Smartphone keyboard meets its Waterloo

Posted on by Mike Evans

Time was when I thought a physical keyboard on a mobile organiser, or PDA [1] as we called them then, was the be all and end all. I would suffer minute screens in order to have a proper, if small, qwerty keyboard to hand. I even criticised the original iPhone for its lack of physical keys.

Now I cannot imagine the need for a keyboard on a smartphone. Especially on the iPhone, the virtual keyboard with all its little helpers (spellcheck, predictive entries, flexible layouts) is wonderful. I have perfected thumb typing and, while not as fast as on a full-size Mac keyboard, I can get up a respectable pace on the phone. Strangely, the iPad’s keyboard is less successful because the device is too big for thumb typing [2]. As a result, I often resort to a Bluetooth keyboard for longer texts.

Today HTC has announced that it is unlikely to go back to physical keyboards any time soon. Along with BlackBerry, HTC was one of the last bastions of the keyboard. We’ve seen some ingenious designs, including slide-out boards that allowed a full-screen to be used, but it looks like the game is up. Virtuality is the new champ.

Meanwhile, over in Waterloo (the one in Ontario, not the railway station or the scene of Napoleon’s denouement), keyboard patents are still flourishing. There is news today of a revolutionary rotating keyboard that can be used in several positions. Even on the deck of the Titanic, I imagine.

  1. Personal Digital Assistant, typified by the iPAQ and the Palm.  ↩

  2. On the iPad, splitting the keyboard makes thumb typing more comfortable. To do this, make a two finger outward swipe on the virtual keyboard and it will split in two so your thumbs can reach the keys.  ↩

∞ Permalink