you use it 2-letters to a key in portrait mode?

I downloaded an HTC keyboard for my G1, and it was an option in the settings.

It's really nice to tap-out a quick SMS that why, using only one hand.

For real typing I live the G1 keyboard. unlike most others, it is not a grid (diagonals like a normal keyboard), and there is a good mount of key separation.

I really wish something like an updated G1 existed (more RAM and CPU), but it doesn't.

Re:Debate (2, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429956)

There is tradeoff between screen size, keyboard size, phone size, durability, etc. For users of a keyboardless phone like the iPhone, they get more screen and fewer moving parts. However typing on them will be not as fast as with a hardware keyboard. Each consumer should buy based on their individual needs. For those that email and text a lot, a phone with a physical keyboard might be better. For me, I don't email and text a lot so there will minimal downside to not having a physical keyboard.

Re:Debate (2, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429962)

I'd rather have a choice: not carry a keyboard when I don't need one for maximum portability, and take along a small, or medium, or large, bluetooth keyboard, when I think I will.

Re:Debate (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432044)

Yes. I prefer a screen that has a dual use considering the limited real estate. The concept allows sharing a multi funtion over time rather than space...

Swype. (5, Interesting)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429848)

I downloaded swype for my Nexus One and haven't looked back. It's so much faster than the old virtual keyboard for "hunt and peck". The videos of it don't do it justice. It's much easier and faster than the old ways.

Re:Swype. (1)

deadmongoose (1246538) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431710)

I just got it too. I have to say it is the best and most useful Android app I have used to date. It takes all of 5 mins to learn how to use it and once you do it is so simple and fast. The the first round of beta for Android is already over, if you go to their website you can sign up and get an invite when they start up again.

Bias? (4, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429874)

The author acknowledges that this test is barely scientific, but I'm left wondering why he didn't disclose which phone he actually uses day-to-day. The muscle memory he's built up using his primary smartphone should give a huge bias to the results.

Re:Bias? (3, Insightful)

DIplomatic (1759914) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429982)

The author acknowledges that this test is barely scientific, but I'm left wondering why he didn't disclose which phone he actually uses day-to-day. The muscle memory he's built up using his primary smartphone should give a huge bias to the results.

Not only that, but he is using out of the box phones. The predictive text-correction learns as you use it. The results would be much different for a phone that sees use.

Re:Bias? (2, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430504)

Also the touchscreen keyboards need calibration to work best. The little quick start guide tells you how, it's easy.

I found the HTC Hero to be much more accurate after calibration when compared to before calibration.

That said, I'd still expect to see a physical keyboard to be a little faster and more accurate than a touchscreen, because you can feel the keys before you type, lending a lot to confidence which helps accuracy and speed.

Still, using them out of the box is atrocious, it doesn't reflect the capabilities of the phone at all.

Re:Bias? (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430568)

Certainly. Tests of this nature are completely, totally worthless. His previous experience with other devices may actually be to the detriment of his performance with devices with dissimilar keyboard layouts.

A proper study would use a number of individuals. Each would be given a phone, tested on that phone, instructed to use that phone over the course of a week, and then tested again. Then they would move on to another phone. Each individual would be given the phones in a different order, so the performance improvement gained through general use of smart phones, as well as growing familiarity with the testing process, wouldn't skew the results.

Re:Bias? (1)

Wingsy (761354) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430578)

Bingo! Been waiting for someone to point out the obvious flaw in this unscientific research.

The resident teen here types so fast on her iPhone that the feedback clicks sounds like a woodpecker. Once I asked to see what she had typed and saw no typos (but several abbreviations). Hand her a Blackberry and I'll guarantee that her results would be the opposite that obtained by the keyboard scientist.

Re:Bias? (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430716)

"Barely scientific"? It's barely a "test". I don't see my phone listed on there. I can use a virtual keyboard with or without vibration feedback in portrait or landscape. I can also slide the display to expose the 4-row, physical qwerty keyboard. And, now that I think about it, I wonder if I can pair this bluetooth keyboard with it......

