Is the virtual keyboard on a 7in tablet any use?

Posted on by Mike Evans

Lean, mean consuming machine: the Nook Tablet reviewed

In her review of the Nook Tablet (above), Casey Johnston makes an interesting point:

The virtual keyboard suffers from the same major problem as does the Kindle Fire and every other 7-inch tablet: the portrait-oriented keyboard is slightly too big for comfortable thumb-typing, and the landscape keyboard is too small for ten-finger typing. I submit that, unless your hands are significantly larger than mine, 7-inch tablets are just never going to become e-mailing, note-taking machines. I’d rather try to type things out on my smartphone than a 7-inch tablet.

You could make the same criticism of the iPad. While the landscape keyboard is near enough to full size to make typing comfortable, the thumb-typing we’re used to on the iPhone just doesn’t work in portrait mode.

Apple have sorted this problem by enabling the keyboard to split in two. Swipe out on the keyboard with two fingers and it divides, just at the point where a touch typist would makes a mental split in tasking each hand. It also becomes smaller so that each side of the split keyboard is ideally positioned for thumb typing.

Typing in this way, holding the iPad vertically in both hands, is just as rapid as on the iPhone. The splitting trick also works with the landscape keyboard, although it is less necessary on a ten-inch screen.

I use the split keyboard all the time on the iPad and, I presume, subject to patent infringement, Nooks and other Android devices could perform the same trick. I remain a fan of 7in tablets. But perhaps not such a fan that I would want to suffer the hassle of learning a new OS. I’ll wait for a 7in iPad.

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