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On Windows and Android phones/tablets the case of the keypad letters alters when pressing SHIFT:

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But Apple seems to ignore this presumably useful feature. Does Apple really know it's better NOT to show the current case on the keyboard layout? Are there any test results that show if this is helpful or not?

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Just to clarify: it's not that lowercase characters don't become capitalized on iOS, it's that they're already capitalized. –  Sam Pierce Lolla Feb 11 '13 at 18:50
Thanks for pointing out. Missed to mention that. –  Steffen Kastner Feb 11 '13 at 20:43

2 Answers 2

UX wise, I think there is very little argument that having the keys display the character that they represent is a good idea. So the question either comes down to a design decision, or one that they simply didn't consider.

I suspect that Apple were initially trying to mimic the look of a traditional keyboard, and so avoided doing this primarily as a design decision, not a UX one.

In general Apple don't like to change the way that iOS behaves very much as they seem to be worried that existing users will not like it. I use mostly Apple products, but I have to admit that Android has been moving ahead with their interface, which is now (in my opinion) significantly better than iOS.

Even if Apple now wanted to change this, they may now be blocked by patents, but I am not sure if there are any patents protecting this.

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Thanks for your answer. I can follow most of your points but regarding the UX factor here I think this is bigger than it seems at a first glance: Hitting a SHIFT button accidently is a common event when using a physical keyboard. And I think this happens much mor often on a touch-screen. Since there is no haptic feedback here it seems a good idea to give the user this feedback. –  Steffen Kastner Feb 11 '13 at 16:58
Imagine having a physical keyboard where the case of every character changed as you hit caps lock, would be interesting. –  Kayo Feb 11 '13 at 17:32
@Kayo The Optimus Maximus keyboard did this. Not so cheap, but interesting. –  JohnGB Feb 11 '13 at 17:38
@SteffenKastner However on iOS there is no caps lock that can be triggered accidentally. Also there is autocorrect, which should be able to cover the accidentally pressed shift key for one letter. –  pre Feb 13 '13 at 9:30
You are right, there is no caps lock but when you press the shift button the next character you press will be a capital. So this is pretty much the same nightmare for caps-lock-scarred users like me. :-) –  Steffen Kastner Feb 15 '13 at 11:21

I don't have any test results. Not something I've ever looked at.

If I was going to guess I can think of two possible reasons - but without any actual research I could well be wrong:

1) The visual weight of the letters

The visual weight of the upper case letters are usually roughly in the centre of the letter. The visual weight of lower case letters are usually in the lower half of the letter.

This may cause folk using the keyboard to automatically tap slightly lower when you switch to lower case - causing more mistyping.

Admittedly since it's a virtual keyboard you could adjust for this in software if everybody does it. However I imagine that there would be enough different usage patterns that this may not be simple.

2) Legibility

The upper case letters are bigger and easier to see and read.

3) The flicker distracts

Maybe the state change causes people to pause to grok the change in appearance.

I could probably make up more possible reasons - but without research I'm basically pulling ideas out of my arse.

I wouldn't at all be surprised to learn that there are a bunch of solid pros and cons to both approaches and Apple & Google have picked a different balance between them.

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