Swype (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429876)

I've been using Swype on my Nexus One for a month or two and it's incredible. I wonder how it'd perform on that chart (Or is one of those phones the windows phone that includes it? "Swype" didn't show up on the article page at all).

Subjective somewhat? (4, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429880)

Depending on what you're used to on existing devices and who is typing, these results will vary wildly. I'm used to a physical keyboard on my phone so I have trouble whenever I try to use something else. I tried tactile feedback screens once and the vibrations felt funny making me go even slower.

I've got a really flat, sensitive keyboard with repeat all the way up and key delay all the way down and a trackball mouse. Most people that try to type on it or use my mouse can't because the keyboard is too sensitive and they don't know what to do with the mouse (some try to move the whole unit, some just look at it and seem to poke at it). I however can type faster on it than any other keyboard and be precise in even difficult 3D shooters.

These 'tests' really require a decent sample size of users and a decent sample size of devices with said screens. Not everybody implements the on-screen keyboard in the same way either.

Re:Subjective somewhat? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31430212)

Yeah, you're the only one in the world with the power and skill to use a fucking trackball.

I swear, trackball owners are more uppity than Apple zealots! They're all like you!

Have you seen the type of neandrethal that plays Golden Tee golf at the bar? You still proud of yer mad trackball skilllzzzz?

Re:Subjective somewhat? (1)

zullnero (833754) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430468)

Exactly. I have a vertical slider because I use my phone vertically about 90% more than I use it horizontally, and having to spin my phone just to send a text message annoys me. I also prefer a smaller keyboard because I know it shrinks the device profile and fits better in the pocket...I don't need a Blackberry keyboard, not at all. So when I type messages out on my Pre with a vertical slide out keyboard, I'm about as fast as anyone else...but when I hand my phone off to a BB person, they start cursing because they're used to moving their thumbs a further distance to reach keys and they make more typos. They have learned motions that they have to retrain themselves on. Inversely, I have a tougher time typing on those side slider keyboards because I'm used to shorter reaches with the thumbs.

Re:Subjective somewhat? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430520)

These 'tests' really require a decent sample size of users and a decent sample size of devices with said screens.

No. Sorry, but no.

These 'tests' really require that you as a consumer go into a phone store, narrow down the selection based on what features you need, then grab each and every surviving model in your own sweaty paws, and spend 10 minutes with each. This will quickly narrow down the choices. Take your two finalists and spend a quality half hour with each. Thank the salesperson for his/her Jobesian patience, then buy the one that works best for you based on actually using it for a while.

If you don't plan on using your phone for heavy-duty text entry, grab whatever appeals to you and make sure you can get basic stuff done with it. If you plan on using it heavily, get to know the keyboards and which one works for you. Pack a lunch. Bring some goodies to share with the sales rep. They'll appreciate the gesture.

Finger length and thickness, dexterity, need for screen space, and several hundred other factors all go into what phone is best for each individual. Having 1,000 jamokes all tell you that 65% of them prefer the keyboard on "Brand X" will be almost meaningless to any individual phone user.

Blackberry (2, Insightful)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429910)

But doesn't it depend on the size of your fingers.


Mobile Phone [http] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:Blackberry (4, Informative)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430250)

Absolutely. My wife, she of the toothpick-sized fingers, does pretty well on her iPod Touch. She prefers my Blackberry keyboard for any sort of serious data entry, but then again she has little need for that on a phone - that's what her netbook is for.

Personally, I can't type three consecutive letters on the iPod Touch or an iPhone without screwing it up. But I can burn through text like a sonofabitch with my Blackberry.

"barely scientific"? Not even that. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429916)

Keyboarding, even within the context of a high quality desktop keyboard, is not a natural act. I requires nontrivial practice to achieve speed and accuracy with low mental overhead.

Smartphone keyboards are ghastly little things, whose virtues lie more or less exclusively in being small enough to fit on smartphones. Each different one requires substantial practice and much of that practice isn't transferable between systems.

