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There are many ways to input text on different mobile devices:

  • numeric keyboard (ordinary mobile phone)
  • handwriting recognition (with stylus, e.g. MS Courier)
  • physical qwerty keyboard (e.g. Blackberry)
  • on-screen qwerty keyboard (e.g. iPhone)

Maybe we can also add here on-screen keyboard with tactile feedback or voice-recognition technologies.

There are also some extensions like T9 / LetterWise or Swype / SlideIT or EdgeWrite and others.

I'm interesting in any researches in the field. What approach provides the best experience? Which helps to type with the maximum speed? How much training required for the user to achieve this speed? What are pros and cons of different methods?

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2 Answers 2

I read a very interesting test a little while ago about this: Pen v keyboard v Newton v Graffiti vs Treo vs iPhone. I'm not going to spoil the result!

Speaking personally, I really like the iPhone's input method when I'm looking at the screen. When I'm on the move, it is nightmare for input, for obvious reasons.

Soft keyboards are a great idea, especially when they change on screen for input fields and other associated things. HTML is getting more intelligent in this area, as tagging a particular field as a certain input e.g. email will automatically change the input keyboard...assuming it's been set up correctly (Apple have done this with the iPhone).

This doesn't answer your question fully, but hopefully it provides some interesting information for you to consider.

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Soft QWERTY on a capacitive UI (iPhone, etc) takes the cake

In the past few years, I have owned the following devices:

  1. an old school PALM PDA (with stylus)
  2. a T-MOBILE MDA (with touch-screen, slide-out qwerty keyboard AND stylus)
  3. Blackberry 8700 (qwerty keyboard)
  4. and an iPhone (touch screen, soft qwerty keyboard)

Although I have not participated in any industry studies, I can give you an honest opinion as a user...

The soft QWERTY (capacitive) takes the cake. Here's why:

  1. With the PALM and T-MOBILE MDA - I always felt as though my hands were more cumbersome when using a stylus. I felt a "disconnect" from the UI, because, due to the older nature of the screen (at least, when compared to the new "capacitive" screens) I had to use either my stylus or my fingernail in order to press buttons). The stylus was nice for its time, but, capacitive screens, in my view, have abolished any value the stylus had.

  2. I have been a long-time fan of the qwerty keyboard. The Blackberry (and MDA) qwerty keyboards are fast, tactile, and well accepted, if only because of their relationship to full-size computer keyboards. However, they either cause you to sacrifice real estate on your UI (small screens) or they make your mobile device more cumbersome and heavy when used as a "slide-out".

  3. The iPhone opened my eyes to how easy the UI could work. The soft qwerty keyboard allowed for a very nice, large UI, and kept my hands right in the middle of the screen, which, IMHO, feels natural. With the arrival of the HP TouchSmart, the iPad, and other touch-screen UIs, the entire feeling of a computer, to me, has become more natural, more "connected". They have removed the separation between the user and the UI by allowing the user to dive right in...

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Funny, I preferred the surety of Graffiti over the number of mistakes I make on the iPhone. And the Newton's recognition was the best, at least, for some people--why can't we do better handwriting recognition these days? –  Alex Feinman Oct 26 '10 at 13:29
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