Mobile Phone Keyboard Redesign

A normal keyboard way designed to be typed with both hands, ten fingers.

A mobile phone Keyboard was just a copy.

Using Fitts law, I think the mobile phone keyboard should be redesigned for one or two fingers. The keyboard would be circular, with the most used keys towards the center. Just like a normal keyboard's most used keys are the home keys.

Would this increase speed and efficiency for user?

Would this be a bad idea for a mobile phone company to come out with this?


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5 Answers 5


Keyboards used today are designed after the success found in the typewriter. One of the main reason the the keys are laid out the way they are is because they keys have been placed in such a way that as a user types the machines would be less likely to bind up mechanically. As such QWERTY is simply the most popular layout of them all.

I believe the main reason we still see this layout today is because it has been come the standard convention that users are expecting to see it. The benefits of switching layouts is really up to the user. If the user can type faster with a different layout and the speed increase beats the learning curve of another layout, I would say go for it. Since soft keyboards on mobile phones are just another software package, a user could easily download and install the layout that they feel works best.

Would this be a bad idea for a mobile phone company to come out with this?

While the idea of implementing a custom keyboard on a vendors mobile phone is very possible. I don't think you will ever see a company release a mobile phone with a different default keyboard than what its user base primarily used. In the US the QWERTY keyboard would be the default. This is mainly because most user know where the keys are already, to change the layout would cause a large amount of initial frustration to its user base.


It looks like someone else has been thinking along these lines in 2004:


Over the years, people have tried to get various different kinds of keyboard setups adopted, arguing very logically that QWERTY was designed to stop typewriters from jamming, which makes no sense today, but the learning overhead is simply too high for widespread adoption. If you can remember learning how to type on qwerty, it didn't become intuitive until you'd practiced for quite a long time.

If you look at the link above, and imagine using that, consider two factors: 1. How quickly could you learn that 2. How much faster could you type?

If the answer to 2. is "not very" then the effort required in 1. becomes a dealbreaker. And since we're talking about an essential, non-optional part of the interface causing a longish period of frustration, I doubt a manufacturer of a phone like this sell many units.

  • "arguing very logically that QWERTY was designed to stop typewriters from jamming" This may be an urban legend. QWERTY may also have been designed so that "Typewriter" is all in the top row, for quick demos...or that might be an urban legend too. Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 14:45

You are dealing with different set of constraints on mobile keyboards than you are on normal-sized keyboards. So the optimal solution for improving typing isn't necessary the same as the one for physical keyboards.

On mobile devices, constraints are:

  1. You are typing with two thumbs - This slows down your typing, because you only have one stand-by finger (i.e. your other thumb) to hit the subsequent key, rather than 8.

  2. Keys are small and have no tactile boundaries. - This leads to far more typing errors.

  3. There are so many devices with varying screen sizes and touch-screen sensitivities - There's no guarantee that one ergonomic solution will work equally well across different devices.

These three constraints are not something that can be best remedied by alternate keyboard layout. Instead, we have things like auto-correct, auto-suggest, and improved speech-to-text to reduce the need for typing altogether. (accurate touchscreen mapping and haptic feedback help too)


Why would alphabetical order be the right order for typing? The only benefit it has is that it's the canonical ordering, but when using the letters to form words, it makes no sense.

You might ask why keyboards don't use ETAOIN SHRDLU instead, which has to do more with convention than anything else.

  • "The only benefit it has is that it's the canonical ordering." The ability to easily find letters seems like an important benefit for people who have never learned QWERTY, which seems increasingly plausible as more and more people rely solely on mobile devices with software keyboards.
    – jamesdlin
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 2:07

From the article on Fitts's Law on Wikipedia:

"It describes untrained movements, not movements that are executed after months or years of practice (though some argue that Fitts's law models behaviour that is so low level that extensive training doesn't make much difference)."

  • was this not appropriate to point out given the question?
    – Shash
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 7:27

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