Having one person try them all for a few minutes is line noise, it tells us nothing.

Re:"barely scientific"? Not even that. (1)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430454)


The author didn't even tell us which keyboard he used on the Android devices. There's a very big difference between the vertical-orientation kb and the horizontal-orientation one. I can't type worth anything on the vertical, but can blaze along fairly quickly on the horizontal.

Re:"barely scientific"? Not even that. (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431408)


The author didn't even tell us which keyboard he used on the Android devices. There's a very big difference between the vertical-orientation kb and the horizontal-orientation one. I can't type worth anything on the vertical, but can blaze along fairly quickly on the horizontal.

Yes but the vertical ones only take one hand, Which means I'm more likely to be able to avoid trees while typing sql statements

Re:"barely scientific"? Not even that. (1)

ectoraige (123390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431070)

It tells us how quickly one person adapts to a sample new input systems. It's a data point, and he even described the methodology allowing others to repeat, so yeah, I think it counts as barely scientific.

YMMV (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31429954)

Is measuring how one particular person performs over a limited amount of cellphone keyboards. Could be measuring here more things than just those keyboards. Take it as what it really mean.

Of course.. they left out the original and best (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31429964)

They didn't even include any Palm products in their review.. and Palm, being both the original smartphone, and the best (at least in my opinion), deserved to be included.
The crapberry bold that "won" has an imitation of the keyboard on a Palm Treo 680 and similar.. the Pre has a similar keyboard as well.. probably further refined than the one RIM ripped-off for the crapberry bold.

I wonder just where RIM's money comes into the equation of paying the person who wrote the review to pan everyone else's product.. while being sure to mention one OTHER crapberry in order not to look biased.

Re:Of course.. they left out the original and best (1)

outofluck70 (1734164) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430590)

Agreed on the older Palms, I still have a 755p. Have you tried the Pre? The keyboard is a big step backward, IMO. And not to sound like an Ugly American, but can I would like to see this comparo done in the states.

Hardly a Significant Test (3, Insightful)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430056)

I'm sorry, but one person typing a short message, is not going to tell us anything significant. Furthermore we don't know his background (e.g. what types of phones/PDA's he's used in the past), or how "fat" his fingers are. At best all we know is what phone he's best at right now. The performance of the same person when they first used the phone compared to that same person after owning that type of phone for a year will differ significantly.

If someone plans to type on their phone enough for the difference of a few seconds to matter, then they really need to compare the phones in person themselves. A significantly larger sample of people ideally who have never used a phone with a full keyboard may give some idea of which styles tend to work better on average, but that's about the most information you'll get. Whether it works best (and is comfortable) for you is something you need to try yourself.

Re:Hardly a Significant Test (1)

quadelirus (694946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430124)

It is true that the results of such "research" are useless, but how many click-throughs did such a poor attempt at research generate? \cynicism

Results are in a picture of a table... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31430078)

There's a pictutre of a table with the results. For anyone who is not able to read the information in the picture, here's what it says:

Fastest (1m44s), with 0 errors: BlackBerry Bold 2 with physical keyboard below screen.

Slowest (3m24s), with most (9) errors: BlackBerry Storm 2 that has an on-screen keyboard with "click feedback".

Second best, both in terms of errors (0) and speed (2m0s) was Nokia E 75 with a physical, slide out keyboard.

iPhone 3 GS with on-screen keyboard took 2m43s and got 2 errors.

Other participants: HTC Hero and HTC Touch HD2, that have on-screen keyboards with "vibrate feedback" (3m1s, 2m41s, respectively, with 4 and 1 error(s), respectively).

