Friday, January 22, 2010

Ultimate Keyboard Smackdown: iPhone Vs. Stylus Vs. Chiclets


The results might surprise you:

With the Apple Tablet likely to change the world as we know it in less than a week, you may be wondering (still) about the merits of a soft, on-screen keyboard. Phil Gyford was wondering the same thing, only instead of just sitting around and lazily pondering (like you) he did something about it.

Phil dug out an old Newton MessagePad, a Palm Vx, a Palm Treo 650 and an iPhone 3G, and typed out a pre-memorized 221-word passage of text on each one, timing each try twice. To balance the test, Phil also typed the text once on his most familiar keyboard (a MacBook) and wrote it out by hand. With a pen. And paper.

The results are only unexpected if you have not actually used the iPhone for any length of time. The MacBook came in first. The iPhone’s soft keyboard came a very near second, with the Treo’s tiny hardware keyboard close behind. Next was pen and paper, followed by the Newton’s handwriting recognition and finally, in deserved last place, the Palm Vx with its frustrating Graffiti input.

None of this explains just how Apple plans to put a soft keyboard on a big ol’ tablet screen, but it does show us exactly why Apple will never ship a dedicated hardware keyboard for either the Tablet or the iPhone: Unless you are a professional writer, you just don’t need one.

Here is Phil Gyford’s write-up of his experience, including this graph summarizing his results:


That being said, I’m still hoping for a physical keyboard accessory for the iPhone/Apple Tablet.  I do a lot of writing and note taking for school and would love to be able to turn these into writing machines.  Until then, I’ll have to stick with my laptop and AlphaSmart Neo.

P.S. – I just stumbled on ZenTap, an app for the iPhone that significantly speeds up text entry and has a host of features such as advanced predictive text, a full-fledged spell-checker, character count, and the ability to automatically load text into an e-mail, text message, Twitter, and more.  It will even translate text into other languages.  I’m trying out the free version, but if it continues to impress me as much as it has so far, it may warrant a purchase of the full version ($1.99).  Highly recommended!

Here is ZenTap’s webpage and a video showing how it works:


Shawn said...

fan as I am of the two winners, it's an unfair comparison. granted, the keys on a keyboard are in the same place, but I'm sure I could type faster on my 700p when I stopped using it (for an iPhone) than I could now.

Shawn said...

...and, were I to be using graffiti every day, I could "type" faster than if I hadn't picked it up in years, even assuming I'd been a consistent user of it in years past.

what you'd need is a sample of 30 or so people who use each one, every day, and then discard the 1 or 2 outliers on each extreme.

I scoff at your post (or, rather, your reporting of his post).

Scoff, scoff.

Brian Hollar said...

Scoffer-man, the comparisons that surprised me the most and that I found to be the most profound were how well the iPhone did relative to a laptop keyboard and how much faster it was compared to pen and paper.  I was once quite quick at Graffiti and with the Treo keyboard, but was surprised by how much my typing speed did not suffer when switching to the iPhone. ZenTap seems to have sped this up even further.