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iPhone Chart   (Source: Image Via User Centric)

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Study shows iPhone on-screen keypad is twice as slow for texting as QWERTY keypad phones

One of the largest complaints posed by new iPhone users is the efficiency of the onscreen keyboard. According to a new study potential iPhone users can now at least quantify that complaint.

User Centric, a usability study group, unveiled the results of its iPhone study today conducted with 20 participants aimed at determining if the iPhone’s touch sensitive onscreen keyboard was as effective as traditional QWERTY keyboard or multitap messaging phones.

The study participants had never used an iPhone and were considered to be heavy text message senders defined as sending at least 15 text messages per week. Out of the twenty participants, ten owned phones with QWERTY keypads and ten owned phones with numeric keypads that used multitap to get the correct characters.

User Centric brought participants in for one-on-one time with a moderator for each of the tests. The test consisted of sending 12 standard text messages created for use in the study with each of the messages being between 104 and 106 characters long. Six of the messages contained instances of proper capitalization, while six had no capitalization and used some abbreviations.

Since none of the participants were iPhone owners, they were each given one minute to get familiar with the touch keypad. This study intended to show the decrease in productivity a new iPhone owner would see if they went from their current phone to the iPhone.

The study concluded that participants that normally used a phone with a QWERTY keypad took almost twice as long to enter the same text messages with the iPhone as they did with their normal phone. Participants who normally used a numeric multitap phone took nearly the same length of time to enter text messages on the iPhone.

“For QWERTY users, texting was fast and accurate. But when they switched to the iPhone, they were frustrated with the touch sensitive keyboard," said Jen Allen, Usability Specialist, User Centric.

Also noted in the study is the fact that many participants hit the wrong keys on the iPhone’s onscreen keyboard and the errors were typically corrected by using the backspace key to delete characters one at a time because of difficulty getting the cursor inserted correctly in the middle of text. Only seven study participants figured out how to use the iPhone’s corrective text feature on their own. Improvement with accuracy while using the iPhone after 30 minutes was noted, but the difference in speed between QWERTY phones and the iPhone persisted.

I have used the iPhone for about as long as the study participants while fiddling with a friends iPhone and using it at the Apple store. I fully agree with the inaccuracy of the keyboard. My fingers were too large and the keys were to close together for me to hit them accurately at any speed. I wished more than once for a stylus to hit the keys with.

"It's important to consider the changes a person has to make when they switch to the iPhone," said Gavin Lew, Managing Director at User Centric. "It should be easy for people to do common tasks, such as text messaging, using the iPhone's less traditional touch interface."

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Ridiculous study
By zzebi on 8/16/2007 10:17:42 PM , Rating: 5
So let's recap:
They asked some experienced QWERTY keyboard users (who have never used iPhone before) to type messages first with with QWERTY keyboard and then with the iPhone. Honestly ... does the result surprise anyone?
It is simply ridiculous to bash the iPhone keyboard based on this study.
Actually they have only proved something everyone already knew: people use devices more efficiently if they are familiar with them.

RE: Ridiculous study
By kkwst2 on 8/16/2007 11:06:39 PM , Rating: 3
OK, let's recap.

Apple users for years have touted the ease at which you can just pick up and use their products. When I show my Mac friends that I can do most tasks twice as fast as they can with keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures, they balk. "I don't want to have to learn that crap".

Now, a study comes along that suggests that the new Apple device is a pain in the ass to learn, and it's immediately dismissed? Is the study perfect? No. Does it make a point? Sure. If I were using my device to email or text for 30 minutes and still fumbling around with it, I'd be fuming and cursing for sure.

This will all be moot of course once my thought translator interface is perfected!

RE: Ridiculous study
By w3stfa11 on 8/16/07, Rating: -1
RE: Ridiculous study
By doorind on 8/17/07, Rating: -1
RE: Ridiculous study
By spluurfg on 8/17/2007 5:54:16 AM , Rating: 3
I think the most useful result of the study is that multitap users will be able to make the transition to the iphone more easily, where as qwerty users may be slower.

"This study intended to show the decrease in productivity a new iPhone owner would see if they went from their current phone to the iPhone."

I think it's just supposed to show ease of transition for different groups of users. However, the study was laughably small (20 person sample) and they were given only one minute to familiarize themselves with the iphone. This experiment is nothing approaching statistically ideal.

RE: Ridiculous study
By MobileZone on 8/17/2007 6:07:23 AM , Rating: 4
Does anyone remember the HAMBURGER-SHAPED MOUSE?

Oh gosh... after 1 year trying to get used to it, I had to give up. It was very a cute device, though.

RE: Ridiculous study
By kmmatney on 8/17/2007 3:17:07 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it was hockey-puck shaped, not hamburger shaped...