Virtual keyboards? Why not Dasher? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31430188)

Since touch typing on virtual keyboards is impossible and hence one must be looking at the screen at all times, why not just replace them with a more efficient method such as Dasher [cam.ac.uk]? The only downsides I can think of is need for a language-specific predictive model (though it could learn from the user and still be more effective than a virtual keyboard) and lack of support for chording, which could make text entry even more efficient.

iUsed (3, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430204)

From TFA:

I used each phone in its default mode, as it would present to a brand-new user out of the box. I counted one error for each wrong word in the main text and for each wrong character in the phone number, web address, username and password. In every test I tried not to look at the screen and typed as quickly as I could, allowing the phone to correct any errors. I’m not the world’s fastest typist, so I’m sure some of you could easily beat the absolute times, but as a comparison between devices it’s reasonably valid.

There's a LOT of use of the word "I" in there. Could it be that he went through an exhaustive process to determine which phone met *gasp* his own personal preferences?

Well, Paul, that's fantastic. In fact, I happen to agree with you. But you haven't settled the "debate" for anyone but yourself. I think most (but NOT ALL) people would likely agree that a hard keyboard is really tough to beat when you want to type in a lot of text. I know typing anything into my wife's iPod Touch is, for my massively meaty paws, an exercise in utter frustration. I think entering anything more than a URL in it should be given a "circle of hell" difficulty level. And I've really honestly tried to make it work. For those apps that support rotation, the wide-format keyboard is just barely adequate, but WHY DOESN'T SAFARI SUPPORT THIS!?!?!?

(breathes) But I digress.

I've seen people who can absolutely whiz-bang on soft keyboards. I don't understand it, but they can. I've also seen people who (believe it or not) do not need to enter any major Tolstoy works into their mobile phone browser on a routine basis. For those people, a hard keyboard is an utter waste of what could be useful screen.

Personally, you can have my Blackberry 8310 smartphone when you pry it from my cold, dead thumbs. Or replace it with a newer Blackberry Curve (oooh! shiny! 3G please!) or something else with a hard keyboard in a similar form factor. I don't like the postage stamp of a screen, but I enter text. A lot. And I need a physical keyboard until voice recognition stops getting me visits from HR when "I like your idea" gets transcribed as "I'll lick you my dear". I also want something durable, and slideouts seem rather breakable in my big meaty paws.

So the wide-candybar format with a postage stamp screen is a reasonable compromise. I've been carrying it for about a year and a half now, and while there's always the "wow, if I could get a bigger screen I could have seen that", there's constantly the "oh, dear, I gotta type a whole paragraph, thank FSM for this real keyboard - wonder twin thumbs, ACTIVATE!" I can type about 1/4 to 1/2 as fast as I can on a desktop keyboard, special characters are just one extra keypress unless they are truly bizarro ones, and it just gets done what I need to get done quickly.

J. L. Slimfingers might be able to throw an iPhone in the air and type "Moby Dick" on it while in flight before it lands. For him, a large screen format is an excellent choice.

D. Elly Catflower might keep it in a shockproof case and only bring it out with great ceremony and lay it on a safety pad of fine Corinthian leather before using it. For her, a slideout is ideal. Lots of screen, full-on keyboard, and they'll treat it right.

Me? Big meaty paws, a tendency to bash it against stuff, and a need to enter a lot of text. I got the Blackberry 8310, put it in a big rubbery slipcover, and put that inside an 8800-style leather case. It's at a year and a half, I don't dread typing on it, and it's still going strong with about 2 days of battery life between charges. I haven't even managed to scratch the screen (though the stick-on screen protector helps). I think I chose well.

For me.

Not for everyone else.

physical keyboard == (1)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430252)

more screen space

Re:physical keyboard == (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430366)

Really? Last time I looked at something like a Blackberry Curve or Bold, half of the device is the keyboard, therefore the screen has to be made half the size. Nokia have some flip out keyboards, but they make the phone incredibly thick and they can break easily.

HTC Dream AKA G1 (1)

Audax_23 (869457) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430272)

I'm very curious how the G1 (HTC Dream) would have compared. The CPU, memory and screen specs are looking a little dated, but from my (albiet limited) observation, the physical keyboard still seem to be a top notch contender. Particularly because of the innate tactile feedback, due to fairly clicky keys, and the perhaps somewhat overlooked factor of the keys being laid out in the standard diagonal orientation, which I've definitely found to be quite advantageous.

I'm not the worlds fastest typist, but I can touch type, and when I began using that phone, the ability to do so seamlessly transferred to that hardware. Which was interesting since completely different digits are involved. (thumbs vs fingers).

Am convinced that the speed bottleneck involved in on-screen keyboards is more due to do placing the users visual system inside the control feedback loop, which is inherently slower and consumes more resources.

I have both kinds of keyboards (1)

generalhavok (1432165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430274)

I have a Droid. Therefore I don't have to decide if I want to use an on screen keyboard or a conventional keyboard. I have both. I have my cake and I get to eat it too. Although I'm not sure which I prefer, as I use both the on-screen and regular keyboard about equally, I think I'm a little faster with the regular keyboard. But for a short text, sometimes it's more convenient to just use the on-screen. Otherwise, I didn't find this article too worth-while.

My $.02... (3, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430348)

I've owned two Nokias with physical keyboards (6800 and 6820) and a BlackBerry (Curve 8330--not the best) and an iPhone, and I prefer the iPhone's virtual keyboard by far. Not so much for speed, though some basic testing by me shows they're all comparable, but for ease. The 6800 [htmhell.com] is large with plastic between the nicely-rounded keys and it's very easy to hit the right one. The 6820 [juliepenner.com] is a bit smaller but the keys are also nicely rounded and typing on that is pretty easy. Both also have dedicated buttons for numbers and some punctuation--hyphen, comma, period, slash, single quote, and more are all primary buttons. Their layouts also closely mimic a PC keyboard with comma, period, slash, semicolon, quote, and equals in roughly the same spots as on a regular keyboard.

The BlackBerry's keys are smaller and closer together and firmer than either Nokia and I find I've got to press on them with a thumbnail or the bony part of a finger to get them to register and not mash more than one key at a time, and there are no number or punctuation keys AT ALL [wordpress.com] which makes typing just about anything quite a pain.

The iPhone only shows letters or numbers/punctuation but since it's virtual the secondary and tertiary buttons are big and easy to find, not like the tiny glyphs you get from sticking two images on one physical key. But the thing I like most about virtual keys is that it only takes a very light tough to register a press, and the clickable area is very large, so typing with the biggest, roundest, softest part of your thumb is a cinch. And because of this, it is by far the easiest to use with one hand. (Though the split-keyboard Nokias are pretty much out of the running in this area, but the BB is similar in size and shape.)

But anyway, that's just my experience and preference. All that matters is what works best for you.

Re:My $.02... (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430660)

and there are no number or punctuation keys AT ALL [wordpress.com] which makes typing just about anything quite a pain.

Sure there are, in fact they are screen-printed on the actual keys. The number keys share function with W-E-R, S-D-F, and Z-X-C. You just have to press the ALT key. Either press-and-release ALT then press the key you want (thumb typing), or hold ALT and press the key you want (multiple-finger typing).

Granted, having real keys for those functions would be nicer, but they work fine.

Interestingly, I have the exact opposite experience to yours - I can whoosh along with text using the big meatiness of my thumbs on the Blackberry keyboard (I have yet to mash more than one key at a time, and I can literally use the meat of my thumb to type if I choose), but put me in front of the iPhone/iPodTouch soft keyboard and I have to use the tip of my right pinkie - it's the only thing small enough to accurately hit the key I want and backed up by enough precision, and even then I miss a significant percentage of the time.

But anyway, that's just my experience and preference. All that matters is what works best for you.

Exactly. Each person needs to physically experience the phone they want before they buy it if they expect to use it for serious data entry. Otherwise, you run into situations like this one - you have a clear preference for one keyboard for a specific reason, and I have a clear preference for another keyboard for the exact same reason. The "hardness" of the BB keyboard prevents me from pressing more than one key at a time, and the tactile feedback is, to me, utterly necessary. I don't want to have to look at my phone to type everything.