RE: Ridiculous study
By AntDX316 on 8/18/2007 8:27:13 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Ridiculous study
By xphile on 8/21/2007 8:42:57 PM , Rating: 2
I think the word you're both struggling to come up with is "circular" :-).

RE: Ridiculous study
By Googer on 8/18/2007 2:17:09 PM , Rating: 2
This must be the one you are talking about:,1205,l=203...

RE: Ridiculous study
By daBKLYNdoorman on 8/17/2007 10:06:00 AM , Rating: 2
The study should be about which keyboard is easier to get used to. It should test Apple products if they really are easy to get used to and compare them to a QWERTY keyboard.

Personally, I tested out the iPhone myself at a local AT&T store and I have to admit that it was a pain to use. However, I'm guessing that in a few years, Apple will perfect their keyboard so it is easier to use... how the company will perfect it, I don't know. But what I do know is that when a new and radical product comes onto the market, people have trouble getting used to it, just like with the iPhone.

RE: Ridiculous study
By BMFPitt on 8/16/2007 11:27:30 PM , Rating: 4
They asked some experienced QWERTY keyboard users (who have never used iPhone before)
If Steve Jobs build al all-star text messaging team to face off against 10 random QWERTY users, I think the iPhone would still lose.

It's there to be flashy and trendy, not to be efficient or productive.

RE: Ridiculous study
By Lord 666 on 8/16/2007 11:41:15 PM , Rating: 3
I've had a Treo 600, 650, and 700P over the course of three years. Played with the iPhone for the first time tonight, giving special attention to the keyboard use.

The iPhone keyboard is simply too small. One of the hardest keys to push was the 9; the 0 kept on being pressed. I send at least 50 text messages a day with the Treo 700P, not including emails. There is no way I could keep my sanity using the iPhone with that amount of usage.

Glad AT&T has working demo units to try.

RE: Ridiculous study
By ninjit on 8/17/2007 12:49:21 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, it is too small, even for averaged size fingers.

But I think that problem can be solved along with the one other main complaint I have (and others I've talked to) of the iPhone:

Landscape mode should be applicable to ALL the iPhone applications, not just web-browsing and media player modes.

If you use the keyboard in the landscape web-browser (i.e. to type in a url) it is much much easier to use.

Yet for some reason, Apple decided not to extend landscape mode to the other iPhone functions.

Another stupid example is PDF viewing: if you view a PDF on the web you can read it in landscape mode because it's working through the browser - however if you open a PDF you have saved on the phone itself, you're stuck with portrait mode.

At least in the PDF example its obvious it can work in both orientations, so it's been artificially crippled.

RE: Ridiculous study
By kkevin6154 on 8/17/2007 10:44:54 AM , Rating: 3
I completely agree. That's the first thing I said as well. "Why doesn't the keyboard switch to landscape. It would be A LOT easier to type on then." Let's hope they put that feature into the next generation.....and of course release it to other carriers. The next gen better have more than that as well. Like 3G & EVDO. Screw EDGE.

RE: Ridiculous study
By onereddog on 8/24/2007 12:00:21 AM , Rating: 2
I think the problem with the landscape thing is that if you see someone turning their Iphone in all sorts of directions in typical task situations it would seem cumbersome.
I phone is always displayed upwards in neat elegant designs, so people who don't follow forums wot know of any problems with it will think that that is what it is meant to be.

RE: Ridiculous study
By hightechadrian on 8/18/07, Rating: 0
RE: Ridiculous study
By afkrotch on 8/22/2007 11:57:55 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, sounds like a fanboy to me. Me, I like having buttons that I can tell are buttons. Why? Cause after I get use to the phone, I'm still not fumbling about, trying to figure out which button I'm pushing or if I even pushed the button or not.

That's the great thing about old non-touchscreen cellphones. As you can feel the buttons, you don't need to look at them to confirm. iPhone. Can you run your finger from the top of the cellphone to the bottom without accidentally pressing a button? I can with my $50 TKS Samsung or my old $80 NTT Docomo P901is.

Oh, my old Docomo phone came with camera, video camera, music playing, video playing, gps, ability to use as credit card, ability to use as train pass, ability to unlock doors, ability to control my tv (via IR), internet, email, memory card slot, user replaceable batteries, and some PDA features also built-in.

Mine was an older model, so it didn't come with the 3 meg internet connection, like the newer model phones. I could have gone with one of the TV capable phones, but I didn't like the design of the phone, so didn't bother. I prefered the customizable face covers.

Me, I don't care who made the phone. I look at the phone's looks, features, and price.

What my old one looked like.

Ya, now I have this TKS Samsung phone (German company). Ahhhhh...I miss my old Japanese cellphone. I still have it, but I can't unlock it to use overhear, even though it's a 3G phone and rocks a Sim card.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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