Re:My $.02... (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432046)

>> and there are no number or punctuation keys AT ALL [wordpress.com] which makes typing just about anything quite a pain.

> Sure there are, in fact they are screen-printed on the actual keys.

Right. I meant, they're there, but the Nokias have them as distinct keys--A-Z, 0-9 and eight punctuation keys. 50 buttons on the Nokias versus only 35 on the BB. So things like comma and period and hyphen (which I use all the time) are one press, not two. (And other handy things, like = and % are REALLY hidden on the BB. BTW, one of the keys on the Nokia brings up a character map.) The iPhone makes it 2 taps but since they're bigger they're easier for me to find.

And I meant to mention: I think it's crappy that the iPad has the SAME keyboard as the iPhone--the iPad has enough room they should have put a number row at the top at the very least--even if only in portrait mode.

Re:My $.02... (1)

zeroduck (691015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432210)

And other handy things, like = and % are REALLY hidden on the BB. BTW, one of the keys on the Nokia brings up a character map.

The Curve is no different. SYM key brings up a character map, then Y or P for those symbols, respectively.

Only half the story (2, Insightful)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430424)

Well, it was interesting to see the times he posted, but of course everyone here knows that learning a keyboard takes practice. Months of practice.

By the end of it, I could type 100wpm on my Zaurus C760 - almost as fast as with a real keyboard. I could type about 60 on my treo 650. I've got an n900 now, and I've been hanging around 50. So there are substantial variances in keyboard quality and layout (at least on these devices) .. but what was more interesting were the learning curves. My speed doubled on the Treo in the first week. It over doubled on the C760 (slowly, over its 5 year lifespan). But I'm not getting any faster on the n900, sadly.

All of this aside.. the main problem with on-screen keyboards?

They take up half (or more) of your display!

This is one point I'm amazed people are able to get beyond. Sure - it's a rare use case... but terminals are unusable with an on-screen keyboard. More commonly, web forms are confusing. I can't even imagine trying to work on a document or spreadsheet. The screen constantly changes as you need to enter data!

I believe that if you can get by under those conditions, the speed difference between hardware and virtual keyboards is mostly irrelevant. How much data entry are you really doing?

Re:Only half the story (2, Interesting)

Ma8thew (861741) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431368)

They take up half (or more) of your display!

Yes, but generally smartphones with an on-screen keyboard have a display twice as big.

Typos, awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31430438)

"it’s a debate that hotted up recently"

Normally I criticize the summaries for having typos, but this time the article itself has a pretty awesome one!

Why the iPhone keyboard is better (1)

kroyd (29866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430458)

The iPhone keyboard allows chording - that is, you can hold one key down, press another key, and the other key will be registered as a keypress as well. If you type with more than one finger (or thumb) this will improve the speed.

This does not work on my Nexus One (android), but I'm not sure about the other platforms.

Another alternative, which is probably faster than any of the tested keyboards is swype, where you just draw a line which represents the word. There is a public beta at http://beta.swype.com/ [swype.com] (Android only)

Re:Why the iPhone keyboard is better (1)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431968)

That is not chording and it doesn't improve speed unless the typist makes those specific errors.

Yes, Barely Scientific (2, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430502)

I think this is a completely legitimate question, but I agree with the author...it's barely scientific. Let's do this again with about 50 people, all who have little to no PDA experience and therefore no bias to one type or another. Then another 50 who are used to physical, and yet another 50 used to on-screen. Run the test and see what the results are. I'm sure more scientific /.ers out there have even better methods but this would at least offer more accurate results than what the author did.

phone=a computer with skype installed (1)

BlackShirt (690851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430532)

Where I could by a decent phone with wifi connection and qwerty keyboard? I could buy some fancy phones (iphone, xperia, blackberry,nokia e72) but no dirt cheap models. I tried ipod touch but it feels cold and too heavy on the hand.

Samsung GT-B3410 sounds most reasonable option. Lacks wifi.
http://www.pda-247.com/wordpress/2009/12/a-smartphone-for-under-80-meet-the-samsung-gt-b3410/ [pda-247.com]

Virtual Keyboard - glass or plastic screen? (2, Interesting)

Hodar (105577) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430676)

All virtual keyboards are NOT created equal.

One of the primary differences is the backing material of the touch screen. The cheaper phones utilize a plastic backing on the touchscreen, this plastic will bend, warp and cause 'typos' even if your finge is precisely where it's supposed to be. Glass does not flex, or warp - but is more expensive. This is why the iPhone gives such a superior performance on the virtual keyboard, as they have a glass backing.

I think many of the problems with virtual keyboards is due to the cheaper touchscreens utilize the flexible plastic backing behind the flexible membrane - thus adding distortion to the pressure point matrix - resulting in typo's that are indeed the "phone's fault".

It would be interesting to see this sort of study conducted with external keyboards, virtual (glass) and virtual (plastic) keyboards.

I'm switching to the Droid for the option of not only abandoning my cheap plastic backing on my touchscreen LG Dare; but also because I'll have the option of the slide out keyboard.

don't mod me redundant, but (2, Insightful)

archangel9 (1499897) | more than 4 years ago | (#31430904)

He also didn't mention what order he tested the phones in. If he wanted to be fair (not even going to stretch it to "scientific") he would type different passages, numbers and URLs on each phone. I'm sure by the last test he had the text almost memorized, so the latter phones probably ended up with shorter times and less mistakes. Just guessing, but the Nokia E75 and the Bold2 were probably last to be tested.

What a waste of time (1)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431118)

So, the author decides to post about experiences with those six devices, leaving out MANY other devices. The old Palm Treo is very dated at this point, but still good for comparison purposes. How about the Palm Pre, or any of the other lesser known phones that have a keyboard? You may as well just go into your local hardware store and compare surge protectors and then claim it is news, without mentioning that a hardware store isn't going to give enough of a selection to make any sort of comparison meaningful.

Get an external keyboard if you hate the phone one (2, Insightful)

nikomo (1338131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431288)

I have a Nokia E51 so it has the good old basic 3-letters and a number per key (except 7 has 4 letters). Today I ordered a 18€ bluetooth keyboard for my cellphone so I can type like mad on the cellphone. Symbian-version of Putty + server at home + small, pocket-sized bluetooth keyboard + 3.5G connection = enjoyment

I like a physical KB, but... (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431322)

As someone who has never owned an iphone, I never understood why iphone users raved so much about their on-screen keyboards, until I got my current phone. My previous phones were the Blackbery Pearl and then the t-mobile wing. The Pearl of course has no touch screen and the Wing's screen was too small and the hardware too underpowered to make a decent on-screen keyboard feasible. My current phone, the touch pro 2, has the finger friendly on-screen keyboard and on-the-fly error correction that the iphone has had since it's inception and I've come to really enjoy it for typing emails and notes. I still value the slide out keyboard for tasks that require numbers and symbols though. The T-Mobile version of the Touch Pro 2 has a dedicated number row at the top, which is incredibly useful and, IMO, makes it superior to other versions of the Touch Pro 2.

Missing Rinnger: the HTC hero! (1)

virtualXTC (609488) | more than 4 years ago | (#31431604)

Disclaimer: I own a G1, nonetheless I'm fairly certain my view here is correct:

The hero's with it's well spaced out keys would of crushed the others, and is the reason I didn't choose a clque, or mytouch/hero and why I haven't upgraded to the N900, droid or nexus one. Moreover, I previously had a tilt (htc kaiser), and had tried the N900 for a couple weeks, the keyboards for both are very similar to the nokia 75. Without the spacing between the keys, there's no way one can be as accurate as the hero (g1).

Meh (1)

binford2k (142561) | more than 4 years ago | (#31432174)

All this article shows is that the author can type better on a physical keyboard. Nothing else. What a waste of 30 seconds of my time.

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